Thursday, 24 February 2011

Good and Bad parish...

Bad parish Sunday timetable of services:

Saturday evening

6:00pm Vigil Mass


7:00am Low Mass
8:00am Low Mass
9:00am Low Mass with hymns, devotions and novena prayers.
10:30am Sung Mass with lace cottas and the Missa de Angelis
12:00pm Low Mass
5:00pm Another Mass, this time with added Benediction

Good parish Sunday timetable of services:

Saturday evening

6:00pm Dominical Mattins and Lauds


10:00am Terce, Asperges, High Mass and Sermon, followed by Sext.
3:30pm Solemn Vespers and Compline

In the interests of practicalities, the fact that people have lives etc, I have left stuff out, annexed two of the Hours to High Mass, and brought forward Vespers a few hours. I could well have included ''first'' Vespers of the Lord's Day the night before, had Prime etc, but this is quite reasonable for an average parish. At any rate, having Prime at 6:00am, Terce at 9:00am, and None at 3:00pm etc simply doesn't work outside a Monastery. In case Traddies haven't heard of Terce and Sext (understandable since their liturgical ''diet'' consists only of Mass), they are the Horae Minores of the Divine Office, and would take a mere 10 minutes (if even that) to sing before and after Mass (which should, on Sundays and Feasts, have at least a Deacon). Of course this is all too much, and it's far better to have a string of Low Masses than to take the time and make the effort to provide actual Liturgy. I fail to see how anyone could possibly dispute with my view, and not betray their own lack of tradition. If you respond with ''it doesn't work'' or ''people won't turn up,'' why does it work in the Orthodox Church then? And what does it matter if people don't turn up?

A good start would be to have Terce and Sext before and after Mass - the Greater Hours (which require more effort) can wait. If you're afraid that people won't turn up, simply say that Mass comes after Terce and before Sext, but don't tell them when Terce starts...


  1. First things first: start off with Prime and Terce before the Asperges. I would be inclined to start at 10:30 for the benefit of those of us who are not 'morning' people. Of course Sext aftewards on a Sunday but it would be a shame to miss Prime and the Martyrology.

  2. I think you schedule is solid. However, not a few people work on Sundays. Every parish should have a "workers' Mass" without sermon (or a brief sermon) at 6 or 7 in the morning. There needs to be an option for those who don't have the time to hear the High Mass. These people need the Mass just as much as everyone else. Also, some people need to break the fast early for health reasons. Maybe they could receive at the Low Mass and hear the High Mass later.

    Actually, I would probably hear the Low Mass three weeks of the month and commune at the Solemn Mass once a month. I'm crypto-Jansenist, so I don't understand all this fuss about the importance of hearing Solemn Mass every Sunday. All that music and altar movement disturbs my Rosary and devotionals. Catholic pietism rules!


  3. That would be fine and good in an ideal world, but in a real parish, you'd need those string of Masses so that everyone can fulfill their Sunday obligation. Sunday Hours are good, but assistance at Mass is essential. Since most parishes have only one or two priests for thousands of people, they are going to have their hands full with just doing what absolutely needs to be done. With proper use of deacons (if they were actually trained), certainly more of the Office could possibly be done. Regardless, unless it is a rather tiny parish, one Mass would simply not be enough even if just as a matter of logistics. As such, if you are going to have to have more than one Mass, it simply is not going to be possible to do something like two Solemn Masses. Low Mass has its rightful place.

    As to the Orthodox (and Eastern Catholics at that) and why having some of the Hours at a parish "work", they do what they can (with varying degrees of solemnity) and the people waltz in and out as they please. My local TLM parish does something similar in that the priests in residence will chant the Office (usually a minor hour or two and Vespers and sometimes Compline)when possible, regardless of who shows up or not. They use varying degrees of solemnity, when the right people are available they will do things like Solemn Vespers.

  4. Indeed. I fully agree it doesn't matter whether many people turn up. But authentic liturgy cannot be dissociated from authentic christian life. The secular-regular distinction has been exarcerbated too much in the West. I can only foresee the restoration of genuine liturgical life when parish and monastic communities overlap and 'mutually enrich' without merging, of course.

    There should always be people praying in church. Keeping time with God by following the Divine Office must certainly be introduced into parishes. But secular 'diocesan' priests will certainly cringe before such a task.

    We see in Newchurch, charismatics and other such heretical communities taking over parishes and infusing 'dynamism' therein. If only Traditionally-minded groups of monks or canons regular would be allowed to do the same.

