The National Catholic Review

Cambridge, MA. You may have read Kenneth Wolfe’s Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s New York Times (Week in Review), Latin Mass Appeal. Mr Wolfe’s argument has to do with what he considers the undue and ill-considered influence of Father (and later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini on the reform – or deform – of the Eucharistic liturgy of the Church in the years before Vatican II. Mr Wolfe laments the movement away from the Latin Mass, the turning around of the altar to face the people, and an array of later changes including altar girls, communion in the hand, etc.

I am not sure why the Times chose to publish this piece — because it was the First Sunday of Advent? — but I found it unconvincing, not as a liturgist or liturgical historian or Vatican-watcher (I am none of these), but as a Catholic who is old enough to have served Mass in Latin as an altar boy, young enough to had no say about the changes in the liturgy, but nevertheless privileged to serve as a priest for more than 30 years thus far in the parishes and campuses of our Church, here and abroad. So here’s what I think:

First, we’ve been taught for centuries to trust the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Many a time the Vatican has called to work in the Vatican men without any particular training or experience that would justify their appointment; many a time, Popes have trusted such individuals with very important roles in shaping the theology and practice of the Church; and many a time, God has worked through such men. Archbishop Bugnini is one such person, and I see no reason to think that the Spirit, and intention of the Church, did not work through his sincere and humble efforts.

Second, while as a child I found the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church deeply satisfying and loved the ritual, the Latin, the mystery of this worship, I have never found it the case that the conciliar changes were a mistake or a loss. The typical Eucharistic celebration is no less holy or sacred now than it was in 1960. Many of the reforms were intended to restore practices of the Church far older than Trent, and it is good that we were — and are — reminded that neither Latin nor particular forms of music and piety are essential to the effective celebration of the Eucharist or to the grace that is the real presence of Christ in our midst through it.

Third, Mr Wolfe notes that Archbishop Bugnini sought to reform the liturgy to remove barriers dividing us from our Christian neighbors in Protestant traditions. I gather that he sees this as a fatal mistake, but I think it was a very good thing to remove, for many good reasons including the ecumenical one, barriers that made the Eucharist needlessly different or divisive. It is not a good thing when we Christians are divided to no good purpose; and when there are real differences, such as different theologies of the Mass (as meal, as sacrifice), we can still seek, as did Archbishop Bugnini, to show in our practice that such differences can be signaled in various ways. There is nothing essential or unchanging about receiving communion on the tongue, for instance, or faddish about welcoming girls as well as boys to serve at the altar — and if some of Archbishop Bugnini’s changes meant that our worship would become more like Protestant worship, that seems to have been for the better. (Yet even today, I doubt very much that even newcomers will confuse Catholic and Protestant Sunday worship.)

Fourth, Mr Wolfe finds it particularly disappointing that the altar was turned around to face the people; he cites Pope Benedict that externally at least, when the priest faces the people, this signifies a community “closed in on itself.” But this is unfair, just as it would be to complain that in the old liturgy the priest kept turning his back on the community. If there is deep meaning to the community and priest facing forward together, in worship, so too there is deep meaning in a community context where priest and people face one another: in my 30+ years of presiding at the Eucharist, I have always found it a grace that in this way we gather around the sacrificial gifts, face to face, and in attentiveness and vulnerability stand together before our Lord, around the altar. Given the rich and beautiful and deep commitments and faith that people bring to a parish Mass on Sunday morning, there is nothing merely “closed in on itself” in our way of worship, and I am sorry that Mr Wolfe has found it to be so.

Perhaps in an Advent mode of expectation, Mr Wolfe concludes with a visionary look foward: the Pope, and good Catholics, are doing away with the reforms and putting things back the way they were, and should be. But I think he has not seen deeply enough: God does bless us in the way we worship today, Christ is present in the Eucharist as we celebrate it, the Spirit touches our minds and hearts as we stand, hands outstretched, to receive the Body of Christ, and then proceed to drink his Blood from the cup.

Even the English language serves very well as the language of prayer. Thanks be to God, Deo Gratias.

