Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Me and the Johannine Usuage

For me therefore the question is, do I learn to say this "Johannine Usage". For a long time I have been saying that my sense of rubric and my Latin aren't that good.

On reflection, with a lot of practice I can master the rubrical part and I suppose that as I can struggle slowly through the Office of readings in the Imperial Toungue, with an occassional flick through the dictionary, and, as a former Under-Sectretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship judged my Latin to be good enough to celebrate Mass for his community and for the Nuns they served in the Pauline Usage, I, as I hope, being a loyal son of Our Mother the Church, really feel that I have the obligation to learn it.

My real problem is remembering the prayers.

Any suggestions for the best way to learn?


Hebdomadary said...

Father, trust yourself. You know most of the meaning of the mass quite well already. The propers are easily studied up with a hand missal, and the extra-prayers, are quite practicable. I suggest writing them out by hand several times in a notebook while memorizing them vocally. Then, after two or three times, make a final version on a cue card, and by that time you should have transferred the words into muscle memory. That's a technique common to actors and singers. I memorized the part of Marcello in La Boheme in four days, an act per day, that way!

Linguistic comprehension can be overstated as a barrier to action. It is in fact a secondary consideration. It is the action that is the important thing, you'll come to understand its full meaning in time. Let me give you three examples.

Few actors truly comprehend every word of Shakespeare, especially when approaching the Bard for the first time. But they approach him none the less and come to fully understand it in time.

Neither did Our Lord's disciples have the slightest understanding of what He did at the last supper, or on the Cross. That understanding didn't come to them until he appeared among them, and then only in part. The full dimensions of the meaning of the salvific act has been unfolding to the Church over the course of its history.

Finally, if anyone thinks that he or she truly understands or comprehends our religion in their own vernacular language, I challange them to explain to me the mystery of the Holy Trinity in that or any other tongue. St. Augustine couldn't do it, nor can they. It is a mystery, and yet we all think we understand it. Vernacular language is no more help there than it is a hindrance to celebrating the Johanine usage.

"Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only." So many people hear the liturgy in their language and are misled into thinking that they understand it. If only someone in the church would remind them that they are witnessing a mystery that words cannot comprehend, they would be less easily gulled into hostility towards a rite which expresses that same mystery. In fact, most would come closer to appreciating, if not understanding that mystery through their emotional and intuitional sense of the sacral, than they do through pedestrianized vernacular masses, filled with the noise of the world. I think it would also change their sense of social application for the better. They would be as inclined to feed souls as mere bodies.

Act, Father. You are in a position to make a different future fo the Church.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

It's VERY good to have you back in England.
Learning the Johannine usage ?

Why not take the plunge, and enrol for the Latin Mass Society
Training Conference for priests at Merton College, Oxford from Tuesday 28 - Thursday 30 August.

Anonymous said...

There are no prayers that you really have to learn. The only prayers that you say without the Missal/altar card in front of you would be the prayers at the foot of the altar. I know a number of priests who read these from a card--I did until I was comfortable doing it from memory. We have one Tridentine Mass a week here and it came reasonably quickly.
As to the rest: it really is a case of do the bits in red and say the bits in black. Add Fortescue to the equation and the LMS's ordo and you are laughing. Dry Masses are also a good way to go. Whilst not in any way claiming to be perfect I am more than happy to assist any priest with his learning.

Fr Steven Fisher
Parish Priest, Ramsgate (St Ethelbert)

Physiocrat said...

I find a good way of learning stuff it to put a recording on an ipod or MP3 player and listen to it over and over again.

Anonymous said...

If you come to Oxford for the LMS training, it'd be great to meet up!

Chris Serpell

Anonymous said...

Good on you Father - and welcome back.

Try learning the Offertory Prayers in the Johannine Rite - you'll find them wondrously rich in theology and Trinitarian focus.

gemoftheocean said...

Father, here is another actor's trick. When you are working on having something memorized, when you *think* you've got the words down, do this:

Try and say the words as FAST as you possibly can (without regards to meaning, etc.) just FAST. No breaks, with as few breaths as you can manage.

Where you "break" is where you DON'T know. Then work on getting those bits right keep practicing over where you "Break" Both the sentence before the sticky passage, and just after.

for instance "forscoreandsevenyearsagoourfathers"

Practice from about the sentence BEFORE you have trouble with it, THROUGH the difficult part over and over. Eventually get it so that you can do ALL of it without breaking anywhere.

Then of course when you do it "for real" say it at the correct pace, etc. Also, when you think you have this right....practise with noise in the background. Crank those speakers up. You do this so if some unexpected noise happens you can go right on and not totally go up.

I'd have to have the prayers at the foot of the altar in front of me, but often in well written things you find the writer will give you a clue in the words as to what comes next.

Shakespeare was a master at that. Look at the graveyard scene. Hamlet and the gravedigger will often have a key word, which is picked up by the next player.

As re: the Mass....notice how your server picks up the "et introibo ad altar Dei...."

