The Music, And What Is Wrong With The Novus Ordo

A new discussion has erupted regarding the limitations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal concerning the music when the new missal comes into force. It appears very clear that these changes will be sweeping (no fantasy song at the Entrance and at Communion, say) and will be aimed at recovering some reverence and Catholic dignity to the Mass. I do not doubt that disobedience and pretending not to understand the instructions will be rampant at the beginning, but in time things will slowly adjust.

This is, though, another indication of what has happened in the last years:

1. A wonderful mass was available (the Tridentine);

2. V II and the “Spirit of V II” intervened and ravaged the Mass, protestantising it and reducing it to the travesty of the reverent, theologically sound celebration it was.

3. An attempt to recover the old, reverent way of celebrating Mass is ongoing, but still whilst trying to remain coherent with the principles of the new Mass.

What we continue to see is an attempt to repair a devastated Mass by staying as much as possible faithful to the principles of those who caused the devastation in the first place.

This is illogical. It must be clear now to everyone that what was wrong with the Novus Ordo is the Novus Ordo. It is not that there was a “right reform” which subsequently degenerated in the “wrong reform”. On the contrary, there was a wrong reform and this inevitably led to even worse problems, as logically as the French Revolution led to the Terror and the October Revolution led to the Stalinian purges. To start the “aggiornamento” and to think that it would stop where the initiators (allegedly) hoped it would stop was exactly as intelligent as to throw oneself down a cliff and to hope that one will stop in mid-air. There is no single problem of the Novus Ordo that has not been generated by the very mentality that has originated the Novus Ordo, that is: that the old ways were wrong, and the way of celebrating Mass had to be “updated”. The mentality is always the same, the only difference is the degree of devastation. The “Spirit of V II”-crowd is – liturgically speaking, of course; on the theology there have been no innovations, only a lot of confusion – not the betrayal of V II, but its logical end.

Further proof of this is that the allegedly moderate, “prudent revolutionaries” Conciliar Fathers who have given us the V II reforms were the same people who came back to their dioceses and immediately started to preside over the further work of destruction. This was not an accident, nor was it the result of all these bishops suddenly losing their head. It was the logical development of the ideological premise, that the liturgy needed to be “updated” and adapted to the new world. When you start to think that the Mass must be updated, where will the update stop? When you start to think that it must be adapted to the changed times, how will you stop those who want to, after some time, “adapt” further?

The recent attempts at repairing the Novus Ordo are laudable in themselves, but they are a path leading back to the only inevitable conclusion: the recovery of tradition, and of the Tridentine Mass. To continue to make wrong things less and less wrongly but remaining within the realm of the wrong mentality that caused the problems in the first place is an improvement (less wrong is better than more wrong, for sure), but it will never lead to doing things right.

The only way of doing things right is doing them the way they were done before the wrong mentality crept in.

Give us back the Tridentine Mass as the only Mass. This solves all the liturgical problems.



Posted on July 10, 2011, in Catholicism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. While I sympathize with you on basically everything, I still think the NO has place in the Church and when it is not abused, it has the power to draw more people to salvation. There is something to be said for having a mass in vernacular available.

    • Lacy,

      do you mean to draw more people than a badly celebrated Mass, or more people than the Tridentine Mass?

      I think we must never lose sight of the fact that the NO has seen a huge decrease in attendance numbers and it would therefore seem that it draws less people to salvation. One might say of course that this is because of extremely bad celebrants, butI would have to disagree on that. Italy is not a country known for liturgical abuses and you will generally find sensibly reverent NO masses, but without this being able to stop the attendance numbers from falling.

      I do not know whether you have attended the Tridentine for a regular time (I always say that it takes some time for the Tridentine to be digested; particularly in the modern era, where the typical attention span is counted in seconds), but I’d say that the experience of most habitual Tridentine mass goers is that after a while the vernacular is not missed anymore, at all. This requires a bit of work of course, and a good missal. But in time it comes automatic and the advantages of the Latin (its being beautifully solemn, universal, theologically univocal) vastly overweights the slight initial inconvenience of not having the vernacular.

      I always make the parallel with pop songs in non-English speaking countries: the hurdle of the foreign language is rapidly overcome when one is interested in the music, and people look for lyrics translations without any problem….


  2. Mundabor – I agree with your post , and particularly liked the remark about attention-span which has been so reduce by tv that teachers now have a nearly impossible task in imparting information.

    Your last paragraph is spot-on. Any good language teacher will confirm it.

    • Leftfooter,

      I am not sure that it has to do with TV; rather, I think that it might have to do with the unwillingness of teaching pupils properly.

      In my eyes, my generation had a longer attention span mainly because, just to make an example, was forced to learn by heart from the tenderest age, and was in generally forced to put a greater effort than this is the case today.

      No effort, no improvement.

      But we did have TV. It is just that TV was not considered more than a pastime. You had to read your books, memorise your poetry, make your effort.

