In theory, one of the most attractive things about the Extraordinary Form is that is the same everywhere. Yet the liturgical culture that any particular place has, and all kinds of practicalities, dictate how it is celebrated. There are places where Low Mass with one server in absolute silence is the standard practice. There are places where the Dialogue Mass has caught on, or where Low Mass is buried under (shudder) hymns. And there are those beautiful places in the vineyard of the Lord where there are Sung or even Solemn Masses where the propers and the ordinary are sung. Even then, is there a schola, do the people sing, is there polyphony and/or chant, is it Rossini or the Graduale?
My parish, Prince of Peace (www.princeofpeacetaylors.net), is an interesting place. We have consciously modeled the life of the parish and her liturgy on the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. We have both forms of the Roman Rite every day (except for the occasional practical reason when we go down to one English Mass). On weekdays, we have Low Mass. On most Sundays of the year, we have a Missa Cantata, where a schola sings the propers and a choir the Ordinary. During the summer, we usually have an Organ Mass.
The EF has had a stable presence in the life of the parish for about 10 years now. Some of those who come regularly experienced the rite in a dizzying array of different ways (but, Father, in the 1950s in New Jersey we didn’t do that…). The vast majority, however, have come to appreciate and love the EF here in our parish. We have tried to make strides in getting the people to sing the Mass, but I confess that has been a hard sell. Even though many of our people love the Sung Mass, they also love for the choir (we frequently have paid choral scholars) to sing their parts.
From time to time, we give a class in how to follow the Missal. There are those who bring their hand missals with them to the Mass. In the pews we have had the red Ecclesia Dei missalettes (Mary Kraychy be praised!) for years, and many people have remain glued to them, even as they fear the recent Angelus Press hand missals that we have been encouraging our people to buy. For all sung Masses, we do a music sheet with the Latin and English texts for the Mass and the Ordinary in chant.
So we have experimented with a variety of ways to help people participate in the Tridentine Mass.
I have been looking, however, for years, for something that we could put in the pews. A sturdy, pew-ready book that had everything that you could possibly want to participate in the Latin Mass, which was also stunningly beautiful. But who had ever seen such a thing as what I had in mind?
Well, apparently Jeff Ostrowski. His knowledge of the liturgy and its music, his aesthetic sensibility, and his publishing know-how met right on with a keen sense of pastoral responsibility and what people need. The St Edmund Campion Missal is the fruit of an amazing work which has been incredibly done.
But, even if such a beautiful thing had been made, how could we ever afford it?
I have a parish of some 2000 families, and we get around 200 at a Sunday EF Mass. Many of those families are homeschooling families with many children. And, with a church that seats 1200, how could I ever make this work?
One Sunday, I put a sample copy of the Missal in the narthex for the people to view, and kept it out there for a couple of Sundays. I was amazed at the response. “It’s beautiful!” “It’s just what we need in the pews!” “Can I contribute towards the cost?” And so, I launched out into the deep and asked for donations. Within 72 hours we had not only covered the cost, but also had more donations than we could possibly use for that project.
We have lived with the Campion Missals in the pews for a couple of months now. The instructional video on how to use the Missal was posted on our website and Facebook pages, and people viewed it. The response has been incredibly positive. What’s more, parishioners who never frequent the EF, and who never picked up the red misalettes in the pews, are using it for their private prayers and meditation. I had more than one person say, “I wish we had something this nice for the Novus Ordo Mass.”
In short, the adoption of this Missal in my pews, one book per rack, has been incredibly popular. The people use them, and like them, and it has also brought the community together. It has also had the added benefit of introducing people to the EF who might have never known anything about the Mass at all if it weren’t for a book that was attractive they couldn’t help but obey that tiny voice saying, “Tolle, lege!”
Of course, now I am wondering what to do for the Ordinary Form Masses. I hate disposable missalettes as a general rule, but they do have the advantage, being dated material, of being very user friendly. Of course, none of them approach the beauty of the Campion Missal. I also am facing the possibility of adding Spanish Masses to the schedule as well. My original intent to also purchase the Lumen Christi Missal for the OF has been put into question by the need for bilingual materials. I’m not sure how many parishes have EF and OF in English and Spanish, but we do, or will soon, and there is only so much space in a pew rack. Maybe Jeff and his team at Corpus Christi Watershed can bring their brilliance to bear on that thorny pastoral problem, too. In the meantime, however, the Campion Missal was one of the most successful projects our parish has undertaken. Just watch how the people respond!