We must not rush to worship God, and we must implement prudent to measures to safeguard the public heath before we allow a return to the Sacraments. Therefore, until further notice, dioceses should limit public Masses to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (“TLM”) only. The attendance at the TLM will be a difficult adjustment for many Catholics who will miss the venerable tradition of the Novus Ordo Mass, a tradition that dates almost as far back as Woodstock. However, for the following reasons, it is only the TLM that can be safely celebrated in this time of pandemic.
The TLM does not call for the congregational exchange of the “sign of peace.” While this practice is optional in the Novus Ordo, it is nonetheless a ubiquitous one. Most people use the dangerous method of the handshake to give the sign of peace. Since there is no such practice in the TLM, the chance that this sort of risky human contact might occur is eliminated.
Even on Sundays in the TLM, there are typically only two readings—the Epistle and the Gospel—whereas there are three in the Novus Ordo. At the TLM, the priest reads both lections, facing towards the altar. Therefore, there is no chance of the priest, or anyone else, passing dangerously close to a “lector” who must enter the sanctuary to proclaim one of the two readings, in addition to the Gospel, used in the Novus Ordo. In the Novus Ordo, of course, the readings are proclaimed facing the people, thus increasing their exposure to the lector’s breathing.
Indeed, the interactions in the sanctuary are very restricted in the TLM. Only the priest, assisted by a few serves who spend most of their time several feet away from the priest, are present around the altar. At the Novus Ordo, however, it is common to have multiple lectors and, of course, Eucharistic Ministers fill the sanctuary at various points during the Mass. The increased traffic of the laity around the altar in the Novus Ordo increases instances of the close contact that we must avoid at all costs.
As noted in America magazine, Dr. Fauci recommends that churches limit singing upon resumption of services. Here, again, the TLM offers a safe practice. At a High Mass, the choir does almost all the singing, limiting the need for people in the pews to raise their voices. The choir is segregated off in a loft—again a much safer situation for singing. Sadly, this means that people will have to forego belting out One Bread, One Body and You Satisfy the Hunger Heart for some time and will instead have to hear passively Latin hymns by composers such Mozart.
Perhaps most critically, at the TLM, the priest prays the Canon of the Mass silently, facing the altar. Instead of praying the Eucharistic Prayer aloud, facing the people, the priest speaks in a low voice with his eyes fixed on the altar crucifix or the Missal. This practice, once more, significantly reduces the amount of dangerous face-forward speaking that one would encounter at the Novus Ordo.
Finally, it is often the practice at the TLM, especially following a Low Mass, for the priest to return directly to the sacristy, instead of glad-handing parishioners as they file out of Mass. Since such close contact usually involves the shaking of hands as people leave Mass, it is much better to follow the custom associated with the TLM of the immediate return to the sacristy, as this practice avoids the person-to-person contact of the post-Mass greetings.
It is simply too soon to allow the widespread return of Novus Ordo Masses across the country. However, by restricting parish Masses to the TLM, dioceses can begin to safely reopen their churches to the public in accordance with the science, data and expert guidance.
This writer has recently authored a hisroical play, The Pearl of Great Price: Pius VI & the Sack of Rome, available on Amazon.