Motumania: Calendar, Latin, and Catfight

A friend forwarded a few letters from the Tablet. One read:

Correspondents have expressed differing views as to whether the pre-conciliar rite was abrogated, but surely there can be no disagreement that the pre-conciliar Ordo and Calendar ceased to exist following the promulgation of the new rite by Pope Paul VI.

That whole Heath-Robinson edifice of firstclass doubles with or without privileged octaves, second-class doubles, semi-doubles, simple feasts and ferias was swept away, thank God. In addition the messy business of Sundays after Epiphany (followed by Septuagesima and so on) and Sundays after Pentecost has given way to Sundays in Ordinary Time, with a far more coherent pattern of readings, following a three-year cycle.

It therefore follows that any Mass now celebrated (in whichever rite) must follow the new Ordo and Calendar (since there is no other) both in respect of the prayers and readings appointed and in respect of the priority between the yearly Sunday calendar and that of the saints. Apart from the celebration, primarily on weekdays, of private votive Masses (such as a Requiem Mass), it is surely the case that any celebration, especially on a Sunday or a major feast day, cannot be licit unless the correct prayers and readings (as currently authorised) are used. It will be interesting to see whether the devotees of the former rite comply with this principle after Benedict XVI’s motu proprio comes into force.

Tim Hemming


I appreciate the writer’s enthusiasm for the current Roman calendar, which is indeed far superior to the “extraordinary” one. The traditionalists will likely do as they please. The pope, by explicitly permitting the new Lectionary to be used, logically presumes that the older, inferior calendar is probably foremost in the minds of those preparing upcoming celebrations.

A realistic priest open to celebrating the 1970 Missal in Latin has his own problems:


Some of the comments on “Summorum Pontificum” may not be pertinent: “back to the people” is not of the essence of the older Mass. Others besides myself celebrated it versus populum (facing the people) in accord with its explicit rubrics in 1962 or earlier. Nor does the Novus Ordo (sic) stipulate only one orientation. Celebration versus populum of itself says to the congregation: come up close, gather round, be involved; the heart of the Church’s call at Vatican II.

It reveals the recalcitrance of those who still look on from afar eschewing “full, conscious, actual participation”. Over the past 30 years, I have several times met those nostalgic for the Latin Mass by celebrating one with them – Novus Ordo of course. The result has always been: “Thank you; we could not really take part in Latin so we shan’t need it again.” There is a tiny elite who could participate in Mass in Latin; it is well beyond the capacity of the vast majority. That is why we have long lost the treasury of Latin music. By the middle of last century, Solemn Mass was unknown to most. It was sung well in a few cathedrals, monasteries and collegiate chapels; its rare use in most parish churches was otherwise.

While unwarranted individual “innovation” has produced some distressing experiences since 1970, slipshod celebration was not unknown before then. My experience is that a truly dignified, engaging and uplifting celebration is far more likely now in the new order than 40 years ago in the old.

(Fr) John Woods

Scone, New South Wales, Australia

An editor’s note here: the term “Novus Ordo” is not and has never been an official term for the Roman Missal. It shouldn’t be italicized.

If you want to tune in to a typical motumania catfight, check out the comments on this thread at NLM. Good news for tradis can turn into a slugfest quicker than an extraordinary rite low Mass. When you live a life of bile and criticism, it’s hard to turn the corner and adopt a sliver of charity.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Motumania: Calendar, Latin, and Catfight

  1. FrMichael says:

    The Tablet letter writer Tim Hemming is incorrect. The pre-V2 readings are to be used with the extraordinary rite, although it is permitted to use approved vernacular translations of the readings (I assume this is meant the contemporary Lectionaries). This is mentioned in the BCL newsletter on the Pope’s recent document.

  2. Todd says:

    Fr Michael, I know you’re right, but I think the truth of what you say speaks to the recalcitrance of traditionalists and the hermeneutic of obstruction with which they approach the council.

    Having a wider selection of Scripture readings, Latin or vernacular, detracts not at all from the supposed hallmarks of the traditional Mass: reverence or mystery–unless the tradis are confusing the latter with unintelligibility.

