Rorate Caeli

Editorial note: The Dialogue Mass

Mr. Louis Tofari has a well-known series in defense of the possibility and certain advantages of the "Dialogue Mass". Mr. David Werling, following a couple of response articles in The Remnant, says today that "I simply cannot, in good conscience, recommend the Dialogue Mass as a legitimate or fruitful method of hearing Mass, and I apologize if anything I have written on the topic in the past gives a contrary impression".

Traditional Catholics simply have to accept the simple fact that the division on the Dialogue Mass is mostly a geographical and cultural one. As anyone who has been to Traditional Masses in different continents knows very well, there is a British-Irish aversion to the Dialogue Mass (a position kept throughout the Anglophone world and that is defended almost to the lengths of collective paroxysm in America), while in Continental Europe and almost everywhere else in the world it is not only common, but the usual and, at times, the almost exclusive version of the Low Mass.

We have always tried to keep silent about the Dialogue Mass here in Rorate because it is simply a fact of life for a considerable number of Traditional Catholics around the world - in fact, with sparse exceptions, almost all those living outside English-speaking areas. Either position should not be elevated to more than what it is, and unity should be kept between English-speaking and all other Traditional Catholics - and sources in English should not be viewed, due to the contemporary preeminence of English as a global lingua franca, as providing a template for Traditional Catholics everywhere. Regardless of their history, today both the non-dialogue and the dialogue Mass are cultural preferences, and must be viewed as preferences. Both are rubrically legitimate and may bring plenty of spiritual fruits to the faithful, as long as these have the appropriate internal disposition.

Traditional Catholics already face so many problems in the Church! Let us not absolutize what is eminently relative, and let us respect, without impositions from either side and exaggerated rhetoric, a legitimate variety that is absolutely licit. 

[Comments to this post must take the last paragraph into consideration.]

43 comments:

Francis said...

While the dialogue Mass may be licit, it doesn't mean it's a good thing. Let us not forget that this was the spring board for many of the modernist bishops in the Rhine countries in Europe to make the Mass more "people oriented" and giving the people "active participation". We all know how that culminated at the Second Vatican Council and afterward with the invention of the Novus Ordo.

Adfero said...

While I really dislike Dialogue Mases, and will avoid them at great costs, it's simply false to say they're not traditional.

As NC correctly points out, as has Mr. Tofari for years, the Dialogue Mass has been the norm in many countries for centuries. To act as if it's some new invention is simply not true.

Romanitas Press said...

Much thanks to Rorate Caeli for promoting my articles on the Dialog Mass.

I intend to eventually respond to Mr. Wierling in "The Remnant", but the main point that I wish to presently make (which is often unknown or overlooked) is that dialoging at Mass was the traditional form in Continental Europe and Hispanic countries for centuries before the ravages of the Protestant Reformation (which simultaneously nearly destroyed Gregorian chant).

I point this out in my second article - thus the Dialog Mass is not a "Modernist novelty of the 20th century" as many traditionalist gravely and mistakenly believe.

Unfortunately, this myth has been much promoted due to knee-jerk reactions to certain abuses in the New Mass or a certain "Low Mass mentality", even cultural preference, rather than based upon actual facts and the Church's mind on the matter.

Lastly, I certainly do not propose that every Low Mass should dialoged, and more importantly IF A DIALOG MASS CANNOT BE DONE WELL, DON'T DO IT ALL! (at least without some preliminary pastoral implementation; training on making responses).

Prof. Basto said...

What is there to dislike in the Dialogue Mass?

Adfero: you recognize that the Dialogue Mass has been the norm in many countries for centuries.

As NC has pointed out, in some areas of the globe almost all Low Masses are Dialogue Masses. And you have also recognized that to act as if it were a new invention is simply not true.

If that's the case, then what's the reason for your strong dislike of that form of the Mass, and why do you feel that you have to avoid it "at great costs"?

I just want to understand. That's all.

If you were a poorly educated person in matters liturgical, and if you shared the wrong belief of many that the Dialogue Mass is a novelty; then I would understand your intense dislike of that Mass.

But you do not partake of bizarre belief of some in the English speaking world that the traditional Dialogue Mass somehow LED to the Novus Ordo.

That's why I can understand A PREFERENCE for a Mass other than the Dialogue Mass (due to the fact that you are accustomed to the liturgical ways of your cultural environment), but I cannot understand the feeling of the need to AVOID the Dialogue Mass.

