An advocate of Latin liturgies speaks about tradition

For this week’s Vatican Letter from our Rome bureau — see “New generation, old rite: the enduring appeal of Catholic tradition” — we interviewed Father Joseph Kramer, an Australia-born member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. The fraternity was established specifically to serve Catholics devoted to the old Mass in Latin. You can watch a video version of the story here.

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16 Responses to An advocate of Latin liturgies speaks about tradition

  1. Duane Lamers says:

    Certainly, those wishing to worship in the Latin language must be accommodated.

    Websites devoted to preserving the older form of our Latin rite Mass refer to it as “usus antiquior,” the older use. However, it is noted that the proponents of this form also strongly favor the use of the “fiddleback” chasuble, This style goes back to the time of Trent, while the Gothic chasuble is an even older “usus antiquior.”

    We find no fiddlebacks on and in the Gothic churches. Those favoring the “usus antiquior” place their own limits, it seems, as to how far back they really desire to go.

  2. saintpio1 says:

    I don’t mind latin. I do mind all the responses being sung. I wish we could go back to the old latin mass and follow the mass with a missal. It meant much more to me then.
    Choirs were supposed to be “angelic” like (angels singing in the background of the mass) Now we must appease protestants and act like them!! A word of advice to our “leaders”—converts are attracted to the catholic church for substance not superficiality and they liked it just as it WAS – not emulating a protestant service.

    When are we going to put the choir to the back of the church again??

  3. lexetlibertas says:


    Most grassroots “traditionalists” are really reform-of-the-reformists. Our beef is not so much with the postconciliar reforms, but of what’s actually hit our parishes: a tacky, banal celebration of the Mass that barely looks or feels Catholic, a deformation that none of our ancestors would have recognized as a Catholic rite.

    There’s no one issue that bothers us: Latin, cut of chasuble, etc. It is the fact that the overwhelming majority of pastors and “liturgists” ignore, or are ignorant of, not only the Catholic liturgical tradition but even the express prescriptions of post-conciliar legislation, which mandate, among other things:

    a) that Latin be used often enough that practicing Catholics know the ordinaries of the Mass in Latin by heart: how many Catholics do you know can this be said of?

    b) That Gregorian chant have “pride of place” in parish celebrations of the liturgy. How many parishes is this true of?

    c) That polyphony take a second place to chant, and traditional hymnody a third place, among musical styles. Again, how many parishes is this true of?

    d) That new compositions be organically related to older musical styles. Is this true of the usual parish fare?

    e) The the principal Mass on Sundays and feast days be *sung*. Again, how many Catholics know what a “sung Mass” is? How many would assume that a “sung Mass” is a spoken Mass with a tacky-hymn sandwich?

    f) Fidelity to the Church’s tradition. As an exercise, try acquainting yourself with the following liturgies: Tridentine, Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, and even High Anglican. Now, compare this to what passes for “liturgy” at your typical Novus Ordo mass. One of these things is not like the other!

    If your typical parish Novus Ordo was reverent, beautiful, and represented a simplification of the Tridentine Mass, and not a radical overhaul, the vast majority of “traditionalists” wouldn’t have any gripes.

    Reducing “traditionalist” gripes to “They want to worship in Latin” is both patronizing and just so much red herring.

  4. Duane Lamers says:

    Lexet, I agree almost entirely with your views!

    I’ve expressed concern earlier with the gum-chewing communicants who return from the sanctuary with host in hand, carried as though it were a piece of candy.
    Not to mention that liturgical “dance” which was foisted on my parish but once, Deo gratias.
    And then there was that horrific experience a year ago at the baptism ceremony for our grandson, the only one baptized that Sunday aftenoon. Sad to say, it was an utter “turn off” for me. Disgusting.
    I would disagree only with your statement that the faithful ought to memorize the ordinary of the Mass. This is testimony to the foreignness of the Latin language, that it can only become meaningful if we’ve memorized the Latin and its translation. A few commonly-known Latin phrases included in the Mass as a reminder of its heritage, yes! (Actually, I miss the use of the Greek, too, in the older form of the Good Friday liturgy.)
    I’m somewhat familiar with the Chaldean rite, and my experiences in that setting were, sorry to say, all too similar to what passes as community worship in too many of our Roman-rite parishes.
    Perhaps, a return to almost everything you speak of would see a return of many who’ve since abandoned attendance at Mass.
    Now, if only some of those “usus antiquior” sites can be nudged away from their emphases. Or maybe I should quit spending time finding them.