  3. Tony says:

    There is a tiny elite who could participate in Mass in Latin; it is well beyond the capacity of the vast majority. That is why we have long lost the treasury of Latin music.

    I guess this is the “common people are idiots” meme. The reason that the people cannot fully and actively participate in Latin is simply because they have not been taught to.

    If my daughters are able to memorize the names, hits, attacks and special attacks of over 500 pokemon in a pokemon card deck, they could learn Latin if they were taught. And they do, because they were.

    Not enough to speak it fluently, but enough to understand the prayers they are responding to.

  4. FrMichael says:


    I much prefer the contemporary liturgical cycle over the pre-Vatican II one, even though there are certain beneficial elements that were lost in the formulation of the current cycle. If I had my druthers, I would put the Tridentine Mass on the current lectionary cycle, at least modified to fit the reduced number of readings and perhaps retention of the graduals..

    However, I’m not pope, and the guidance from both JP2 and Benedict seems consistent: the extraordinary rite uses the cycle found in the Missale Romanum 1962.

    My complaint here is with Mr. Hemming, the Tablet reader. Since I don’t have a subcription to that magazine, I voice it here.

  5. David S says:

    As someone who regularly participates (even actively) in Masses using both the 1962 and later Missals, I have learned to appreciate that the traditional cycle of readings has value because they are traditional. That is, they have been used by the Roman Church for some 13-14 centuries, and have guided probably thousands of canonized saints and certainly millions of Catholic Christians in their celebration of the liturgical seasons. In addition, some Fathers of the Church (and others) have written sermons expounding on these reading in liturgical context; these sermons are of more than academic or historical value. By following these readings, I can try to enter the spirit of the Church as it celebrated the liturgy over those many centuries and across the globe.

    To dismiss the traditional cycle as simply ‘inferior’ and those who would like to use them as ‘obstructionists’ seems harsh. Surely there is some merit in the traditional cycle.

    By the way, there’s nothing difficult about understanding “Sundays after Epiphany” or “Sundays after Pentecost.” These are quite straightforward. In contrast, think about the span of ‘ordinary’ Sundays that starts in January, stops in February or March, then picks up again in early summer and runs through November. How is this span a ‘season’? Then there are the annual homilies and vats of ink spilt explaining why “Ordinary Time” isn’t ordinary!

    As I mentioned, I frequently participate in both forms of Mass, and can also appreciate the larger selection of readings in the newer Missal, without having to denigrate the immemorial custom of the Church.

  6. FrMichael says:

    David S:

    I take it your comment is more directed at Todd than me, but I would point out that the new Lectionary doesn’t render obsolete Patristic and Scholastic homiletics. AFAIK there is no book dedicated to presenting the ancient homilies to contemporary homilists based on either the contemporary Lectionary or the Tridentine one. The exeption to this would be the Office of Readings tied to Feasts and Solemnities, which often include ancient homilies tied to these holy days. Those of us who like to see what Augustine, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, et al preached or wrote on a Gospel passage (and most of the ancient homiletic materials are based on the Gospels) have to do a bit of research. Generally, there are some sources that key these homilies to Scripture verses: from there homilists can tie these to Sunday or daily readings.

    In any case, the readings cited in the Tridentine Lectionary are covered by the contemporary one plus hundreds of other passages are used by the Pauline Mass, including ferials (weekdays), a conspicuous lack of the Tridentine Rite. So we are not speaking of something missing from the Tridentine readings, we are talking the large addition of Scripture to the Mass, always a good thing.

    As for the calendar itself, I like the older use of Passion Sunday prior to Palm Sunday and the inclusion of the Octave of Pentecost. I consider their omission in the contemporary Missal to be ill-advised.

  7. Liam says:

    I’m back…!

    Actually, the USCCB reference in its MotuQ&A to the new Lectionary appears to be misplaced. The reference in the MP to vernacular readings appears to be to the preconciliar vernacular lectionaries (there were such lectionaries created for the 1965 Ordo).

    Ecclesia Dei will obviously be asked to clarify this further. But don’t assume the new Lectionary is OK in the extraordinary use.

    Anyway, while the lectionary and calendar for the ordinary use could use some improvements, as I have detailed in comments to other posts, I believe on the whole they ought be judged a success.

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