  5. Regarding one's Sunday ''obligation,'' I would point out that in the Middle Ages to fulfill your obligation on the Lord's Day you had to attend Mattins, Mass and Vespers...which can only indicate that Catholics nowadays, unless they privately recite the Divine Office, are not fulfilling their obligations at all...

  6. Well, that is nice but that is not what Sunday obligation has meant for hundreds of years.

  7. There just aren't enough laypeople in this world that are fluent enough in Latin to profitably recite the Office. I would prefer reading the office with someone else. However, I am the only student in my department who is well read in Latin and the only observant RC in the entire department. The Anglican profs are staunchly Prayer Book and will not pray the Breviarium Romanum even though a few of them are fantastic Latinists. I could cross the street every morning and pray Morning Prayer with the Anglican seminarians, but I have theological difficulties with the BCP. So yes, I mumble Latin to myself in the school chapel. All doctoral students are out of their gourd insane. Talking to yourself is perfectly acceptable in this environment, especially after the tenth cup of coffee.

    Andrew: the neighborhood Anglo-Catholics let laymen lead BCP Matins before High Mass. It'd be easier if Catholic priests let an acolyte, seminarian, or even a layman lead an hour of the Office before any Mass. If I were a parish priest I'd let women recite the psalms and sing the hymns along with the men (end of the world!) :-0 I would probably ask a man to lead the hours since some parishioners would go berserk if a woman led prayers.


  8. Andrew, I can assure you that no waltzing goes on in my parish. What you describe is not an "Orthodox" cultural phenomenon as much as it is a racial one. Greeks tend to come and go often. Romanians are generally better at this but they have the same custom as the Greeks of disappearing after the vesperal part of vesperal liturgies. Russians and other Slavs tend to be stricter about this, and many have been instructed that it only after the dismissal of the main service (if there is to be a series of them) that they may leave. These are all generalisations, of course, and you may well find parishes of various ethnic make-ups where people mostly arrive on time and stay until the end.

    Rubricarius, I fear that personal experience is leading me to fast lose sympathy with late risers. Left to my own devices, I wake between 4.30 and 5.30 and get out of bed between 6 and 7 o' clock. Therefore, 9 o' clock seems reasonable to me, as allowing for those who are accustomed to lying in until 8 or 9 o' clock to get up in good time, perhaps a little earlier than usual, and still have a chance to ease into their day. If a number of people travel from afar then this could be taken into account in determining the time. However, 10.30 would simply be far too late for those of us who rise early and are expected to fast.

    Patricius, you're right about it mattering little who will be present. I rather like the understanding that "worship will be offered to God in this place, on this date, at this time", and whosoever will may come. It is too easy to forget sometimes why we do what we do. I first encountered this attitude in an Anglican parish of mine that did no Easter Vigil. When I asked why not and the priest replied, 'It would only be thee and me here', as though this was an answer to my question, I knew something was wrong. In reality, sometimes people come to Vespers on Saturday evening and at other times it is simply my parish priest and me there but the service is offered to God nonetheless.

  9. "If you're afraid that people won't turn up, simply say that Mass comes after Terce and before Sext, but don't tell them when Terce starts..."

    Which would be as useful as what to whom?

    Surely you meant to write, "If you're not bothered about anyone turning up...etc" or "If you don't want anyone to turn up...etc"? For how could anyone turn up if they don't know what time Terce would be if you're not going to tell them what time Mass starts after Terce?! ;o)

  10. Salue, Patrici! I've read your 'blog for some time, but not being a writer of letters (which I deem to be analogous to commenting on 'blogs), I have not commented heretofore.

    This post throws up some interesting issues:

    1. Access to churches. To my knowledge, there is no church in this country (Catholic or otherwise) where such an arrangement would be possible, that is, unfettered by considerations of other services (Novus Ordo, Anglican, Orthodox, whatever).
    The 'integralist' approach, where Traditional liturgy (although you and I would perhaps disagree on some points what this constitutes, I believe we are broadly in agreement) has its place side-by-side with other forms of worship, exists in several places but the clergy in charge either do not have the courage of their convictions or are impeded by higher authority (Parish Priest, Provost, Abbot, Prior, etc.) I would be interested to know how this could be circumvented or indeed a place where such considerations are irrelevant.