  5. lexetlibertas says:

    Hey, Duane.

    That the faithful ought to know the ordinaries of the Mass in Latin, by heart, is a wish expressed explicitly by the Second Vatican Council’s decree Sacrosanctum Concilium. It’s not some traditionalist fancy.

    And this memorization does not have to be forced. It comes naturally and spontaneously by frequent attendance at Solemn Mass or a Missa Cantata. The use of Latin (and other archaic liturgical languages: Koine Greek, Old Church Slavonic, Syriac, Aramaic, etc.) is *supposed* to be simultaneously and paradoxically both intimately familiar and foreign. Good liturgy *demands* more of the worshiper: it draws him in by its beauty, while requiring him to *actively* pay attention in order to scratch the surface of what is going on. The Tridentine Mass, for example, accomplishes this by forcing non-Latin speakers to read the propers in the hand-missal in order to know what exactly is being prayed at that particular Mass. A person does not just take the prayer for granted and respond with a rote, “Amen”. Passivity occurs in both contexts, but I would argue your typical Novus Ordo worship is a LOT less actively engaged in following along with the liturgy than your average worshiper today at a Tridentine Mass.

    Remember, everything I’m suggesting we “return” to is just obedience to POST-CONCILIAR legislation and regulation. It’s what is *supposed* to be already going on — just watch any of the Holy Father’s liturgies to see this in action.

  6. Thomas Raines says:

    Yes, I consider myself to be a Traditionist. It was not the loss of Latin which hurt me the hardest but the total loss of Catholic Tradition and respect for the mass and the concept of Sacrafice being replaced with the “mystery of Faith” which speaks of the future and NOT Christ is with us NOW on the Altar, our sacrafice for sin. I had hoped that some of this would have been restored last Advent but I did not see it. The difference in the traditional Offitory prayers and that of Novis Ordo, Makes a clear case of what has been lost. Keep Praying !

  7. Jeff says:

    At least one of our two Archbishops in Winnipeg (Canada) tried to force a “greeting rite” at the beginning of the (novus ordo) Mass whatever that is supposed to mean, then came up with some “idea” that all faithful remain standing in their pews after receiving holy communion until the last communicant has received holy communion…then there are the rock band (contemporary) Masses, Children’s Masses, kumbye-ya/campfire typed recorded piano music…..this is the tip of the iceberg here in Winnipeg-is any of these “invented” rubrics and banal music supposed to be in the Mass?….oh and don’t bother writing the Archbishops, they will just ignore you.

  8. Richard M says:

    Hello Lex,

    There’s much to what you say in your response to Duane, but I will quibble over one point:

    “If your typical parish Novus Ordo was reverent, beautiful, and represented a simplification of the Tridentine Mass, and not a radical overhaul, the vast majority of “traditionalists” wouldn’t have any gripes.”

    The problem with the Pauline mass goes beyond just irreverent celebration or abuses that are common. The Novus Ordo reformed much more than just the introduction of the vernacular. The lectionary was radically overhauled. Collects and propers rewritten. Entire sections of the mass removed or reworked. Numerous options created, most notably for the entire Roman canon.

    Alll of which is legitimate and valid. But much of which was arguably ill-advised.

    I don’t think many traditionalists get hung up over fiddlebacks versus gothic chasubles.

  9. Duane Lamers says:

    As I think more about the comments of Lex, I add this: The ideal that Lex speaks of has my approval, but it is impossibly unrealistic. It would require much more of the church congregations than what the people themselves would be willing to contribute..

