About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
“Edwin Fischer was, on the concert platform, a short, leonine, resilient figure, whose every fibre seemed to vibrate with elemental musical power.”
— Daniel Barenboim (1960)

Refutations • “Can the Latin Mass be enriched?”
published 13 February 2017 by Jeff Ostrowski

365 Holy Sacrifice of the Mass AM NOT SOMEONE who believes enrichment of the Extraordinary Form by the Ordinary Form is impossible. If you scroll to the bottom, I explain how this might happen. The Catholic World Report (CWR) recently published an article in which Rev. Peter Stravinskas proposes 14 ways the OF can enrich the EF. I feel the article was superficial in its treatment.

It is difficult to understand why CWR went to Rev. Stravinskas, who celebrates the EF infrequently and did not receive EF seminary formation, when there are hundreds of priests who offer the EF daily and have a full grasp of the subject.

I wonder if Fr. Stravinskas realizes the 1990s rulings by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” permit much of what he wants. (Granted, the various “Ecclesia Dei” letters are notoriously contradictory.) Below, I give the suggestions by Fr. Stravinskas in green, followed by my response. To read his full explanations, you must visit CWR.

(1) Adoption of the 1970s lectionary

On the contrary: I believe it’s time to reconsider the maxim that “more is always better.” The EF lectionary—which in large part corresponds to the sermons of St. Gregory the Great and others—distills in a marvelous way important parts of Sacred Scripture.

Our pastor in the 1990s, Fr. Valentine Young, used to cite key passages deleted entirely from the Novus Ordo lectionary, such as Matthew 24:15-35 (“For there shall arise false prophets”) and I Corinthians 11:27-29 (receiving the Eucharist unworthily). Fr. George Rutler has pointed out that many “short form” readings in the Novus Ordo lectionary distort Scripture. For example, the short form of the “Parable of the Wedding Garment” omits the wedding garment!

The 1970s lectionary was put together with great haste, and since its introduction the literacy of Catholics vis-à-vis Sacred Scripture has plummeted. In my view, the 3-year cycle is inhuman, because we humans don’t think in patterns of multiple years. For example, birthdays are celebrated each year, not every third year. Nor do the seasons change every fifth year. The earth’s journey around the sun is (unsurprisingly) ingrained into us.

(2) Incorporation of additional Mass formularies

My response: The CWR author mentions the possibility of digging up old Mass formularies but fails to indicate what is deficient or unsatisfactory about those in the 1962 Missal. Let’s be careful about “change for the sake of change.”

(3) Expand possibilities for solemnity

My response: The CWR author says the strict EF rules should be relaxed with regard to music, and when you first hear this suggestion it sounds fantastic. The problem is, once these rules are relaxed, human nature kicks in and will always choose the easiest path. I would never have worked so hard to learn the Propers (growing up in the 1990s) if they were optional.

It reminds me of certain USA bishops who—a few decades ago—tried to eliminate the obligation to assist at Mass on Sundays. They said Catholics should WANT to attend Mass, and who would disagree? Yet sensible people realize that eliminating the Sunday obligation would be a disaster. The problem with “relaxed rules” is demonstrated by many (but not all) OF parishes, where the music director exclusively plays the keyboard and sings—and nobody else does anything. After all, forming a choir is extremely hard work. (I fought that temptation constantly when I played five OF Masses per weekend, and often gave in, I’m ashamed to admit.)

(4) Elimination of duplicate recitations

My response: The CWR author says priests should not quietly read prayers sung by the choir (e.g. Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, and so on) at the Altar. I strongly disagree! For one thing, this ancient practice cannot have a negative effect on the congregation because the prayers are inaudible and (usually) don’t cause a delay. Vatican II declared “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them.”

Those who were not formed by the EF have a difficult time understanding why the traditional liturgy is multi-layered. In my view, it’s all about being “human.” Humans have multiple senses and experience multiple emotions—often simultaneously! In the ancient liturgy, many things happen at the same time, reminding us God is not bound by time. For example, toward the beginning of Mass, the priest says prayers softly, the KYRIE is being sung, the smell of incense is present, and the priest makes physical gestures (crosses, bowing, and so forth). Because we’re human, such things assist our prayer. Can you imagine how unbearable movies would be if they weren’t multi-layered? The footage, soundtrack, dialogue, sound effects, and titling wouldn’t happen simultaneously—yuck! 1

The “awkwardness” cited by Fr. Stravinskas demonstrates his lack of familiarity with the ancient liturgy. It is easy for experienced priests to coordinate the end of the recited Creed and descent from the Altar with the sung ET INCARNATUS EST: it works quite smoothly.

