Frequency of the Extraordinary Form

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Frequency of the Extraordinary Form

ROME, 29 SEPT. 2009 (ZENIT)

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am confused about the permission given by our Holy Father regarding the celebration of Mass using the Tridentine rite (the extraordinary form). Can a parish substitute for all daily Masses throughout the week the "Tridentine form" instead of the "ordinary form"? I understand Sunday Masses must be of the ordinary form, with perhaps the exception of one Tridentine Mass. — D.F., St. Clair Shores, Michigan

A: The most relevant document regarding this point is probably Article 5 of "Summorum Pontificum":

"In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole Church.

"§2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Blessed John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held."

Canon 392 refers to the bishop's overall right and duty to oversee and enforce the observation of ecclesiastical laws within his jurisdiction.

While the papal document certainly allows some leeway, the fact that it asks pastors to ensure that the celebration of the extraordinary form harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care would suggest that a parish should not habitually substitute all daily Masses for the extraordinary form.

A parish with more than one priest could have daily Mass in both forms.

Likewise, in areas where churches are in close proximity, the bishop could allow one parish to celebrate a daily Mass in the extraordinary form for the faithful from several parishes. Other possibilities include rotating the celebration of the extraordinary form during the week among two or three nearby parishes.

If the need arises, the papal letter issued "motu propio" (on his own initiative) also foresees the possibility of the bishop establishing a special parish, thus Article 10:

"The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with Canon 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law."

As is obvious all celebrations in such a parish or chaplaincy would be according to the extraordinary form.

The above document says that it is important to seek positive and charitable solutions to the needs of all the faithful so as to avoid discord and to favor the Church's unity.

* * *

Follow-up: Frequency of Extraordinary Form [10-13-2009]

Related to our Sept. 29 commentaries on the frequency of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite were a couple of questions that could complement that response.

A Moncton, New Brunswick, reader asked: "We are recently having a Mass in the 1962 version of the Tridentine Mass. Is it allowed to sing the Our Father with the priest? Are the appointed servers of Communion in the new rites, as we use today, allowed to distribute Communion in the 1962 Mass?"

As mentioned previously, I believe that the rubrics of the 1962 missal have preference over more recent canonical developments. Since this missal foresees only the priest and deacon as ministers of Communion at Mass, the use of extraordinary ministers is not contemplated.

With respect to singing or reciting the Pater Noster in Latin along with the celebrant, this practice was permitted in the so-called dialogue Masses in which the faithful would follow the Mass along with the celebrant.

A Troy, Michigan, reader asked the following: "Some of my friends who are attached to the Tridentine form of the Mass seem to be irritated at the use of the Nicene Creed in the Novus Ordo. They focus in on the use of 'We believe' instead of 'I believe.' What's up with this? Was only the Apostles' Creed used in the Latin Mass? The Nicene Creed seems to be very rich in theology, and it's almost poetic. I find it a wonderful source for prayerful meditation."

Actually, the use of the Apostles' Creed in the Mass liturgy is the novelty. The extraordinary form uses only the Nicene Creed at Mass. The protests probably stem from the fact that "Credo" is translated as "we" instead of as "I" which is the form found in the original Greek and its Latin translation.

The use of "we," while theologically correct in expressing the community dimension of faith, is certainly not an accurate translation. For this reason the recently approved new English translation of the Creed returns to the first person singular form.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Nos. 26-175 eloquently expresses this double reality of "I" and "we" believe.

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