As always, I welcome reader comments.


Philip Williams | 3/29/2010 - 9:49pm
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Philip Williams | 3/29/2010 - 9:40pm
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Philip Williams | 3/26/2010 - 12:07pm
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Leonard Villa | 12/3/2009 - 8:33pm
Fr. Clooney sides-steps the issues raised by the op-ed in the Times. The question is what reform of the Mass did Vatican II desire?  The decree Sacrosanctum Concilium is explicit that Latin is to be retained while greater use of the vernacular is to be allowed.  I think it can be convincingly argued that the reform Missal was really the 1965 Missal: Latin retained and greater vernacular.  With respect to the Holy Spirit suffice it to say that Pope Benedict has been very criticial of what was done in 1969 and he questions its pedigree.  He calls the 1969 Missal a "manufactured liturgy a banal on-the-spot product."  This manufacture of a liturgy is different from organic development.  If you read Cardinal Antonelli's memoirs of the manner in which this reform was brought about and also include here Louis Bouyer, this process which produced the 1969 Missal does not inspire confidence.  This was unique in the Church's history: a liturgy manufactured and imposed under obedience as opposed to a liturgy as sacred and received, part of the patrimony of the Church. The issue is less Latin (there's nothing wrong with the vernacular) and more the rite: here for the first time a liturgy as product of experts.  Pope Paul may not have had control of the process and may have trusted too much to experts but he was part of the mentality, if his dear friend Jean Guitton is to be believed, that one of the goals of the issued-liturgy was not to offend Protestants and to dumb down overly Catholic elements: you have a 3rd Eucharistic Prayer which emphasizes the Mass as sacrifice or you can choose a 2nd Eucharistic Prayer in which there is zero sacrificial language.  In fact the first definition of the Mass in the praenotanda of the 1969 Missal had to be corrected because it was essentially a Prostestant/Lutheran definition.  No, Fr. Clooney, this is not about Latin.
martha dee | 12/2/2009 - 4:49pm
I was recently at an interfaith tea with some Muslim and Jewish women. One woman was eager to tell me that Islam held "the Truth."  So it seems to me that the Bishop's fuss about promoting the Latin mass is for us to compete in the One True Truth Wars:  after all, at synogogue all the prayers are Hebrew, and at a Mosque all the prayers are Arabic.  Hence, in order to show the real worthiness of our tradition, we need Latin. 
Kate Higbee | 12/2/2009 - 1:18pm
As a seminarian, I have had exposure to both forms of the Mass and my experience (far less than yours though it is) is very much the same.

Joseph Farrell, I happen to know that you went to your first and only Tridentine mass on the day before you posted this comment, and then only because it was required of you as a seminarian. Framing your very public and long-standing distaste for the Tridentine rite as being on the basis of ''experience'' is disingenuous in the extreme.

I can tell you that I am not one of the young Catholics who finds faithfulness synonymous with a longing for the liturgy of Trent. Perhaps this puts you and me outside Mr. Wolfe's definition of a ''good Catholic'' but we stand with a great multitude of the Faithful.

