Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

How to Establish the
Traditional Latin Mass at Your Parish

The Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, 7 July 2007, allows for Catholics to petition their priests to have them offer, or allow to be offered, the traditional Latin Mass. The document says:

"Art. 5. 1 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 harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.  2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.  3 For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages. 4 Priests who use the Missal of Bl. John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded.  5 In churches that are not parish or conventual churches, it is the duty of the Rector of the church to grant the above permission.

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.

"Art. 7. If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5  has not obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".

How should one go about all this? Here are a "how-to" and some tips for you, but first, a few rules to keep in mind as you go along:
  1. Keep copies of all correspondence
  2. Stay organized and, please, stay focused on the single issue of establishing the traditional Mass. Don't get sidetracked by polemics!
  3. Be as polite and respectful as you can possibly be
  4. Look ahead, forseeing any problems that might arise so you can plan for them and stay one step ahead of your priest in getting things done. In other words, make the job as easy for your priest as possible, removing obstacles in his way
  5. Don't forget the importance of prayer! Pray that your priest grants your request and that things go smoothly!

Forming a Group and Dealing with Your Priest

First, weeks beforehand, maybe even anonymously, send to your priest concise but powerful information -- without polemics! -- about the traditional Latin Mass, why it's good to offer it, how the demand for the traditional Sacraments is growing, how traditional parishes bring about vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life, etc. Outline to him the benefits of the "TLM" -- and do so without at all being negative about the Novus Ordo rite. This is extremely important! I repeat: do not be negative about the Novus Ordo rite!
Include a copy of the Motu Proprio, with paragraphs  5.1, 5.2 and 7 highlighted. Whenever you engage your priest, be respectful, sweet, positive, and avoid all behaviors and attitudes associated with the stereotype of a "trad" (said stereotype, sadly, not being such without  reason). Forget arguing about Trent vs. Vatican II. Nevermind whether Dignitatis Humanae conflicts with Quanta Cura. Don't mention any other parish matters. Just focus on the one thing:  establishing the traditional Mass.

Now, think of a name for your TLM group (in the sample flyer linked to below, I use the name "The Holy Innocents Latin Mass Society") and create a Yahoo Group (easily and intuitively done!) so that when you have your "stable group of faithful," you'll be set up and ready to easily communicate with them all via email. Be sure to police the Group for any disrespect or polemics. Show leadership in this regard and don't let anyone,
because of their imprudence, ruin what you're trying to do.

Now it's time to gather together a group of those like-minded parishioners who are willing to attend the traditional Latin Mass ("TLM", also known as "the Extraordinary Form," or "EF" for short). One way to begin this process is to write up a short flyer with a brief outline of what it is you're trying to accomplish in establishing a "TLM" in your parish. Do not "diss" the Novus Ordo, do not talk about Vatican II, do not get into polemics, do not be disrespectful toward your priest, your Bishop, or the Holy Father in any way. Instead, emphasize the Holy Father's will as indicated in the Motu Proprio, the needs and desires of the faithful, the beauty of the "TLM," our Catholic heritage, Tradition, and how the use of Latin helps bring people of all ethnic groups together to worship as one, in a truly "catholic" -- "universal" -- way. In other words, stress the positive! If you're not allowed to leave a stack of these in the vestibule, hand them out to folks personally, after Mass -- the better idea anyway, if one must choose and not do both, since the personal touch always makes things nicer.

If you are not finding enough people at your parish, try handing out your flyer to folks at parishes nearby, who'd make the drive to your parish in order to attend the TLM. You might also want to reach out to any lapsed Catholics you know who'd be willing to make the drive. You'd be surprised at the number of Catholics who stopped attending Mass because of the wacky ways of the Novus Ordo -- and who'd be happy to return to Mass if the TLM were offered.

Download a sample flyer in .pdf format
Staple these pages together along with a pre-addressed and, if possible, pre-stamped envelope

Have each of the like-minded write a letter describing why he wants the traditional Mass and how he believes it would benefit him, his family, and the parish as a whole, and have him send that letter to you. Ask each to include all potential TLM-attending members of his household as signatories to his letter. Collect (and copy!) these letters to show your priest when it is time. Include this request for a letter to be sent to you, for you to give to the priest later, in your flyer. If you are able, include a SASE (a self-addressed, stamped envelope) with the flyers you hand out so folks would be more inclined to comply. If you can't afford the postage, at least include an envelope pre-addressed to you to make things as easy as possible for your group's members.

