Saturday, 22 August 2015

Do we still believe in ... hand missals


It is highly ironic that as one thing loosens another tightens.

When there was only the Latin Mass, Priests were constrained in how they said it. Everything is laid down exactly: the space between the hands, the grade of bow, the dimensions of the signs of the cross etc. Now, of course, go to a new Mass and you will see everything… absolutely everything! Some are allowed by the new liturgical books, other are simply the winds of change elevating the alb of common sense and exposing the bottom of silliness!


For Christ’s lay faithful, on the other hand, there used to be genuine freedom. Some said their rosary, some read their prayers; others followed in their hand missals, still others lit candles. Come the reforms, come the straightjacket of ‘participation’. In the new form you must stand and sit when directed. You must make the responses in unison with the rest. You must sing a communion hymn. You must be gathered into a worshipping community by an entrance song or chant. You must, you must, you must…

The Priest’s individuality has been raised, and the people in the pew have been reduced to a uniform mass in which the individual response is sacrificed. It is so difficult to say a prayer nowadays during Mass, it is so crowded by demands – say this, do that, sing the other… but whatever you do, don’t do anything different from anyone else!


It would, then, be a pity if we imposed these things on the Latin Mass. There is a vogue in certain circles that everyone must follow everything that the Priest is doing and saying. The informed traddie must know not only the responses (a laudable goal) but also the Priest’s silent prayers. They must follow every word, every gesture. And the hand missal is essential in this. Or at the very least, the red Mass book and a handout of the readings.


I am not saying that these are not good things. They are. It is excellent that we have the resources for people to follow the Mass, especially now that people have to learn the Mass from the start. And it is excellent that the parts of the Mass that change, readings and prayers and the like, are on hand so that we know that the Mass is not an indistinguishable holy mutter, but is exact and specific. I always provide them whenever I say Mass.

But they are not the only way to be at Mass. They never were and we should not make the traditional Mass into a gulag where everyone has to juggle a missal, a sheet, their reading glasses and have a keen ear for Father’s pronunciation of the eternal language.


We should chill! Only the Priest has strict rules of what to do. Enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God… and say your prayers.

If you want to use a hand missal – go for it!
If you want to say the rosary, and not move from your knees – then the knees are yours!
If you have beautiful prayers to say during the different movements of the Mass – then pray them with all your heart!
And if your soul is so sorrowful and distressed, even to the point of death – then no one should tell you to stand or sit or speak or sing.
Use hand missals when it is profitable for salvation, but do not be limited by them.

The point is to pray.


Printed in the Latin Mass Society Magazine

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