The post Vatican II liturgy is indeed the liturgy for our time. Even so, Summorum Pontificum makes it abundantly clear that the Tridentine rite deserves respect, and that the faithful should be free to worship in that manner. To cast the argument as ''a great multitude of the Faithful'' vs. ''traditionalists'' is a specious, pointless dichotomy; faithful Catholics are free to attend either liturgy. I tend to prefer the vernacular myself, but I don't begrudge others for preferring legitimate alternatives.
John Groppe | 12/1/2009 - 5:50pm
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Wolfe’s picture of the pre-Vatican II Latin mass is incomplete and inaccurate. What most people who yearn for the Latin mass do not remember or are too young to have experienced is that most Catholics, Sunday after Sunday, experienced only the so called low mass which had no grandeur. The Latin words of the liturgy were mumbled and were not at all intelligible to the altar boys and maybe even to the priest himself. Congregants said the rosary and even did so at high masses. Only the gospel was read in English, and at that time a smaller selection of gospel texts was included in the lectionary. Sermons were not about the Sunday’s readings as those were largely irrelevant to the congregation. Instruction about the mass was dominated by what was the latest one could arrive and the earliest one could leave.
His history is does not carry the development of the mass back far enough. He prioritizes the basilica style mass with many celebrants. The basilica was an ancient Greek and Roman site of imperial rule. It was a building in which all subjects faced front toward the emperor or his representative enthroned in the nave and knelt in obeisance and submission. After Constantine declared his empire to be Christian, basilicas became churches full of imperial trappings. The Roman Catholic Church adopted other aspects of imperial Rome such as the terms curia and pontiff.
This imperialistic style of worship was, however, not at all the way the first Christians celebrated in places like Corinth. They assembled in homes. With the assembled facing each other, they were open to the Spirit coming into their midst as the Spirit did at the inauguration of the church at Pentecost. The house churches prioritized the assembly—the people of God. The basilica prioritized the emperor or his viceroy and his key attendants, that is other priests. What is required of the people in the imperial liturgy is submissive attendance. What Paul calls for in his letters to the Corinthian and other assemblies is full, conscious, communal participation as the assembled all equally wait upon the coming of the Spirit in word and in Eucharist and in each other. A theology of any sort—liturgical, ecclesiastical, or moral—that lacks a sense of history is a travesty, no matter how grand it seems on the surface.
A 76 year old Vatican II Catholic
Jack Marth | 12/1/2009 - 2:48pm
"and it is good that we were — and are —reminded that neither Latin nor particular forms of music and piety are essential to the effective celebration of the Eucharist or to the grace that is the real presence of Christ in our midst through it."
Amen Fr. Clooney.
One thing that always bothers me in these discussions about a return to "solemnity" and returning "order and meaning" to the liturgy is that it ignores facts as they were and are.  The pre-VII liturgy was celebrated well at times and horribly a lot of times.  The post-VII as well.  If you want solemnity, a certain type of "order" and  and particular "meaning" - there are plenty of parishes that provide it in the OF and EF.
The reality on the ground, however, is that people of all stripes are gathering in Jesus's name to celebrate the Eucharist.  I have been privileged to celebrate the Mass in the most solemn of locales with all the "smells and bells".  Very nice and a wonderful way to experience the transendant God.  I have also celebrated Mass in prison cells and in dirt floor open air pavillions that people called their Church in very poor communities in Central America.  There may not have been the solemnity Mr. Wolfe wants as the norm - but I if one fails to find meaning and real presence in these types of Eucharistic celebrations then I fear a snobbery that reminds me of the Pharisees Jesus railed against.
I went from reading Wolfe's Op-Ed to my own parish in the Bronx.  It certainly had its own solemnity and beauty - I'm  sure nothing like the High Mass in the extraordinary form  Mr. Wolfe cherishes.  The celebrant faced us, children cried, we took communion in our hands while standing, only one woman in a mantilla, a developmentally disabled man started the sign of peace during the Our Father, traveling up and down the aisles, greeting every pew all through to the end of the Lamb of God.  Much for Mr. Wolfe to dislike and find lacking in solemnity and order. 
Nonetheless - it was a truly "effective celebration of the Eucharist" in which I found great meaning and beauty.  If one can only find meaning, beauty, order and solemnity in a 16th Century liturgy then we just aren't paying attention.
Joseph Farrell | 12/1/2009 - 2:25pm
Bravo, Father Clooney! As a seminarian, I have had exposure to both forms of the Mass and my experience (far less than yours though it is) is very much the same. The liturgy of Trent, inspired by the Holy Spirit, served the Church well. However, that same Spirit has given the Post Vatican II liturgy for our time.

I can tell you that I am not one of the young Catholics who finds faithfulness synonymous with a longing for the liturgy of Trent. Perhaps this puts you and me outside Mr. Wolfe's definition of a "good Catholic" but we stand with a great multitude of the Faithful.
Kenneth Wolfe | 12/1/2009 - 1:55pm
Sarah Myers wrote: "She has accepted graciously and gracefully all the changes with the exception of not eating meat on Friday - the day after Thanksgiving, she was enjoying macaroni and cheese."

