Monday, December 26, 2011

7 Reasons Why You Should NOT Go to the TLM

1.       It will make you wonder why we have lay ministers of Holy Communion in the Novus Ordo Mass.

If it’s the same Mass, and it’s the same Jesus in each Mass, then why is it that in the extraordinary form of the Mass (the TLM, as it is often called), only the priest may handle the Body and Blood of Our Lord? Could it be because (gasp) he is ordained for that purpose? Could it be that his hands are anointed for that purpose? Could it be because he is a…priest? Once you experience that a few times, it starts to look quite unsettling to see lay ministers – or even deacons and acolytes – distributing Holy Communion, or purifying the vessels (which they’re not supposed to do anyway), or just in general traipsing through the sanctuary. Those things don’t happen in the TLM, and it makes a huge difference in one’s sense of reverence and awe during the Mass.

2.      It will make you more aware of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Precisely because the priest is the only one who may handle the Eucharist, awareness is instantly raised as to the importance of that little “wafer” – the True Body of Christ.  Because the faithful receive on the tongue while kneeling, reverence is cultivated. It cannot be otherwise. Receiving Holy Communion becomes more humbling. It makes one more aware of Jesus and what He does for us by coming to us in the Eucharist. Truly.

3.      It will make you wonder why we have guitar music at the Novus Ordo Mass.
After a period of adjustment, as your musical “palate” is cleansed of the sugary sweet pop tunes of OCP origin, Gregorian chant will impress its spiritual flavor on your heart and mind, and you will experience the way in which this sacred music – which was designed for nothing but the worship of God – lifts your soul to God.

4.      It will bring you to a new understanding of the liturgical worship of the Catholic Church.

The interior logic and spiritual integrity of the extraordinary form will manifest itself to you over a period of time. It is an integrity that no longer exists in the Novus Ordo – at least as it is celebrated in most parishes. And even in the best of situations, you will sense, after some time, that there is something missing in the Novus Ordo. Part of that has to do with the abbreviated nature of the prayers; yes, the new translation is a good start, but the prayers are still…well…incomplete, when compared with those of the extraordinary form.

5.      It will bring you to a new awareness of your own sinfulness…and it will make you more Catholic in your understanding of Church teaching on things like homosexuality, abortion, and artificial contraception.

The prayers of the extraordinary form talk about sin (and some of this sense of our sinfulness has been restored with the new translation). The sung Kyrie is an extended plea for mercy. The prayers at the foot of the altar and the Confiteor are much richer and piercing than anything in the Ordinary Form. Read the prayers of the TLM.  How does this relate to an increase in understanding of Church teaching? I don’t know, exactly. But it does.

6.      It will make you aware of how “horizontal” the worship is in the Novus Ordo.
I’m talking here about the typical experience of the NO in the typical parish in my experience.  It’s flat. It’s not aimed upwards; we aim it at each other. The priest faces us; we interrupt our worship to extend the “sign of peace”, which in some parishes is tantamount of a free-for-all of pious handshaking and smiling and crawling over each other to greet everyone. The songs chosen (instead of the music proper to the Mass) are sometimes of questionable theology, and often are pure “schmaltz”, playing on our more secular emotions rather than lifting our minds and hearts to God. Why? Because they resemble secular music – not sacred music.

7.      It will make you hunger and thirst for true worship every time you attend the typical Novus Ordo Mass at your parish.
This is because, as Richard Collins says over at Linen on the Hedgerow,  “the two Masses are as different as chalk is to cheese”. Even in a Novus Ordo that is said properly – even with the Gregorian chant propers and ordinary, even with the priest celebrating the Mass ad orientem – it is quite likely that you will feel that something is missing. Because it is.

In short, you should not attend the TLM because it will make you more aware of your Catholic identity. And that is precisely what the enemy does not want.
Even if you decide, after my dire warnings, that you’d like to try the TLM, the enemy still has a few tricks up his sleeve for you. See, if you’ve had a long history of attending the Novus Ordo, and if you enjoy singing the songs from the “JourneySong Book” or “Breaking Bread” or any of the others of that ilk, and especially if you are an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, you will not experience the effects listed here immediately. It would take some time before the changes could take hold. So if you go just one time, you might feel like a fish out of water; it may seem odd and quiet and just plain different. And since we are human, and since humans don’t like change, you will quite likely say, “I guess it’s fine for all those trad types, but it’s just not for me.”
(And that’s part of the problem, too. The Novus Ordo should not seem so very different from the TLM – not if we really had a “hermeneutic of continuity” happening here. But, of course, we don’t.)
So, if you are forced to attend a TLM, or if you go just one time to prove you gave it a shot, fear not! You may be quite able to hold onto your Protestantized view of worship, and you will be able to continue to speak disparagingly of the use of Latin and the fact that you can’t understand the words (but if you know how to read, you have no excuse, because there will be an English-Latin booklet available for you to refer to, almost certainly).
If you really give the TLM a try, though – because maybe you seek a greater “actual” participation in the Mass, and you are a Catholic who wants to be truly Catholic – you will experience all of the above effects, and they really are good things and not bad.
But a word of warning is still in order:
Once you experience the effects noted, you will probably talk about them. You'll want a TLM in your parish. And then you will probably be criticized, if not ostracized, by many in your parish. You’ll hear endless arguments about how you are being “divisive” and not promoting the unity of the Body of Christ in your parish or diocese. And you will not be happy about this. It will hurt.
But I’ll tell you something: it’s worth every bit of the pain.


Be sure to see this "companion" post: How to Undermine the TLM

Along with Paving the Way for the EF Mass


  1. I've been Catholic for two and a half years, and have yet to visit a TLM, but I'm looking forward to it. While I love my parish, I've been very turned off by the recent adoption of more contemporary worship music, made even worse by trying to pull it off with an organ. Being a former worship leader of the loud, "charismatic" kind, one of the many, many things I loved coming into the Church was the sense of true worship, without the aid of a forced attempt at manipulating people's emotions with the right guitar solo, drum fill, or keyboard sound. However, this past year, along with certain changes, came also the contemporary Christian music market. Since I had more exposure to the Church when I was younger, in a different country, some of the new liturgy reminds me of what I remember growing up, in a different language, but I'm a novice, and happy that the waters go deeper still.

  2. I love the word schmaltz. It is perfectly descriptive. Another favorite is drek.

  3. A truly excellent post Jay and many thanks for the link.
    I am so pleased to have found your blog.

  4. I found your blog via Steve Kellmeyer's, and I'd like to say a hearty A-Men! to your post about the TLM.

    I am a convert (grew up in a Godless household) who has taken a very winding path. So much so that I did not attend Mass for years, and even attended a baptist church for 5 years. I was never a baptist, though.

    When it was time to finally come Home, I took my time and so many signs pointed me to the TLM that I had to find one. I did, and I've never looked back.

    We've been at the church now for just over a year and my girl took her First Holy Communion during the Mass, and it was beautiful. It took some getting used to, but she sings along with the Gregorian chants - the Missa de Angelis is a frequent cd in the car - and gets excited about participating in the Eucharist.

    I've been to a Novus Ordo Mass twice since I found the TLM and you are right. Something is missing. It's too short, it feels disrespectful, and there's not enough worship in there for my liking.

    I've been accused of being into hardcore popery by my anglican friends lol. I just agree.

    Apologies for the length, but I get so excited about going to church now, and very few of my friends are catholics. Most are atheists, protestants or pagans. :)

    I love finding new catholic blogs.

    God bless you!

  5. Thanks for all of your comments.
    Eddy: trust your instincts about what is wrong at this point in your Catholic life, if it feels "not quite right", it probably isn't. But then go look up the documents that tell you what IS right. You'll train your heart and soul and mind to keep in tune with the Church that way.
    Nilk: Amen to your comment, too! For the 10 or 11 months that we had a TLM every Sunday, my husband and I both agreed it was nice NOT to dread Sunday Mass!

  6. I enjoy reading about the TLM and have visited a few. They are very beautiful. I have also been to the current Mass in places that it was done very well, like at EWTN in Alabama and I must say that it moved me deeply.

  7. Great post! You nailed it! By coincidence, I thumbed through a book about cathedrals yesterday and was reminded just how silly the Novus Ordo "altar" looks in these otherwise beautiful buildings. You don't even have to believe in God to realize in an instant that there's simply no there there.

  8. I must say, the title of this post had me a little suspicious, but in the end it was an intriguing post. I've definitely experienced some of the things you mentioned regarding the Novus Ordo Mass (although I have only been to the TLM a few times: my experiences may be more due to attending the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). Though it is definitely fantastic to make the TLM more available, I think it is still a good goal to work on bringing celebrations of the Novus Ordo Mass closer to the degree of solemnity and reverence seen at the TLM as well. In the end, the Novus Ordo is the Ordinary Form, so I don't think it can just be ignored in favor of the TLM: instead, it must be brought more into conformity with the true reverence and solemnity of Catholic liturgy.

  9. Wolfsbane: Yes, I think it is a good idea to bring the NO Mass to greater solemnity and reverence...even simply following the rubrics would be a good goal! I think the more this is done, the close the NO comes to the EF Mass, and some very serious deficiences of the NO - which exist regardless of how well it is celebrated - can then be recognized and corrected. In the end, I think there will be only one Ordinary Form - and it will end up being essentiall what we now call the extraordinary form.

  10. I am a priest and do my best to celebrate the NO devoutly.
    Several older people have shared their experience of the Mass before Vatican II. They tell me that Fr. John Doe could beat the rosary, or that another priest would spin around so fast that he would have to readjust his fiddleback.
    Or that as servers they would say, "mea cup a cocoa, mea cup a coca."
    In every age we need people of faith to celebrate the liturgy devoutly.
    How did Europe lose its faith if the liturgy was so perfect?

  11. Thank you, Father, for your fidelity to the Mass. However, with all due respect, I think your parting question is analogous to asking, "How did the US become so socialistic in the last 3 years if democracy is so perfect?" I'm sure there were, still are, and ever will be liturgical abuses in the EF. But, if it comes down to a choice between a properly celebrated liturgy of either form, I'll take the EF...and I have reasons beyond my own personal preference for it. Also, I suppose we could ask the flip-side question: if the NO is so great, why have we lost so many Catholics? Why have Catholics become so Protestantized over the last 50 years? That said, I am all for a movement toward greater reverence, liturgical correctness, and correct choice of music in the NO. It will only help our Catholic identity.

  12. Jay there have been changes in the NO that I've seen even over the last few years here in Australia.

    Due to circumstances beyond my control I couldn't go to my TLM, and so went to a closer church.

    I nearly fell off the pew when the Gloria was recited, and also the wording of the Agnus Dei had changed.

    It was a pleasant change, and it would probably be an interesting experience to see what the regular parishioners felt about the changes.

  13. The TLM has been on my mind for the past year now and I am in hot pursuit of one. I'm just dying to attend one. Please pray for that opportunity. Until recently I used to be a Eucharistic Minister at my parish. But after much research and blog spotting(including this one), I decided that I could no longer in good conscience remain an EMHC. I also discontinued receiving communion in the hand and in both species.

  14. "Why have Catholics become so *Protestantized* over the last 50 years?"

    Check this out Dr. Jay.

    I am reading the latest Adoremus Bulletin and they have reprinted an address by a Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth (priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster, England). This was given at the Gateway Liturgical Conference of the Archdiocese of St. Louis back in October.

    Here is a sampling:

    (commenting on a quote from Sacrosanctum Concilium, #2)

    "Here we find contrasting characteristics which are carefully held in balance: human/divine; visible/invisible; active/contemplative... It is my impression that too often, rather than experiencing both of these characteristics simultaneously (which is the true genius of the liturgy), we only seem to experience one of them. The overwhelming character of many Masses is still hopelessly horizontal and assembly-oriented --- somewhere along the journey from the Council, we have accepted a *Protestant model* in our worship and the true ecclesial dynamic of what happens in the liturgy is still obscured to many of our people. This is particularly the case when we consider the character of the liturgy in its function of making accessible to us the life of heaven. In the earthly liturgy we share in the heavenly liturgy by way of foretaste, as we await its accomplishment." (stars added)

    Well, seems your thought echoed this clerics thoughts, Dr. Boyd!

    The good Msgr's address is titled: "Sacrosanctum Concilium: What we have done, what we have failed to do"


  15. Thanks, CK. I think I might have read that before...I know I have read other of his talks. Thanks for sharing - I'm going to look up the original!


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