The Latin Mass Society, founded in 1965, is an association of Catholic faithful dedicated to the promotion of 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’ have been 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. 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.
The Traditional Roman Missal is the result of incremental and organic development from the time of Pope Gelasius (died 496) and Pope Gregory the Great (died 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 ruled that this form of the Mass should be regarded, legally speaking, as a ‘form’ or ‘use’ of the Roman Rite, with the Missal of 1970 being regarded as another ‘form’ or ‘use’ of the same Rite. Hence it can be 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 Article 2 he rules that all priests of the Latin Church can celebrate it freely: ‘the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.’ With these important points clearly established, its usage is becoming more and more widespread today, and it is the work of the Latin Mass Society to promote its celebration in a variety of ways.
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 ident ical 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 st ill 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 incremental 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.
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.
• We organise training for priests, for altar servers, and for singers, and talks and courses on the liturgy and on Latin.
• 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 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.
In Church law, the Latin Mass Society is a ‘private association of the lay faithful’. In English civil law it is an ‘unincorporated association’ and a registered charity. The Society’s property is vested in its t rustees, who are Committee members.
The Constitution makes clear that the management of the Society is ‘vested in the Committee’. Ordinary Committee members and Officers are elected directly by the membership for a fixed term; a small number of ‘Honorary Officers’ may be elected by the Committee itself. The National Chaplain and the General Manager, both appointed by the Committee, join in its discussions but do not have a vote. The Committee normally meets four times a year. There is also an annual meet ing for Representatives and Committee members, and an Annual General Meeting open to all members. The day-to-day running of the Society is delegated by the Committee to the Officers, and to the General Manager and office staff, who are the Society’s paid employees.
Work at the local level is led by a network of Representatives, who are unpaid volunteers appointed by the Committee.
The Latin Mass Society’s local Representatives have the task of supporting Traditional Masses in their areas, and have initiated annual pilgrimages and other special events. These Latin Mass Society events now take the Traditional Mass to the great majority of the most important shrines and holy places in England and Wales.
For instance, annual pilgrimages take place to the English National Shrine at Walsingham and to the Welsh National Shrine to Our Lady of the Taper in Cardigan. The ancient shrine of Holywell in Wales and the ancient site of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset also have annual pilgrimages, as does Oxford (in honour of Oxford Catholic martyrs), the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead, and many others.
The Latin Mass Society has for many years had a 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 2008, the former was celebrated with great solemnity by Darío, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos; both are now usually Pontifical Masses, celebrated by a bishop.
The Society also holds an annual Day of Recollection in St Edmund’s College, Ware, and local Days of Recollection elsewhere. There are also a number of annual or more frequent Masses in Cathedrals.
Finally, the Latin Mass Society organises an annual foreign pilgrimage, led by a priest. Over recent years this has gone to Rome, Lourdes, and Poland.
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 2010 Conference at Ushaw was attended by two young priests from Sri Lanka, sent especially by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and Secretary Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.
These events have been supported by a great many LMS volunteers, who have helped administer the conferences, serve the Masses and sing. 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, The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols. The Northern Conferences take place in Ushaw College, the Catholic Seminary for the North of England; in 2009 the Southern Conference took place in the All Saints Pastoral Centre in London Colney, the retreat centre of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and was organised in association with the Archdiocese.
As well as training priests, it is necessary to train men and boys to serve the Mass. The service of the altar is indispensible to the worthy celebration of the liturgy, and has always been a rich source of vocations to the priesthood. While training to serve Low Mass can best be done ‘on the job’ alongside a more experienced server, study and practice are needed for the more demanding roles in Sung and Solemn Mass.
To facilitate this, and a general high standard of altar service, 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. Membership is free and open to anyone who can serve Low Mass; associate membership is available to those hoping to learn to serve Low Mass.
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.
Singers, as well as servers and sacred ministers, are naturally required for Sung and Solemn Mass, as well as for many other liturgical functions (Benediction, the Office, processions and so on). The more splendid and solemn forms of the Mass have a special place in the Church’s liturgical life, and cannot be dispensed with. They are often the most attractive forms for those, Catholics or non-Catholics, not familiar with the Traditional Mass.
For all these reasons 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. The LMS has always supported a number of scholas; current ly there are around twenty non-professional groups singing regularly at Tradit ional Masses in England and Wales, with the encouragement and support of our local Representatives.
To develop things more systematically, the Latin Mass Society was the initiator and founding supporter of the Gregorian Chant Network (GCN), set up in January 2010 with the support of a number of organisations and individuals interested in promoting Gregorian Chant. The GCN puts Chant Scholas in touch with each other, through its website and bi-annual meetings for Chant directors and experts, and organises chant training events. It holds a three-day chant training event in the Spring, and two or more local one-day events; it also collates information about chant initiatives organised by others and keeps its members informed.
GCN training events are sponsored by the Latin Mass Society, and there are discounts for LMS members.
Another founding objective of the Latin Mass Society is the promotion of the Latin language, and it is appropriate that we enable the faithful to gain a better knowledge of Latin. Knowledge of Latin is not in any way necessary to an appreciation of the Traditional Mass, but even a limited knowledge begins to open up the beauty and theological profundity of the prayers, which are often models of poetic concision.
The Latin Mass Society supplies a ‘teach yourself’ Latin course book based on the Latin of the Mass, Simplissicimus, now in a revised edition (2010). We also run a week-long intensive Latin course in the summer, directed by Dr Philip Goddard, open to people of all levels of experience aged 16 or over.
