Rorate Caeli

FIUV Position Paper 14: the 1955 Holy Week Reform, Part I

Today I am recommencing the publication of FIUV Position papers, after a bit of a break. The break was partly the result of the fact that the next topic, that of the Holy Week Reform of 1955, has proved extremely difficult to do. It is a huge and immensely complicated subject. Clearly we don't want to publish a whole book about it, but anything short and comprehensible on the subject is in danger of being rather jejune. In the end we have produced a treatment in two parts, each one of the standard length (1,600 words excluding footnotes).

Part I, published today, is about some of the more general features of the reform. Part II will go through the individual services, though necessarily still very briefly. I'll publish that one here on 15th of March.

The result is far from perfect, but it does have a very limited aim: to undermine the presumption, should anyone hold it, that the 1955 Holy Week is an integral part of the ancient Latin liturgical tradition, as it has come down to us. Without that presumption, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the ceremonies found in the 1945 Missale Romanum, which are essentially those of the 1570 missal, should at least be allowed ad libitum. It is these ceremonies, for all their complexity and seeming illogicality, which have grown up organically to serve the needs of the Faithful.
Altar of Repose in Reading, England, after Maundy Thursday Mass celebrated by the FSSP
So the paper's conclusion is simply: please let us have the old ceremonies back. For anyone who wants to carry on using the 1955 version, this certainly isn't the moment to try to ban it, but equally there seems no justification not to make it clear that the 1945 services are allowed.

I would like to acknowledge the debt the paper owes to a recently published study of Holy Week. Having a single book, reflective of the latest scholarship, in which to check pretty well everything, has been an enormous boon. While the conclusions of the paper certainly aren't necessarily those of the author, I do recommend it for those who wish to go into the nitty-gritty in more detail:

Festa Paschalia: A History of the Holy Week Liturgy in the Roman Rite,  by Philip Goddard (Gracewing) can be purchased in the UK from the Latin Mass Society, and internationally from Amazon.

I give some more commentary on the paper on my own LMS Chairman blog.

It can be downloaded as a pdf here. The whole series can be seen on the FIUV webstie here. The collected set of papers 1-13, printed as a short book, is available from Lulu here.

Comments can be sent to
positio AT


FIUV Position Paper 14: The Holy Week Reform of 1955, Part I: General Comments

   The liturgical books of 1962 include the Holy Week ceremonies as reformed in 1955. This reform has proved to be controversial, and there is a widespread desire among those attached to the Extraordinary Form that the earlier form of these rites, contained in the Missale Romanum of 1945, which is for practical purposes that of the Tridentine Missal of 1570, be allowed for optional use. We have no desire to impose upon anyone in this matter, however, and in particular we do not wish to add to the great practical difficulties presented, outside a monastery, seminary, or well-resourced parish dedicated to the Extraordinary Form, of celebrating Holy Week in full.

    This paper, in its two parts, has the modest purpose of arguing that the case for the 1955 Reform is not irrefutable: rather, there is enough to be said for the 1570 services to acknowledge them as representing, in Pope Benedict XVI’s words, ‘riches which have grown up in the Church’s life and prayer’, which should be allowed some space in the Church’s continuing liturgical life.[1] In this paper we wish to draw attention to some general, problematic, features of the 1955 reform; in part II we will examine the individual services in a little more detail.

The Motivation for the 1955 Reform

      The motivation of the reform was the characteristic desire of the Liturgical Movement,[2] that the Church’s liturgical riches be experienced by greater numbers of the Faithful,[3] the focus of whose devotion had shifted to paraliturgical services (see appendix).

      The limited musical resources, and the limited availability of clergy, prevented many small or even medium-sized parishes from presenting the services with the splendour which would be ideal.[4] It would be too simple, however, to say that they were entirely neglected by the Faithful prior to the 1950s.

        First, Catholics were under an obligation to attend the principal services of the Triduum until 1642.[5]

6     Secondly, there are a number of indications that at least some of the ceremonies and liturgical ideas caught the popular imagination. The ‘Creeping to the Cross’ on Good Friday, for example, described with enthusiasm by William Langland in the 14th century,[6] was apparently well attended in France in 1915 when witnessed by the English Poet Wilfred Owen.[7] Again, there were a number of paraliturgical devotions which referred closely to the liturgy of Holy Week, notably the Easter Sepulchre, where the Blessed Sacrament was reposed on Good Friday in Medieval England,[8] and in some parts of Europe (notably Germany and Poland) until the Second Vatican Council. Finally,  Bl. Ildefonso Schuster notes the popular devotion to particles of the candles of the reed (the triplex candela coniuncta, or trikirion) used in the Easter Vigil, in Italy in the early 20th century.[9] (Paraliturgical devotions are considered again in the Appendix.)

        Thirdly, the liturgy of Holy Week was attended in full, with great edification, not only by religious, but at Holy Week retreats for the Faithful in monasteries.[10] For those attending these popular events, such as the novelist Evelyn Waugh, this was an intense spiritual experience, and Waugh wrote that the reforms marred them.[11] The ceremonies were certainly not in vain if they fed the spiritual lives and liturgical imaginations of some Catholics.