Well she is more hardcore than I am - Pius XII granted a dispensation from Friday abstinence to the United States the day after Thanksgiving.

Thank you for these comments, by the way - I have enjoyed the feedback.
Margaret Farquar | 12/1/2009 - 1:04pm
"I think it was a very good thing to remove, for many good reasons including the ecumenical one, barriers that made the Eucharist needlessly different or divisive."
Who's fault was it that the Holy Mass had become "needlessly different"??  Were the Protestants doing things the same way for 1,000 years and then Holy Mother Church changed things around??!
Joe Garcia | 12/1/2009 - 12:46pm
To express my general agreement with Bradley Stevens, I quote a (possibly apocryphal) Texasism:
"You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. But you can clean up the mess."
Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ has often commented along these lines and refers to such a Mass as "the Mass of Vatican II" with which I substantially agree.
Depending on where work takes me, I attend Mass in English, Spanish or Latin (sometimes all three in one Mass!) and the latter is available in the Ordinary or Extraordinary Mass. What makes Mass glorious is what happens there. Bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. If I may be allowed another (imperfect, I know) analogy: it's akin to a film. You may enjoy that film in a cinema or in a home theatre; two very different settings. But the cinema may be shabby and rundown and neglected while the home theatre is nice and clean and inviting. Or vice versa. A proper environment shows respect for the film. So it is with Mass.
In closing, keep in mind that if the Holy Spirit was at work when there was liturgical reform, then the Holy Spirit is at work when that reform, is itself reformed.
Sarah Meyers | 12/1/2009 - 12:39pm
My Mom is 97 and on Thanksgiving she commented ''The Church is so much nicer now than when I was a kid''.  She has accepted  graciously and gracefully all the changes with the exception of not eating meat on Friday - the day after Thanksgiving, she was enjoying macaroni and cheese. 
I think that those who prefer the Tridentine Mass today can only do so because of the understanding of the ritual that they have received from the Post Vatican II liturgy. Reverence, awe, mystery are lovely words but they came about because no one knew what Father was saying/praying and as a result people resorted to the Rosary, novenas and other pius devotions. Today, whether the Mass is in Latin or the vernacular, there is a depth of participation that was sadly lacking prior to Vatican II.
John Smith | 12/1/2009 - 12:31pm
Jim NY, if I may, I think the answers to a couple of the questions you raise are quite important:

"Where is the connection to the Passover meal?" Leaving aside the obvious fact that the Mass is not intended to be a recreation of the Last Supper (or of a seder meal, for that matter), the connection to the Passover is the sacrificial nature of the Mass - a nature made evident when the priest faces the Lord along with the people - when the singluar sacrifice of the true Lamb of God is made present in the elements of the Eucharist.

"Did Jesus turn his back on his disciples gathered at the last supper?" Again leaving aside the fact that the Mass does not purport to reeact the Last Supper (an error called archealogism), it should be pointed out that archaelogical evidence (as opposed to popular artistic renderings) tell us that first centurty seder meals (like the Last Supper) were celebrated with all participants reclined around the same side of a low table with the leader of the meal (in this case, Jesus), seated in the place of honor: the far left side. The other side of the table was left open for ease of those serving the guests - there was not a notion of our modern way of seating on all sides of the table. So, this actually strengthens the point of ad orientem posture during the Mass: all are on the same sided of the altar, the "table of the Lord".
James Sheehan | 12/1/2009 - 12:13pm
The discussion here seems to leave out any of the theology and history that undergirds the liturgy. Where is the connection to the Passover meal? Did Jesus turn his back on his disciples gathered at the last supper? Was it private or social? When the start is one of preference, we loose perspective.
However, I do believe that we should offer many styles of liturgies. While some fear relatism, so what? Remember the prayer of the preface, "Out acts of praise add nothing to your greatness, but help us grow in your grace." The liturgy is for our benefit, not God's.
James Lindsay | 12/1/2009 - 12:00pm
I don't particularly like most folk music, nor do I like it when our music ministers keep introducing pieces that the congregation does not know. I also find it ironic when Now Thank We All Our God is used in Mass, considering that the references to the foe within it were originally about the Pope.

