Wednesday 2 October 2013

A Question on Holy Mass...

Father has agreed that I may reproduce here an article from this weeks parish Newsletter. I hope readers find it useful (we have updated it today).

A Question asked:
Can we move the New Form of Mass to Sunday Morning
and the Ancient Form to Sunday Evening?

Since Mass is central to parish life I’ll try to answer this as fully as possible -hopefully without offending- by giving some background information that places the Ancient Form in a positive context while recognising the legitimacy and validity of both Forms of Mass, the new and the ancient.I know the Ancient Form of Mass requires more from us; that it stretches (and develops) us:
*its silences require we pray with mind and heart rather than simply respond on cue;
*it provides for humility by subjugating our dignity to the Lord’s by receiving Him on the tongue (still the universal norm [world-wide rule] in the New Form of Mass);
*Latin provides us with a sacred language for the most sacred act on earth, moving us from understanding at the superficial level of word recognition to perceiving the Mass as Mystery.
The part of Mass addressed to the congregation is the readings, which is why here in Thornley we always proclaim them in English, leaving only those parts addressed to God in Latin. It seems erroneous to think we understand the Mass simply because we recognise the English words:
*few can give the correct meaning of the word ‘memory’ in the consecration (it is not ‘remembering’);
*few understand that the Kyrie is addressed only to Christ and not to Father, Son & Holy Spirit,
*fewer still understand that that the Kyrie is an ancient litany of praise, not a request for mercy (even uninformed priests have been heard to say “Father, for the times we have...
Lord Jesus for the times we have...Holy Spirit, for the times we have...”)

Can we be frank and go deeper? To deplore what was venerated by the saints has a haughty ring to it, while antipathy toward the Ancient Form is really antipathy to our own roots -and to cut away the root means the plant dies. Let us look at this from a secular standpoint: if the CEO of a multi-national business claimed the business was experiencing a great renewal while it was losing its customer base, closing its stores, had staff openly criticising its product, and had to divide management tasks between shop-floor workers because it was failing to attract senior staff) that CEO would be seen as at least delusional, if not deceitful. A demographer might look at the Church and say that the Church is undergoing a similar dying process, evidenced by falling Mass attendances, the closing of parishes, seminaries, convents and schools, and the increase of doctrinal rejection by use of contraception, cohabitation; support of same-sex relationships etc. If we call this renewal we too might be seen as delusional.

Remember Vatican II gave protection to the Ancient Form of Mass, it didn’t ban it, and the Popes since Vatican II have overseen the Ancient Form’s organic growth, from Paul VI’s (Heenan Indult, Prot. N. 1897/71)  through John-Paul’s Quattuor abhinc annos (1984) & Ecclesia Dei Afflicta (1988) to Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum (2007).  

Finally, we cannot honestly say that either adults or children today are less able to enter into the Ancient Form than the adults/children of the previous 15 centuries. To say that would be to say we are either less intelligent, less humble or less spiritual than our forebears, and we surely don’t want to make such a negative indictment about oneself or others.

So, to answer the question posed:  after discussion with the Pastoral Care Team; consultation of the parish about times, and consultation with deanery priests, we moved the New Form of Mass from Saturday to Sunday so as to enable other priests, who have their own Mass on Sunday mornings, to say Mass here on Sunday evening if the need arises. So no, we cannot move the Mass. Please don’t say the time interferes with family life: Catholic families are to put God and Mass at the centre of family life, not see God and Holy Mass as being an inconvenience. 


  1. Andrew a good post I would like to comment about the last paragraph. I would like to ask also why are we not encouraging our families/guests to come to Holy Mass also

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    I think what the last paragraph does is ask why we aren't coming to Mass as a family, and why we aren't using Sunday evening as a way of bringing back those in the family who are lapsed.

    1. Exactly my point we shouldn't be regretfully saying "oh sorry I have to cut your visit short" but actually we should be saying "come to Holy Mass with me"

  3. I found the Extraordinary form of the Mass very confusing to follow when I first tried it, and didn't like it at all. However, I now find myself coming to more and more services on a Sunday morning and the Extraordinary Mass is now the form that I attend most. It is a wonderful time to pray to God without distraction. It is so easy to hear the English version and feel that you understand it, but I've realised that I didn't understand it at all, I just knew what the words meant, and that isn't the same thing. I thank God that we have an Extraordinary Mass to attend, and I give thanks that it has such a priority in the Parish. To begin with I thought that children would not be welcome at such a Mass, but again, I have now learnt that the children are welcomed with open arms. I find it amazing that my two year old can sit silently through an Extraordinary form of the Mass, but fidgets all the time during an Ordinary form. I'm sure that is a message to us all. God bless you and Father Gary for the amazing work you do in and for the Parish.

    1. Thanks for your comment Janine.

      I too found myself feeling disorientated at the EF the first few times. It’s encouraging to hear of your commitment despite first impressions: I think it takes time to learn to pray in the silences and to realise, as you say, that we can engage without the emotional bolstering that comes from word-recognition – good things do come to those who wait!

      I agree with you that the power of the sacred silence calms children. Practically, I think the constant dialogue in the Newer Form of Mass often contributes to unsettling them: how many classrooms become noisy when each child whispers just a little bit louder than the other until they’re shouting across the room!?

      It’s great to hear young parents feeling welcomed too; and undoubtedly an encouragement and example to our fellow parishioners.

  4. Hi Andrew

    I misunderstood the last paragraph too... Very good post though!! Keep up the good work


    1. Thanks for your comment.

      On Sundays we have the EF at 9.30am, and the OF at 5:30pm.

      I see the last paragraph as a challenge for those who might say something like, “I don’t like the EF but have to come to it because my grandchildren come to visit at 5pm every Sunday and Mass would interfere with my family time. So I want the EF moved to the evening instead”. I think Father is challenging us not to see Mass and God as “interfering” in our lives but rather as central.

      I hope this helps Paul.

      God bless to all at Ryhope.

  5. As one fortunate enough to have experienced the EF Mass from childhood & into marriage I cannot but agree that Mass should be the centre of our life & not just something to fit in if we have time. Perhaps one of the reasons behind the closure of churches, seminaries etc rests on Catholics of my era who did not ensure that the family attended Mass as a family. I recall the Rosary Priest (Fr Peyton) having a very true saying that "the family that prays together stays together". Regardless of the closure of buildings we have so few (relatively) 'real' families where Mum & Dad are married & all children have the same father.

    1. Thanks for commenting.

      I think previous generations such as yours simply found the new ways so much easier that they were too busy rejoicing to realise what they were losing, getting into a position where we fooled ourselves into thinking that the new ways were great and expressed God's love for us more clearly than the previous ways. i think some are still blinded, especially among the Bishops who seem unable to admit that they have been and still are presiding over a death. I can't understand how they see the closure of seminaries, convents, parishes, schools etc. as a renewal. As father said to me recently, it would be a strange Doctor who saw gangrene in a patients limbs as renewal. I think they are mistaking getting laity into leadership roles as renewal. It isn't; its a removing of them from their proper vocation in the world so as to replace priests who have been lost or are being squeezed out of today's Church.


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