Monday, 1 September 2008

What should a traditional mass community look like? Part III

Traditional Mass communities are different to standard parishes firstly in typically being non-geographical. But also in that they generally started as groups of laypeople sharing a common view on the liturgy, and then often had to go out themselves and actively find a priest prepared to say the Mass for them.

That history has inherent dangers of course - communities can see priests as little more than providers of the sacraments, there to do their bidding. But managed well, that dynamism can be a healthy thing, spurring both priest and people to do better. And ideally that initial drive can be translated into the impetus to help build up the other dimensions of a genuinely catholic community, such as provision of catechesis, charity, and participation in public life; elements which have been lost in many contemporary parishes.

So what are things communities should look to build/attract? So far I've talked about the mass and other liturgical activities and devotions - here is the last instalment on my list!


  • offered preparing children for sacraments
  • regular catechesis for children
  • occasional catechetical sessions for adults
  • regular catechesis/ theology/Latin classes for adults
  • a school (there are some in the US)
Community activities

  • morning tea after Sunday Mass
  • occasional events - dinners/picnics/etc
  • Juventutem chapter or other youth group
  • Altar servers guild
  • Ladies guild/group
  • profession based guilds/other types of confraternities
  • choir training program
  • pilgrimages/retreats
  • active religious sisters attached to the community

Charitable activities

  • Supporting members of the TLM community (have a read of Deus Caritas Est) - meals, visits, financial support to sick/elderly/in trouble
  • External to the community (there was a story not long ago about the bureaucratically induced trials of a parish running a soup kitchen, and it occurred to me that not many, if any, TLM - or novus ordo for that matter - communities run specific charitable activities...)


  • Pro-life activities
  • Recruitment to the TLM....

Other thoughts?


CatholicConvert said...

Lots of good suggestions.

I have a sort of related query. I am a Catholic convert and I have attended a grand total of two TLM (one at Lewisham, one at Prospect). I am an instituted acolyte - is there an equivalent role in the TLM? If so, how do I "skill up"?

Bob Catholic said...

Catechesis of adults is the principle form of catechesis (Catechesi Tradendae 43). So why only occasional catechetical sessions for adults??

David said...

Scanning down that list, I was pleasantly surprised that we do a lot of those things at my TLM community!

We've got a "Traditional Legion of Mary", too (though I'm not sure how that differs from the "Ordinary Legion of Mary"), a Patricians group, and a men's group.

So, what do others do better than us?

St Vinnies do a lot of the "charity" work in the city, as well as the Daughters of Charity (I think that's what they're called - they run a day centre and meal service). The "Anglo-Catholics" also do the same sort of thing. They call themselves "Catholics", but they're not (I'm not talking about the TAC group, but the ones in full communion with Canterbury). However, credit where it's due, they run soup vans and op-shops and all the things that perhaps we could do better.

Then there's always the Salvos. They do good work, too, even if they are not technically Christian.

I'm a big fan of TLM evangelism. Fr Ripperger FSSP has a download on his site of a talk he gave about the "Latin Mass Challenge". That is, we should all find a Catholic friend or family member, and invite them to attend nothing but the Gregorian Rite for three months; the point being that, more often than not, that will get them hooked!

One thing that the US Church seems to do better than us is the unequivocal statement of Catholic doctrine on abortion.

Terra said...

1. Catholic Convert: I'm not an expert on this topic, so someone else may want to jump in, but my understanding is that there is no strict equivalent of an instituted acolyte in the TLM (although it would be very appropriate for a sever or lay MC to be an instituted acolyte). Most communities however particularly covet instituted acolytes over and above the normal serving role because I believe that they can act as sub-deacon at a high/solemn mass in the absence of sub-deacon, deacon or priest, and that is very valuable indeed if you are a small community that wants to do a solemn mass (which should be every community!) but don't have enough priests/deacons(almost every community!).

You probably need to start with the basics though - learn the server roles, work up to MC in the low and sung mass. So approach whoever is in charge of the servers at your nearest TLM! There are also some good resources for learning to serve the mass (and the role for solemn/high mass) online, for example here:

2. Bob - I was suggesting a bit of a hierarchy of what can be done here - clearly continuous catechetical activities for adults is the desirable objective, but many communities don't have the resources for that, and you have to start somewhere!

3. David - Sounds like a good list (though maybe your community needs something for the ladies?). And thanks for the tip on Fr Ripperger - I love his stuff and haven't listened to that one yet, but will! Some good examples on charity work - I guess my thinking is that while there are several catholic charities that operate in most towns, there are plenty of niches left to fill, and there is some advantage in a parish/community doing something as a community rather than contributing as individuals through other organisations (and it can provide some evangelisation opportunities as well!). I also think caring for each other within the community in a structured way is important - the death of religious orders has knocked out a lot of the support structures that larger families in particular used to rely on!

David said...

Catholic Convert,

Speak to whoever it is who trains the alter boys at your local TLM community.

We used to use this card:

as a starting point for training servers. The traditional way of doing this was to start off the little kids as boat-bearers, and then gradually increase the responsibilities given them. The cards are a good, quick way of learning the basics, but frankly, it helps to go to the TLM regularly and watch what people do and say.

Bob Catholic said...


I was not suggesting anything but just wondering. But why not dream and have Weekly Adult Catechesis. I thought you were suggesting what a Traditional parish could be, not what the sad state of the Church is in some places??

BTW: our parish which is not a "Traditional Mass community" has weekly adult catechesis!

Terra said...

I agree weekly catechesis opportunities should be the aim, the next step up from 'occasional'! Actually several traddie parishes in Australia do considerably better than weekly catechesis - take a look at the Sydney and Melbourne websites!

It is the smaller, one priest communities that inevitably struggle.