Pope Benedict 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. Young Catholics and Catholic parents wish to recover the Catholic culture which enabled earlier generations of Catholics to live out their faith in an often hostile environment ; they recognise that this culture is nourished by the Church’s traditional teachings, liturgy and spirituality. The Latin Mass Society promotes a number of initiatives which support young people and families with young children.
The St Catherine’s Trust Summer School: the support of the Latin Mass Society and other benefactors enables the Summer School to admit pupils regardless of their ability to pay. The week long school, which takes place in late July/early August , has a Sung Traditional Mass every day, and includes not only catechesis but also teaching in a wide range of subjects from an enthusiastic volunteer staff. The school admits around 50 pupils aged between 11 and 18.
The St Catherine’s Trust Family Retreat: financially supported by the Lat in Mass Society, around 150 people gather for a three-day retreat with daily Traditional Sung Mass and devotions, spiritual talks and a chance to socialise. The Retreat ’s organisation is designed to make it as easy as possible for families with children of all ages to attend, with special talks and activities for children of different ages.
The Latin Mass Society organises annual Confirmations according to the usus antiquior in London. Confirmation is conferred on around 30 people, mostly children, by a bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster.
Young Catholic Adults: supported by the LMS, the YCA is the British affiliate of the international Juventutem movement, organises retreats and other events for young Catholics (aged between 18 and 35), and publishes a Newsletter.
The annual Pilgrimage to Chartres: the British contribution to this great annual event over the Pentecost weekend is financially supported by the Latin Mass Society, which makes possible sponsored places for those unable to afford the usual costs, especially young people. The 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. Not surprisingly it is dominated by young people, and the British section has several ‘youth’ chapters.
The contact details of these groups and others are given on the back cover of this booklet. There are a number of other local initiatives for children, young people and families which take the Traditional Mass as their start ing point : retreats and days of recollection, groups meet ing to catechise children or simply to supplement their education, and home-schooling groups. The LMS’ initiatives for servers and singers also attract large numbers of young people, and more init iat ives are planned to cater for this growing part of the Traditional movement.
The Latin Mass Society is also 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 an apostolate in the North 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 an English apostolate based in Reading. The Latin Mass Society helps to support the priests of these orders when they are in this country, and also sponsors all the English and Welsh students at the seminaries of these orders.
As already mentioned, the Latin Mass Society was a founding member of the International Federation Una Voce (FIUV). This now has around 40 members, from all over Europe and North America, and increasingly from South America, Asia and Africa. The Federation holds meetings in Rome every two years, to which the LMS sends delegates. The LMS is the oldest and the most financially well-established member of FIUV, and plays an important part in its activities. Two FIUV Presidents have been LMS members, Michael Davies (d. 2004) and the current President, Leo Darroch, and at the t ime of writing the LMS Chairman is a member of FIUV’s Council (its governing committee).
FIUV has the immensely important role of interceding on behalf of Catholics ‘attached to the former liturgical traditions’ from all over the world. While the Latin Mass Society makes its own representations to Vatican departments on matters pertaining to England and Wales, FIUV is able to present a global picture thanks to its international network of members.
Joining the Latin Mass Society: this is itself an important way of helping our work, by contributing financially and adding yourself to our network. You will be kept informed of local events by your local Representative, and of national events by the Society’s magazine, Mass of Ages. You will get advance warning of local, regional and national events of all kinds.
Attending our events: our Masses and other events are put on for the benefit of the public, and it is important that these opportunities are not wasted. It is also important to show local parishes, clergy and bishops that interest in the Traditional Mass is real and substantial, and that good numbers of people are more than willing to take the trouble to attend it.
Become informed: regardless of the frequency with which you attend the Traditional Mass or other events, reading good books on the Mass and its history, and on the teaching and history of the Church more generally, is of enormous value both for one’s personal appreciation of the liturgy, and to enable one to answer quest ions posed by others. The Society’s magazine Mass of Ages with its news coverage, articles on subjects related to the liturgy, and book reviews, is an excellent starting point.
Gaining some familiarity with Latin is also helpful. Even a basic knowledge of the language helps one see how the liturgical texts have been translated in one's missal, and gives one an insight into the profound poetry of the Mass.
In an era in which Catholic education and catechesis have declined, people are often kept away from the Church and the Traditional Mass by misunderstandings and ignorance. If someone asks you to explain something about the Church or the Mass, you need to be able to give an accurate and helpful answer.
Singing and serving: these are very practical and necessary ways of supporting the Traditional Mass, and as mentioned above the LMS has established special groups to ensure that they are carried out to the highest possible standards. The Society of St Tarcisius is our sodality of altar servers, and will help you learn to serve, if necessary, and put you in touch with a network allowing the best use to be made of your experience and skills. The Gregorian Chant Network, similarly, organises training events; these are open to all, including beginners, so even if all you want to do is sing as a member of the congregation, attending a training event will give you an insight into how Gregorian Chant works and how it should be sung. It also groups together all the choirs and scholas singing at the Traditional Mass, many of whom sing polyphony as well as Gregorian Chant. Singers of all levels of experience and ability are needed.
Other roles: LMS Representatives as well as priests always need volunteers to help run events and organise mailings, mend vestments, and make contacts with new parishes and interested individuals. We are always looking for people to help locally or nationally with the innumerable tasks associated with promoting the Traditional Mass.
What the Latin Mass Society can do depends on its resources. Its most important resource is the commitment and energy of its members. So get involved!