It is not the plague, but a legitimate form of the TLM.

And please understand that I'm not speaking of recent, bizarre forms of Dialogue Mass, such as Mass having vernacular dialogue; instead, I'm talking about the traditional form of dialogue Mass, that is, a Low Mass in which the people recite together with the servers the responses prescribed in the Ordinary of the Mass, including the Kyrie, Gloria, etc, but not the propers.

Adfero said...

Being done well is a great point.

A recently attended Assumption Mass, a low TLM, at St. Mary's in Alexandria, Va, a church that has flirted with the TLM for years but never took it seriously enough to add a Sunday slot.

While the priest who said the Mass did an excellent job, the dialogue was awful, as they had no instruction from the priests on what they could say and not say. So, of course, they're belting out the Pater and other prayers reserved for the priest. And, sadly, the piano and a woman singing like a Novus Ordo singer was also incredibly distracting, and the lack of instruction on when to stand, sit or kneel led them to stand until the prayers at the foot of the altar were over.

If parishes are going to encourage, or allow, a Dialogue Mass in an area where it is abnormal, then they need to step up and educate before the Mass takes place -- especially when most in attendance assist as a Novus Ordo the rest of the time.

Adfero said...

Prof, two reasons: one, I have ADD, and just cannot concentrate on the Maaa. Two, I spent 10 years in silent low TLMs, so now when I hear a dialogue it's jarring to me.

I'd a also add that I rarely hear a good one. An FSSP chapel in Ohio has one that's fine, and I'm not too distracted. But when NO parishes flirting with the TLM start one, and people naturally overdo the responses with flamboyancy as in the NO, it's just awful.

Hope that helps.

Francis said...

I agree with Adfero. I'll take the silence and reverence of a silent low TLM anyday. Maybe because I'm an American I feel that way, but I've been to Traditional dialogue Masses a few times and Yeah, the dialogue mass is licit, but I hope it stays for the most part in Continental Europe.

Ferraiuolo said...

The Missa Dialogata was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1935. I was quite shocked the first time I went to one. But I suppose like the amount of times the bell is rung, it really is a local custom.

New Catholic said...

Shane, sorry, we could NEVER allow that link here.

NC

hebetissimus said...

I wonder if in Canada there was a happy development of dialogue Mass among Anglophones. I lived for a while in Quebec province, and the traditional Masses that I attended, when not sung Masses, were uniformly in dialogue form. Perhaps this represents the persistence or transplantation of the continental custom described by European commentors?

Has anyone ever heard the dialogue Mass involving the fullest allowable voicing of Mass texts permitted according to the 1958 instruction on sacred music in the Mass (De Musica sacra 31d)?

Adfero said...

Let me also say one last thing: I don't much care for the silent Low Mass either. I find it rewarding, don't get me wrong. But nothing moves me like my church's professional polyphonic choir. I just cannot get enough.

NIANTIC said...

I am not familiar with the Dialogue Mass but since it has been the norm for centuries in certain countries then fine with me.
However, if such a Mass were to be introduced here then obviously the laity needs to be educated first as to the proper procedures.

The local TLM I attend is a silent low Mass. My personal preference would be for a Solemn High Mass once a month.

Francis said...

"My personal preference would be for a Solemn High Mass"....

Mine too NIANTIC.

LeonG said...

I have to restae that the silent Low Mass that I was used to when I was an altar server and Mass attendee provided many beautiful and profound momments for reflection and listening. If the priest said it with dignity and obvious dedication it was an extremely refreshing and renewing experience. I had this experience again when serving for a priest (RIP) of The SSPX Confraternity in UK some years ago. It was as though we both stood at the threshold to Heaven.
I love a really well done Solemn High Mass but The Low Mass cannot be underestimated. The "Dialogue" Mass is not necessary at all when people go to it prepared and in the correct frame of mind. This is how we can participate fully by being abandoned to The Real Presence and witnessing its focal sacrificial event. It is an astounding miracle.

gallitzin said...

Interesting links. I am an American, and every Tridentine mass I have been able to attend has been Low and silent, sometimes with a choir accompaniment. Though I am a little more accustomed to it now than I was before, I would very much like the opportunity to experience this "dialogue" version of the same.

Lopes said...

