Monday, March 26, 2012

The Experiment

Bishop Amigo, our bishop in the first half of the twentieth century had a plan to build a church every mile in the city and every three miles in the country, he was more or less successful.
Catholics who want the Traditional Mass in this part of Sussex have to be mobile; willing to travel thirty or so miles. For the past few months I have been celebrating a Traditional Mass at 9am every Sunday, it was an experiment, it all started off rather well, a congregation of up to thirty and a generous collection.
Those who travel are used to going from church to church in the course of a month, my own parishioners tend  to not be early risers, lately the numbers have been dropping to less than a dozen people, so I have decided to end the experiment on Easter day. I am sad, it was a beautiful way of beginning a Sunday.
Our Sunday Mass schedule has been
Traditional Mass at 9am,
a sung Mass at 10.30,
a Polish Mass at 12.30, always with confessions, often with devotions beforehand
an evening Mass at 5pm.

Before that there was a Traditional Mass 6pm on the third Sunday, which being the last Mass of the day seemed to attract quite a few younger people. The thing was, that I disliked, was that it was hardly worth taking my vestments off between Masses.
Somewhere, if I could find a choir and servers, I would like to celebrate a Missa Cantata: for those brought up on the Novus Ordo, doing nothing but praying at Mass can be a bit of a shock.
During the lighter evenings we shall return to an evening monthly Mass on the third Sunday, perhaps at 6.30pm but I would like to do more.


Joseph Shaw said...

You might find more people willing to come to a 9am Mass in the Summer months.

Pétrus said...

You have a choir and servers.

Have you asked them?

Lynda said...

I suppose a Mass at 11.30 would be too squashed?

Ma Tucker said...

Ah go on. Keep going Father. I know it can be disheartening when you look at the numbers so don't look at them. The fact is the Mass is the Church's worship that is offered to God first and foremost. It is fitting and beautiful. You say you are sad, well I bet you will just get sadder and sadder without it. If you were doing God's will your heart would be joyful wouldn't it?

Keep up the good work and don't worry about the numbers at all.

Michael Clifton said...

But why not have the evening Mass on Sunday regularly as an Old Rite Mass instead of the 9.00am ? i dont know if you have an evening Mass on Saturday...but that could be added in to replace the existing evening Mass in NO ?

Physiocrat said...

Same problem here. 9 am is a bad time and it is too much for the servers and choir for the OF mass to be around from, realistically, 8.30 to midday and attend both Masses.

How about an EF Mass from time to time at the usual time? Warn people well in advance and see how many are shocked by the silence.

Fr Levi said...

A priest's time is a valuble and scarce resource. Having been in a similar position myself not all that long ago in relation to an 'experiment' that just wasn't working, I know how difficult such a decision can be.
My prayers are with you for future experiments.

John Nolan said...

I think you need to bite the bullet and make the principal Mass on Sundays EF. Birmingham Oratory have been doing this since Advent last year. The differences between a sung Latin OF and a Missa Cantata are not that great. The older form has the edge when a polyphonic Ordinary is used, as you don't need to suspend the action for the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei.

georgem said...

Father, could you experiment with a slightly re-arranged Sunday schedule: a family NO Mass at 10.0 am and a Missa Cantata at 11.15am in the EF? Even try the EF every third Sunday at 11.15?
Your drop in numbers may not be to do with getting up early, rather the hit and miss of getting to a 9.0am Mass if travelling from outside your parish and reliant on the abysmal public transport service on a Sunday morning.

Malvenu said...

Father, as you know I am a recent convert. I was wondering, it being ad orientem, how do you know the numbers are dwindling? ;-)

MC Man said...

I think that for people brought up in the Ordinary Form a Low Mass takes some getting used to.On a sunday people want to pray out loud together saying the Credo,Gloria,Pater Noster etc,but for some more traditional minded Catholics this is not wanted.I think that the Missa Cantata is the best compromise for Sunday Mass,in many ways it is very similar to a solemn Ordinary Form Mass,singing,incense,torchbearers etc.I think that it must be recognised that most parishioners would prefer the Ordinary Form Mass and only attend the EF Mass out of curiosity or occasional necessity.

