Frequency of the Extraordinary Form

And More on Habit-Wearers

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ROME, SEPT. 29, 2009 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am confused about the permission given by our Holy Father regarding the celebration of Mass using the Tridentine rite (the extraordinary form). Can a parish substitute for all daily Masses throughout the week the “Tridentine form” instead of the “ordinary form”? I understand Sunday Masses must be of the ordinary form, with perhaps the exception of one Tridentine Mass. — D.F., St. Clair Shores, Michigan

A: The most relevant document regarding this point is probably Article 5 of “Summorum Pontificum”:

“In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole Church.

“§2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Blessed John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.”

Canon 392 refers to the bishop’s overall right and duty to oversee and enforce the observation of ecclesiastical laws within his jurisdiction.

While the papal document certainly allows some leeway, the fact that it asks pastors to ensure that the celebration of the extraordinary form harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care would suggest that a parish should not habitually substitute all daily Masses for the extraordinary form.

A parish with more than one priest could have daily Mass in both forms.

Likewise, in areas where churches are in close proximity, the bishop could allow one parish to celebrate a daily Mass in the extraordinary form for the faithful from several parishes. Other possibilities include rotating the celebration of the extraordinary form during the week among two or three nearby parishes.

If the need arises, the papal letter issued “motu propio” (on his own initiative) also foresees the possibility of the bishop establishing a special parish, thus Article 10:

“The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with Canon 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.”

As is obvious all celebrations in such a parish or chaplaincy would be according to the extraordinary form.

The above document says that it is important to seek positive and charitable solutions to the needs of all the faithful so as to avoid discord and to favor the Church’s unity.

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Follow-up: Liturgical Garb for Habit-Wearers

In the wake of our piece on the proper liturgical garb for ministers and servers (Sept. 15), a reader asked for further clarifications.

He wrote: “You quote from GIRM: ‘336. The sacred garment common to ordained and instituted ministers of any rank is the alb, to be tied at the waist with a cincture unless it is made so as to fit even without such.’ Would you be kind enough to clarify who are considered ‘instituted ministers of any rank’?”

The expression “instituted ministers of any rank” basically refers to all ordained ministers (bishop, priest and deacon) and the instituted lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

The concept of the alb as a common sacred garment means that all these ministers may use the alb at any liturgical action.

Depending on the norms of each bishops’ conference, the alb may also be used by other occasional lay ministers who fulfill liturgical functions without a specific institution, such as altar servers, readers and even extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

The concept of common garment also means that an alb may always be used for liturgical services of any kind even when the norms allow the use of other sacred vestments instead. Thus it is necessary to distinguish between “may use” and “must use,” as this can vary from celebration to celebration.

For example, ordained ministers “must use” the alb for Mass. For other sacraments and sacramentals they “may use” the alb or the cassock and surplice. Instituted lay ministers “may use” alb, cassock and surplice, or another approved garb at Mass and other occasions.

Another reader referred to religious habits: “I am wondering if some ancient protocols continue to apply. I am thinking particularly about special garb used by servers in the oldest orders, some of which use a cowl for the purpose. I am also thinking about the custom in the older orders of not using the stole for certain rites, most notably for hearing confessions when dressed in the habit.”

Since the customs of some ancient religious orders predate even the Council of Trent, they usually have the force of particular law and, unless specifically abrogated or reprobated, can usually be considered as legitimate variations within the Church. This could also be applied to the custom regarding the stole for confession if it is truly an immemorial practice and not a recent invention.

All the same, even a venerable custom should be evaluated with respect to its pastoral efficacy. Wearing a stole while hearing confessions reminds both minister and penitent of the specifically sacramental and priestly nature of the encounter.

Personally I would favor that such religious leave aside such a custom, at least when exercising the ministry outside of the community, if the wearing of the stole is the better pastoral practice.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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