As for the Extraordinary Form, if it is good in Latin, it should also be good in the Venacular. Indeed, the Church should try it out this way and then find out which form the people prefer. Of course, many will think that the new Roman Missle, now recently translated, is an attempt at this. We shall see.
David Cruz-Uribe | 12/1/2009 - 11:51am
A common criticism of the Novus Ordo mass is that its celebration ''lacks reverence'' or ''downplays mystery''.  A comparison is then drawn with the sense of reverence and mystery felt at a Tridentine mass, and the conclusion is drawn that the older form of the mass is superior in this regard.
However, this is a classic example of selection bias-in other words, you are not comparing apples and oranges.  The people who choose to go to a Latin Mass generally have a highly developed personal piety and spirituality (indeed, one that revolves around the Mass), and since this is the focus of their devotional life, they create by their words and actions this sense of awe and wonder.   The population at a typical parish on a typical weekend is much more heterogenous, with people with very different kinds of spiritual lives and at all levels of growth in their faith lives.    As a result, this sense of awe and wonder is diminished.  To someone expecting the former experience, the latter will be greatly disappointing.
In my own experience, a mass with members of my own Franciscan community (I am a Secular Franciscan), in English and with folk music, is a deeply reverent and spiritual moment where I am in touch with the Divine.  Conversely, though I am not old enough to remember the Latin mass, stories told me by older friends strongly suggest that in ''the good old days'' a typical parish mass had the same or similar problems. 
Because of this I believe that the real solution is improved catechesis, teaching the folks in the pews more about the mystery they are celebrating so that it comes alive in their hearts.  A sense of reverence and mystery, as well as an enlivened sense of community, should follow.
John Smith | 12/1/2009 - 10:43am
I think an honest and unemotional evaluation of modern Catholic liturgical life warrants a long, hard consideration of the fact that there just might be a large amount of room for improvement in the way that the Ordinary Form is usually celebrated.

As a convert to the Church and a young adult (30yo to be exact), I can attest that to the fact that the Catholic Mass is far more alluring when it is celebrated in continuity with the pre-Vatican II Mass. In fact, Pope Benedict (who just yesterday publicly celebrated the Ordinary Form ''ad orientem'' in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace) has been very astute in his observation that the only way forward, the only way to recover the loss of sacrality in the Ordinary Form, is to allow a natural cross-polination; mutual influence, between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