Gratias said...

A pity Father Blake. The Extraordinary mass keeps a church Holy. But thanks for all the masses.

Malvenu said...

Father, forgive my earlier flippancy, which was borne out of a sense of disconnection from the matter at hand.

I felt quite envious, when you announced the weekly EF Mass, of those who were able to attend. I would have been one of them had i not had to move away. What made it worse was that i now live in one of the areas of the country that, if you look at the location of latin masses on the LMS website, seems to have been forgotten.

My experience, when i was able to get to the EF at St. Mary Magdalene, was that i often could not make the Friday night one and, therefore, if (for whatever reason) i could not get to the Sunday one either it would be two months between masses that i was able to attend. Would fortnightly be a workable and worthwhile compromise?

gemoftheocean said...

" think that for people brought up in the Ordinary Form a Low Mass takes some getting used to.On a sunday people want to pray out loud together saying the Credo,Gloria,Pater Noster etc,but for some more traditional minded Catholics this is not wanted."

In England that seems to be the case. I actually liked the EM at the daily Mass in the US much more than here -- because in the US at a low Mass the people actually DO have some responses. IT's always a trial for me to go to Mass at the Brompton Oratory, for instance -- because if you do throw in a few responses they snottily turn up their noses and glare. Apparently you are 'showing off' 'getting above your station' or something. I just glare back at them. Did the dialogue mass simply not make it here because you had the workman in his cloth cap who wouldn't essay et cum spiritu tuo? Seriously, even at the NO masses those people could sit next to each other for 25 years and never introduce themselves after Mass -- unless they perhaps check the social register first and have a 3rd party introduce them. So I don't go much now that Q is gone. I like Fr. Tim's Missa Cantata, but us being at opposite ends of London it's like traveling to the dark side of the moon. 22 crummy miles as crow flies takes a little over an hour by car, or about 120 mile round trip ...which I could hack were it not for the price of gas. So it makes for a rare treat for me somewhere where I can stand the rest of the congregants for an EM.

[I STILL content the confiteor right before Communion is totally wrong, and why they insist on it is beyond me. Does the server allegedly answer for 'the people' or does he not? If he does, then it was already done in the prayers to the foot of the altar. If you contend the prayers at the foot of the altar aren't part of the Mass -- try trooping your herd into the pews consistently afterward it. The ushers will be thrilled with your explanation. The pope authorized the 60s version, not the 58 one.]

GuidoM said...

Persevere with the EF on Sundays Father, only change the Sunday Mass times. There are few enough EF Masses on a Sunday so please keep them going!!!

John Fisher said...

Father it seems to me you have too many Masses on Sunday. It is a kind of bracket creep where the more masses just spreads people out. As for the Polish Mass that is about hearing a homily in Polish. In my opinion it is part of the Balkanisation of the Church!
3 Masses on Sunday at most. Here in Adelaide we have EF Mass at 9.15am. We have an FSSP priest. Around 200-300 people.

John Nolan said...


I, too, have heard it said that the Mass doesn't begin until the priest says the Introit. However, my 1945 missal divides the Mass of the Catechumens into two parts: 1) Preparation (Asperges to Gloria, inclusive) and 2)Instruction (Collect to Creed, inclusive).

The Confiteor before the Communion of the faithful was no longer required after 1962. It does mean that the people get their own Indulgentiam (with 'vestrorum')which for the scrupulous might remit any venial sins committed since the beginning of Mass (such as dozing off during the sermon, or being distracted by the pretty girl in the miniskirt kneeling in front of you). I would contend that there is a stronger case for it in a sung Mass, since the preparatory prayers are overlaid by the singing of the Introit. If the server does it, join in, likewise with the 3-fold Domine non sum dignus.

The dialogue Mass and its second degree, the Missa Recitata, where the congregation not only respond with the server, but also say with the priest those parts of the Ordinary which the choir would sing at High Mass, were not only authorized but recommended by the Sacred Congregation of Rites back in 1935. Since 1958 the faithful have been allowed to recite the whole of the Pater Noster with the priest, including the Amen, at Low Mass - I never recall its being done, and I started serving in 1959. Now that really would tip the honest burghers of South Kensington over the edge!

georgem said...