The Methodology of the 1955 Reform
#      The reformers favoured earlier and simpler, over later, versions of rites,[12] despite the condemnation of antiquarianism only a few years earlier by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei,[13] and the inevitable limitations of evidence and scholarship.[14] But the reformers simultaneously added historically unprecedented elements, which were thought likely to appeal to the people, or to emphasise a theological point, such as the Renewal of Baptismal Promises in the Easter Vigil, or the carrying of the Paschal Candle in procession. The former was condemned by the liturgical scholar Dom Bernard Capelle, despite his association with the movement for reform.[15] The objective tradition, the liturgy as it has in fact come down to us, as complex and seemingly illogical as any great work of art, can be damaged by both archaeological and innovative tendencies.

9    The reform tended to reduce the length of the ceremonies, most notably reducing the number of readings used in the Easter Vigil.[16] Again, there were simplifications, such as the abolition of the folded chasuble, an ancient feature of the Roman liturgy in penitential seasons. However, new things were added which were thought to be of pastoral value, such as the reception of Communion on Good Friday, and efforts were made to emphasise certain favoured features, such the Palm Sunday procession.[17]
         This raises the general difficulty that, having shortened and simplified the liturgy to draw people into a fuller appreciation of the liturgy, there is less to appreciate. Similarly, replacing ancient and perhaps mysterious ceremonies, with newly invented easy-to-understand ones, risks losing forever the chance for people, including liturgical scholars, to grow in understanding. It also assumes, falsely, that somewhat opaque symbolism has less effect on the Faithful.[18] It is better, as many members of the Liturgical Movement argued, to educate the Faithful to appreciate the riches of the liturgy in their entirety.[19] It might be added also, that the Faithful need not necessarily be expected to attend every service every year.

The Timing of the Ceremonies

1    One of the most striking changes made by the reform was to the timing of the services. In the 1570 Missal the services are to be celebrated at the standard time for Lenten Masses, after None (9am). In origin the Easter Vigil had been celebrated during the night,[20] the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday in the evening (in memory of the Last Supper),[21] and the Mass of the Presanctified, on Good Friday, at the time of the Crucifixion, in the afternoon.[22] At the same time, Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds), originally celebrated during the night (starting at midnight), came to be celebrated on the evening of the day before. The process of anticipation, complete by 1570, began in the 10th century. The tendency to celebrate the Holy Week services earlier in the day can be also be seen in the Eastern Churches.

1   In assessing this, it should be noted, first, that the celebration of these services, outside the ideal conditions of a monastery, seminary or parish dedicated to the Extraordinary Form, frequently has to make do with times when churches and sacred ministers are available, and it would be a pastoral mistake, at the present juncture, to be too prescriptive.

1    Secondly, it must be observed that the tendency to anticipate the Vigil has strongly reasserted itself since 1970. The reality is that for many Catholics, particularly those with small children or those (such as many attached to the Extraordinary Form) who have to travel any distance to attend the service, a service starting at Midnight and ending after 2am is neither attractive nor practicable. It is also usually regarded as incompatible with attendance at the Mass of Easter Day. A late-night vigil is clearly not ideal from the point of view of encouraging attendance at as many of these important services as possible.

       Thirdly, Tenebrae are very moving liturgies of the night or evening, with a highly effective use of the symbolism of light and darkness. In the reform they are to be celebrated in the mornings, to make way for the principal services;[23] this is little short of a disaster.

1    Finally, as with so much in the history of the liturgy, symbolic meaning came to be attached to the timing of the liturgies, and this symbolism can still speak to us today. As Pope Benedict XVI has written:

The day on which I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. At that time [1927], the practice was still that of anticipating Easter Vigil on the morning, after which the gloom of Holy Saturday continued, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this peculiar paradox, this peculiar anticipation of the light on a dark day, could be almost an image of history in our time. On one hand, there is still the silence of God and of his absence, but, in the Resurrection of Christ, there is already the anticipation of God’s ‘yes’, and we live based on this anticipation, and, through the silence of God, we feel his words, and, through the darkness of his absence, we foresee his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection amidst a history that goes on is the strength that shows us the path and helps us move forward.[24]


1    The reform, which began experimentally in 1951[25] and concluded in 1955,[26] led to an increased interest in the ceremonies, and higher attendance. To what extent this resulted from the novelty of the reformed services, the vigorous promotion of them by the advocates of the reform, and by bishops and priests urged to publicise them, or the change of the timing of the services, is impossible to say, and the long-term effects were prevented from manifesting themselves by the new wave of liturgical changes which began in 1964. There were reports of declining numbers at Easter Vigil as early as 1955,[27] and a number of bishops complained of the practical difficulties of the Vigil,[28] notably the exhaustion of clergy who were expected to hear confessions all day and start a lengthy and demanding service late at night.[29] The final and obligatory reform of 1955 was vigorously opposed by some bishops, notably Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin and Cardinal Spellman of New York.[30]

1    The controversy the reform caused at the time has not gone away. Its effect on individual services will be examined in Part II.

Appendix: the Triduum and Paraliturgical Devotions

Members of the Liturgical Movement liked to emphasise the superiority of the liturgy, the public prayer of the Church, over paraliturgical (‘popular’) devotions. This concern is reflected in the words of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium 13:
         Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.
Devotions proper to individual Churches also have a special dignity if they are undertaken by mandate of the bishops according to customs or books lawfully approved.