If you really want to make sure you and your servers know what is what have someone throw out "how do you say in Latin (english)" do it out of sequence, then you really know they know what they are saying.

Personally I think getting at the least the surface meaning DOES matter...otherwise you may as well be up there saying "supercalifragilisticexpealidocious."

Anyway, the word "rubric" itself is based on the Latin word for "red."

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

Anonymous said...


Be not afraid. If my 12 year-old son can manage the rubrics and Latin to serve, you can master your end of things. No problem.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

Anagnostis said...

Good for you, Father, and welcome back!

The MP3 thing is good for me, but constant repetition sotto voce ought to do it. That's how I learned to serve - and at the same time learned whole chunks of the Mass by heart.

I hope to able to assist at St Mary Magdalen soon - before or after a shift ;o)

Dorothy B said...

Excellent comments, especially the advice on learning and memorising.

An entire Extraordinary Mass might well be a little daunting for a priest who is new to it. It occurs to me that Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament could be a gentle introduction. Short, always the same, and very beautiful. Perhaps it could be added to the end of a weekday Mass? It would mean a smaller congregation, offering less risk of stage-fright, and it would also provide an interesting opportunity to assess the reaction.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray - I suggest the Latin Mass August training conference at Oxford that will be geared to training priests like yourself:

You may also wish to speak to Fathers Boyle and Finigan as well, on how they went about learning the old rite. They are rubrics to learn off by heart, but if you get the LMS Ordo for each year, it guides you as to what to commemorate and which prayers are omitted, etc.

Good luck and hope your trip to Rome as good. I go there in August (possibly the worst time of year!)

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, Benediction I have always done according to the earlier Rites, it is pretty horrid in modern form, people seem to love it according to the more traditional form.
We plan to introduce it as a regular weekly think before one of the weekday Masses.

Thank you for the comments and ideas - keeping them coming!

Anonymous said...

In the past you have said that few attend the Tridentine Masses said in your church by a priest belonging to the FSSP. Then you admit that you can only say the breviary in Latin with the help of a dictionary. Are you intending to put a dictionary on the altar with the missal? Badly said Masses in the classic form will be a major deterrent and will discourage people from coming. To celebrate Mass in Latin means you should understand what you are saying. It should be internalized. Otherwise it becomes little more than dumb show. Best stick to what you know rather than embark on a superficial path that will end up as an act rather than a sacrifice, still less a prayer. Otherwise the small numbers that come already will sink to nothing. If you only have a fumbling knowledge of Latin at your age it is unlikely to improve.

Fr Ray Blake said...


Your remarks sound a little sour.

I certainly will not use a dictionary on the altar. When I am in France I concelebrate Mass in French, my French is absolutely appalling, the same with Polish, Italian is marginally better about the standfard of my Spanish. My latin is much better, the use of the dictionary is more for sake of vocabulary than grammar.
One of the useful things about the Johannine usage is that so much of it is unchanging, there aren't 12 Eucharistic Prayers, for example, one can merely stick to the text, one doesn't have to introduce things "in these or simular words".

The reason for learning to say it is that it is clearly, now, the mind of the Church, read the Papal document. Whether it is said publicly or not is another matter, language isn't always a barrier to prayer, as I discovered from a Chinese speaking priest who concelebrated with me recently although he didn't speak any English except the words of consecration.

Anonymous said...


Here is a mp3 link to pronoucing the ordinary of the traditional mass here:

The changeable parts (introit, collect, epistle, gospel, gradual, offertory, secret, preface, communion and post communion) come from Trinity Sunday.

I suggest following the mp3 with a missal in your hand.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you, Andrew, I do occassionally say the Pauline Usage in Latin, another useful thing I have just found is the Missal on line,

The Latin is actually not very difficult, it isn't Seneca or Virgil or even Gregory.

Father John Boyle said...


Just go for it! I don't know any of the prayers off by heart. I read them very carefully from the Missal and cards, and the prayers at the foot of the altar I read from the LMS Mass book. This will have to do for the time being. Only by celebrating the Mass regularly can one learn the prayers properly. Since at present I only celebrate it once or twice a month, I haven't had the motivation to commit the prayers to memory. But I daresay the time will come...

You'll be amazed how well you will do!

Anagnostis said...

Here's another;

You know the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar were originally the priest's preparatory prayer? You could use them as such for your daily Mass, in the Sacristy. Old Missal on the vesting table, begin sotto voce In nomine Patris... and go all the way (saying priest's part and responses) to Aufer a nobis

After a week or so you'd have them by heart.

Andrew said...

If you'd like a sung version of the Latin and English of the Pauline form, then Musica Sacra has a great resource.

I guess most of the Latin parts are interchangeable with the Johannine form, so either way it should prove helpful.

BTW Father, if you do say the usus antiquior, then perhaps it would count as your 'first Mass' in the old form. So do remember me and give a long distance first blessing =)

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