Anyone keen on making distinctly audible responses should perhaps opt for Westminster Cathedral. There's no point going to the Oratory and then moaning about their custom and practice.
I love the silence at the Oratory; the strength of ascending prayer is palpable. Some actually do say the responses, but very quietly.
If it's pals you want, don't go there. It isn't a pally sort of a place.

MC Man said...

I remember the Dialogue Mass during the late 50s and 60s,our parish had it at 9am followed by a Missa Cantata or High Mass at 10.30am.I think that Catholics brought up in the OF Mass would prefer a dialogue Mass but I fear many traditional Catholics would be against it so do you please the travelling traddy or your own parishioners,its a difficult decision for a parish priest.

Physiocrat said...

BTW that setup on the lab bench looks pretty dodgy. Large conical flask on a small tripod, round bottomed flask without a clamp round the neck,the whole lots should be in a fume cupboard.

Even by 1950s safety standards it would have failed.

mikesview said...

The trouble with the dialogue Mass is that it has become tangled up with the whole 'democratisation of the Church' nonsense, whereby 'the people' take over as much as possible of the priest's functions, rather in the fashion of some of the dreadful charismatic fabrications.

I am a confirmed Oratory-ist - no surprise there then. I am also old enough to remember things as they were before VatII, and before the so-called 'spirit of VatII' became the rallying cry of the iconoclasts (liturgists). I had never heard of the so-called dialogue Mass until about five years ago, much less experienced it.
The server by the way does not say the responses 'for' anyone. He is supposed to be a tonsured cleric, not a layman at all, but you can't always get the chaps, so a layman it must be. He however acts in all ways as a cleric, not a representative.
Finally, whatever happened to respect for local custom, i.e., if they do something in THAT parish, THAT way, then just leave well alone and fall in line. Or go elsewhere.
Father, I shall pray that your decision may be guided by the Holy Ghost.

nickbris said...

irsersoWhen I was young we had masses at St Mary Mags at 7am,8am,9am,10am and 11am. During the war the Poles were invited and as there were so many of them it was decided that they should have their own Mass at Noon. As a lot of Poles were unable to go home after the war they stayed here and continued with the Noon Mass,St Mary Mags was adopted by Poles as their own .We now have the Grandchildren of some of those soldiers coming here but as the 11am Mass tends to over-run their time has been changed to 12 30pm.

I must add though that in those early days we did have quite a few Priests here so nobody got overworked like our present incumbent.

We called the 11 oclock the Grown-Ups Mass and only went to that if something happened to make us miss 10oclock and that meant even by a couple of minutes,so the singing Mass became Synonomous with punishment.

gemoftheocean said...

John, I remember saying Latin bits at Mass in the early 60s. Literally, the year I received my first Communion, the Mass changed a bit, within the month before we received. I remember being a little browned off as we had that Pater Noster down more or less cold -- and then thinking what a waste that we'd learned it and then not get to continue to use it. I think the dialogue Mass was more common in the US, the bit we didn't say were the prayers at the foot of the altar. But we were allegedly represented by the server.

I note in my 1920s seminarian's hand missal that the priest always said his confiteor, 'et vobis fratres' = i.e. ALWAYS in the plural - regardless of number of servers -- because it meant 'the people' at large, i.e. - and that was a time when usually a low mass was served by only one -- it was only by later indult that priests used two servers for a low Mass.

I think the MOST irritating thing of not hearing the people do any responses is when the priest does the Domine non sum dignus for them.

None of the common responses are the least bit difficult!

Mikeview - so I take it when you visit America, you WILL join in the responses, as it is customary there. At any rate, you run at odd with all the missals, and explanations of the servers function at Mass that I've seen regards the role of the server standing in for the people. You also forget that in the early church there WERE acclamations that were the province of the people which were gradual assumed by the minor clergy.

Michaela said...

Gemoftheocean: Is it not that while being silent one does not disturb anyone, but if one responds loudly in a church where the rest prefers silence, one disturbs them? We who love silence have not many places to go...