Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Traditional Mass and seminaries

Is it appropriate to have celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass / Extraordinary Form within seminary buildings? On the face of it, this is a very strange question. Why might it not be? Is the Extraordinary Form some kind of contagion which must be quarantined? What, exactly, might the concerns of the authorities be?

Could celebrations of the TLM interfere with the timetable? Only if they were held during lecture-hours and the students were allowed to bunk off to attend. Neither seems necessary. Why not have them at some other time?

Seminarians are supposed to be studying; they study among other things the liturgy, and it is impossible to study the 1970 Missal without some discussion of the motives of the liturgical changes, and of what went before. The Latin Mass Society put up facing-column 1962/1970 Mass Ordinaries (in translation), to illustrate the differences, not only as a service to the general public but following a request from a seminary professor. Differences like the one below, the Offertory Prayers, are expounded and discussed in class. But you can't really get a sense of the Church's ancient Latin liturgical tradition (as the Holy Father calls it) without seeing it celebrated. So wouldn't it have pedagogical value, not only for the TLM to be celebrated in seminaries from time to time, but for the students to be told to attend?

That would also deal with another possible objection, that celebrations of the TLM would be a cause of division, with some students going and others not. Make them all go. They really need to. At worst, they need to know what the fuss is all about. Perhaps they'll decide that it is a lot of obscurantist nonsense and they'll guide their future flocks away from it. Do their superiors trust them to come to the correct conclusion, under the guidance of their professors?

But then again, seminaries are divided in all sorts of ways; not everything seminarians do is compulsory, and what is more they talk to each other and soon realise that the student body includes a spectrum of opinion, that's only healthy indeed. Why should it be a problem if some students develop an attachment for the TLM and others don't? Are they going to start killing each other about it? I don't think so. Wouldn't it be possible for the seminary authorities to foster an attitude of peaceful coexistence? Or even - now what's that phrase? - of 'mutual enrichment'?

Here's a more radical question: why not have training in how to say the Traditional Mass? At least for those who want it. Now we always hear that there isn't time in the seminary timetable. But that doesn't matter, because it can be done outside the timetable, in the seminarians' free time. This is what they do at the North American College in Rome: over three years, the Extraordinary Form is taught in monthly or fortnightly sessions. (They start with learning to serve, then how to be deacon, and then how to celebrate.) It really isn't so very difficult, it doesn't take that many student hours, over three years it can easily be fitted in. I would guess that most seminarians spend more time watching TV than would be needed to learn the TLM.

Are there any precedents for this? Of course. As well as the North American College, which is hardly some marginal institution out in the Styx, there's the diocese of Frejus in France, where not only can seminarians learn the EF but they can be ordained in it, if they wish. And there's the diocese of Masison in the USA, where bishop Morlino actually insists seminarians learn it.

After five years of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, you'd think we'd have got beyond this absurd discussion by now. The North American College introduced its scheme to teach the EF in 2008 - right off the bat, after Summorum Pontificum can into effect in September 2007. Since then we've had Unversae Ecclesiae explicitly calling for training to be offered in seminaries, in 2010. When can we expect these documents to percolate through to England?


  1. I am a youngish British man in "discernment". I would like to become a priest. I only want to celebrate mass in the EF. Simple.

    The only option available to me seems to be to train abroad, at considerable cost, with the likes of the FSSP (who are fantastic I might add).

    I pray that the Seminaries and Bishops will wake up.

    1. Yes, though for the sake of completeness one should mention the Institute of Christ the King and the Sons of the Holy Redeemer in the Orkneys (not sure if that counts as 'abroad').

      The LMS gives some financial support for English and Welsh seminarians, so if you do take the plunge make sure we know about you!

  2. The comment from theebadcrusader is further evidence that there is a need for a seminary in Europe for English speaking people where the usus antiquior is taught. Really this would be best provided by an order of traditional priests based in England.

    This idea is not as farfetched as some might think. All religious orders had to start from somewhere, and there benefactors who may be prepared to provide financial support. May I suggest that anyone with an interest in such a project contacts the office of the Latin Mass Society so that they can be put in touch with one another.

  3. I realise that the LMS does have a lot to do but if it does want to provide a
    on the website then that Comparison really does need to be updated so as to reflect the New English translation of the Novus Ordo which has been now been in use for over a year.

    That said I fully agree with your general point Joseph. With a Seminary course lasting 4 years it seems extraordinary to say that there is "no time" to fit in a celebrations of the TLM. Part of the training of Priests should surely be to hear and understand the different forms of Catholic Liturgy otherwise they are not being trained properly.

    1. About the translation, I had the same thought actually! Though I wonder about copyright.

  4. Aha! Since that story broke I'd been waiting for a response from you Joseph- pertinent questions! If it's true, what an absurdity!

  5. It may sound silly but essentially I just want to be a "normal" Catholic Priest. I am nearing my mid thirties and am already too old for the ICK and would be pushing it with the FSSP. I would love to serve the faithful in the poor and remote areas in which I grew up which is now a liturgical wasteland (I'm speaking of Mid and North Wales - my nearest Latin mass is Shrewsbury!) but with the continued stance of the Bishops this seems an impossibility.

    Just one British seminary training a brotherhood of "flying" Catholic Priests celebrating the EF of the mass. Travelling to the remotest and wildest areas of Britain, poorly served for priests as they are.

    For inspiration - The Romano British Saints who did the very same and celebrated the same mass nearly two millennia ago.

    1. Also, before "But there is no demand for the EF in these areas!" is wheeled out yet again I'd like to point out that there may not be a demand for the EF but there certainly IS a demand for Catholic Priests.

      This should come first.

      Where in the Prayer for Vocations does it say that the Priest must celebrate only the OF and be to the particular taste of the Bishop?

    2. If there was no demand for the EF in Wales we wouldn't hear bishops saying things like this (there'd be no need):


  6. "And there's the diocese of Morlino in the USA, where the bishop actually insists seminarians learn it."

    It's actually the diocese of Madison, but it is shephered most ably by Bishop Morlino. May he live many more years and soon don a red hat.