But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.[31]

Before the 1955 reform, there were a number of paraliturgical devotions which, while varying from place to place, were often very well attended, and customarily took place in the time left between the services. Thus, the time on Maundy Thursday, between Mass in the morning and Tenebrae in the evening, was used for watching by the Altar of Repose. Out of this grew the practice, particularly in cities, of the ‘Seven Altars’: visiting seven Altars of Repose, to pray before each. On Good Friday, again, the time between the Mass of the Presanctified in the morning, and Tenebrae in the evening, was used for the very widespread devotion of the Stations of the Cross. This was celebrated publicly, with a degree of solemnity (led by a priest vested in a surplice and perhaps cope, and perhaps accompanied by acolytes with a Processional Cross and torches). In addition, in some places there was a series of sermons on the Seven Last Words. Linking the liturgy of Good Friday with the Easter Vigil was the practise, widespread in the Middle Ages, and still practiced in some countries, of the Easter Sepulchre.

These devotions both harmonise with the liturgical season and derive from the liturgy; they are therefore highly commendable, and their popularity is evidence of their importance for the spiritual lives of the Faithful. It might be regrettable that relatively few attended the Mass of the Presanctified before 1955, but it is not regrettable that so many attended the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. They were not mutually exclusive.

One of the effects of the changes to the timings of the Triduum liturgies was that the times traditionally given over to these devotions on the afternoons of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday ceased to be available. While it would theoretically be possible to celebrate them at other times, these are not so appropriate or convenient, and in practice the devotions disappeared from Catholic life, a great impoverishment of Catholic spirituality.

[1] We wish to leave to one side, in this paper, the question of the Prayer for the Jews in the Good Friday Liturgy, which was not changed in 1955, but was changed in 1962 and again in 2007. This does not affect the comparison of the merits of the 1570 and 1955 versions of the Holy Week ceremonies.

[2] See Positio 2: Liturgical Piety and Participation

[3] The Sacred Congregation for Rites decree Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria (1955) lamented the celebration of the Sacred Triduum ‘by clerics alone, in an almost deserted church’.

[4] Pope Benedict XIII’s Memoriale Rituum of 1725 sets out the rites and what is needed to perform them in small parochial churches, where there would not be additional sacred ministers.

[5] The change was made by Pope Urban VIII, in the Apostolic Constitution Universa per Orbem (1642).

[6] It was suppressed after the English Reformation only with great difficulty. Duffy quotes Edmund Grindal, Queen Elizabeth’s second Archbishop of Canterbury, complaining about the continuing devotion: ibid. p29

[7] Owen left a record in his poem ‘Maundy Thursday’: the title reflecting his liturgical ignorance. He describes the veneration of the Cross by the men, the women, and the children of the parish. It seems likely he witnessed the service at Mérignac near Bordeaux, where he was staying with a French family. See The Poems of Wilfrid Owen edited by Jon Stallworthy (London: Chatto & Windus, 1990) pxxiii and p86.

[8] See Eamon Duffy The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992) pp31-37.

[9] ‘Even in our own days, in many parts of Italy, the people still have a great devotion for the particles, no longer of the Paschal candles, but of the tapers of the Lumen Christi, which they enclose in little bags of silk and hang round the necks of the children.’ Bl. Ildefonso Schuster ‘The Sacramentary (Liber Sacramentorum): historical and liturgical notes on the Roman Missal’ (English Edition; London: Burns Oates, 1925) Vol. II p286

[10] Such retreats continue, in fact, to take place, both in monasteries devoted to the Extraordinary Form, notably in France, and in monasteries using the Ordinary Form.

[11] Writing in The Spectator in 1962, Waugh wrote: ‘During the last few years we have experienced the triumph of the ‘liturgists’ in the new arrangement of the services for the end of Holy Week and for Easter. For centuries these had been enriched by devotions which were dear to the laity—the anticipation of the morning office of Tenebrae, the vigil at the Altar of Repose, the Mass of the Presanctified. It was not how the Christians of the second century observed the season. It was the organic growth of the needs of the people. Not all Catholics were able to avail themselves of the services but hundreds did, going to live in or near the monastic houses and making an annual retreat which began with Tenebrae on Wednesday afternoon and ended about midday on Saturday with the anticipated Easter Mass. During those three days time was conveniently apportioned between the rites of the Church and the discourses of the priest taking the retreat, with little temptation to distraction. Now nothing happens before Thursday evening. All Friday morning is empty. There is an hour or so in church on Friday afternoon. The Easter Mass is sung at midnight to a weary congregation who are constrained to ‘renew their baptismal vows’ in the vernacular and later repair to bed. The significance of Easter as a feast of dawn in quite lost, as is the unique character of Christmas as the Holy Night. I have noticed in the monastery I frequent a marked falling-off in the number of retreatants since the innovations or, as the liturgists prefer to call them, the restorations. It may well be that these services are nearer to the practice of primitive Christianity, but the Church rejoices in the development of dogma; why does it not also admit the development of liturgy?’ See Scott Reid, ed., A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the liturgical changes (London: St Austin Press, 1996) pp24-25

[12] As well as some examples mentioned below the final Miserere in the Office of Tenebrae, which had been used continuously since the 12th century, was lost in the reform for being ‘late’, and duplicating an earlier recitation. This Miserere was the inspiration for one of the most well-known pieces of sacred music in the Western repertoire, Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, composed in the 1630s.

