In this series of articles, we explore the ways in which you can start a Traditional Latin Mass in your city, how you can overcome obstacles, and provide resources you can use to further your cause.
LTHOUGH the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is still not in the mainstream, it has gained significant traction in recent years. Drawn by the mystery and beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass, some people have permanently made the switch to the Extraordinary Form (EF). However, not everyone has access to it in their city, and so their choices are limited to attending the Novus Ordo or driving for several hours each way to find the traditional liturgy. Due to these limitations, some very brave souls in various places around the world have chosen to create another option: bringing the Extraordinary Form Mass to their city. If you’re trying to start the Traditional Latin Mass in your own city—or considering it—let’s talk!
Is It Even Possible?
Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge that in some places there is a widespread bias among the clergy against traditional expressions of the faith. Some of you are outright persecuted for wearing a chapel veil, or for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. For those whom the Holy Spirit has called to also kneel for Holy Communion, you suffer in silence every Sunday because you know your pastor really hates it when you do that, and everyone around you seems to be staring. You’re told that you are making a spectacle of yourself. You are told to stop. But because the Holy Spirit cannot be denied, you fall to your knees every single time you receive our Eucharistic Lord, despite the problems you know it will cause you. You long for respite from the abuses of the Ordinary Form. You wish you could disappear into a place where your natural expression of faith is actually considered normal. Some of you now realize that this place of refuge is the Traditional Latin Mass. There are no half measures when you’re being persecuted at your own parish. But what if there is no available Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) in your city? Perhaps it is time for you to form a coalition of like-minded lay people and start one. As you form your group, the very first thing you should all do is to pray a daily rosary for the intention of successfully starting a Latin Mass. You’re not alone, after all. Invite the Blessed Mother into it and she will aid and assist you every step of the way.
What Will It Take?
At the risk of over-simplifying things, but for the sake of clarity, here is list of what you need to do in the most basic kind of nutshell. Some of these can be worked on simultaneously.
(1) Form a stable group of people who desire to have the Latin Mass.
The more people in your group, the better. Not only do you need enough people to attend the Latin Mass, you also need plenty of volunteers to help organize things. Never underestimate the power of what just a few people can do—it can be a lot! But if you want security in this endeavor on an ongoing basis, you will as many reliable people on board as you can muster.
(2) Find a priest willing to celebrate the TLM.
Although there are not a great quantity of priests who know how to celebrate the ancient liturgy, it is likely that somewhere out there in your Diocese there is a priest open to the learning the TLM. Ask friends from different parishes to put their feelers out and see if they know any priests or pastors who are friendly to tradition. If, after a concerted effort, you still cannot find a willing priest, you can write to your Bishop to request the TLM. Some people find that formally asking their Bishop is actually harder than finding a priest and asking personally, due to the non-responsive nature of some Bishops. But it is still an option. If you prefer to go that route, you can find step-by-step instructions for making a request from your Bishop on the website of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. You can also reach out to them for help.
(3) Obtain permission from the pastor of a host parish to celebrate the TLM.
Parishes that don’t have a lot of Masses scheduled will be more likely to be able to accommodate an extra Mass. Parishes that have schools attached, on the other hand, tend to have very busy schedules. You’ll have to ask around and make some phone calls. If you personally know any pastors, ask them first. You’ll probably get a better response if they know you personally. For the same reason, if you have a friend who knows a willing pastor, then ask them to approach the pastor on your behalf. Be as flexible as you possibly can about scheduling your Mass. It might not be at a convenient time (it might not even satisfy your Sunday obligation!), but it will be a start. Wednesday evenings at 7pm? Sure, why not? You need to at least get your foot in the door. Eventually, with consistent attendance, you may be able to request a day and time that satisfies your Sunday obligation and which is more convenient for families with children.
(4) Decide if you will start with a Low Mass which has no music, or a Missa Cantata which does require sung music.
A Low Mass requires very little in the way of preparation for your volunteers, other than making sure the altar is set up and the priest has everything he needs to celebrate the Mass (altar cards and so on). Technically, you don’t even need a server if it is essentially the priest’s private Low Mass which people are invited to attend.
