Ten Questions on the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Missale Romanum
1. Why was the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII chosen as the extraordinary form?
From the time of the Council of Trent to the Second Vatican Council there were seven official editions of the Missale Romanum. They were promulgated by Popes Saint Pius V (1570), Clement VI (1604), Urban VIII (1634), Leo XII (1994), Saint Pius X (1911), Benedict XV (1920), and Blessed John XXIII (1962).
The 1962 edition was chosen as the last edition of the Missale Romanum promulgated before the Second Vatican Council.
2. Are the extraordinary and ordinary forms entirely different?
The Holy Father observes that there is “no contradiction between them and that the history of liturgical books is characterized by “growth and progress, but no rupture.”23
What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.24
3. How does participation of the faithful in the Missale Romanum of Blessed John XXIII differ from the Missale Romanum of the Servant of God, John Paul II?
In both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Missale Romanum, full, conscious, and active participation of the faithful is to be desired above all else. 25 In both forms, this begins with an interior participation in the sacrifice of Christ, to which the gathered assembly is joined by the prayers and rites of the Mass. The ordinary form of the rite customarily accomplishes this participation through listening and responding to the prayers of the Mass in the vernacular, and by taking part in forms of exterior communal action. The extraordinary form accomplishes this participation largely through listening to the prayers in Latin and following the words and actions of the Priest and joining our hearts to “what is said by him in the Name of Christ and [what] Christ says [to] him.”26
20 Pope Benedict XVI, Cover letter to the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum.
22 Pope Benedict XVI, Cover letter to the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum.
25 Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 14.
4. How does the role of the Priest differ in the Missale Romanum of Blessed John XXIII differ from the Missale Romanum of the Servant of God, John Paul II?
The major differences concerning the role of the Priest in the ordinary and extraordinary forms pertain to orientation and language. During most moments of the Mass the Priest faces the altar with his back to the people. All prayers are in Latin, with only the readings and the Homily in the vernacular.
5. What other major differences characterize the extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Missale Romanum?
Extraordinary Form (1962)
Ordinary Form (2007)
includes 1% of Old Testament
includes 17% of New Testament
Begins with prayers at the foot of the altar prayed
privately by priest and server One Eucharistic Prayer: the Roman Canon
includes 14% of Old Testament
includes 71% of New Testament
Begins with a greeting and communal
penitential rite Nine Eucharistic Prayers, the first of which is the Roman Canon
Faithful usually receive Holy Communion only
under one kind Last Gospel and Prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel included in closing rites
Preserves prayers and rites of 1570 with some
Allows for wider distribution of Holy
Communion under both kinds to the faithful Closing rites include Prayer after
Communion, Blessing and Dismissal
Simplifies prayers and rites in the light of
contemporary research and understanding
Only clerics or “altar boys” perform liturgical
Restores lay liturgical ministries and
encourages careful differentiation of roles
Extraordinary Form (1962)
Ordinary Form (2007)
6. What are the reasons why people remain strongly attached to the preconciliar form?
The Holy Father suggests a number of reasons. In the case of the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, while the preconciliar Missal became “an external mark of identity,” it is clear that “the reasons for the break, which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level.” 27
Some remained strongly attached to rites with which they had become familiar from childhood. A primary cause of this affection in other faithful Catholics was the false sense of creativity unfortunately practiced by some in the celebration of the postconciliar liturgical rites, leading to “deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.” 28
The Holy Father adds a personal note in his cover letter: “I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” 29
26 Saint Pius X, in The Daily Missal and Liturgical Manual from the Editio Typica of the Roman Missal and Breviary, 1962, Baronius Press, London, 2004, p. 897.
27 Pope Benedict XVI, Cover letter to the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum.
Finally, the Holy Father describes those young people who “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.” 3° With this motu proprio he is responding to all three of these groups.
7. Won’t the new norms cause division in parishes and exacerbate the tensions between those attached to the preconciliar and postconciliar forms?
The Holy Father sees such fears as “quite unfounded,” since the kind of rubrical and linguistic skills required for the preconciliar form is not found very often. It is, therefore, “clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.” 31
8. How will the two forms influence each other?
The Holy Father expresses his hope that the new saints and some of the new prefaces can eventually be integrated into the 1962 Missal by the Ecclesia Dei Commission, while the use of the preconciliar form will enhance an appreciation in the ordinary form for “the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.” In this regard he emphasizes: “The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives.” 32
9. What are the challenges for those attached to the preconciliar form?
The Holy Father notes certain “exaggerations and at times social aspects” linked to ” the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition.” For this reason he asks for “charity and pastoral prudence.” 33
10. What mandate did the fathers of the Second Vatican Council give for the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy?
In the Constitution on the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium), number 50, the Council Fathers decreed that: The Order of Mass is to be revised in a way that will bring out more clearly the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, and will more readily achieve the devout, active participation of the faithful.
For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements that, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated or were added with but little advantage are now to be discarded; other elements that have suffered injury through accident of history are now, as may seem useful or necessary, to be restored to the vigor they had in the traditions of the Fathers.