I 'discovered' the TLM in the US but the only Dialogue Mass that I've ever attended was in my hometown, Rio. The responses were perfect and the timing seemed correct also. I was very confused and only later understood that it was a DM Low Mass. The priest, Brazilian, was ordained at Le Barroux. My parents occasionally attend the TLM in Brasilia, the national capital, and it is also a Dialogue Mass there. The priests are from IBP or Christ the King, I believe.

New Sister said...

How does one know when a Low Mass is intended to be a dialogue Mass or not? (are we all supposed to be on the same page?) What is happening here in the Arlington diocese, where the TLM continues to grow in popularity, is a lot of bleed-over from the NO, people either saying out loud or murmuring audibly the responses with the servers, and sometimes even the prayers of the priest. I've only been to one TLM (Saint Rita's parish) where the priest was explicit about the form being a "Dialogue Mass", and everyone was on board with it. Not my preference, but it's better (IMO) than the "mixed bag"...95% silently praying the Mass and a few responding out loud (and off cadence with the servers). that can be quite distracting.

Fr. A.M. said...

Thank you Rorate Coeli for your balanced approach to the whole matter. The 'Dialogue Mass' can be a fruitful way to participate in the Holy Mass, which gives outward vocal expression to the inner participation of the laity. I have no problems with this form of Mass and no problems where the server alone answers.

Poor Yorek said...

The article enjoins one to avoid "excessive rhetoric" yet employs exactly that when the author drops his parenthetical "... defended almost to the lengths of collective paroxysm in America."

Tom said...

Traditionalists chide "Novus Ordo" Catholics who prefer liturgical novelties to ancient liturgical Tradition.

However, Traditionalists often favor and promote Low Masss which, of course, is outside the realm of the Church's ancient and universal liturgical Tradition.

Authentic Eastern and Western Catholic liturgical Tradition does not promote the practice of minimizing Liturgy.

Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) declared that the Low Mass mentality which, unfortunately, is alive and well throughout the Latin Church, does not promote ideal Liturgy.

Tom

Pater, O.S.B. said...

My concern about the Dialogue Mass is the time it adds to the Mass. As a priest who has had to offer an early morning Mass within a tight schedule, St. Alphonsus Liguori's admonition that a Low Mass should not be shorter than 20 minutes and longer than 30 has been an unattainable goal. 35 minutes is about as fast as I can reverently offer it (without the faithful receiving Communion). It may work for a Sunday Mass, but when people need to get to work during the weekday the Dialogue Mass (beyond them adding in "et cum spiritu tuo" and "Amen") is not helpful.

Scott Quinn said...

I remember when I first attended Mass at St. Vincent de Paul in Kansas City, everything was so quiet, and that's the way I thought it was supposed to be. Then I lived in Spain discovered that a) it is impossible to keep a Spaniard from speaking for an hour and b) hearing the dialogue from people who can speak Latin clearly and forcefully adds a beautiful new dimension to the Mass.

John said...

This issue, at one time, nearly split our "Latin Mass Community" in Baltimore. Neither position is better, but I can't see how we're going to attract many from the Novus Ordo world to the Traditional Mass if we don't offer the dialogue Mass as an option. When I travel through Europe, I thoroughly enjoy the Dialogue Masses there.

Cluny said...

I don't know why some people say they can't approve of Dialogue Masses.

Popes St. Pius X and Ven. Pius XII recommended them highly. I would put the teachings and exhortation of saints of the Church above my own personal feelings and preferences.

Furthermore, "Dialoge Masses" have been the preferred method of praying the Eucharistic Sacrifice in all the Eastern Churches, both those in communion with Rome and those not.

I am pleased to share that my own Eastern parish will soon start celebrating Matins before the Sunday Divine Liturgy.

Gulielmus said...

When I was an altar boy and then young adult in the late 50s-early 60s, the Dialogue Mass was common, and it was my preference if a Solemn High Mass was not available. Our parish identified it in the bulletin, so those who attended generally were good at the responses. Everyone knew which was the high Mass, which the silent Low, which the Mass with congregational hymns, and which the dialogue Mass(which did not have hymns). All reverent, all licit, all beautiful in their own ways. Now that was diversity...

LeonG said...

One important point to note with the "Dialogue Mass" is to ensure that servers give a lead to the rhytm of the responses. Otherwise we can have members of the congregation racing ahead with them out of step. When I was young the parish priest decided to use this form on occasion we had prayer cards with forward slashes between the phrases as they should be said. This, with a good lead from the servers kepy everyone in time. If we kept our voices low as the celebrant then it was a silent Low Mass.

