Those of you who know me will know that I purposefully attend the “Extraordinary Form” (EF) of the Mass several times a year. This form of the Mass is sometimes known as “The Tridentine Mass” and is the Liturgy which our grandparents would have typically attended.
There’s much to commend the Extraordinary Form and I would love to see it become more available. However, as much as I love the older form of the Mass, I have to say, that when it’s done well, I actually prefer the “Novus Ordo” (NO) Mass (although I typically go to Byzantine Liturgy on Sundays). This is the amended liturgy which came about following the Second Vatican Council and which is more typically found around the world today in Roman-Rite Catholic Churches.
Although I generally prefer the Novus Ordo, I think it’s safe to say that every Catholic has been to a typical parish Mass where the liturgy has, well, left a lot to be desired… These banal liturgies have considerably nurtured the feeling among more traditional Catholics that the Novus Ordo was a considerable misstep in the development of the Roman liturgy. However, personally I think that when it’s done well, it’s thoroughly beautiful.
In recent months I’ve been in an extended email exchange with a friend who infinitely prefers the Extraordinary Form. During our discussion, I gave some suggestions of some simple things which can be done to elevate the typical Mass-going experience and I thought I’d share them here. Not all of these are Novus Ordo-specific, but in my opinion they would resolve many of the problems which are more commonly associated with the new form of the Mass…
1. Stillness before Mass. Walking into the church shouldn’t be like walking into a market place…
2. Decent music please. It should be music which can actually be sung by the congregation. As much as I love Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), I don’t think much of it is suited to congregational singing. I think it’s much better to stick to chant or well-known hymns.
3. The choir should generally be tucked away, preferably out of sight. They are called to lead the congregation in the music, but it is not a performance and they shouldn’t be the focus.
4. “Say the black, do the red“. The liturgical texts of the Church are ancient and beautiful. Priestly improvisation isn’t needed.
5. Well-trained altar servers. They should all be wearing smart, black shoes. No flip-fops or sneakers.
6. The Mass Readings should be audible and intelligibly read. Every Lector should receiving training.
7. The homily should address the Scriptural texts for that Mass. It should explain the context of the Readings and apply them to contemporary life. The homily should have solid catechetical content that actually teaches and challenges the congregation. Feel-good platitudes are not allowed!
8. A short period of silent reflection following the homily can help people take to heart the message preached.
10. Ad Orientem Liturgy of the Eucharist (yes, even in the Novus Ordo).
11. A relatively restrained period of sign of peace. It’s a part of the Novus Ordo that I love but it has a habit of descending into a free-for-all that lasts for an indeterminate amount of time that I find can be really distracting.
12. Please don’t try and hold my hand during the Our Father. I know you mean well, but just don’t…
13. A reverent recitation of the Eucharistic prayer. These prayers are the most important words a priest says in his entire life. It’s not very engaging if it’s read like a grocery list or a tax form.
14. Feast days should be special. Use all the incense and bells you have!
15. Limited use of lay extraordinary ministers of holy communion. It’s distracting having so many. Communion might take a little longer to distribute, but that’s okay!
16. A good period of silence after Communion, there’s no need to rush on.
17. If there are notices, please just highlight the important ones. There’s no need to read the bulletin verbatim.
18. Invite all those new to the parish or visiting to come for tea/coffee afterwards. This will both provide a warm welcome to visitors and, by encouraging those who wish to socialize to go to the church hall, the reverence of the tabernacle and the worship space is more likely to be preserved.
19. If the priest waits a few verses of the recessional hymn before walking down the aisle, it encourages the congregation to actually stick around to the end of the hymn.
20. The priest should stand by the door to meet people as they leave, keeping a keen eye out for any visitors.
Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have any other suggestions?