(5) Restoration of Offertory Procession and Prayer of the Faithful

My response: The CWR author says Sacrosanctum Concilium specifically asked for these items to be restored. I know §53 does talk about the Prayer of the Faithful, but I didn’t realize an Offertory procession was mandated. (Could someone please email me the paragraph number?) I do not think the world would end if these were added to the Extraordinary Form, although I personally don’t favor either one. By the way, authors disagree as to whether the Good Friday prayers are, in fact, remnants of the ancient Prayer of the Faithful. Fortescue reminds us that “there is no positive evidence either way.” I only mention this because sometimes the most “obvious” things in liturgy are traps. For example, the KYRIE is not a remnant of when Mass was said in Greek.

Rev. Stravinskas wants to revive an ancient practice (“Prayer of the Faithful”) that seems to have disappeared when the discipline of the catechumenate came to an end. Yet his fourteenth “enrichment” item says the terminology should not reflect the ancient catechumenate practice. This is a contradiction.

(6) Re-order the dismissal rite

Fr. Stravinskas appeals to “logic,” but the sacred liturgy has its own rationale, reflecting its gradual and organic development. Some details reflect theological developments. For instance, torchbearers witness the development of the Church’s understanding of transubstantiation, which circa 1215AD encouraged Catholics to gaze upon the SANCTISSIMUM (hence the lanterns). Those who lack familiarity with the liturgy might deem torches as “illogical” in light of—forgive the pun!—the electric lightbulb.

Similarly, the Deacon singing “Ite missa est” isn’t meant to stop people from making their thanksgiving in church. Rather, it’s a reminder of the history of the catechumenate—since there formerly was an additional “ITE” telling the catechumens to leave. To dismiss (pardon the pun!) these powerful reminders of the antiquity of our Church and the liturgy’s special “language” is no small display of ignorance. Sacred vestments, for example, do not serve a practical purpose.

(7) Move the “fractio”

My response: The FRACTIO is quite ancient, with a dauntingly complex history. We have gotten along just fine for all these centuries keeping the FRACTIO in the traditional place.

(8) Make clear that the homily is a true part of the Sacred Liturgy

Fr. Stravinskas makes a logical error here by claiming that PWWB (“preaching while wearing a biretta”) shows the homily isn’t part of the Mass, meaning lay people could preach. But do laymen wear birettas? Maybe in the 19th century, but not in our times.

Since we’re talking about the Sermon, I cannot resist sharing a beautiful citation by Fortescue given in the Campion Missal:

The homily after the lessons is one of the oldest elements of the liturgy. […] The priest who preaches to his people after the Gospel on Sunday morning follows the example of his predecessors in all ages back to the Apostles, and performs what is really an element of the liturgy itself—especially if his sermon explains the lessons, if he “exhorts them to follow these glorious examples.”
I’m disturbed by Fr. Stravinskas’ obsession with minor details like whether the maniple is removed for the homily, whether the GLORIA crosses are made “in synch,” and so forth. Forgive my bluntness, but I find such arguments to be weak, weak, weak.

(9) Maintain the integrity of the Sanctus

On the contrary: There is a venerable tradition of composing the BENEDICTUS in a different manner, reflecting what has taken place at the Consecration, and this would be utterly destroyed. That’s why splitting the Sanctus was required by law for centuries. Moreover, what we’ve already covered about multi-layered liturgy applies here.

(10) Adopt the rubrics of the OF for the Communion Rite

On the contrary: The CWR author is incorrect to say the entire congregation does not sing the Lord’s prayer. In fact, they sing the ending part, while the priest says the first section. It’s a dramatic and beautiful moment when the congregation comes in with “sed libera nos a malo,” which would be a shame to lose. Catholics pray the Our Father at home constantly, which is commendable. Yet, there’s something special (and powerful) about the priest saying the beginning section alone, calling to mind the way our Lord taught His disciples this prayer.

Incidentally, the 1958 document issued under Pius XII allows the congregation to say the full PATER NOSTER at Low Mass, and a 1997 letter allows the congregation to sing it during High Mass.

(11) Face the people when addressing the people.

On the contrary: The CWR author fails to understand that Scripture readings are not purely didactic. They are prayer. Consider the Gospel for the Octave Day of Christmas:

“At that time, after eight days were accomplished that the Child should be circumcised: His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
This isn’t something the congregation has never heard before. Rather, it’s a prayer—proclaimed in a new space and time.