Those ''in the know'' predict concrete changes in the future of the Ordinary Form: mandated recovery of the use of Latin (esp. chant) for the Ordinaries of the Mass, while retaining the vernacular for the readings and most responses, and the Eucharistic Prayer being said ''ad orientem'' (i.e. the priest facing the same direction as the people). Only time will tell, but all signs are that things are moving in this direction and this convert could not be more pleased.
Michael Laing | 12/1/2009 - 10:33am
Maria, Orindary form (new mass) and extrodinary form.  Note that the OF can be said in either Latin or Vernacular, the EF can only be said in Latin.
I am old enough that I not only grew up with the EF of the mass, I spent a year in the seminary while it was still the standard.  I still remember one priest that could say the mass in under 10 minutes, and he managed to look dignified doing it.  Of course the Latin was said silently so we couldn't tell if he ws skipping any of it.
I can tell you that the old Latin mass was just as abused as the English mass is today.  I strongly suspect that when the EF of the mass is used today that special care is used to make it as solom and reverential as possible, which was not always the case in the past.
While mass at our parish is certainly not abused, and I do enjoy the Spanish songs ( we live in a Spanish Land Grant area), it is lacking in solemnity and ritual.  I doubt that our prist knows what incense is.  So we often attend an Eastern Rite mass which definitely satisfies our need for ritual and incense.
I do think that in all three cases, the real importance of the mass is the sacrifice, not the ceramony that surrounds it.  In the long run, what we get out of the mass depends on what we put into it, and our attitude toward it.  If you dispise the English mass, then you really should attend a Latin mass for your own good.
WILLIAM EDELEN | 11/30/2009 - 11:07pm
I remember as a child expressing a wish to attend a vernacular mass the same day after attending a mass that was Latin-heavy at a different church.  Today, I heard a client recount how she moved away from the church because of being required to attend Latin mass, a move her father made as part of a group dissatisfied with the change to vernacular post-Vatican II.  She cited "not understanding a word that was said", finding the worship devoid of meaning.
I still prefer the vernacular worship where I know that God knows me and the language I speak - while I know the language as well (a great advantage in my view).  Ultimately, I think there's room for variety of worship.  After all, it's more about what we do upon leaving that speaks to the "true presence" of Christ in the mass.
Pearce Shea | 11/30/2009 - 10:09pm
Just a quick point as a convert (and as someone who has helped convert others and has plenty of adult convert friends) the division between a Catholic Mass and a Protestant Sunday service is a huge point of appeal for many (myself included). There are plenty of enormous reasons that we Catholics ought to distinguish our Mass from those of our Christian brethren, and find true joy in those distinctions. Ecumenical dialog isn't just predicated on a common ground and a willingness to talk, but also on a firm understanding of what one's starting fundamental principles are. After all, if there are no real differences, then what's the point of talking in the first place?
And while the sorry state of Catechesis and theological thought in much of the Episcopal Church drove me from that particular faith to the Catholic one, I suggest that there seems to have been a serious dropping of the ball in the Catholic Church on this one as well (or at least, in America, I can't speak to the rest of the world). I will say this: yes, it's true that the NO is a deeply spiritual, worshipful service and yes, it's entirely possible to see its distinctly Catholic nature, but I think that the OF greatly plays down the distinction, to the point where many, probably the majority of my cradle Catholic friends could not tell me the significance of most of the Mass or even the differences between the Catholic faith as practiced in the Mass versus, say, what goes down at the local Episcopal church. I realize this is largely anecdotal evidence, and would graciously concede every point if someone can point me to some CARA study that indicates other than I have claimed above, but I really, really disagree with Father (and frankly, think it's a bit shocking) when he suggests that most Catholics could sum up some of the major differences between Protestant (and I'm assuming mainline) and Catholic Sundays.
Ken Wolfe is and has often been a bit of a zealot for the EF, and I don't agree with all of his points, but I do think the point about banality should be taken into consideration. Both the EF and OF have their obvious hurdles (the lack of reverence in so much of the congregation in my usual OFs, the awfully steep learning curve of the EF, blah blah blah) but I think proponents of the OF (and that ought to be all of us, right?) too often disregard or play down the frequent banality of the OF _as it is often celebrated_. Indeed, I think that it might be reasonable to suggest that one of the reasons the EF is so frequently seen as "more spiritual" is because when it is celebrated, it is usually celebrated and attended by people who are already there for a very devout, spiritual, worshipful form of liturgical prayer. In any case, the OF is too often celebrated as a banal, drab obligation. It is not spiritual, joyful or penitent. If we could do a better job of really opening ourselves to each Person in the Trinity every Sunday, I think that alot of this hubub over the EF/OF thing would dissipate. And having been involved in Catechesis I can honestly say that a great many younger Catholics _do_ want more order and meaning in the Church and her practices. Rather than snipe at the EF and its stodgy, arch-conservative supporters (I'm obviously exaggerating) ought we not try and go out there and teach about the beauty that is the OF? 
Maria Leonard | 11/30/2009 - 10:02pm
Sadly, in an attempt to justify his opinions about the liturgical reform, Mr. Wolfe repeats slanderous statements about Annibale Begnini, one of the architects of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  In a parallel column on the same page of the Times (America vs. ''The Narrative''), Thomas Friedman describes ''The Narrative'' as a ''cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies'' about America's actions towards the Muslim world.  That description of ''cocktail'' seems to apply to Mr. Wolfe's article ...a narrative about the ''old'' and ''new'' liturgies that is repeated and accepted without reflective analysis.      
Maria Leonard
6294802 | 11/30/2009 - 9:55pm
No, rather it's like saying both of the forms under discussion here are ''right'' ways of worshipping God. Both are valid and both are guaranteed as such by the Church. That's not relativism, and the Holy Father-who approves of both forms-would not say it is.
Anonymous | 11/30/2009 - 9:14pm
PS - I also switch between attending Latin Mass and Novus Ordo mass (when I am unable to attend the former) and I have to say that the level of reverence found in the traditional form is in striking contrast to the casual, almost going-through-the-motions nature of most new masses that I have gone too.  (Don't even get me started on the music!)
As for the political reaction to the Holy Father's leadership regarding liturgy, it is ironic that the young conservatives are pushing for change while the liberal, babyboomer wing of the church seem more comfortable with (now) old habits and attempts at conformity with the greater culture that have obviously failed us in so many ways.
Aaron Reynolds | 11/30/2009 - 8:39pm
Speaking as a fifteen year old boy who is currently serving as an altar boy at a Tridentine Mass, I love the older Mass, and, to be honest, prefer it over the new Mass. While I feel that neither is superior than the other, I do feel that the older Mass is more reverent and evokes a sense of mystery and awe that the new doesn't. One of the common arguments for the Novus Ordo Mass is that it has more opportunity for lay participation. I've never felt at Latin Mass, whether I'm serving or not, that I'm missing out on something because I don't get to participate more. Participation at Latin Mass is more of an inward participation. Also, I love that the priest faces away from the people. I don't view it as his back being to the congregation, but as the priest directing the whole church to the Holy Altar of God. Another thing that I love about the old Mass is that it isn't a ''social'' event. Many times when my family and I have attended Novus Ordo Mass, it feels more like a community gathering, rather than attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of God made present on the altar. That's why I always love attending the Latin Mass and am proud to say that in my hometown, attendance at the Latin Mass Community is growing. Every Sunday we see more and more people at Mass. Praise be to God!  
Anonymous | 11/30/2009 - 8:54pm
"there is nothing merely “closed in on itself” in our way of worship, and I am sorry that Mr Wolfe has found it to be so."
Mr. Wolfe was quoting the Holy Father regarding his understanding of the new mass and, therefore, was not stating his independent opinion.
Do you oppose the forthcoming corrected translation of the Novus Ordo?
Stephen Braunlich | 11/30/2009 - 7:37pm
It seems to me that some of the arguments employed on both sides don't fail disinterested scrutiny.
Take the ecumenical aspect.  Bugnini wanted to emulate the Protestants for ecumenical reasons, yet at the same time the innovations moved further away from Orthodoxy.  In the East priests still face with congregation when the prayers are directed to God (consecration) and towards the congregation when the prayers are directed to them (sign of peace).  So while the so-called ecumenical aspects of the reform cut towards the Protestants, it cut away from the Orthodox.
On the flip side, when I hear traditionalists decry the fact that things changed in a drastic way I have to chuckle.  Trent itself changed a number of liturgical practices, not least of all by eliminating local rites. Likewise, the vernacular was approved long ago in the East precisely because it had been so effective in Cyril and Methodius's evangelization.
I think we would all do well to remember the role of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that we are each fed in our own way.  So long as orthdoxy remains - and I don't see Wolfe saying it is not present in the Novus Ordo - then the choice is legit.  For myself, it's Byzantine Rite on Sundays, when I can dedicate the time, and Novus Ordo during the week when I am short on time.
Anonymous | 11/30/2009 - 5:48pm
Yes, I too served as altar boy in the 40s but still believe the new Mass as superior... more lay participation,and less bead rattling as I remember....Am privileged to lector now for almost 40 + years.
Maybe on another slow news day, I mean after the Woods fender bender and the White House crashes are resolved, Mr Wolfe can get the NYT to publish an op ed suggesting the full bring back of the Cappa Magna .. with pics too!!
Bill Collier | 11/30/2009 - 5:47pm
Thanks for your contribution, Fr. Clooney, and I think we all need a reminder about the importance of your point # 1:
"[T]rust the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church."