Some people choose to start with a Low Mass and then add altar servers as they become trained. This can also buy some time for a choir to be trained in how to sing Gregorian chant. On the other hand, if you prefer to start right away with a Missa Cantata, you will need to train altar boys and a choir (or a cantor if you can find someone brave enough to chant the entire Mass alone until the choir is trained). You do not need an organ for a Missa Cantata, although it certainly is nice to have. I do not want to gloss over the time and effort it will take to train enough support volunteers to have a Missa Cantata, but since that isn’t the focus here, suffice it to say that it will take longer to get going if you have a Missa Cantata rather than a Low Mass. Don’t forget that you may need to take up a collection from among your group in order to obtain vestments, altar cards, missal, etc. for the priest.
The Necessary Permissions
You might be wondering if it really is possible to have a TLM without first obtaining the Bishop’s permission as a first step. In fact, it certainly is possible. A pastor in charge of his own parish is able to celebrate the EF Mass without anyone’s permission (because Summorum Pontificum allows for this). A priest or associate pastor, however, would need to get the pastor’s permission to use the church proper, which is true of any Mass outside of the regularly scheduled ones, not just the TLM.
But in order to get the TLM on the Church’s calendar as a regularly scheduled parochial Mass, the pastor of the host parish would need to at least confer with the Bishop as a matter of protocol. The Bishop regulates all liturgies in his Diocese, so it would ultimately be up to the Bishop to make that decision.
If a pastor, or a priest with the pastor’s permission, has been offering some experimental EF Masses, he could then go to their Bishop and show him that there is a stable group and that they have been celebrating the TLM for however many months and have had a certain number of people attending regularly. It is helpful for a pastor to have some solid information to share with his Bishop about whether there is enough interest and stability to offer it on a regular basis.
The Internet is your friend! In terms of practical preparations for the Mass, there is plenty of information out there that can be found in other articles and online resources. YouTube is especially helpful with things like altar server training videos and videos of Traditional Latin Masses that you can watch to become more familiar with it. Honestly, starting up a Mass has never been easier than it is today with endless sources of information at your fingertips.
On the musical side of things, this blog is an excellent resource:
An Okay Way To Learn:
You can take Gregorian Chant Lessons which will teach you to read and sing Gregorian chant at your own pace.
The Best Way To Learn:
Gregorian Chant Practice Recordings will help you learn the propers for the Masses.
This fabulous online tool will help you create psalm tone propers if the full propers are too difficult at the beginning. 1 To print your selections, check the boxes you want to print and then hit the “PDF” button. That will save the file to your computer so you can print it.
Polyphonic sheet music and practice recordings can be used for when your newly developed choir is ready to tackle choral music.
When Covid19 Ends:
Sacred Music Symposium (for when we get past Covid!)
The 3 P’s: Patience, Perseverance, and Prayer
Rome was not built in a day, and the Traditional Latin Mass won’t be either. In order to succeed, you will have to have a good dose of the 3 P’s – Patience, Perseverance and Prayer!
It can take years to develop one of those breathtaking Traditional Latin Masses where all the rubrics have been polished down to a science, there are 20 altar boys, vestments worthy of a Renaissance master, and a magnificent heavenly choir. They don’t just pop up overnight! At one point, lots of other stunningly beautiful Masses were at first a small Mass with perhaps an altar server or two on a random weekday night. Over time, with steady attendance, diligence and a good measure of Divine Providence, things will develop.
In Pedro de Ribadeneira’s biography of St. Ignatius he wrote of the saint:
“In matters which he took up pertaining to the service of our Lord, he made use of all the human means to succeed in them, with a care and efficiency as great as if the success depended on these means; and he confided in God and depended on his providence as greatly as if all the other human means which he was using were of no effect.”
In other words, St. Ignatius worked as though everything depended on him and prayed like everything depended on God. If you take this as your approach, you can’t go wrong. Yes, it will likely take years, so be ready for the long haul. But the point is that it absolutely can be done.
Next article in this series:
Overcoming Common Obstacles to the Traditional Latin Mass
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 It can be overwhelming to chant the full propers of the Mass when you are just starting out. Consider focusing on just one full proper each week and singing the psalm tone for the rest. For example, do the full Introit every Sunday and sing psalm tones for the Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion antiphons. It can take years to get to the point where you are singing full propers every Sunday plus feast days, and that’s ok!