(12) Unite the calendars of the OF and EF

Fr. Louis Bouyer, close friend of Pope Paul VI and architect of post-conciliar reforms, has written:

“I prefer to say nothing, or very little, about the new calendar, the handiwork of a trio of maniacs who suppressed (with no good reason) Septuagesima and the Octave of Pentecost and who scattered three quarters of the Saints higgledy-piddledy, all based on notions of their own devising!”
In the EF, tomorrow is the beautiful feast of St. Valentine, but the new calendar changes this. Such alterations seem to contradict §23 of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Fr. Stravinskas insists on one calendar only, so let us return to the traditional calendar, precisely because it has never been shown to be deficient. (Neither was it formulated by “a trio of maniacs.”)

(13) Modify the rubrics

Contrariwise: Eliminating the crosses, as the CWR author suggests, does not constitute “enrichment” but impoverishment. This issue was settled by discussions at the Council of Trent, and it never ceases to amaze me how ancient these crosses are. In the Campion Hymnal, color pictures show them going back before the 8th century!

(14) Rename the two principal parts of the Mass

On the contrary: The symbolism and richness of “Mass of the Catechumens” and “Mass of the Faithful” is quite beautiful. Furthermore, it would be difficult to imagine a more peripheral quibble than this. The succinct words of Fortescue are apropos: “Like all other liturgical functions, like offices and ranks in the Church, indeed like everything else in the world, the religious service that we call the Mass existed long before it had a special technical name.”

HE HEART OF THE MATTER is a false notion of being “even-handed.” For decades, we’ve been told to be “even-handed” in our treatment of any subject—so if somebody says the earth is round, equal time must be allotted to a lunatic who says the earth is flat. If somebody writes a paper about Mother Theresa’s good qualities, he must spend an equal amount of time on Stalin’s good qualities when writing a paper about him. That’s being “even-handed” according to current thought. (In their zeal to avoid making a “value judgment” they inadvertently make value judgments.)

The EF was carefully formed over many centuries, while the OF has existed for a fraction of that time. Which do we expect will have more of an influence? The obvious answer is given to us by common sense. Nevertheless, I do feel there are some possibilities worth considering when it comes to the OF enriching the EF

(a) Vernacular hymns could (perhaps) be allowed during Communion at High Mass;

(b) The Gradual could (perhaps) be sung by the entire congregation to a Psalm Tone;

(c) More Prefaces could (perhaps) be added, continuing a pattern begun in more recent times;

(d) Optional feast days for recent saints could easily be added, in the careful way that had become normal during the early 20th century;

(e) …and so forth.

In my view, the best way to help the congregation enter more deeply into Mass is providing books which clearly delineate—by means of font sizes, images, headers, and page weight—the more important parts of the Mass with side-by-side English translations for every prayer. This has already been accomplished to a large extent in the St. Edmund Campion Hymnal.

Since Vatican II, thousands of pages of liturgical legislation have been promulgated—and the word “excessive” doesn’t begin to do justice to this ocean’s worth of documents: Inter oecumenici, Tres Abhinc Annos, Musicam Sacram, Liturgicae Instaurationes, Paschale Solemnitatis, and so on. In this 2013 article, a photo shows a massive book (1,496 pages) which only contains some of the liturgical documents. There were also subtle changes, such as the 1965 Missal, which deleted part of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar—but not all of it—and eliminated the Last Gospel.

In spite of all the options that do exist, 99% of priests who offer the Traditional Mass do it the same way. In other words, they don’t choose the options because nobody has been able to demonstrate anything deficient about the Traditional Mass. Someone who’s immature, if he learns about options, feels compelled to take them. Wiser people understand the maxim: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


1   Eastern Rites (“of equal dignity” according to Vatican II) love multi-layered liturgies. What I might object to, however, is the medieval practice that ended centuries ago wherein the “Credo” and “Kyrie” are sung simultaneously! Perhaps the Altar in those days was so far away the music did not create cacophony. Speaking of eliminating duplications, I’ve mentioned a very serious unanswered question. The eliminations took effect on 1 January 1961. Remember that bishops do not sing the Gospel or Epistle at High Mass and seldom deviated from their morning Low Mass. Can we therefore be certain that the eliminations had “sunk in” by 1963 when Sacrosanctum Concilium was voted on, and (more importantly) when it was being drafted for a long time before being voted upon? We cannot.