Though I'm not a priest, I recall serving at pre-VII Masses in my youth. I also enjoyed the Latin, the ritual, and the mystery, and I understand how some might yearn for that liturgy. In the abstract, I have no problem with the pre-conciliar liturgy being available to those who wish to worship in that format. My practical concern, however, is that I have noticed that some (not all) who prefer the pre-conciliar liturgy regard it as superior to the post-conciliar liturgy. (I believe Mr. Wolfe falls into this category, if his triumphal comment today at the dotCommonweal blog that the Church is moving to the right is any indication.) If such an attitude were to become widespread, it would be inevitable, it seems to me, that there would soon be a litmus test for who is an authentic Catholic. That would be both regrettable and sad. Instead of becoming enmeshed in an internal identity crisis, Catholics should be expending their collective energy on the world's many problems as a united front.

FRANCIS DOYLE OS A REV | 12/1/2009 - 10:08am
I liked your comments and can kind of figure out that OF means new Mass and EF means Tridentine, but what do the letters actually stand for?  
Anonymous | 11/30/2009 - 9:30pm
To say that we cannot criticize these two very different forms of mass is like saying "there is no right or wrong way to worship God - just do what you feel." 
I am sorry but this is the very relativism that dominates our pop culture and is an idea that should be denounced, not embraced.
Forms (and the ideas/philosophy they represent) matter!
6294802 | 11/30/2009 - 9:19pm
Yes, thanks for this padre. I also felt let down by the times op/ed piece and thought it would have been better if they had provided a counterpoint. I have to say that I love the Latin Mass and find it beautiful, reverent, other-worldly (evocative of heaven) and offering a sense of spiritual transport. However, I also understand Mass as a communication between God and us, and this is brought out very well in the ordinary form of the Mass. The accessible, understandable language, the back-and-forthing of the responses, the priest and people facing one another all foster this communication between God and us. So, do I favor one over the other? I guess not. They're both too good. But I'd go further and say that I would be really, really pleased if people didn't think of the two forms of the Mass in an antagonistic way wherein one is better and one should prevail. That's missing the major point: Both are valid, because in both Jesus comes physically among us under the guise of bread and wine. To advocate too strongly for one or the other Mass leads us away from this essential truth.
Brendan Walsh | 12/3/2009 - 12:56pm
This discussion about Mass forms is aesthetically interesting but irrelevant to what I see as the goal of any religion including my own. That goal is to draw us closer to God and have our actions reflect the ancient pagan Roman's observation: "see these Christians; how they love one another."
The form of Mass has certainly had no effect here. Pius XIi, while still Cardinal Pcellii, a strict supporter of ancient rites did, of course, knowingly sign a concordat with the devil in the form of Adolph Hitler.
In more recent times many beautiful Latin Masses were said and sung by pedophiles. Many of the "Latin is the way to spiritual purity" folks are also deniers of the abuse, defenders of the scurrilous bishops involved and resisters of change in the non-sacramental, non-dogmatic functions of our church.
Discussing the forms of worship is ever so much easier than discussing the serious issues eating at the church.
Walter Williams | 12/2/2009 - 10:29pm
What the time article has forgotten is that in the turning of the priest to face the congregation is coupled with the change of the liturgy into a dialog (albight a poor one).  The Post Trent Pre Vatican II liturgy was more a pagent to be observed than anything, moving the way a play is moving.  Now the congregation and presider engage each other in a moving dialog.
The shame of it is that the Mass in English has no poetry to it, and misses out on moments where the dialog could be heightened.
We need a revision to the Liturgy by someone gifted with poetry as well as understanding of Liturgical tradition.