Question: could you briefly introduce the LMS and its main purpose or purposes?
Answer: the Latin Mass Society was founded in 1965 and is an association of Catholic faithful dedicated to the traditional Latin liturgy of the Catholic Church, the teachings and practices integral to it, the musical tradition which serves it, and the Latin language in which it is celebrated.
The intrinsic value and continuing importance of the Church’s ‘earlier liturgical traditions’ were affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (SP) of 2007 (Preface), which rules that the Roman Missal of 1962—‘the Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII’—has never been abrogated.
We are one of the many national groups dedicated to the conservation and promotion of the traditional Mass. Among these groups, we are the largest by number of members, with approximately 1,800, and one of the oldest.
Our activities focus on England and Wales, which is covered by one bishops’ conference (Scotland and Ireland have separate conferences). We have a network of local representatives throughout England and Wales, a permanent office in London, a small paid staff, a quarterly magazine, Mass of Ages, as well as a website and a presence on social networks. We are also a founding member of FIUV, the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce.
Bishop Mark O'Toole of the Diocese of Plymouth participates in a pilgrimage in honor of the Catholic martyrs of the 16th century to Chideock, Dorset, where a new apostolate has been established by the ICKSP.
Q. Is it true that the old rite dates as far back as apostolic times and in its essence is based on what Jesus did at the last supper?
A. Yes, but not only that. In fact, the Traditional Roman Missal is the result of incremental and organic development from the time of Pope Gelasius (d. 496) and Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), so it is sometimes called the ‘Gregorian Rite’. After the Council of Trent, a carefully revised edition of the Missal was issued by Pope St Pius V in 1570, so it is sometimes called the ‘Tridentine Rite’ or ‘Tridentine Mass’. The way the Mass has been handed down over so many centuries is reflected in the name ‘Traditional Mass’. Pope Benedict XVI described it as a ‘form’ or ‘use’ of the Roman Rite, so it was called the ‘extraordinary form’, or the ‘earlier use’ (usus antiquior), of the Roman Rite (SP Art 1). In Summorum Pontificum Article 1 the Holy Father ruled that this form of the Mass was ‘never abrogated’: at no time was it forbidden. In 2021, Pope Francis changed the legal framework of this liturgy again, ruling that it may be permitted for the good of souls (Letter to Bishops); it is now officially called the 'former Missal' or '1962 Missal'.
Q. Why is the Traditional Mass so important for you and your associates?
A. In the Letter to Bishops which accompanied the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict explained, referring to the ‘earlier liturgical traditions’:
“It behoves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”
If these traditions, and the riches they contain, were to be lost, the Church as a whole would be impoverished.
The Saints and Doctors of the Latin Church, from the sixth century up to 1970, were familiar with the Mass, the Office, and the other Sacraments in forms identical or close to that preserved in the liturgical books of 1962. These forms were the basis of their spirituality and informed their theology. If modern Catholics are unfamiliar with these forms, or worse still reject them, they will find the writings and the spirit of these men and women alien, and will become disconnected from their own traditions.
These liturgical traditions contain, implicitly and explicitly, a perfect expression of the Church’s teaching, discipline, and spirituality. The above incremental development and changes which took place in the Mass, accepted by the Church after great reflection, represent the Church’s unfolding of theological understanding. Those parts which were never or almost never changed, such as the Canon of the Mass, represent a sacred deposit regarded as fundamental by Popes and Doctors of the Church for more than fifteen centuries. The importance of this is encapsulated in the phrase ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’: the law of prayer is the law of belief.
Q. What was or were the main motivation(s) underlying the “English indult”, viz. the concession granted by Paul VI to retain the celebration of the old rite under particular circumstances?
A.The Church of England and Wales has experienced a century of strong growth since the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy (bishops and dioceses) in 1850, with many illustrious converts and a programme of building churches and schools for a growing Catholic population. This successful period was built on the testimony of Catholic martyrs and confessors of a long period of persecution, which began in the 16th century and continued into the 19th century.
For persecuted Catholics, and in the more recent period of prosperity before the Second Vatican Council, the ancient liturgy was essential to their sense of identity: it marked their separation from non-Catholic Christians and their continuity with the medieval English Church.
When the liturgical reform arrived, therefore, there was a strong reaction, especially on the part of the converts. Pope Paul VI understood this, and at the request of the English Cardinal Heenan granted the "English indult". Incidentally, this indult is more popularly known as “Agatha Christie indult”, since she has been said to have profoundly impressed Paul VI by signing, together with other leading personalities in the UK, a public petition to the Pope in favour of the preservation of the old Rite. Thus the traditional mass was officially permitted, albeit in a very limited way, and the LMS was recognized as the main organ for negotiating with bishops for the necessary permission of each celebration, starting in 1971.