    2. What I call the 'one does not exclude the other' situation. Westminster Cathedral, both in 'the good old days' and 'the bad old days' (when exactly these were is another topic), had a full liturgical schedule every day (although increasingly impoverished as the liturgy was 'developed') well into the 1960s. This, however, did not exclude and equally full schedule of extra-liturgical devotions: Low Mass (I very much see this in such a light); Benediction (every Sunday and on High Feasts); Novenas with Sermon; Stations of the Cross in Lent, etc. Admittedly, they had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of clergy to carry all these things out (although vide infra), but many parishes run by Religious and Clerics Regular had vast numbers of priests who seemed incapable of carrying out liturgical observances (which certainly Religious were bound to, other circumstances notwithstanding).
    A dear friend of mine who went to a Jesuit school in the 1940s and 1950s tells of how, in a parish with never fewer than ten, and often nearer twenty clergy (priests and brothers), there was but one Missa Cantata a term, only two High Masses during his enitre period at the school (both funerals of headmasters) and absolutely no Divine Office. The above notwithstanding (and allowing that the circumstances under point one need not be considered), I would argue that an even fuller liturgical schedule than that you propose would be possible in such parishes, while still allowing for a full set of extra-liturgical devotions.

    3. Leading from one to the other. This follows on from the previous point, insofar that, as you have rightly pointed out on many occasions, the Catholic faithful (of all stripes: Traddie, New Rite, conservative, liberal, etc.) are now, and have been for a very long time, more wedded to extra-liturgical devotions than the liturgy itself. A very fruitful way of leading them back to a full appreciation of the liturgy is by making it practically unavoidable.
    From my own experience, having afternoon Rosary and Sermon, followed by Vespers, followed by Benediction, followed by evening Mass, (with only the time of Vespers advertised) means that those people who wish to assist at any of three extra-liturgical services will be practically forced to assist at Vespers, if they follow seamlessly one from another. This has the effect, speaking again from my own experience, of sparking within people who would never have dreamed of attending Vespers, the desire of assisting at the liturgy on a more frequent basis (the above schedule only runs for part of the year).
    Admittedly, this approach is hardly ideal and would need to be backed with thorough-going instruction of the faithful on the nature of the liturgy and the importance of assisting at it, but it is a good start.


  11. Contined…

    4. The thorny question of ‘lay-leadership’. In these days when any Peter, Paul or Mary can organise ‘prayer groups’ and ‘meditation services’ at the drop of a hat, why can’t the laity just get on with singing the Office themselves?
    Sed contra: While I was at university, I was involved in a rather serious contre-temps with regard to public recitation of the liturgy. There were a group of us who regularly sang Anglican Compline once a week in the College Chapel, with the blessing of the Dean and, usually, the assistance of the Chaplain. It was proposed by one our number (a Catholic) that we might additionally have Compline in Latin during Lent one year. Access to the Chapel was made available and we proceeded, but without any clergy being present. After three or four weeks, it happened to be casually mentioned to the Chaplain, who said it was all right but that we should have checked with him first. Subsequently, it came to the attention of the Dean, who was aghast. He has the offender hauled before the College Council on charges of (and I kid you not) ‘promoting Popish practices within the College, without consent of Council, contrary to express Statute’.
    I mention this to show that if such is the attitude in the Church of England (hardly noted for its clericalist attitudes), then how much worse would it be in the OTC? (If you’re interested, said friend was instrumental on my own conversion, and is now studying for the Sacred Priesthood).

    Apologies for my verbosity, but your post has brought into focus a number of thoughts, on which I have been cogitating for some time now.



  12. Rubricarius--
    Why not attach Prime to the end of Lauds on Saturday evening? It is my understanding that the Martyrology is anticipated by a day, and the only way this makes sense is if Prime was also anticipated.

    As far as encouraging people to show up goes, it seems to me to be as simple as moving the regular Saturday afternoon confession hour to the conclusion of the Matins-Lauds-(Prime) service on Saturday evening. I would hope that parishioners intending to receive Communion on Sunday, and therefore going to Confession on Saturday, would not want to draw attention to themselves by being conspicuously absent from the service immediately preceding Confession. At the very least, unless such parishioners were hard core unapologetic legalists, the fact that church stuff in preparation for Sunday Mass would be occurring as they walk in might cause them to want to be a part of it. Similarly, starting Mass immediately after Terce would probably induce parishioners to be present for the third hour so as not to draw attention to themselves by arriving in the middle of a service. Y'all are English, after all, and not Greeks, so I imagine these sort of mild social pressures would work.

  13. Han,

    Now where have I seen that done before... Yes, the reading from the Martyrology is of the following day - unlike the Synaxarion at Mattins (if I understand that correctly).

    Many years ago on Holy Pascha some friends arranged the singing of Prime and Terce before Mass (and funded the hiring of the premises). Some people were most put out that Mass was adverstised as 'after Terce' with Prime at 10:30am and tried very hard to avoid any Office whatsoever. Indeed, when it was announced that Sext and None were to follow people fled, literally!