By Michael J.
June 6, 2010
Editor, The Remnant:
I’ve noticed that you and your writers use the term
“tridentine” when referring to the Latin Mass rather than
“Extraordinary Form”. Do you have some problem with the EF?
….J. Loveland, Cincinnati, Ohio
Well it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks, for one thing;
but I suppose it’s more than that. And if our lexicon
has to be updated in order to accommodate all the new
recruits to the Traditional Catholic movement, I say Deo
Think of it: The Novus Ordo is clearly withering on the
vine, Tradition is becoming almost mainstream, and the
traditional Latin Mass movement is morphing into an
international youth movement. I’ve just returned from
France, in fact, where thousands of young Catholics walked a
3-day pilgrimage at which the traditional Mass was the
only Mass. Entire generations are growing up now having
known no other liturgy save the traditional Roman Rite.
Isn't that extraordinary!
Still, there is an urgent need to guard against complacency,
especially when considering the sacrifices made by pioneer
Traditionalists during the lean years.
Many of us remember when Tradition was a dead letter and the
old Mass a liturgical dinosaur with which only a few “old
cranks” bothered to concern themselves. This was back when
scapulars, chapel veils and Latin were still the lampoonable
trappings of “fanatics on a dangerous trajectory towards
At that time, being labeled a Traditionalist meant you’d
become something of a pariah in your parish because you’d
stubbornly refused to let go of 2000 years of Catholic
Tradition. Secular traditions, on the other hand, such as
baseball’s 7th inning stretch or the singing of My Old
Kentucky Home at the Kentucky Derby, remained
untouchable and sacred, of course. But Catholic
traditions were to be eagerly piled high on the
progressivist pyres whose flames illuminated the skies over
those days of darkness.
was out and, God help us, On Eagles Wings was in.
Roman vestments rotted in mothballs while priests in muumuus
pranced around the “worship space” pitching the latest
liturgical novelty. Sermons gave way to hip, happy
“homilies” while large butcher blocks eclipsed high altars
and hippie churchmen giddily proclaimed the Church’s
surrender to the modern world.
In that climate of self-loathing ‘reform’, the majority of
Catholics did one of two things: Left the Church in disgust
or just faded away like the Faith itself. Churches emptied,
nuns disappeared, and those comparatively few Catholic
priests who hadn’t yet run off to get married, styled their
hair and became liturgical entertainment directors.
Clearly, Satan was at work.
But some Catholics refused to click their heels to the
jackbooted Modernist thugs in charge. They stayed on to
fight when nearly everyone else was waving the felt banner
of surrender. With sneering distain they were derided as
Traditionalist “extremists” who “think themselves more
Catholic than the pope”.
Those men and women sacrificed everything for the touchstone
of the Catholic Faith which was then (and is still today)
the immemorial Tridentine Mass. Yes, I know, we’re not
supposed to call it that anymore. Now it’s the
“Extraordinary Form”, which makes some sense, I suppose,
given the sheer ordinariness of the New Mass. But why this
insistence on “Extraordinary Form”? God knows. Perhaps a new
name was needed for the old Mass—one that doesn’t imply
allegiance to the clarity of Trent over the ambiguity of
Vatican II. Perhaps suggesting two forms of one Rite
provided cover for the bizarre spectacle and abrupt rupture
of an entirely New Mass. I don’t know.
Whatever it is, for many of us the traditional Mass will
always be the Tridentine Mass. This is so for a
variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s what
they called it—the early Traditionalists who stood
against the whole world in defense of the Roman Rite
offered in the ancient tongue by a priest who faced the
altar of God, just as priests had always done for thousands
of years. It was codified at Trent by the same sainted
pontiff who’d codified the 15-decade traditional
rosary— St. Pius V, spiritual general of Lepanto, and the
great pope who’d saved Europe from both Islam and
The Mass for which pioneer Traditionalists had sacrificed so
much was part and parcel of the dogmatic Council of Trent
that had carved in stone Catholic doctrine and liturgy
against the great assault on both that was the Protestant
Revolution. The Tridentine Mass was the Mass St. Pius had
handed down to Catholics of all ages in perpetuity, and
surely it was the Mass Traditionalists intended to hand down
to their own sons and daughters.
“It’s the Mass that matters”! Again and again they’d
reminded themselves that “It’s the Tridentine Mass that
matters!” They knew what it was and what it was not. They
knew very well that important components of it predated
Trent by some 1500 years. But by referring to it as the
“Tridentine Mass” they lashed themselves to the mast of
Catholic Tradition—the dogmatic Council of Trent, Quo
Primum and the flagship of the Catholic fleet that would
preserve the Faith of the Ages against the onslaught of
Novelty, Protestantism and a burgeoning Novus Ordo Seclorum.
Through tumultuous post-conciliar seas they followed a
course charted by Catholics in 16th century England and 18th
century France during the war for altar and throne in the
Vendee. Trent was their guiding star. They didn’t merely
“prefer” the Tridentine Mass. They were defined by it.
Archbishop Lefebvre, in many ways the sacrificial lamb of
the Catholic counterrevolution, would be “excommunicated”
for his dogged defense of all things Tridentine. But his
historic stand would give birth to a worldwide Catholic
restoration movement, and now his cause has been introduced
The great Michael Davies worked himself into an early grave
in defense of the Tridentine Mass, as did Hamish Fraser,
William Marra, John Senior and thousands of serious men for
whom liturgical “smells and bells” meant little.
My own father gave up everything except Faith and family in
the name of the Tridentine cause. After thirty years in
harness as editor of The Wanderer he left his
birthright behind in order to work for the full restoration
of Tradition and the Tridentine Mass.
These men were traditionalists long before it was
fashionable to be so. They put their reputations, careers
and financial wellbeing on the line in the name of Catholic
In 1956, young Hungarians defended their homeland against
Soviet tanks with brooms and whatever else they could lay
their hands on. They were crushed to death by communists but
immortalized by history.
In the ‘70s, a small band of faithful Catholics did
something similar against Modernist tanks that were rolling
over the Catholic city. They’d determined to remain what
their fathers had raised them to be—Catholics! And in the
name of the Tridentine Mass they were banished from their
parishes and castigated as “schismatic”. But they kept the
Faith. History has yet to determine how to cast these men,
but those of us who knew some of them remember the faces and
names of heroes who held the Catholic ground that even popes
and priests were abandoning.
The Extraordinary Form? Sure, but one day it will again be
the only form of the Roman Rite, and then perhaps the
spirits of the early Traditionalists can rest in peace.
You say EF, I say TLM; but if it hadn’t been for them we’d
all be saying NOM.