[13] Encyclical Mediator Dei (1947) 61: ‘The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savour and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect. They, too, owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world. They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of man.’ (‘Utique vetustae aetatis Liturgia veneratione procul dubio digna est; verumtamen vetus usus, non idcirco dumtaxat quod antiquitatem sapit ac redolet, aptior ac melior existimandus est vel in semet ipso, vel ad consequentia tempora novasque rerum condiciones quod attinet. Recentiores etiam liturgici ritus reverentia observantiaque digni sunt, quoniam Spiritus Sancti afflatu, qui quovis tempore Ecclesiae adest ad consummationem usque saeculorum (cfr. Matth. 28, 20), orti sunt; suntque iidem pariter opes, quibus inclita Iesu Christi Sponsa utitur ad hominum sanctitatem excitandam procurandamque.’)

[14] For example, in the 1955 reform the colour of the vestments during the Blessing of Palms was changed from violet to red, because it was believed that this was the authentic, ancient, colour. In fact violet had anciently been used in the Roman Rite, and the change had no justification. See Philip Goddard Festa Paschalia: A history of the Holy Week liturgy in the Roman Rite (Leominster: Gracewing, 2011) p285, note 9.

[15] He wrote: ‘There is no need for the introduction of this innovation... To ensure that the task of reforming the liturgy achieves its intended object, it is necessary that it be informed by the desire to return in a wise and discreet manner to its purer origins. It would therefore be highly inopportune to introduce rites which are not only not approved by long tradition, but are entirely novel. It is particularly intolerable when the liturgies into which they are introduced are the most ancient and sacred.’ Quoted in English translation by Goddard op. cit. p284, and in the original Latin by Alcuin Reid The Organic Development of the Liturgy (2nd Edition: San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), p176, note 103.

[16] Other examples include the abolition of the Asperges, Preparatory Prayers, and Last Gospel, and the Missa sicca at the blessing of palms, on Palm Sunday; the Mass of the Presanctified was also heavily cut down. The Psalm Iudica (Ps 42) was removed from the Preparatory Prayers during Passion Week and Holy Week. Cardinal Antonelli, who was in charge of the reform, explained that one of the goals was ‘to abbreviate’: see Reid Organic Development p173 and note 87, quoting Giampietro Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli pp24-6.

[17] ‘Major changes were made to the rite of blessing the palms and the subsequent procession. These changes were driven by the desire to transfer the focus of the rite from the former to the latter.’ Goddard, op. cit. p266.

[18] The notion that the more intelligible the sign, the more effectively it will enter the lives of the faithful is implausible to the sociological imagination. ...a certain opacity is essential to symbolic action in the sociologists’ account…’ Fr Aidan Nichols Looking at the Liturgy: a critical view of its contemporary form (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996) p61.

[19] A representative of this attitude was Fr Hans Anscar Reinhold, who wrote as follows in 1947: ‘The modern Liturgical Movement is obedient, orthodox, modest. The first thing it demands is that all of us, we ourselves, perform the Liturgy as it is in the books and conform to it. Self reform and perfection. In the second place we expect this to open our eyes to niceties and rediscoveries that will transform our thinking into greater dogmatic correctness, proportionality and joy. The third thing will be to see the Liturgy restored to simplicity and originality. Only in the fourth degree will we prostrate ourselves at the feet of the Holy Father and ask for reforms.’ Quoted in Reid, Organic Development p141-2.

[20] Or, as it is sometimes described, the ‘morning’, which is to say the early morning before dawn.

[21] In Rome, the Pope would celebrate a single Mass at noon, in which he blessed the oils, while in the rest of the city (whose liturgy is preserved in the Old Gelasian Sacramentary) three Masses were celebrated: a morning Mass with the reconciliation of penitents, a chrism Mass at noon, and an evening Missa in Coena Domini ad sero. However it was the papal (‘Gregorian’) books which were adopted, with additions, in Alcuin’s reform of the Frankish liturgy under Charlemagne, and it was this reform which found its way back to Rome in later centuries. So the Maundy Thursday Mass of the 1570 Missal derives ultimately from the noon Mass of the Pope, rather than the ancient evening Mass of the day. See Goddard p134.

[22] In the Old Gelasian tradition, in the 8th century, it is celebrated at 3pm; in the 12th century Pontifical it is celebrated at noon, which is given in the 1474 Missale Romanum; celebration in the morning developed later. See Goddard pp173.

[23] Paschal Matins, which was celebrated on Holy Saturday evening at the first Office of Easter, was abolished altogether: on this see Positio 14 Part II, §12.

[24] Pope Benedict XVI: Homily, Thanksgiving birthday Mass, April 16, 2012

[25] The experimental Easter Vigil, in what was substantially the form approved in 1955, was allowed at the new, nocturnal, times from 1951 by the decree Dominicae Resurrectionis vigiliam, 9th February 1951, not long before Easter itself. Reid notes that the Ordo, necessary for the reformed service, was published less than a month before Easter, which fell that year on 25th March. (Reid Organic Development p172, note 80)

[26] The Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus, commenting officially on the changes, was published in 1956, although the texts had been available earlier. The final version of the reformed Holy Week contained some revisions to the experimental Easter Vigil and reformed versions of the other ceremonies of Holy Week, and made all of these obligatory.