Organize yourselves, establishing leadership for all of this, and keeping a list of names and contact information (including email addresses and phone numbers) and a note that indicates the number of folks living in each household who would be attending the TLM. You will need this so all interested parties can stay in contact, get necessary things done, and keep informed. Be sure to invite each letter-writer to your Yahoo Group.

Download a sample contact sheet, in .pdf format

If you're having trouble coming up with enough members, you might try getting creative -- possibly hosting a little gathering at your place and inviting anyone who's interested in just learning about the TLM, preparing inspirational teaching materials and some tasty snacks for when they show up. Teach folks about why the TLM is important, how it can benefit them spiritually, how it can benefit their family life, etc. Again, if you do such a thing, stay on the positive side of things and leave the polemics behind. What you're after are warm bodies, signatures, letters, folks interested enough to support your cause.

Once you've gotten 25 or so letters from committed people, write a letter to your your priest, asking if he is willing to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Ask nicely. Ask very nicely. And prepare to be patient and to do some work (more on that later). Include with your letter the letters written by your fellow parishioners (which you've already copied and filed away, right?) A sample letter:

Dear Father,

Hello! I'm writing to request that you offer, or allow to be offered, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum (see postscript), and I ask that it be offered not only on Sundays, but also on weekdays and feast days. I've spoken with ___  other members of our parish who also wish to see the Extraordinary Form of the Mass offered here. We're all very excited about the possibility and many have written letters, too, for me to give to you (see attached).

If you haven't been trained in offering the traditional Mass, the other members of our parish and I would be happy to send you to a "TLM" workshop and/or get to you training videos and materials, to get training materials for the altar servers, and to do what we need to do to form a schola. If you're not wanting to learn how to offer the Extraordinary Form but would allow another cleric to come to our parish to offer it, I would be glad to try to find a priest who would be willing visit and do just that. What do you think?
Thank you so much for considering this request, Father!

Yours in Christ,

Your name
Your address and other contact information

Download a sample letter to your priest in .pdf format

Give Father at least a month to respond. Remember that priests are very busy. After a month or so, re-send your communication along with a note that shows you are giving him the benefit of the doubt (e.g., "Gosh, it's been a while since I sent you a package, and I haven't heard back, so I thought I should send it again in case it got lost!" as opposed to "Well, Father, it's been a month! What's the deal with you?"). If you still get no response, talk to him in person to try to get a "feel" for what's going on. Again, and as always, give him the benefit of the doubt and be gracious! If you get a negative answer, ask him if there is anything that worries him about establishing a TLM, or if there's an obstacle he sees that you could help eliminate. Show him that you are serious but also sympathetic toward him, understanding about the work it'd entail for him, and willing to do whatever you can to help. If his concern is about the costs of training, assure him that your group will cover the costs, including the costs of travel for workshops, a
nd will provide all necessary materials. If it's a matter of his not wanting to learn, ask him about bringing in a visiting priest. If the latter is OK with him, then start calling around to the closest places where the TLM is offered and ask the priests there if they'd mind offering the EF in your parish (try locating such a priest via the Latin Mass Directory at Ecclesia Dei website).

Your Priest Says No or Ignores You: Time to Move up the Ladder

If he still says no or ignores your request after two months and two letters, it's time to write to your Bishop. The following sample letter is adapted from a sample letter from Una Voce:

Your Excellency,

I am a member of ___Name of your Group_ of ___Name of your parish___. In keeping with the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s recent document Summorum Pontificum, articles 5.1, 5.2, 7 and 10, I am writing to request that you have the Mass of Blessed John XXIII offered at ___Name of your Parish___, or at a nearby parish. I have written to my pastor, __Name of Priest___, twice in the past two months, but have received no reply. [OR I have written to my pastor, ___Name of Priest___, but he has declined to provide this Mass for us.] I request that this extraordinary form of the Mass be offered on Sundays, feast days, and week days. I would also like to request that you establish a personal parish or appoint a chaplain for the extraordinary form of the Mass. I know of a priest, ___Name of Other Priest___, who has said he is willing and able to offer this form of the Mass.

I realize that I have written to you 3 times in the past several years with this request, but in light of the recent motu proprio, I thought it appropriate to write again.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours in Christ,

Your name
Your address and other contact information

Download a sample letter to your Bishop in .pdf format

Send to your Bishop this letter and copies of the letters you've received from members of your group. Give your Bishop a month to respond, then try writing again.


