Since its inception, the Latin Mass Society has published lists of traditional Masses in England and Wales; for many years these have been available to all on its website. If you go to the relevant page now you will be asked to log in as a member. The reason for this is explained in the 'Chairman's Message' of the currant Mass of Ages, the magazine of the Latin Mass Society, which arrived with members over the weekend.
Mass of Ages began as the Latin Mass Society’s Newsletter; we started selling a few copies in about 2005 and we made it free in 2009. It’s availability to non-members, indeed to anyone in the world online, allows us to explain ourselves to a wider audience. It also means that in these pages we are not simply talking among friends.
With this issue, we are instituting a new approach to the information available to readers. Readers picking up Mass of Ages for free at the back of church will no longer find, bound into their copies, a list of Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal around England and Wales. Nor will this list henceforth appear on the publicly accessible part of our website. Members of the Latin Mass Society who receive their copies in the post, on the other hand, will find them included.
To casual readers, this part of the magazine was the bit in the middle they skipped over. For our members, I know, it can be a lifeline, especially when travelling. Others again, looking at the list, didn’t like what they saw, and didn’t think others should be able to see it. This reality has a distorting effect on the listings: there have always been a few perfectly licit and regular celebrations that could not be advertised. Sometimes this has been a condition imposed by bishops.
The seriousness of the problem has depended on official attitudes to the Traditional Mass. When, in the 1970s and 1980s, permissions for it were seen by some as pastoral concessions to something that really ought to hurry up and die out, a long and growing list of Masses celebrated with permission was seen as an indication of the failure of the official policy, and even a spur to greater repressive efforts. Furthermore, listing these Masses, and therefore making them known to a wider group of people, could be seen as ‘promoting’ them, in defiance of the official policy. When people resorted to travelling long distances for the Traditional Mass, their personal sacrifices were regarded by some as a bad thing: not a sign of love for the liturgy, but contrary to the spirit of the permission, supposedly given only for some vaguely defined local group of people.
Of course, what the official attitude—the will of the bishop, or of the pope of the day—really was, was not always easy to discern. Bishops naturally varied in their views, among themselves and over time. Again, I remember being told firmly that that Pope John Paul II ‘doesn’t like it’, but the historical record of his words and actions paints a rather more complex picture.
Readers know that those days, with all their confusion and spiritual suffering, are back. Once again we are being told that promoting the Traditional Mass is somehow problematic, and once again advertising Masses has the potential to cause difficulties for celebrants, and even for their bishops.
We have made the decision, therefore, to make the Mass listings available only to our members, who are also be kept up to date through electronic means. I encourage those readers who value and make use of our Mass listings to join the Society, if you share our aims. The membership fee is equivalent to approximately 10p a day through the year, even if you do not qualify for a concessionary rate. We have not raised it in line with inflation in the last few years, and I’d say it was very good value. You can pay for it in monthly instalments if you wish, and you get a discount if you pay by Direct Debit. You also get a discount in our shop and when booking our major events.
Membership of the Latin Mass Society, however, should not be seen primarily in terms of what you can get out of the Society. We are not a commercial venture offering a parcel of goods for fixed sum. We are a group of Catholics determined to preserve the Church’s liturgical patrimony, and to use every resource, of our prayers, knowledge, skills, time, and energy—and money as well—to do so. As an LMS activist, Bernard Wall, wrote in explanation of the 1971 Petition to save the ancient Mass, signed by Agatha Christie and so many others: the signatories ‘felt that a liberal and plural approach to church ceremonies was in harmony with our age where all are allowed to do and think what suits them best, and that a totalitarian prohibition of the old Mass involved an out-of-date approach.’Support the Latin Mass Society