[27] Fr John Coyne, Rector of the Seminary of Oscott, England, commented in 1955: ‘Now that the novelty is wearing off, parishes in many areas report dwindling congregations. In many places, also, the Easter Vigil congregation has never approached in numbers that of the Christmas midnight Mass. Nor has the new service always been adopted where we might most have expected to find it. In Westminster Cathedral, for example, it was not in use till 1955. Saint Peter’s, Rome, has still to abandon the morning service.’ Quoted in Reid, Organic Development p222. See also Evelyn Waugh’s report of declining numbers at the Downside Easter retreat, writing in 1962, quoted in note 11.

[28] Bishops sending in negative reports about the experimental use of the reformed Holy Week services include Mgr Felice Bonomini, Bishop of Como; Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa; and Mgr Cornelio Cuccarollo, Archbishop of Otranto. See Reid ibid. p222, note 270.

[29] This problem was noted by the official report into the experiment, a Positio composed by Cardinal Antonelli and published by the Sacred Congregation for Rites in 1955. See Reid ibid. pp221-2, and note 269.

[30] See Reid ibid. p231.

[31] Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium 13: ‘Pia populi christiani exercitia, dummodo legibus et normis Ecclesiae conformia sint, valde commendantur, praesertim cum de mandato Apostolicae Sedis fiunt.

‘Speciali quoque dignitate gaudent sacra Ecclesiarum particularium exercitia, quae de mandato Episcoporum celebrantur, secundum consuetudines aut libros legitime approbatos.

‘Ita vero, ratione habita temporum liturgicorum, eadem exercitia ordinentur oportet, ut sacrae Liturgiae congruant, ab ea quodammodo deriventur, ad eam populum manuducant, utpote quae natura sua iisdem longe antecellat.’


  1. Oreoman6:06 PM

    Now that was true reform. Not the deform N.O. and all the nonsence.

  2. I believe that certain parishes of the FSSP have petitioned Rome for the permission to use the old Holy Week liturgies. I know for sure that OLMC in Denver has.

  3. Wake up England7:18 PM

    I seem to think there was once an Indulgence attached to the "Seven Altars of Repose"? Can anyone supply details? I think it ended at 12 midnight on Maunday Thursday

  4. A. M. D. G.7:29 PM

    Might I say that the times could have been reformed, but there was really no need for the mutilation of the Sacred Triduum's rites. I will also concede that there is nothing intrinsically evil in the "new Holy Week", but that doesn't (in my opinion) simply make the changes infallible. Couldn't a present day Catholic come to the conclusion that Pope Pius XII (were he living today) might suppress many of his changes in favor of the previous rites?

  5. Use of the pre-1955 Holy Week and Pentecost Vigil (very similar to the old Holy Saturday) is more widespread than you might think. The FSSP Church in Rome does the old Palm Sunday and Mandy Thursday. Diocesan clergy most apt to do the old rites in their entirety, as their superiors are less liturgically inclined than say the FSSP heirarchs.

    I would hardly call the 1955 changes a "true reform," oreoman. The Holy Week rites were something of an agglomeration of Mass, offices, and public devotions from the mid-first millennium until the high middle ages. I cannot see what was in need of reforms. Some advocate a move of the Holy Saturday Mass, which I can understand; the reason it was at 8am in most places is because priests wanted to end their fast ASAP. Yet I think this odd practice of starting it in the evening misses the mark entirely. The most important part of the Triduum was Paschal Matins and Lauds, which would be sung in the evening of Holy Saturday with great ceremony, including the ringing of the Church bells and the unveiling of icons and statues. Doing the Mass at that time A) eliminates the most important office of the year and B) makes the "vigil" Mass into something of a midnight Christmas Mass only on Easter. Perhaps if the office times for Lent, particularly None, were at the same time as they were the rest of the year the Mass would have begun at 4pm or so and ended at 8pm. Plenty of time for the office to be sung.

    Something I have noticed from attending an Eastern Catholic parish: the morning exercise of certain liturgies, particularly Holy Week, allows more people to attend the Divine Office, something most Catholics in the Roman rite do not really know. This is a tragedy, as many people in previous generations attended Tenebrae with great devotion.

  6. Parochus8:09 PM

    Jacob, these parishes run the terrible risk of giving Rome the opportunity to say no officially. If that happens they will have set the possibility of using these rites back years. Does anyone really think Archbishops Muller or DiNoia will allow this?

  7. Studying and reading about this period of liturgical history reads like a suspense novel. I have half-anticipated a Dan Browne edition on this theme for a while now.

    The following key dates represent the path taken by the movement, noting that from 1948 to 1960 it was the Commission for Liturgical Reform which guided through the liberalisation of The Roman Rite. The Secretary was Annibale Bugnini together with Anselmo Albareda, OSB, Ferdinando Antonelli, OFM,
    Augustin Bea, SJ, Carlo Braga, Alfonso Carinici , Cesario D’Amato, OSB, Enrico Dante, Amato Frutaz, Joseph Low, Luigi Rovigatti - under the presidency of Cardinal Micara up to 1953 whereafter Cardinal Cicogagni assumed the role.

    1945 - "New" Latin Psalter introduced
    1951 - Time of Easter Vigil changed
    1956 - Traditional rubrics of Mass, Divine Office, and Holy Week changed
    1960 - Traditional rubrics of Mass and Divine Office altered once more
    1962 - Sacred Apostolic Canon of Mass altered
    1964 - Vulgar tongues introduced
    1968 - Dogmatic form of Mass Consecration reformulated
    1969 - Novus Ordo was introduced.

    Interestingly, at Assisi in 1956 at the International Liturgical Congress (one of seven in the period) there were loud appeals for vernacular in the rite that were greeted with very significant approval from among the 1,400 participants including 6 Cardinals and some 80 bishops. Needless to say Cardinal Cicognani disapproved - so did Pope Pius XII. Another salient fact is that a certain Mgr Montini kept Pope Pius XII informed of what was happening at the Commission's secret meetings as well as weekly by his confessor Fr Bea .

    The Assisi Congress was eventually to prove itself crucial in that it provided the liberal liturgical reformers at The Councils with a roster of potential invitees to the preparatory commission on the liturgy. therefore, who dare claim the Conciliar intention was to preserve The Latin Mass? This contradicts the reality.

    It is also significant that Pope John XXIII removed Annibale from liturgical responsibilities only for Pope Paul VI to approve of his reinstatement when he became supreme pontiff.

    One might state the dice were loaded from 1948 onwards. Most assuredly at a personal level I would appeal for a return to the pre-1951 status quo. In fact, I would like to see a more regulated form of the Missa Recitata or Dialogata (est.1922) at the lowest degree since this is often very poorly responded to by the congregation.

  8. Donnacha3:50 AM

    One thing that has always made sense about the "old Holy Week", from my childhood, is that, although celebrated in the morning, each day's liturgy had 24 hours between the next. My faith did not "need" for th Triduum to play out at the exact hour - in real time - since the mystery of the Church's liturgy is, in a sense, not bound by the clock. This explanation was given me as a child and it rings true this very day.

  9. Ferraiuolo7:31 AM

    The reform of the 1955 Holy Week is perhaps one of the most interesting preludes to the general reform in 1969 with the Novus Ordo Missae. Some Churches still have the pre-1955 Holy Week whereas others have the neutered 1962 version. I honestly prefer the pre-1955 liturgy in its entirety. It is the uncompromising fullness of the Tridentine liturgy.

    With regard to Catholics attending the Divine Office, it truly would vary from church to church. Certainly in larger communities one would often hear the office of Tenebrae for Holy Week.

  10. James Fields9:00 AM

    Has anyone seen any academic review of Philip Goddard's book? It's hard to tell if it is good scholarship or not. The chapters on the 1955 & 1970 reforms seem very short.

  11. Lautensack10:01 AM

    The question is now what could be the best strategy to help the Church to recover these hidden treasures.

    Just using the older form without talking about it?

    Using it and talking about it?

    Publishing more scholarly papers like the one by the FIUV?

    Making petitions, individual or collective?

    Such initiative naturally would have to address arguments against giving permission to use the Pre-1955 form; I can think of some, but I am not sure which of them would be prevailing:

    The belief that the Post-Pius XII forms actually are superior to the earlier ones?

    Respect for the person of Pius XII?

    Fear of confusion and disunity?

    The feeling that the 'Trads' cannot get enough and, after having been given 1962, now want something even older?

  12. I would just wish to declare, for what it may be worth, that I have no problem whatsoever with the Pian Holy Week reforms.


  13. Alsaticus4:06 PM

    It is VERY SAD to read that a honorable body as FIUV has been caught in this absurd arguments upon the Pian reforms.

    - absurd argument about the Holy Week being unable to be performed when in it has been running smoothly in every parish then in every trad community since 1955 !
    The writers of this paper have not noticed this big pink elephant right in front of them ...

    - another absurd anti-historical argument is presuming that 1955 automatically leads to 1969. Absurd because the exact opposite is historically proven. Maybe FIUV rather than endorsing these hysterical theories would be better inspired to READ the memories published of later cardinal Antonelli.
    He was the key actor with Fr. Loew cssr in the 1951-1955 revision and is expressing his dissatisfaction with the Bugninist reforms within the 1964-1969 Consilium he belonged to.
    Moreover both Antonelli and Loew were ready to challenge the Bugnini shema in 1962, backed up bu cardinal Larraona, newly appointed by pope John XXIII, and later a prominent member of the Coetus internationalis Patrum i.e. the organized Minority.

    - finally Pius Church in 1955 was not Paul VI Church in the explosion of defiance against any type of authority and a general disrespect against what liturgy used to be for ages.
    Once again every year, in every trad community, the proof is given that the Pian Holy Week is nourishing faithful's piety.

    - I'm always suspicious against these fixist theories that would freeze the Mass at one specific year. It's a highly UN traditional mindset.
    It's also ridiculous to say the Mass in 1945 was the same as in 1570 : what about the saint Pius X revision ? what about Leo XIII's prayers ? what about all these new Masses introduced along the centuries ?

    Does FIUV mean that only a fundamentalist approach of the 1570 missal is acceptable ? Insane.


  14. Fides quaerens8:52 PM

    Thank you to NC and Alsaticus for giving voice to a different viewpoint. As one who is not well enough informed of the details of the history and the arguments about the 1955 reform, I have nevertheless remained somewhat skeptical of the unbalanced (and at times totally unhinged) opinions espoused by many trads in this regard. To speak of 1955 in the same breath as 1970 is succumb to a temptation. A tendentious traditionalism will never contribute to the life of the Church.