Today, new generations are discovering the ancient mass, including people who might be attracted to New Age or "charismatic" liturgies, converts from non-Christian religions, atheism and agnosticism, and many non-practicing Catholics: above all, young people. We and these new generations of supporters demonstrate that the ancient liturgy retains its ability to convert hearts to Christ and to contribute to the evangelization of our country.
Q.Don’t the above liturgical traditions include other sacraments and rites?
A. Mention should also be made of the other sacraments and rituals, the traditional Divine Office, and the other legitimate Rites, Uses and liturgical customs of the Latin West, as important and living parts of the Latin liturgical tradition.
Until this year we have been able to hold an annual celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, for Catholics throughout the country and beyond. This celebration in Westminster Archdiocese is no longer possible according to Traditionis Custodes, but the Sacrament is still being conferred in England and Wales as part of the apostolates. of traditional priestly institutes.
After all, in England we have discovered that very few bishops and priests want to hamper the celebration of the Vetus Ordo (Old Rite). Although there is more bureaucracy under the Traditionis Custodes regime, almost all of our events have been able to proceed normally.
Q. What is the modus operandi of the Latin Mass Society to support and promote the Traditional Mass?
A.The Latin Mass Society is not a religious order or priestly association, although we have many priest members. What we do as a Society is to co-ordinate those activities by which lay people can assist priests in saying the Mass.
In recent years we have organised training for priests, for altar servers, for singers, for those who wish to learn to mend vestments, and courses on Latin, and talks and podcasts. For example, the promotion of Gregorian Chant, as the form of music uniquely suited to the Roman liturgy, is one of the founding purposes of the Latin Mass Society, and often the most attractive aspect of the liturgy for those, Catholics or non-Catholics, not familiar with the Traditional Mass.
Our Local Representatives provide encouragement and moral and material support for priests who say the Mass, and keep our members and the wider public informed of where Masses are taking place.
We invite priests to lead special events such as pilgrimages, retreats, and days of recollection.
We maintain a network of like-minded Catholics, both lay and clerical, through our Local Representatives, our local and national events, and our quarterly Magazine, Mass of Ages.
As required, we represent the needs and views of lay Catholics ‘attached to the earlier liturgical traditions’ (SP Art .1) to our bishops and to the Vatican, as well as to the Catholic and secular media.
There are, and always have been, associations of the laity which support the Church’s liturgical activities, such as guilds of singers and servers, and sodalities which organise pilgrimages and processions.
The Latin Mass Society continues this tradition, with a commitment to all aspects of the liturgy in its Traditional Form. Our work is carried out by a small staff in our London office, a network of volunteer Representatives covering the whole of England and Wales, and our membership, drawn from every age group and walk of life.
Q. Can you elaborate a bit on the training initiatives for priests?
A. Starting in 2007, the Society has organised one or two Priest Training Conferences each year. Experienced priest-tutors teach small groups of priests in a practical way, with the rubrics of Low Mass, Sung Mass or Solemn Mass, according to their level of experience. Conferences also include a number of other talks or classes given by priests or lay scholars, covering topics such as the spirituality of the Mass, the other sacraments (Marriage, Baptism, Extreme Unction, etc.), Latin, the history of the Mass, Gregorian Chant, and the 1962 Calendar. As well as Mass, the Conferences include sung public offices, such as Lauds and Vespers, according to the 1960 Breviary.
These Conferences have been attended by more than a hundred priests, who have returned to their parishes to celebrate the Traditional Low Mass, or its more solemn sung forms. As well as priests from all over England and Wales, the Conferences have been attended by priests from Scotland, Ireland, Nigeria, and South Africa.
The Conference fees for priests attending are heavily subsidised by the Latin Mass Society and its generous benefactors. Like all LMS events, the Priest Training Conferences take place with the full knowledge of the Bishops of England and Wales. The first Conference, in Oxford in 2007, was opened by the then Archbishop of Birmingham, who soon after became the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.
These courses were impossible during the Covid epidemic, and it remains to be seen if they will be possible after Traditionis custodes.
Q. In general, the impressioni is that youth make up a large portion, if not the majority of the traditional movement: is this also the case with the LMS?