  10. Jonathan of the Cross says:

    When are people supposed to work for a living, raise their children, and take care of the million things they have to do to just live? Spending all their time worring about and being concerned about Latin, and sung parts of the Mass, and Novus Ordo, and chants. What are people talking about? and to whom? People are leaving the church by the hundreds and you think Latin and chant are the solution? How very sad to read these posts. Maybe this will work when Newt begins his moon colony. Unbelieveable how out of touch these comments are.

  11. Thomas Raines says:

    Jonathan, We support our families in this world but our Faith and the practice of it is for the next.
    What I feel we have lost is the concept of the Worship of an all Powerful God and that is how we are out of touch. In the Latin mass the prayers were of Sorrow for our sins for this we Offered Christ to the Father as the Sacrafice for our sins
    . We can learn the sung parts of the mass if we have a choir to lead us. The same is true for chants. How we worship reflects how we believe ! If we are to busy in church being social with our neighbor then we are not spending time with Christ on the Altar. The came into being because the reformers who wrote the new liturgy taught that Christ in Communion is no more important than Christ in the assembly. People are probably leaving the Church because the message of Salvation and the Fear of the Lord are very much missing in our modern fuzzy feel good liturgy.
    We must offer to God our Best both in our daily lives as well as in our Worship of Him. I trust this makes sense, or am I out of touch ?

  12. lexetlibertas says:


    There’s nothing “idealistic” about what I propose. It’s the everyday liturgical norm of all non-Protestants *except* Catholics. It also doesn’t require a whole lot in the way of resources, just personal commitment. Liturgy can be beautiful and reverent in a wide variety of settings, from cathedrals with professional choirs to very rustic poor congregations. This does not require wealth or exceptional talent, just a commitment on the part of pastors.


    Is it fair of your to characterize us, on the basis of one discussion that is expressly about one particular topic (the liturgy), as “spending all time worring about and being concerned about Latin, and sung parts of the Mass, and Novus Ordo, and chants”?

    Why don’t you think it is important that Catholics worship God properly? And what does your utilitarian calculus have to do with a Catholic worldview?

  13. Duane Lamers says:

    Lex, I agree. It is “idealistic” in this sense: Given what we know about leadership in the local churches and the mindset of the typical parishoner, most of this will not happen. Believe me, if there were a local congregation where I live that did strive for better liturgical celebrations, I would join that parish. There are none around here that I am aware of.

    Thanks for your enumeration of the important features of a proper liturgical celebration that respects the true intent of Vatican II. (I must also say, though, that some of the Sistine Choir’s efforts, as I’ve experienced them through broadcasts on EWTN, leave much to be desired.)

  14. seriousfugu says:

    sad, simply sad!

  15. Richard M says:

    Hello Jonathan,

    “When are people supposed to work for a living, raise their children, and take care of the million things they have to do to just live?”

    Generations of Catholic parents managed to do just that until the 1960’s – with less free time than we have, arguably. The boys who served at altar managed to learn the Latin responses by heart (and the Baltimore Catechism) with surprising ease. But the spiritual formation of your children is your most important responsibility. And that’s not something confined to one hour every Sunday morning.

    A faith that requires little or nothing of its adherents is not one that will last long. Nor will it produce vocations. I think you have to ask yourself why it is that vocations and resort to the sacraments have collapsed so precipitously in precisely the years (1965 onward) when every effort was made to secularize the faith and the liturgy, to abandon rules and expectations.

  16. Richard M says:

    Hello Lex,

    “There’s nothing “idealistic” about what I propose.”

    I’d even settle for just two changes, both of which require nothing of the laity: celebration of the Roman canon (if not the entire mass) ad orientem, and reception of communion kneeling and on the tongue as the norm. Do just those two things and so much else will follow in due course.

    Which is why I wouldn’t bother demanding my third request, ditching of the OCP hymnals for more traditional ones – since any priest who celebrated mass with those first two reforms would soon feel a strong desire to change the hymnals, too.

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