  15. Jenny Wright10:29 PM

    BTW what is the "1945 Missal" Mr Shaw speaks of? Is that some special year or edition? I have never heard of it.

  16. Alsaticus: we do not rely on the arguments you attribute to us. You need to read the paper more carefully.

    It doesn't say the 1945 missal is the same as the 1570; only that the ceremonies of Holy Week are essentially the same. If they aren't, give us some instances.

    In some ways the 1955 attitude anticipated the attitude of the 1970 reform. But the 1955 Holy Week was swept away in the later reform, very little was left of it. It was used universally for a very short time. This raises the question of whether traditional Catholics should be obliged to see it as the settled tradition, which they should preserve. The 1570 Holy Week lasted nearly 400 years.

  17. Anonymous10:34 PM

    Jenny, the '45 missal was the last traditional Missal, before the reforms began ('55 was the change in the Holy Week, then changes in '62: elimination of the second conifiteor, adding St. Joseph to the canon, changing the it missa est, etc.)

  18. Anonymous10:42 PM

    In the article it is written that Masses in Lent were to be celebrated after NONE, taht is 9 oclock. None comes from the latin ''hora nona'' (ninth hour) But isn't NONE the ninth our according to the old Roman reckoning, that is, our present-dah 15 hours, or 3 oclock in the afternoon ?! In fact, according to the rubrics of MR and according to tradition, the Lenten weekday Masses were indeed ceelbrated after 3 oclcok in the afternoon, after None. In the Breviary, None is also the name given to the Litrugical hour which is celebrated at three oclock, the hour of our Lord's death.

  19. Wake up: on indulgences, that's a good question. But I can't find indulgences for the Seven Altars of Repose devotion in my copy of the Racolta (1957 edition, translation of the 1950 Italian edition).

    Albertus: the ancient monastic custom of not breaking one's fast until the evening, after None, proved a powerful incentive to celebrate None earlier and earlier. Along the way it gave us the English word 'Noon'.

  20. Jenny: yes the 1945 Missale Romanum is simply the last edition prior to 1955; we don't necessarily attach any other significance to it.

  21. This paper is quite flawed in its conclusions which are based more on personal preferences than objective principles. For example paraliturgical practices are subjugated to actual liturgical ones ie the Churches official rites of worship.

  22. I am excited by this paper.

    Most traditionalists are unaware that Holy Week dramatically changed already in the fifties. Those who are aware and don't prefer the changes have often been labelled as sedevacatists, but to have the FIUV bring this position to public light is refreshing!

    We must be careful though in any debate about this to be charitable and recognize that the Church is liturgically very diverse. What is brilliant about this paper is that it doesn't even descend into debate--it simply lays out facts and history and suggests that those preferring the older rites be allowed to use them. That's the same principle used by Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum in allowing access to the extraordinary form.

  23. It is not a question of conspiracies or fixist ideas. Nor can we divorce the then realities and rumours of liturgical reform from their sociological context. It is also the quite considerable matter of the massive character of Annibale Bugnini who in spite of immense opposition to his schemas all along was able to push his own preferences through. He certainly enjoyed some support in the right places as I indicate above, Cardinal Montini for one and more than just academic interest but real enthusiasm was expressed at the Congress of Assisi in 1956 for vernacularisation and the subsequent rumours circulating about it at the time that it would be approved.
    Moreover, it is a fact that he even declared at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute during one of his visits against such opposition that "I am the liturgical reform". He also knew who his opponents were among whom the American Catholic Traditionalist Movement was perhaps the strongest. Of course, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and Cardinal Antonio Bacci staunchly supported opposition to the New Missal. Tito Casino, the Italian journalist, among others also opposed him. We can read of Archbishop Lefebvre’s own astonishment and disbelief when Bugnini explained the projected form of the new liturgy to them. However, he was not alone but he most certainly was the near permanent, driving force behind the eventual vernacular Mass.
    Liturgical experiments were also being carried out in some countries such as France and Holland but these were obviously illicit just as was the incipient appearance in secular attire of some French clergy, for example. By the councils even Fr Ratzinger and friends were wearing suits and ties. However, taken across the board what looked and seemed impossible in the 1950s, though in some minds clearly underway, was a certainty once Montini was pope and the liturgy a focal point for radical change. Bugnini was ready and prepared by that time.
    Indeed, there have been some accretions to Roman liturgical form but the so-called Leonine prayers are added on after The Holy Mass itself. They do not form a central part of it. It is true that the Missa Recitata/Dialogata were made late in 1922 but this only affected the participatory factor not the form or content of The Holy Mass.
    That being stated, we can hardly claim that The NO form is just a minor matter in changing Catholic liturgical praxis as it altered form , content and liturgical orientation both literally and metaphorically. Of course, Pope John XXIII added the name of St Joseph to The Canon of The Mass. This was easier to do by then because some changes had already been implemented in the 1950s, more recently prior to that. Therefore, we can demonstrate how gradualism in the changes facilitated Bugnini’s ultimate objectives. Many Catholics “became accustomed” to them over a period of time. Only the tempo had increased by the mid-1960s
    We can all have our preferences but I would contend that bearing in mind the unnecessary nature of liturgical changes per se; the need for an attitudinal rather than an extensive rubrical emphasis; final outcomes; the bitter consequences of the changes and Bugnini’s modus operandi, my vote if I had one, has already been given above to pre-195

