Saturday, March 13, 2010

My First Extraordinary Rite Mass

Now I have been to the Extraordinary Rite Mass.  Low Mass was offered tonight at 6:00 p.m. at St. Bridget of Kildare in Nyssa, Oregon by Fr. Andrew Szymakowski, FSSP.  I am posting a picture of St. Bridget of Kildare because none of the pictures I took of the sanctuary of her pretty little church came out to my satisfaction.

Concerning my first Extraordinary Rite Mass, some observations:

-- Since I read through the Ordinary of the Mass ahead of time, and got my ribbons in place to mark the propers, I was able to follow along relatively well.  The only things that threw me were the periods of silence, because, not knowing how long it takes the priest to recite the silent prayers, I ran the risk of missing things through trying to find my place.  I will need more Masses to get used to the responses.

-- Fr. Szymakowski keeps veils on the tabernacle in accordance with the liturgical season (tonight they were purple, and he changed them before Mass to rose-colored for Laetare Sunday).  These veils are quite lovely and look to be of antique vintage.  (I took pictures before Mass, but they didn't come out.)  He also uses a chalice veil and a maniple.

-- Tonight we heard Low Mass.  There are those who have their complaints about Low Mass, which is somewhat shorter than High Mass and contains no music, because they consider it to be minimalist.  But when I compare Low Mass to Sunday Mass in the Ordinary Rite stuffed to the rafters with campfire hits from Oregon Catholic Press, I consider Low Mass to be infinitely preferable.  If you have access to the Extraordinary Rite on a daily basis, or at least a frequent basis, even if it's "only" Low Mass, then you need to count your blessings.

-- Now I understand why, for generations, people prayed the Rosary and practiced other private devotions at Mass.  It's not because they weren't paying attention, or because they didn't know what's going on.  But, in stark contrast to the Ordinary Rite as frequently executed, there are lengthy periods of silence.  True, the Second Vatican Council wanted people to focus their attention on the Mass; but it would seem that if the faithful were properly disposed in the days before the Council, then they were offering their prayers with those of the priest who prayed in silence.  Besides, what could be more appropriate at the foot of the Cross -- which is exactly where we are at Mass -- than prayer? 

-- The priest's role as intercessor for the people stands out far more clearly in the Extraordinary Rite than in the Ordinary Rite.  Why?  Because he is facing God, and not us; because much of his prayer is silent; because he is clearly doing almost all of the work.  There are many, both within and without the Church, who find this objectionable.  I find it consoling.  Contrary to what we have tried to make priests in recent decades, and what they have tried to make themselves, a priest is not Just One of the Guys.  He is chosen to approach the Altar of the Lord, to speak on behalf of the Church, and he has been consecrated and specially fitted out for this task.  Since, in the Extraordinary Rite, laymen are not prancing around in the sanctuary, the fact that the priest is specially set apart is quite clear.  I think greater exposure to the Extraordinary Rite would help to put the kibosh on the business of blurring the distinction between laity and clergy. 

-- There are, in fact, very few tasks for the laity to perform at Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  Even when we receive Holy Communion, we are not required to say anything, only to receive the Eucharist.  To me, the lack of visible tasks for the laity to perform during Mass is a reminder that our own efforts, by themselves, count for next to nothing.  We need the help of grace, and we are getting this at Mass.  We must cooperate with grace, do what lies to hand, and then leave the rest to God, getting out of His way.  This requires us to mortify our desire to busy ourselves with many things.  By wanting to take on all sorts of jobs at Mass, all we're really doing is making life harder than it needs to be.  "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42.  "Be still, and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10.

-- And, though we have lost this to a great extent since Vatican II,  stillness lies at the heart of the Mass.  Silence is the language of God.  The greatest wonders of all are out of the reach of our senses.  In the Extraordinary Rite, this is exemplified by the fact that the Holy Sacrifice itself takes place in silence -- at least, we in the pews cannot hear the words of consecration.  The silence of the congregation -- even a very small one, like we had tonight -- is a sure sign of active participation.  I was reminded of the hush that must have fallen on Calvary (which is where we in fact were), in those last moments before the great work of Redemption was accomplished.

So those are my preliminary thoughts on the Extraordinary Rite.  If you live in Boise, and you want the Extraordinary Rite, it is now within reach (only an hour's drive).

Dear God: please bless Fr. Szymakowski.  Please inspire more people to attend the Extraordinary Rite Mass in Nyssa, so that Father will be able to offer it more than once a month.  And please drive down the price of gas so we can all afford to keep going out there.   


  1. A wonderful, penetrating reflection. Your deep awareness of what is going on during EF Mass is, obviously, a reflection of the depth of your faith. In this context, I must become more like you.

  2. Thank you both. TH2, trust, me there are FAR better models out there!

  3. I have experienced the Extraordinary Form, both in the Current & in the Past as the Ordinary Form:

    In the Current Ordinary Form, at The Parish Where Archbishop Fulton J Sheen preached on Good Friday, Kyrie is chanted in Greek, Communion Antiphon is chanted in Latin, & Sanctus & Agnus Dei are sung in Latin & many who receive Holy Communion prefer to Kneel at The Altar Rail;

    Today, before I went to an Ancient Order Of Hibernians Saint Patrick's Day Celebration, I was at Mass in the Ordinary Form in Queens. Except for "Amazing Grace", the rest of the "Liturgical Muzak" was of the "Haugen-Haas" Variety. I was coming close to screaming near the end of Mass;

    Sadly, all this "Liturgical Muzak" was created in connection with the current form. It need NOT be this way, as I have written in "Guitars & Chant."

  4. Actually, Michael, it wasn't all created in connection with the current form. It's not all Catholic (or reputedly Catholic). I believe Marty Haugen, for example, is Lutheran.

  5. Actually, Haugen is now with the UCC (motto: "We're Almost As Open-Minded As The Unitarian Universalists").

    Anita, I don't think there's a UU "church" that would welcome either of us.