Stephen Korsman said...

@Tom: "However, Traditionalists often favor and promote Low Masss which, of course, is outside the realm of the Church's ancient and universal liturgical Tradition."

Has it not been the necessity in a world where priests who can say the EF are few and far between? I've never been to a Solemn High Mass. Sung Low Mass yes ...

Daniel Arseno said...

So if I travel to an English-speaking country, am I expected not to reply with the acolytes during low mass?

Does this in any way affect the sung mass on Sundays?

Albertus said...

Before the introuction of the Novus Ordo, we Latin-Rite Catholics in Europe knew the Missa Pontificalis, Missa Solemnis, MIssa Cantata and Missa Dialogata (DIalogue Mass). That is what we still have today. I was an altar boy before the 2nd Vatican Council, and never knew nor did my parents know, the MIssa Privata in which the faithful remained silent whilst the servers alone responded. ALso, at the Missa Dialogata the standing, sitting and kneeling rules are followed as at Missa Solemnis and Missa Cantata, which are the true standard. I would not attend a Mass in which the faithful are so passive, as to sing and say nothing, in which they kneel througout, making no distinction bettween the most holy moment of the Canon and Communion, and the rest of Mass. All the Popes of the XXth century desired that the Faitfhul should chant or recite their proper parts, as in former ligurgically worthier times. So be it!

New Catholic said...

You may try, Daniel, but do not be surprised if everyone starts to look at you as if you had just arrived from Mars...

No spoken (as opposed to sung) response is given by the faithful. In strictly sung masses, the faithful may sing, or may join the choir, or may sing some parts in dialogue with the choir, or may not sing at all - that varies considerably from place to place in the Anglosphere.

In the TLM, as in everything else in which a community is involved, it is good to first observe the general demeanor of those present, and join them (if action is required) or restrain oneself from doing what one is used to doing.

David Werling said...

Please note that the two articles I wrote for The Remnant Newspaper, with the modifications already mentioned, will appear at the blog, Ars Orandi: The Art Beauty of Traditional Catholicism, at 6 am EST, 9/4 (Part I) and at 6 am EST, 9/5 (part II).

Louis, please wait to read those articles in their present form before responding. Thanks!

God bless!

www.arsorandi.blogspot.com

New Catholic said...

Keep wandering, "Wondering"...

seminarian said...

Dialogue can be quelled-I personally found it annoying as a server-by making responses in voce clara with sufficient intensity. If their ears are satisfied, then their mouths will stay quiet. I just don't like hearing many voices at Low Mass, and I like voices coming from the sanctuary better.

Dave said...

I think the issue with Dialogue Mass is an excellent example of proper inculturation in the Liturgy. Nothing was added, nothing was changed except that visible participation of the laity were present. The Hispanic and Continental European culture and society allows it and therefore it must be respected and recognize same for English Speaking people who hears the Mass silently. Nothing should be made in the name of legitimacy or appropriateness because the same Sacrifice is offered, same in intention is said and both are for the good of Holy Church.

Barbara said...

Seminarian said:
"If their ears are satisfied, then their mouths will stay quiet. I just don't like hearing many voices at Low Mass, and I like voices coming from the sanctuary better."

Nice and patronizing - sounds here that the Mass is all about you. Am I wrong? All this "I like" - "I prefer" business when the greatest event that exists takes place...

I don't think we will win the New Mass-goers over with this attitude...

Vox Cantoris said...

So, a ten-year old boy can make the responses but adults in the Congregation cannot?

We will not move forward with the EF without the dialogue.

I continue to be amazed at how a liturgical attitude born out of Irish suffering continues to be promulgated in North America as the "right" way.

Sir Loin of Beef said...

Until a few minutes ago, I wasnt even aware of the fact that a Mass with the Faithful making responses during it was labelled a "Dialog Mass". So, I'm glad to have learned something.

That said... When I first started assisting at the Traditional Mass, I recall the majority of them were Low Masses, and I also recall that there seemed to be a lot of people making responses (e.g., "Et cum spiritu tuo" when the priest says "Dominus vobiscum"). Some people didnt. I just took that as a matter of personal preference.

Looking back, I do recall this was not limited to either diocesan-sponsored masses, or masses sponsored by the FSSPX. Lay Faithful in the pews in either type of venue would respond to the priest, or not, and there didnt seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why. Again, it seemed to me to be a matter of preference.

