Friday, 21 August 2009


I recently took part in a training conference organised by the Latin Mass Society for those who wished to learn how to celebrate Low Mass according to the Usus Antiquior or those who wished to learn the more complicated ceremonial for the Missa Cantata and High Mass. I was asked to write a report for that confference and it was recently published in the LMS Magazine 'Mass of Ages.' In order to give the article a wider audience I also reproduce it here.
Tracing its roots back to Douai in France during penal times, Ushaw College has been training priests on its present site for over 200 years. For four days this April it trained a few more! In this case they were already ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on arrival, but, in seeking to learn something of the Extraordinary Form (TLM), they were, nevertheless, being trained in the traditions of the Douai Martyrs and countless others before them.
Some of the “students” were former inmates of this august house of formation, and had tried to adhere to traditional ways even then, so the phrase “Douai Martyrs” may have applied in more recent times. It rejoiced their hearts to see the Gothic splendours of the Pugin chapel of St Cuthbert ringing once more to the sound of plainsong and the Mass of Ages.
The move north from Merton College, Oxford to County Durham facilitated participation [full and active!] by clergy in the Northern Province, though some still came from the south. Clearly, the thirst for contact with our ancient heritage is as strong in the North as it was down in Merton.
The clergy fellowship was a key element to this venture, as before, but the use of trainers from the North gave a different feel to everything, both in the Mass practices and also in the bar. Those with some experience supported those with little or none. The de-briefing in the sacristy after early morning Masses was also very important, with servers and LMS Committee members adding their contribution to the mix.
Because there will be a Summer venture in the south later this year, the scale of this conference was smaller than Merton I and II and this gave rise to the possibility of more in-depth formation. It also afforded more opportunities for friendship and solidarity amongst participants. This latter will prove its worth in the coming months in parishes up and down the kingdom as we try to implement the Holy Father’s much valued Motu Proprio.
This point cannot be over-emphasised. We have already seen in the so-called Catholic press persecution of priests for re-launching the TLM in parishes. Since none of us has the hide of a rhinoceros, the networks of support provided by like-minded clergy and laity is vital for withstanding the assaults of the frightened liberals. The criticism of ‘blogging priests’ is just another way of trying to undermine the mutual support and self-defence of orthodoxy.
The aforementioned Motu Proprio refers not only to the Holy Mass, and so participants were treated to a learned and pastoral review of the Traditional Rite of Holy Unction, Viaticum and Commendation of the Dying given by a serving hospital chaplain. Having served as a hospital chaplain myself, I can concur with Father’s experience and his thoughts on the pastoral relevance today of the Traditional Rites.
With so many people coming to the UK from around Europe, the draw backs of vernacular liturgy are becoming ever more evident and the use of the Traditional Rites in Latin serves to assure migrants of the presence of a Catholic minister at their bedside in their hour of need.
Even more benefit might have accrued from this lecture had not some of us found it difficult to focus attention so long after rising for Mass. A fellow participant, who dared to snore, assured us that it was the getting up early that caused his wandering thoughts. He was not complaining however, because the early Mass shows the priority of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in our spiritual lives.
This training conference for priests offered some of us the chance to develop our skills in the offering of Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis. Reflection on this amongst my fellow trainees and tutors suggests that more attention needs to be given to the formation of musicians, servers and MCs to facilitate the roll-out of this normative form of the TLM. It is most fitting to begin with priests, but even in Traditional circles others have their role to fulfil in the worship of Almighty God.
Clerical humour being what it is, recreation allowed several wags to speculate on appropriate Latin versions of some of the ditties to which we are all subjected these days at Sunday Mass. I will long remember “Legate Nos, Domine” for ‘Bind us Together, Lord.’ However, readers will be delighted to learn that we could devise nothing to latinise Kumbayah!
The majority of participants, including your writer, offered Mass in the More Ancient Use of the Roman Rite each day, growing and improving as they did so. It was a delight to re-live the joy of a First Mass along side those priests who offered the Usus Antiquior for the first time at Ushaw. It is to be hoped that more clergy will re-kindle joy in the priesthood through discovering the riches of our Catholic heritage.

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