  3. Let me start by saying that I never attended a EF mass.

    The OF can be reverent and sacred, if it is properly celebrated.
    As you surely know, the official language of the OF mass is Latin and the preferential music are Gregorian chant and polyphony; that is crystal clear in Sacrosanctum Concilium, vernacular and «other suitable songs/chants» being permitted as exceptions.
    The fact that the OF is celebrated almost exclusively in vernacular with no Gregorian whatsoever shows, if I may say so, that the problem of the OF lies in the fact that what was supposed to be an exception has become a practical rule.
    Even the ad populum position is prescribed nowhere in Church documents.

    I, however, have the chance of attending a Sunday mass in OF celebrated in Latin, fully sung by the celebrant, with most of the propers in Gregorian (the exception is the Offertory, I don’t know why). The readings are spoken in Portuguese.
    The bilingual Missal is almost unnecessary, because people know most of the texts by heart from decades of vernacular celebration. The fact of speaking a Latin language helps too.
    The celebrant is oriented ad Deum most of the time.

    With all this features, believe me: it is a very sacred mass.

    Besides, I find two related features in the well celebrated OF to be real improvements over the EF: the second reading and the liturgical calendar: this two features allow almost of the Bible be read in every three year cycle, bringing the Holy Scriptures to the Mass.

    I know full well that the mass I attend is a exception.
    Being a musician, I know from suffered experience that it is very difficult to convince priests that liturgical music should be mostly Gregorian.
    I suppose it would be even harder to convince not just the priests but people as well to fully revert to the EF, even if it was desirable.

    Toto corde.

    • Louis,

      glad to see that in Portugal it is not all ashes; but you are basically repeating my argument, that the NO is deemed the better, the more similar it is to the Tridentine. Which clearly speaks for the original.

      As to the “improvements”, I used to think like you, but I have changed my mind in the meantime. The truth of the matter is that the Mass is not the place to read the bible. The aim of the Tridentine Mass has never been to let you read as much of the bible as possible. The Gospel reading of the Tridentine are like bullets, not bible reading lessons. It was not about quantity, but clarity of message and ability to remember it. They are, in my eyes, more effective than the Gospel readings of the Novus Ordo.
      In those times, people didn’t go to Mass to read the scripture; if they were enough educated, they were supposed to read their texts – or to read the textx which explained them – themselves.

      The NO seems to want to send so much of the bible as they can down the throat of the churchgoers, out of sheer unbelief that they will read the scriptures outside of Mass. Therefore, the NO tries to remedy to instruction mediocrity at the same time as it accepts it.


  4. Dear M,

    you are basically repeating my argument, that the NO is deemed the better, the more similar it is to the Tridentine. Which clearly speaks for the original.

    I think I can agree with that, given that the principles of the OF are very close to the EF’s. If one is faithful to the OF principles, the celebration ends up being very similar to the EF.
    I once heard a story of someone that went to a Benedictine monastery and to mass in Latin for the first time. That person then observed that the mass in the EF was quite another thing, and she was very surprised when told that the mass had been celebrated in the OF.

    However, I thought your argument was that the OF is in itself defective and beyond any chance of improvement. I don’t think so. You would be right if you thought of the de facto OF; if you consider the prescribed OF I don’t see how it can be said that the problem «with the Novus Ordo is the Novus Ordo».

    Ex corde,

    • Dear Luis,

      to better understand what i say, one should embark on a detailed explanation (which would take several messages) of the differences between the two. Their differences are many more than it would appear from a superficial reading of the texts.

      I agree with you that, if one were to do everything right and in latin at that, the differences would appear limited compared to the differences with a badly made “showtime” NO. But the defect in construction would remain. If you can understand Italian, here is a good start:

      Amother “guide” to the differences is here:

      You can find other sources (there’s a beautiful explanation from the sspx; a bit melodramatic, but very well made; can’t find it now).

      You can see from these that a reverently celebrated, sound NO in Latin still would keep all the original problems, which are the reason why you will read often that the NO is “protestantised”. Less so if properly made; with a whiff of old flavour if made in latin, too; but still, with many omissions which damage its catholic character and make it less obvious to understand its sacrificial nature whilst at the same time make it more “digestible” for protestant sensibilities. If you buy a book like “Know your mass” (I have written about it) you’ll see in detail the differences.

      Yes both are in latin and the differences wouldn’t be shocking to you. But you wouldn’t be in any doubt as to which one is the original and right one, and which one the protestantised version.


  5. Dear M,

    Thank you for you patience and for the links. I read Italian proficiently and I’ll try to find the time to read the texts you suggested.

    Ex corde,

    • Thanks Luis,

      in doing so, please consider that seeing is much better than reading.

      For example, there is an entire world of Catholicism in the “Introibo ad altare dei…”, that has been simply eliminated. The more one attends to the Tridentine, the more one becomes aware of what has been sacrificed to – because this is what it was – the desire of making the mass more digestible for Protestants.