My personal opinion is that it didnt take anything away from the Mass when they did respond. In fact it seemed like it made the Masses more "powerful" on a strictly human level. The responses I've heard have been given uniformly in a "sotto voce" manner; and, when more than a few people have done so, I've found that these Masses were even more inspiring than the ones in which everyone except for the priest and his altar boys are absolutely silent.

Janet Baker said...

"But nothing moves me like my church's professional polyphonic choir. I just cannot get enough."

It is Catholic teaching that merit is earned in individual action and also in the action of groups, as in liturgy. This merit is in addition to the intrinsic merit of each mass, the sacrifice of Christ--that is the same in every mass; I am talking about extrinsic merit. Masses earn extrinsic merit on a scale, and to make the point clearly, a mass offered by the pope earns more merit for everyone there than a mass by a priest, and so forth. This difference in merit extends to the vestments, the flowers, the degree of the extent of the state of grace among the participants, and the music.

I was a member of one fabulous 'professional choir' at a notable indult site. I quit. It was a den of temptation to sin--advocacy for gay marriage, advocacy for sexual license, many of the members, if not on the sexual liberation bandwagon openly, expressed their disdain for Catholicism--but were making a little pay or building a resume and lapped up the opportunity to sing for these Catholic fools. The soprano soloist wore dresses open to her mid chest and loved to lean way over the organ. Gay activists privately 'conferenced' with the site's seminarians in the choir loft. I am not trying to shock but only to express what I saw.

And so I wonder, which mass earns more merit, the one with the gorgeous music of the 'professional choir,' or the one in the poor little chapel with the few little worshippers singing scratchy hymns from ragged hymnals, but all in the state of grace (which condition earns big merit, by the way)?

I need all the merit I can get. I have adult children in precarious circumstances and much in need of my spiritual help (you can donate merit, you know). So I wonder about it, and so should you, poster of that quote. The music may thrill you, but if your professional choir is like the one I experienced, and some investigation could tell you, then perhaps you are better off, in spite of your feelings, to attend another mass, or, better in my opinion, to try to get a good choir, if not a professional one, from the congregation alone.

My references supporting the remarks about mass and merit are varied, but Von Cochem (The Incredible Catholic Mas) is one. I have (with permission of the author) Robynn Schamel's "The Merits of the Mass" on my blog, with all her traditional references listed, although I would understand if the moderators cut this comment as 'self-promoting,' although it is not intended to be:
http://thewhitelilyblog.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/the-merits-of-the-mass-and-how-to-gain-them/

Janet Baker said...

SSPX has dialogue masses in Mexico, not in the US. Any morning you can make your way before dawn to San Atanasio, in the vibrant, central Santa Teresita barrio in Guadalajara, and get your Latin on, with all the rest of the poor on their knees.

It is a priory, so there are priests to do it, at times directing from the sanctuary the whole congregation in the singing of high mass (not the propers, or at least not all of it). It argues that, speaking globally, speaking of the benefits of education in these arts among the ordinary men and women and children of the world, the discussion of the benefits of both forms is not neutral, or simply a matter of taste or custom.

New Catholic said...

These are certainly not simple matters, particularly when they are matters of local custom. But the problem is arguing that either of them is "illegitimate" or "fruitless".

Romanitas Press said...

Janet Baker:

To your comment "SSPX has dialogue masses in Mexico, not in the US".

Actually the SSPX does have dialoged Masses in the US, particularly for the Masses offered for its academy students. I believe the Winona seminary also has a dialoged Mass from time to time and certainly this is the case in El Paso, TX, which has a congregation made up nearly equally of Hispanics.

Taylor said...

If we are supposed to be big on the organic growth of the liturgy, then why do we resist a Dialogue Mass that has been spreading naturally?

People can't even murmur an amen? Give me a break. Do not kill the regrowth of the TLM by misplaced nostalgia, some hyper-rigidity to "orthodoxy" where it is in fact adiaphora, or because of a misplaced fear of NO association if the laity is involved.

Praying the Mass is the highest prayer itself. Let us express our true, _inner_ active participation of prayer with vocal assent where possible and appropriate.

We should not be our own worst enemy on this.

New Catholic said...

Thank you for you comments. Since I do consider this an artificial debate (as long as no impositions are made that disturb the peace of each congregation, there is no real problem related to the dialogue or to the non-dialogue Mass), limited to a very small part of the Traditional world, this thread will be closed.