Your Bishop Says No or Ignores You:  Move up Another Rung on the Ladder

If you receive no reply or a negative reply after two months and two letters to your Bishop, the next step is to write to Ecclesia Dei, the Pontifical Commision in Rome.  A sample letter, again adapted from a sample letter given at Una Voce:

His Eminence William Cardinal Levada, President
Pontificia Commissio “Ecclesia Dei”
Palazzo della Congr. per la Dottrina della Fede
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11
00193 Roma

Your Eminence:

I am a member of  __Name of your Parish___, in the diocese of ________, in the United States of America. I am also a member of the  __Name of your Group__ in the same diocese.

I respectfully request your assistance in having Mass offered in my parish, or in a nearby parish, following the Missal of Blessed John XXIII. I have written repeated requests to my pastor, __Name of Priest___, and to my bishop, Most. Rev. __Name of Bishop__, but have not received a positive response from them. [OR Our pastor, __Name of Priest__, has kindly provided us with the extraordinary form of the Mass once each Sunday, but we would like to have that form of the Mass offered daily.] [OR Our Bishop, __Name of Bishop__, has kindly provided the extraordinary form of the Mass once each Sunday in another parish, but we would like to have that form of the Mass offered daily.]

Would Your Excellency see fit to provide our group with a chaplain, or to establish for us a personal parish? That would greatly assist us in having not only the extraordinary form of the Mass offered daily, but also weddings, funerals and the other Sacraments regularly provided according to the earlier ritual. There is a priest in our diocese, __Name of Other Priest__, who is willing and able to be a chaplain for us.

Wishing you God’s grace and blessings,

Yours in Christ,

Your name
Your address and other contact information

Download a sample letter to Ecclesia Dei in .pdf format

Send copies of the letters written by your group members along with your letter.

Making it So

When, at any point along the way, your request is granted, be prepared to purchase vestments, liturgical vessels, altar cards, training materials for your priest and for altar boys, and the materials and training your schola (choir, which should preferably be all male) will need. Look for beautiful vestments and liturgical items in parishes that are closing down, and look online -- from stores that specialize in liturgical vestments and vessels, to E-bay. Find the most beautiful and traditional items you can afford!

If your priest isn't trained but is willing to be trained, there are workshops available for him to attend. Be prepared to absorb the costs of his attending, including the costs of travel, food, and lodging.

Some links to help you with all the above:

Success! What now?

Once your TLM is established, do all you can to ensure that it is well-attended and that enough comes in through the collections plate to keep it financially viable. Advertise it. Tell others about it. Invite folks from other parishes. Make up business cards or flyers to leave in other Catholic churches, letting people know that the TLM is available in their city. Take an ad out in your diocese's newspaper or your secular newspaper. Mention it on Facebook, on Craigslist, through your Twitter account, in relevant comment sections in local online media, and other virtual places. Get a bumper sticker advertising it. Get a T-shirt advertising it. Get creative!

Whatever you do, do not, not, not play Mr. Liturgical Expert and pick at your priest for messing up, for being in the beginning stages of offering the TLM, for doing something wrong sometimes or making a mistake. Do not bite the hand that feeds! Be grateful, giving, and encourage your priest onward; do not make him regret his decision to offer the TLM by making the experience difficult for him or by forming a community of ultra-picky ingrates who like to play "smarter-than-thou" with the liturgy. This, from the "Man with  Black Hat" blog, needs to be read:

Three priests in one East Coast diocese, who enthusiastically awaited the liberation of the Traditional Mass, couldn't wait to learn it. No sooner did they, when they were inundated by complaints from one amateur rubrician after another, about this or that or the other thing. As a result, they no longer celebrate the Traditional Mass, at least not publicly.

Sheesh! Keep that story in mind and don't be one of "those guys"! And also, be a good parishioner! Attract folks to your parish by being welcoming of others at Mass. Don't pick on women who aren't wearing veils -- but do make extra veils available in the narthex. In general, be kind and don't be an ass. See this page on Mass etiquette and keep it in mind as you go. You can help newcomers to the TLM feel welcome by answering their questions, leading them to online resources, such as this site (, and/or providing flyers -- with Father's permission -- that teach about "TLM" and Mass etiquette." Perhaps Father would allow you to arrange a short class on the TLM -- what it's like, what to expect, the Order of the Mass, relevant etiquette, etc. -- announce it in your parish bulletin, and teach it in your parish hall.

Be sure to thank your priest! Be good to him! Write a letter of praise about him to your Bishop to counter any negative letters the Bishop might receive from the "revolutionary types" who get his attention to complain that there is a TLM available! Encourage others in your parish to also write such letters to the Bishop.

And, finally, thank God for the grace of having the "most beautiful thing this side of Heaven" in your very own parish!

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