As an organisation dating back to the 1960s, the LMS has many members of the older generation. Nevertheless, it is a common experience in recent years that adding a traditional Mass to a parish schedule lowers the average age of worshippers, sometimes drastically, with the young people and families with children.
Pope Benedict himself rightly observed, in the Letter to Bishops which accompanied his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, ‘it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them’. The Traditional Mass has indeed proved to be enormously attractive to young people, who have been less affected by post-conciliar polemics, and can approach the Traditional Mass in a fresh way.
The Latin Mass Society promotes a number of local initiatives which support young people, and others are organised spontaneously by members of traditional congregations, or by the Traditional Priestly Institutes active in England: retreats and days of recollection, groups meeting to catechise children or simply to supplement their education, and home-schooling groups.
For example, the LMS supports Juventutem London, which is affiliated to the international Juventutem movement, and regular Masses and days of recollection, and an annual retreat, for young Catholics (aged between 18 and 35).
The LMS’ initiatives for servers and singers also attract large numbers of young people, and more initiatves are planned to cater for this growing part of the Traditional movement.
In this regard, the training of men and boys to serve the Mass is particularly relevant, for other than the fact that this service of the altar is indispensible to the worthy celebration of the liturgy, it has always been a rich source of vocations to the priesthood.
To facilitate this, and a general high standard of altar service, includimg serving not only Low Mass but also study and practice for the more demanding roles in Sung and Solemn Mass, the Latin Mass Society established The Society of St Tarcisius (SST), a sodality for those serving the Traditional Mass, in May 2010. The SST runs server training sessions and special events for its members.
St Tarcisius, the Society’s patron, was a Roman martyr who gave up his life rather than allow the profanation of the Blessed Sacrament. He is the patron saint of altar servers.
Q. What are the highlights of your local and national activities and initiatives?
A. The Latin Mass Society has for many years had a Sung or High Mass in Westminster Cathedral on the day of the Annual General Meeting in the early summer, and a Requiem Mass in November for our deceased members. In 2015, the latter was celebrated with great solemnity by Raymond, Cardinal Burke.
Besides organising also many pilgrimages, retreats, training events and special Masses nationally, the Latin Mass Society’s local Representatives have the task of supporting Traditional Masses in their areas and a number of other special events, that now take the Traditional Mass to many important shrines and holy places in England and Wales.
For instance, our annual walking pilgrimage to the English National Marian Shrine at Walsingham was recently attended by 160 people. There are also LMS pilgrimages to Oxford (in honour of Oxford Catholic martyrs), the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead, to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bedford, and many others.
The Latin Mass Society organises foreign pilgrimages, led by a priest. Over recent years this has gone to Rome, Lourdes and Poland.
Q. And what can you tell us about you international activities and links?
A. Starting with Rome, we firmly believe in the importance of what happens in Rome: not only official acts of the Holy Father and the Curia, but the example of Rome. The LMS in conjunction with FIUV and CISP over the years widened the possibilities for the celebration of the Traditional Mass in St Peter’s, which at one time was impossible, and then possible only in one chapel in the crypt. Thus the CISP has been able to secure the use of the most prestigious chapel of the upper basilica: the Chapel of the Throne. This has tremendous and undeniable symbolic significance, indicating the legitimacy of this Mass and its practical toleration by Pope Francis, even after Traditionis custodes. The continuation of the work with and of the CISP is of the greatest importance, therefore, and we are pleased to unite our efforts with those of the Coetus for this end.
The annual Chartres Pilgrimage is onother case in point, an international event in which there are now two groups from England, mostly youth in this case for obvious reasons. The Latin Mass Society offers sponsored places for those unable to afford the usual costs. This pilgrimage walks the 70 miles from Paris to Chartres, accompanied by the Traditional Mass. With numbers around the 10,000 mark it is the longest and largest pilgrimage of its kind in Christendom.
Furthermore, the Latin Mass Society works closely involved with the international religious orders committed to the Traditional Mass. The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP), based in Gricigiliano, near Florence in Italy, has a number of priests and seminarians of British origin, and carries out apostolates in the North West and the South West of England. The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), based in Wigratzbad in Germany (with another seminary in the USA), also has a number of British priests and seminarians, and has English apostolates based in Reading, Bedford, Chesham and Warrington. The Latin Mass Society works with the priests of these orders when they are in this country, and also sponsors English and Welsh students at the seminaries of these orders, and indeed others, such as the Sons of the Holy Redeemer (based in the Orkneys, Scotland) and the Institute of the Good Shepherd (based in France).
The British contingent at the Chartres Pilgrimage in France