The Extraordinary Form: the right way back to a Catholic revival

Eleven men lie prostrate during their ordination as priests (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Eleven men lie prostrate during their ordination as priests (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

The Catholic Herald (UK) had an article yesterday announcing that Ordinations in the Extaordinary Form were to take place once again in England and Wales next year “for the first time in decades”. This is heartening news for traditional Catholics who, ever since Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum issued in 2007, have seen with great joy a slow but steady increase of possibilities to attend the sublime Traditional Latin Mass (often referred to as the Mass of the Ages) in ordinary parishes, at the same time as an increase in priestly fraternities that celebrate Mass solely in the EF, establishing themselves around the country.

After Pope Benedict stepped down from the Papacy and Pope Francis was elected, many Catholics feared a clampdown once again of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) after witnessing the inexplicably unjust treatment meted out to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who we have frequently written about on our blog. But thankfully, despite Pope Francis’ typical Jesuitical disinterest in Liturgy, he appears to have his attention on other matters for the time-being, and has not intervened too much to meddle with the inner workings of other traditional orders of the Catholic Church. (Perhaps Pope Francis realises that his approach with talks to reunite the SSPX would have little hope of success if he started to interfere and hamper the encouraging growth we are witnessing of these orders that fully understand the great importance of a holy, reverent and God-centred Liturgy!)


It is a proven statistic that since Vatican II with its “opening of the Church” to the world policy (though this point will have to be worked through in greater detail at a future date) and the suppression of the TLM for its replacement with the Novus Ordo, Mass attendance started its steady decline. The churches began to empty; the most important centre of our Catholic Faith appeared to have suddenly and inexplicably fallen away! With the changes of V2 came a worldliness that no longer prompted men to seek the things of God. You could say – from almost one day to the next, man forgot he had a soul to save! Modernism entered the Church in a big way through those “open doors” and is still very much with us.

So what is the problem with the Novus Ordo Mass? It is a valid Mass (although some say only just), but it does fulfil the basic parts of the Mass when it is said properly. It can also be well celebrated with due reverence and in accord with the instructions set out in Canon Law. If celebrated ad orientem and in Latin, as it increasingly is these days we hear, the differences with the TLM are even less noticeable.

Yet there are still some marked differences. Fr Gary Dickson (Catholic Collar and Tie) wrote an article entitled “The Novus Ordo Missae” where after explaining the legitimacy of the NOM, he goes onto say:

Sadly however, we have to recognise that though much as has been retained, it is the significant elements that the Novus Ordo omits that disturbs, for it omits:

1. The seeking of God’s grace before we dare to enter His sanctuary (Judica me),
2. The Indulgentiam (minor absolution)
3. The genuflection during the Creed by which were honour the Incarnation
4. The genuflections given to the Blessed Sacrament before and after every time the priest touches the Sacred Host
5. The Offertory (the prayers preparing for a Holy Sacrifice having been replaced with a prayer based on the Jewish Grace before Meals, thus giving lie to the central reality of the Mass as His Body given up and His Blood being shed: “every time you eat this bread and rink this cup you are proclaiming the lord’s death” 1.Cor.11v26).
6. The prayer to the Holy Trinity (Placeat tibi) asking that the Sacrifice offered may bring forgiveness for all for whom it is offered, yet forgiveness (mercy) is at the core of the Gospel.

He states that, in spite of have retained the main parts of the Mass, there was an “unnecessary meddling with the texts” and goes on to describe what these are.

Liturgy Guy (Brian Williams), Rorate Caeli, One Peter Five, and dozens of other traditional Catholic bloggers, including the recently deceased Fr Peter Carota from the Traditional Catholic Priest blog, have written many instructive articles comparing the two Masses, with the NOM coming up most disfavourably. (Although the NOM is often the only Mass available to the majority of Catholics!)

traditional-latin-massBut we can never repeat often enough: if through the way we pray, lex orandi, affects the way we believe, lex credendi, then the way we live, lex vivendi, will be the outcome. It was the changing of the Holy Mass at Vatican II that was the catalyst for the downward spiral of Catholic practice and religious vocations.

If anyone doubts this, one quick look at statistics for Catholics who attend the TLM, with those who identify as Catholic but seldom if ever go to Mass, and when they do they attend the NOM, they would soon be obliged to admit that the Mass must have something to do with these vast differences. For it is clearly evident that Mass-goers among Catholics who identify as “traditional” and who seek the TLM whenever possible, plus the amazing number of vocations to the priesthood among this group, are also those who most hold to orthodox Catholic teaching. With their steady growth that is young and vibrant, compared to the dying ranks of old defenders of the NOM alone, then this is surely the right and only true way for a Catholic revival.