  24. I vastly prefer the traditional rite in all its aspects, BUT, after doing traditional holy week in the 1062 rite for some years now, and having a couple of times had a chance to do the vigil in the Novus ordo entirely in Latin, with Gregorian chant, ad orientem, I actually prefer it to the neutered 1962 rite, which has come to just irk me. It does not satisfy. The '69 vigil actually has the capacity for more prophetic readings, restored back up from the inadequate four allowed by '62, which just seems ridiculously few. Also, I can't stand the intrusion of the vernacular prayers in the '62, they're so arbitrarily imposed. The feeling that you're being groomed for something awful is too strong. It's as if Bugnini himself is presiding at that moment. I really dislike it. Don't get me wrong, I hope we get back to pre-'55 and soon, but for the time being I have no particular urge to do the '62 vigil. And I'm sorry, but I anticipate Tenebraes publicly, no ifs, ands or buts, no matter how late we have to start.

  25. Fr Sebastian8:23 AM

    Romanitas might be right, but I don't know. Interesting as these papers are Joe Shaw is not a liturgical scholar and his papers read more like undergraduate essays that authoritative studies. Why doesn't the FIUV commission some professional studies about these topics from recognised scholars?

  26. Fr Sebastian, if you want an authoritative study you need to read a 300 page book - like Philip Goddard's. There's no need to commission new ones, there are a number out there; the paper's own footnotes will suggest more.

    Anyway, a specialist study would take years and FIUV doesn't have the money to pay a scholar to spend that time on it. Do you?

    The papers are addressed to a non-specialist audience, and to reach that audience they are limited in length.

  27. Fr Sebastian10:36 AM

    Will respect Mr Shaw, Goddard's chapter on the 1955 reform is 24 pages. That is hardly a authoritative study. The 1970 reform gets only 19 pages. They describe the reforms, sure, but we need critical analysis more. It's a pity FIUV can't put their resources behind that.

  28. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Can someone explain the practical difficulties that would be involved with doing the pre-1955 Holy Week services at the post-1955 times of the day (i.e., Holy Thursday in the evening, Good Friday in the afternoon, Easter Vigil late at night on Saturday)? I'm certainly no expert, but I wonder if that might be a sensible third path.

  29. I'm with John on this one, I'm okay with the restored timing of the triduum liturgy, though I do not know the rubrics for the pre-reformed rite. Of course, it also is my opinion that ideally Tenebrae (and Matins in general) should not be anticipated and that the timing of the Divine Office (though not the Mass) need not be altered for the laity, even if that means very few laypersons attend tenebrae.

  30. James O.4:40 PM

    Joe you are getting a bit too enthusiastic about Festa Paschalia when you say it is "a single book, reflective of the latest scholarship, in which to check pretty well everything". Goddard has ignored all of the information from Cardinal Antonelli in 'The Development of the Liturgical Reform' RCB 2009. Its a big omission.

  31. On Goddard's book, it is not a study of the 1955 reform. It is a study of the whole history of the Holy Week liturgy, to which 1955 and 1970 are no more than postscripts. It is useful because it gives reasonably authoritative information on the historical questions which are a major part of any discussion of reform, in the past or the future.

    On doing the pre-55 ceremonies at the post 55 times: yes this is a possibility, and it has it's attractions. The difficulties would be:

    The loss of the traditional times for popular devotions.

    The celebration of Tenebrae in the mornings, and the loss of Paschal Matins (which was celebrated on Saturday evening.)

    The great length of the pre-55 Vigil, with all the readings. If you start this at midnight, you are in for an all-nighter. I've been to the 1970 Easter Vigil with the full set of readings, starting at Midnight, and the word which comes to mind is 'gruelling'. Waugh said something similar about the 1955 version. But the pre-55 would be longer.

  32. cyrillist7:31 PM

    Let's keep this simple: '45 or bust. That's the real system restore point, before the first Bugnini bugs were allowed in.

    After that's back in place, organic change can resume, ever so slowly.

    A man's gotta dream...

  33. Cyrillist: Our outlook should not be "1945 or bust", or "1910 or bust" or even "1570 or bust."

    I wish the comments here had less to do with the timing of ceremonies, the Pauline Mass, or Archbishop Bugnini and had more to do with the merits, or lack there of, of the Pian Holy Week, with its new ceremonies, its suppressions, supposed restorations, and its place within tradition.

    There is no perfect Missal or liturgical year. 1945 had that ghastly Common for Popes and the new psalter. The pre-Pius X breviary was overloaded with Duplex feasts and had no temporal feel outside Lent. Heck, even St Pius V's liturgical books had some issues, namely the omission of great saints like Joachim and Anne.

    This paper is not proposing a particular year, simply the recovery of a particular series of rites which are part of the liturgy of the Roman rite.

  34. "1570 or bust", eh? That has its attraction ;-)

  35. Matthew Rose12:17 AM

    I am surprised that nobody has yet mentioned Gregory DiPippo's series of articles on the Holy Week changes, published a few years ago on the blogsite, linked in the sidebar here at Rorate.

  36. "But the pre-55 would be longer."

    And why not indeed? We are celebrating the greatest event in the history of the world - Our Blessed Saviour has died on The Cross and is risen. Considering how much tinme we spend footling around with superficialities we could surely offer Our Blessed Lord the time and the honour He deserves.


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