How's the Latin mass being received these days?

Nearly four years after the motu proprio that made possible greater access to the Latin mass, John Allen has an interesting interview with Fr. Richard Hilgartner, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A priest of the Baltimore archdiocese, Hilgartner studied liturgical theology at the prestigious Benedictine-run Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome.

From NCR:

NCR: What impact has the motu proprio had in the United States?

Hilgartner: For many places it’s regularized what was previously deemed exceptional. Prior to the motu proprio, priests had to have special permission to celebrate the Tridentine form. Now priests don’t need special permission, because while the Tridentine form isn’t necessarily normative, it has its place in the larger context of the liturgical life of the church.

People usually ask for statistics, how many priests are celebrating the Tridentine form and how many people are attending it. Because of the motu proprio, however, there isn’t necessarily any reporting. Priests don’t need special permission, so we really don’t know when they’re doing it, especially when it’s a private celebration as a form of their own devotion.

What’s your anecdotal impression of how strong the demand has been?

I think there was an initial bump after the motu proprio, probably fueled by curiosity. Some people had rather limited access before, and suddenly there was the possibility of attending the extraordinary form more regularly. What seems to be happening in many dioceses is that there isn’t necessarily a Tridentine Mass in every parish that wants it, because the numbers are often fairly low, but there’s some kind of regional approach. In lots of dioceses there are one or two designated locations, and some bishops now celebrate the Tridentine form occasionally to be supportive of those efforts. Part of the reality, too, is that not many priests are well trained in celebrating the Tridentine form.

There’s been no popular repudiation of the new Mass?

I think that’s very safe to say. The motu proprio is serving a niche, a need felt by a small number of the faithful.

There’s talk of “opposition” from bishops. What’s your sense of how the American bishops have responded?

I can’t say that it’s been negative in any way. Some bishops have been more attuned to it than others, in part because there are some places where bishops might not see the demand. I’ve not seen anything, however, that could be perceived as overt or organized opposition. Some may be more passionate about it than others, but that’s natural.

Prior to the motu proprio, there were dire predictions about its impact. Almost four years into it, can we say that upheaval really hasn’t materialized?

I would agree. Initially there was some hesitation and concern, but we’ve not really seen histrionics in any large way. It’s not had a detrimental effect in terms of fracturing the unity of the church, so a lot of the hype has calmed down. Experience has proven that it’s not caused upheaval, and in most places it’s business as usual.

I’ve heard stories on both ends. I’ve talked to people who had never before experienced the older Mass, especially young people, who go out of curiosity and find beauty in it, something uplifting and moving. I’ve also talked to people who really thought we should go back to this, who then actually attended a Tridentine Mass and felt differently. Over the last forty years, people have grown accustomed to being able to comprehend and participate in what’s being celebrated. Participating by devotion, rather than actually engaging in the rites being celebrated, is a very different experience. Sometimes people who were nostalgic for the older Mass, therefore, end up with a different view once they actually take part in it.

Check out more.  Interesting stuff.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

    As someone who attends the Tridentine Mass every week, I must say his analysis is nearly accurate.

  • Ryan Ellis

    Pretty decent except for that last question.

    Most attendees of TLMs don’t participate “by devotion.” That implies a little old lady rattling rosary beads or someone reading out of some Eucharistic devotional book.

    No, people are actively participating in the way that the Council Fathers envisioned. They are reading along in their hand missals, right where the priest is in the liturgy. In dialogue masses, they are making the responses of the altar servers.

    I dare say that this level of engagement is a bit more rigorous than flipping through the bulletin during the responsorial psalm or singing an extra-liturgical hymn during the offertory.

  • http://revertedxer.blogspot.com/ Gen X Revert

    This was a very good article and very accurate. It proves that those who screamed that bringing the Latin Mass back was ‘divisive’ were completely wrong. Those who said that the Latin Mass would win over the majority of the faithful were also wrong, although it is still very early – who knows the impact in 50 or 100 years?

    Ryan – excellent comment – I find the EF much more challenging to pray than the OF, where it is much easier to ‘go through the motions’. God Bless Pope Benedict for making the EF more available and putting more attention on both forms.

  • Barbara

    Question a bit off topic: In the picture, the deacon? sub-deacon? holds the tip of the chasuble as the host, and the cup, are elevated. I’ve seen this before, and wonder what is the significance of the action?

  • naturgesetz

    Barbara —

    I think the angle of the photo cuts out an important piece for your question.

    You can see that the subdeacon is wearing a humeral veil. In solemn high Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the subdeacon holds the paten before his eyes during the Canon (actually holding it with the humeral veil). Since he is holding the paten, the host must rest on the corporal, which is why it is called the corporal: the Body of Christ is on it from the consecration to the great amen.

    But because his hands are not free, he cannot be the one lifting the bottom of the chasuble. In fact, it is an acolyte who does that. In this picture, the acolyte must be hidden behind the subdeacon.

    The acolyte raises the chasuble so that its weight will not impede the priest as he elevates the host, and then the chalice. With the newer, cut down, Roman style vestments this action is vestigial, of course, but in earlier times, whent what is now called “gothic” style vestments were used, the weight could be a real problem, and the assistance of the acolyte (or acolytes — I can recall both acolytes assisting with the chasuble) was actually functional.

    As to how it happens that the subdeacon holds the paten before his eyes with the humeral veil, I have no idea.

  • Gerard

    Gen X Revert,

    Because you find a way of prayer more difficult than another way doesn’t mean it’s better.

    There is an aphorism from the spiritual life, which you may find helpful: Pray as you can, not as you can’t!

  • Gerard

    Deacon Greg, do you have the credits for the photograph above?

    [Sorry, no. I looked to see if I could retrace my steps and find it on Google, but to no avail. Dcn. G.]


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