Now here is another interesting survey done in comparing the two forms of Mass by award-winning American author Dan Graham. His article “Words That Count” first appeared in the ‘Catholic Truth’ newsletter, Issue No. 51, September, 2008…. The article was enormously popular, as was the updated version published in the newsletter in 2010. He states:

“This paper methodically compares the texts of the Tridentine Mass 1945 (TM) and the Novus Ordo Mass 1973 (NOM) so Catholics can better understand differences. The method is simple: off-the-shelf software WordListCreator™ alphabetizes and counts words in a text. I used the English translations. I simply compare the words and counts from both masses and ask: what does the NOM remove or add? My operating principle comes from St. Thomas Aquinas: whatever is objectively real is objectively true. This method helps avoid the acrimony that often derails fruitful discussions about the two masses. I present my two conclusions, then my supporting findings by working through a comparison of the words in the TM and NOM. Readers can review the data and come to their own conclusions. The first conclusion is that the two masses differ profoundly. Some argue that the differences in the two missals are trifling, a mere preference of style, but a close examination of the text proves otherwise.”

It is a long read but well worth while to truly understand what underlies the bringing in of the NOM.

We shall be posting more on this crucial subject in the near future.

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10 Responses to The Extraordinary Form: the right way back to a Catholic revival

  1. Roger says:

    Kathleen that is excellent news


  2. Yes, it is “heartening news” that ordinations in the extaordinary form are to take place in England and Wales next year. I feel somewhat disheartened, though, when I remember that Cardinal Nichols has “discouraged” priests from even celebrating mass ad orientem ( And as we all know, when a cardinal “discourages” something, you can bet that any priest within his jurisdiction who does not agree will be punished.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    ” It is a proven statistic that since Vatican II with its “opening of the Church” to the world policy… and the suppression of the TLM for its replacement with the Novus Ordo, Mass attendance started its steady decline.”

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

    I wasn’t Catholic during the first 50 years post-VII and therefore I only have a limited perspective into what was going on. I do believe the connection is a pretty strong one, although as Kathleen says: “this point will have to be worked through in greater detail at a future date.”


  4. Toadapittle says:

    No evidence, then – of any decline in numbers of Mass attendees before Vat ll?


  5. JabbaPapa says:

    The method is simple: off-the-shelf software WordListCreator™ alphabetizes and counts words in a text. I used the English translations.

    Someone who needs to use a computer programme to determine meaning in the Holy Mass seems hardly qualified to dictate that meaning to others.


  6. kathleen says:

    Er, no Jabba, the computer programme was used for counting the words! Being an American, he naturally used the English translations to do so. (The numbers quoted would differ slightly in other languages.)

    His qualifications more than give him the capacity to “determine meaning” of the different parts of the Holy Mass and to explain (not “dictate”) them to others.


  7. JabbaPapa says:

    yeah well sorry kathleen, word counts are an extremely blunt instrument in literary analysis.

    Analysis always requires interpretation, but it also demands peer review.

    To start with, the article you linked to provides negative commentary about the NO Missal Second Edition, no longer in use ; otherwise, one wonders, what is the POINT of doing a comparative word count of an English translation of the TLM with the defunct English translation of 2nd Edition NO ?

    And which texts was he even using in the first place ? The Editio Typica of the New Mass is generally speaking far FAR wordier than that of the 1962 Missal !!!

    I’ve had to dig down multiple times into these sorts of biased comparative readings, and I must report that they very rarely compare Latin to Latin, but flawed translation of the TLM with flawed translation of the NO.


  8. kathleen says:

    JH @ 14:25

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?”

    Many believe the changing the Liturgy of the Mass, from a deeply God-centred, reverent Sacrifice to the community-centred Novus Ordo Mass (I’ll leave out other adjectives for this one, as the celebration of the NOM can vary so considerably) was indeed the root cause of all the other troubles that followed Vatican II. But undoubtedly the other many changes surrounding that “openness to the world” at the same time, the new ideology, all added to the decline in Faith.

    Your conversion to Catholicism at a time when it was undergoing a real Via Crucis is all the more credit to you. 🙂 You saw through to the Truth, despite the troubles the Church was going through.
    I myself was only a child during the crazy “Spirit of Vatican Two” period, but I am blessed to come from a very Catholic family, and only really learnt what was lost at V2 when I became an adult.


  9. kathleen says:

    Well dear Jabba, I realise you know far more about these sort of things (machines and working on translations) than I do. Nevertheless, he STILL makes the main points stand very well, I think.

    Time to get supper! We eat ridiculously late in Spain during the summer months.


  10. johnhenrycn says:

    A very moving photo, btw, introducing this post. I have a similar one clipped from a magazine about 5 years ago, which I hope to turn into an ordination card for our seminarians. This is not the one I have – mine is similar (but better) I can’t find mine online – but the reason I like it, from a symbolic or artistic point of view, is that only a Catholic would immediately “get it”, as they say:


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