  6. Luis,
    seeing is indeed much better than reading as Mundabor said. If you are unable to personally attend a Tridentine Mass you might still get some of the “seeing” out of the great collection at There are many videos of beautifully celebrated Masses in the Traditional Rite that might be worth a look if you never have seen one with your own eyes. In my opinion, the difference between this and even the most reverently celebrated Novus Ordo Mass is still staggering.

    Of course, being there is even better than just seeing…

    P.S. I hope the link works…

  7. having been born in 1960, i was apparently 9 when the mass changed . i remember being confused at the priest facing out suddenly. i went to a latin mass as an adult now and was amazed at the depth of the content and the specificity of the prayers. i was shocked to see how watered down today’s mass is. i could feel the deep holiness and my communion was so powerful at the latin mass- a numinous experience. wow, looks like the mass WAS highjacked. the problem is, i can’t see today’s youth raised on mtv and tethered to an ipod filled with hi-tech, eye popping movies staring at a priest’s back for an hour while he mutters to himself. ain’t gonna happen- today’s youth’s eyes are filled with razzle-dazzle. at least the mass in english has a silver of hope of reaching teens of today, who are almost wild barbarians. they are almost completely iliterate and superficial. i know, i taught high school catachism class. why can’t we have the content of the trid mass but out loud in english? where else on earth are you supposed to comprehend something you can’t hear, can’t understand language-wise, or keep pace with cause you are lost and then feel closer to God but in a latin mass? no wonder joel osteen is packing them in, everyone is upbeat, loving, the music is heartfelt , kids can easily understand it. but then, once a month, they pull out the cracker and grape juice, and i feel sorry for them.

    • Chris,

      I think that we tend to forget that the Mass doesn’t work with human means, and therefore doesn’t have to be an attractive “marketing proposition”, or fight with attention with Mtv. Also, we tend to forget that the Mass has first and foremost a sacrificial nature, rather lost in these NO days butstill the most important aspect of the Mass. Brutally speaking, the Mass is celebrated for Christ, not for the congregation. There is, therefore, no necessity to attract the congregation. The congregation must be there as a result of the fact that a sacrificial ceremony wanted by Christ through Christ and by Christ is celebrated, not because they find it attractive (though in time, they will).

      Exactly for this reason, the Mass has always been the complete opposite of the world; but this is also one of the reason it is so attractive: it transports you into another world! Three hundred years ago there was no Mtv, but there was no scarcity of noisy drinking places, or of brothels, or of many other ways to entertain oneself. Technology advances, men remain the same. They are going to Mass as a result of a process, and will slowly grow to appreciate the mass; some of them will then be seriously and sincerely converted whilst others will follow the way of the world, as it has always been the case.

      This is why the Tridentine Mass will be there long after Joel Osteen has been forgotten: it imparts a sacramental grace and it contains the Greatest Miracle On Earth, but it also is the best way to convey the enormity of what happens at Mass.

      But you see, it is precisely the mass in english that can’t attract the Mtv masses. If they must choose between shallowness and shallowness, they’ll choose the undoubtedly more attractive shallowness of Mtv. They will not even care or perceive correctly the importance of the consecration, because the NO downplays it and most celebrant seek to downplay it even more!

      No, I think that the way to “attract people attracted by Mtv” is not by becoming as shallow as they are, but by offering Christ to them; the Tridentine is so clearly otherworldly, that in this alone it makes a real contrast and offer a real, and authentic, alternative.


  8. Two thoughts come to mind:

    1. Love the cartoon; especially the mention of the felt banners. I was born in 1963 and attended parochial school thru the second grade. I remember attending CCD in the thrid grade (1971-72) which was held once a week after school in a classroom at the local Catholic school. Here we said prayers in the church and learned from a book – I remember one of the lessons being the differences between Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and Protestants. The next school year CCD was held at the home of the instructor, I recall having a book but barely using it, and right prior to Palm Sunday our assignment was to make out of construction paper the type of animal we would like to see Jesus riding as he entered Jerusalem. Oh and much of our time was spent making felt banners. It seems to me somewhere between 1971 – 1974 the Church, at least locally, jumped the shark so to speak. Whereas prior to that, the Catechism was taught with seriosness to children, after that point the Catechism was presented in a Sesame Street manner and dumbed down. And from my experience, as children, we noticed the difference.

    2. I remember a few years back a priest telling us that V II was good for the Protestants because they were acquiring and using many of the traditions of the Catholic Chruch. One of the examples he gave was that prior to V II Methodists “celebrated” Communion at most once a month, but now they “celebrate” Communion most Sundays. He went on to rhetorically ask could we imagine only having Communion once a month. All I could think was – It is not ths same thing; the Body of Christ is not present in their “celebration”.

    • I fully agree, Kevin: as children the only message we got is that these priests were second-class adults, unable to transmit anything meaningful and treating us like idiots.

      In my parish (Italy), the for me unforgettable dramatic change was in 1976, with the stupid guitars. I’ll never forget the sense of shock and desecration. With the benefit of hindsight – and without wanting to minimise my own responsibilites for stopping attendance – this was “another brick in the wall” of my estrangement from Catholicism.


%d bloggers like this: