Promoting the Traditional Latin Mass in Central Iowa

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First-Hand Account: Traditional Baptism


It is my favorite sacrament, as it is the basis of Christian life, opening the door to the other sacraments, especially the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.  

As the father of a large family, a member of an even larger family, and a member of very close-knit parish communities everywhere we’ve lived, I have participated in many baptisms as a father, a godfather, or as a witness. 

With joy, I cry at every one of them, knowing that the catechumen is being born into Christ’s Church a new person, cleansed in preparation for eventually entering into the Kingdom of God.

Together with my wife, we have 11 children, 9 on this earth.  We have celebrated each of children’s baptisms with the same joy and anticipation. 

But something different occurred with this most recent celebration.  Eight of our children were baptized in the Ordinary Form (OF), and having participated in so many baptisms, it has become a very familiar rite. 

Recently we have been attending a Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Roman Rite, and we have fallen deeply in love with this liturgy.  After our ninth child was born, we asked if our daughter could be baptized according to that traditional baptismal ritual. 

Once again, we have fallen in love.  In a special way, the Traditional Baptism highlights what the sacrament is, and – just as importantly – the significance of the godparents. 

The use of the prayers of exorcism remind us that Baptism indeed serves as an exorcism, and highlights the reality of evil in this world.

The use of the exorcised salt brings an imagination of how the Saints of our Church celebrated this sacrament.  This occurs prior to entering into the main part of the church.  The seriousness of the sacrament is also highlighted by the changing of stoles, with violet being used at the beginning, and changing once we moved into the church to prepare for the anointing with the Oil of Catechumens.

But what really stood out to us was the role of the godparents, or the sponsors, and how the questions are addressed.  The sponsors, not the parents, are asked what it is they are asking of the Church.  And the answer of faith is given by them directly. 

Then, the questions become directed to the catechumen, and being an infant, the sponsors again have the responsibility of answering on her behalf.  And, instead of the parents, the godparents were brought into the Sanctuary. My brother and sister-in-law were just as impressed as we were at how the Traditional Baptism highlights the seriousness of their role as godparents. 

A final observation that impressed me is how friendly the EF is regarding Baptism to those who are not familiar with it.  The Priest gently guided us through everything, and the flow was very natural.

Darren Manthei resides just outside of Des Moines with his wife and children.

Traditional Triduum Update

The schedule for the Traditional Liturgies during Holy Week is posted.  We wish you and yours a blessed Triduum and joyful Easter.
A few additional notes:  

  • We had a wonderful showing for the Saturday evening and Sunday morning lectures for Dr. Denis McNamara the weekend of March 23/24th.  His presentations on Church Architecture were so important in our times, and then to see the worldwide reaction to Monday’s tragedy in Paris (see these stunning images!) gave me a sense that deep down inside, people have a longing for beautiful church architecture.  Pray for the people of Paris — and for the world — that McNamara’s work may continue to influence architects to a return to the classical approach.  (N.B. Thanks to those who helped financially support the event, especially a recent donor who helped us break even with a generous $400 donation!)

  • For those who are parishioners at St. Anthony’s, the Annual Diocesan Appeal is ongoing.  It’s important to show our support of Msgr. Chiodo, St. Anthony’s, and the Traditional Latin Mass community that we participate.  If you’ve not already done so, please consider a gift to the ADA.  If you do, write something like “TLM” or “Latin Mass” in the memo line, or write a note that says, “I support the Extraordinary Form” in a letter to let both the Diocese and St. Anthony know that we are doing our part.

  • On Sunday, May 5th, you are cordially invited to the First Holy Communions of four of our children.  It is in conjunction with the 1st Sunday of the month potluck, so nothing is different, other than the potluck will be in the parish hall (ie, the gym), since we anticipate more people to celebrate the 1st Communions of Antonia, Matthew, John Paul, and Damien.
  • Finally, Una Voce Des Moines has a unique opportunity to participate in extending the altar rail at St. Anthony’s!  St. Anthony’s has benefactors funding the rail itself (as I understand it, it won’t go across the entire entrance of the sanctuary, but close).  To underscore the importance of the communion rail to our traditional style of worship, Una Voce Des Moines has agreed to fund the padding for kneeling, so that the faithful can more reverently receive the Eucharist.  This padding is estimated to be $500, and we are encouraging you — after you’ve made your donation to the ADA! — to assist Una Voce Des Moines with a financial contribution to this noble project of adding reverence to the Holy Mass at St. Anthony’s.

The officers and I plan on being around at the Holy Week liturgies, if you have any questions about these projects/events. 

With gratitude for your service to Our Lord in the traditional expression of liturgical worship throughout central Iowa, we wish you a joyful Eastertide!

2019 Traditional Triduum Schedule

Denis McNamara comes to Des Moines

Una Voce Des Moines is pleased to welcome Dr. Denis McNamara to Des Moines! In conjunction with the Catholic Culture Lecture Series, McNamara will be speaking on Saturday, March 23 @ 7pm at St. Augustin, but will visit with the Una Voce Des Moines group on Sunday, March 24th at St. Anthony’s and give a talk entitled: “Church Architecture and the Liturgical Movement: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century”.

The TLM at St. Anthony’s has been moved (for one week only!) to 9:30am, so McNamara’s talk will take place afterwards, around 11am. It will be a Solemn High Mass.

Lunch will be provided. Free will offering is encouraged.

All are encouraged to attend, but there won’t be childcare available, so please make arrangements so that children are respectful of the presentation.

Questions or to RSVP:

Inject Some New Life into your Faith in the New Year

Inject Some New Life into your Faith in the New Year
by Andy Milam

(Most of the content of this article was taken from here.)

Since the allowance of the vernacular in the Mass following Vatican II, the idea of people having their own Roman Missal or hand missal has fallen into relative obscurity. The erroneous thinking that the Roman Missal was simply there to help one follow the Latin has, sadly, resulted in a temporal and eternal disconnect with the liturgical and spiritual heartbeat of the Church. The liturgical year of the Catholic Church is far more than an arbitrary collection of feasts and seasons. It is a profound and soul-altering spiritual rhythm that provides a veracity as real as cosmic time. The hand missal provides us with a vital navigational tool for the spiritual reality of our Catholic faith.

Praying the Mass

“The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer.” – Pope Bl. Paul VI

When most Catholics call to mind a Roman Missal, we think of the Order of the Mass (ordo), which presents the basic liturgical structures and rhythm of worship. The ordo grants us the foundation for understanding the Holy Sacrifice of Christ and the timeless participation in His death and resurrection. When the Catholic assists at Holy Mass, he is entering into a moment where time and eternity meet. Reception of the Eucharist is a real and complete participation in Christ’s historic Sacrifice, and that deeply intimate experience with Christ in the Eucharist orients the faithful toward the glory of His eternal kingdom. It is past, present and future all coming together in the Eucharistic Banquet, which is then wrapped in prayers, Scriptures and the solemnity proper to it. In this understanding, the hand missal aids the Catholic in engaging heart and soul in the most perfect prayer more perfectly.

A Treasury of Catholic Prayers

Beyond Sunday, the Roman Missal is a wealth of wisdom that offers the individual Catholic a myriad of sacred prayers. Life is turbulent — at times a challenging path where feelings of being lost or overwhelmed are all too common. Other times, life is a resounding joy and a blessed event filled with miracles, daily needs, friends, family and the charity of Christ. For all of these circumstances, our forefathers of the faith have composed prayers to help Catholics communicate with God and express their hearts in wondrous lucidity. The Roman Missal is a tome of these wise expressions and should be an at-hand resource for any Catholic and their family.

Daily Structuring

Hopefully, most Catholics are well aware that their Catholicism cannot be isolated to one day a week — that the faith must be a habitual and daily event that colors the very expression of our lives. However, the daily discipline necessary and the proper actions to accomplish this spiritual necessity can be very difficult. The Roman Missal (hand missal) presents the structure of the liturgical year for every day of the week, offering the readings and prayers to help the individual Catholic participate in the daily expression of the divine reality of his own faith.

 The Missal and the Home Altar

Home altars are important focal points for any Catholic family striving for holiness. Often set aside in bedrooms or even closets, home altars are domestic sanctuaries that provide Catholics with a quiet place of prayer and meditation. Among the crucifix, the icons and the candles, the Roman Missal is a vital part of the home altar, as it brings into a place of family prayer the liturgical guide gifted to all Catholics by the Church.

A Personal Bond

Catholics dedicated to praying the Rosary can witness to the intimate bonds they develop with their own rosaries. Each bead in each mystery is a witness to God’s faithfulness, whether it is an answered prayer or a comfort in mourning. Each decade of the Rosary comes to be a memorial for the divine events in Christian lives. The Roman Missal is no different. Holding it in one’s hand each week at Mass, turning to its prayers in times of need, and having it serve as a spiritual guide is likewise a divine bonding experience. In time, as with the rosary, the pages and prayers begin to call to mind the divine actions the Christian has witnessed, and grant him the endurance and joy to live the good life.

Proper of Saints

The People of God in this age are not the first — or last — ones to strive after a life of holiness. The hand missal can be a constant source of spiritual direction, and the proper of the saints serves to reinforce that reality through brief accounts of their lives and enriching prayers related to each. The study of Catholic forefathers, the celebration of their fidelity, and the acceptance of their present reality and intercession all serve to bind together the family of God. As the Church militant, the faithful must look back to the lives of the Church triumphant and look forward to receiving the eternal prize they now embrace.

Ritual, Votive and Requiem Masses

The Roman Missal also includes special Masses and rituals for various occasions. Votive Masses and Masses for the dead are unique circumstances in the Catholic life, circumstances that can be difficult for many families. Again, like the rosary, having in one’s hand the Roman Missal that has consistently been a source of guidance and comfort is invaluable in the most arduous of times.

A Question

Are you looking to draw closer to the heartbeat of the Church? The Roman Missal or hand missal will provide you with blessings for decades to come. If you have never owned one, the new year provides a great opportunity to make a purchase. And if you have an old one, it’s a perfect time to update. Which one?  The first, I own, which is from Angelus Press.  The second is a very faithful expression from Baronius Press.

Regardless of what you choose, the ownership of a hand missal is a wonderful way to grow closer to the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented at the altar.  Practically, once you make the decision and get used to praying along with the priest, you will always have a way to follow the ordinaries and the propers of the Mass, regardless of whether a church has permanent hymnals or uses missalettes.

The Importance of Listening as Participatio Actuosa

The Importance of Listening as Participatio Actuosa
by Andy Milam

In continuing my exploration of participatio actuosa (see parts one and two), there is an importance placed upon listening and understanding the internal action of the human person as it relates to worship at Holy Mass.  In my first blog in the series, I made the following observation:

The most demanding of human actions is that of listening. It requires strict attention and summons up in a person his total constructive effort.  It is possible to sing, especially a very familiar tune, and not be conscious of actually singing. However, one cannot truly listen without attention to that which he is hearing. Especially in our day of media attention, whether it be radio, television or social media, we are able to tune out almost every sound we wish. To listen attentively demands full, conscious and active human concentration. Listening can be the most active form of participation, demanding full effort and attention.

The Church does not have the entire congregation proclaim the gospel text, but rather the deacon or the priest does it. It is the duty of all to listen. The cannon of the Mass is not to be recited by everyone but all are to hear it. Listening is the most important form of active participation.  This is why it is often referred to as “hearing Mass.”

The concept of active listening has been promoted for centuries within the Church, however, since the time of Vatican Council II, it has taken a new distinction.  One which seems to be overlooked in favor of doing.  So much so that some of the leaders in the Church today have coined a new phrase, “doing the Liturgy.”  Not only is it a clunky expression of the English language, it is also very vague.  If the faithful and those leaders would take to heart what some of the Popes of recent memory have suggested, as opposed to imposing their own version, there may be a more intimate relationship between the worshipper and the worship at Holy Mass.  In turn, this could stop the lamenting of those same leaders that there is a “flight” away from the Church.

Pope Francis has said:

A synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening “is more than feeling.” It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: we are one in listening to others; and all are listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), to know what the Spirit “is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).

The Holy Father was speaking to the Synod of Bishops, but it applies equally to all Catholics.  There has to be mutual listening.  This active listening, which is how Catholics commune with the Holy Spirit, is how they worship.  The faithful shouldn’t look to find their completion in ministering, for that is not their role.  Their role is to worship God the Father.  To minister is a specific calling within the Church.  It is not something the Catholic person should seek out or expect.  It isn’t a right, it is a need.  That is why those actions are extraordinary.  Those actions, while good in and of themselves, are a distraction to the active listening which the Holy Spirit is calling all men to do.  That is why a vocation to minister is rare, but necessary.  It is also the reason why a priest gives up a family, so that he can devote himself to the actions which would otherwise divide his time, unfairly.  It is a unique and special calling to devote one’s life to the harmony of participatio activa and participatio actuosa.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI taught us this:

We should be clearly aware that external actions are quite secondary here. Do­ing really must stop when we come to the heart of the matter: the oratio. It must be plainly evident that the oratio is the heart of the matter, but that it is important precisely because it provides a space for the actio of God. Anyone who grasps this will easily see that it is not now a mat­ter of looking at or toward the priest, but of looking
to­gether toward the Lord and going out to meet him. The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the lit­urgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point. If the various external actions (as a matter of fact, there are not very many of them, though they are being
arti­ficially multiplied) become the essential in the liturgy, if the

liturgy degenerates into general activity, then we have radically misunderstood the “theo-drama” of the liturgy and lapsed almost into parody.  (The Spirit of the Liturgy, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), p. 170)

Benedict XVI goes on to say:

I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds – partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council. (Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.)

This concept of the finding the real heritage of Vatican Council II and the New Liturgical Movement is paramount.  It is, quite simply, the most important work of our time.  The purpose of this article will be to challenge the reader to look at the Mass and at Catholicism in a different light.  Not as a “doer,” but as a worshipper.  Catholics are called heroic virtue, but not heroism when it comes to actions.

Full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy isn’t heroic because the Catholic ministers; but rather because he worships God the Father, through God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

2019 Una Voce DSM Liturgical Calendar

Friends, we have a personalized 2019 liturgical calendar!

Thanks to excellent photos of Lisa Bourne and Jose Vitteri — as well as Jose’s graphic design skills! — we have a 2019 Liturgical Calendar just in time for Christmas shopping!

The unique 12″ x 12″, card stock calendar contains high quality images of Traditional Masses celebrated at St. Anthony’s and the Basilica of St. John by Msgr. Chiodo, Fr. Cassian, and Fr. Ripperger.

Here are some images:

Each day as indications for the liturgical calendar in both Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms, as well as abstinence or fast symbols.  Note that under each day of the week there is an theme which is traditionally observed.


There’s an entire page on spiritual fasting and the symbols that each day indicate.

Yes, friends, it looks like this:

Proceeds benefit Una Voce Des Moines and the continued promotion of the Traditional Mass throughout Central Iowa.  Be sure to share with your friends and family, but order quickly as Christmas is in a few weeks and we have a limited supply!

Calendars are $20 a piece

Can be purchased through PayPal or
make a check payable to “Una Voce Des Moines” or
give us a check at Sunday Mass.

For more information, email Bryan @ or call/text 812.686.6102.


The Importance of Baptism in our Active Participation

The Importance of Baptism in our Active Participation
by Andy Milam

In my most recent article, I posited the following:

The difference between participation in the liturgy that can be called activa and participation that can be labeled actuosa rests in the characteristics of baptism.  It is this very sacramental seal that grants one the right to participate. Without the baptismal mark, any action we conduct at Mass, singing, walking, kneeling or anything else can be termed “active,” but they do not constitute participatio actuosa. Only through the sacrament of baptism can any action be truly participatory.

The early Church saw baptism as a real participation in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  This translates directly into the liturgical action of the Mass, as it is the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary. In the Apostolic Constitutions (late AD 4th century), we find a prayer for the blessing of water so that the baptized person may be crucified with Christ:

Sanctify this water so that those who are baptized may be crucified with Christ, die with him, be buried with him, and rise again for adoption.

St. Gregory Nazianzen expresses something similar:

We are buried with Christ in baptism so we may rise again with him.

St. Cyril sees the three immersions as a symbol of the three days of the Paschal Triduum and therefore, through his immersion, the Catholic is plunged into Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. In responding to those who hold that baptism only forgives sin and procures divine adoption, but is not a participation in the sufferings of Christ, St. Cyril maintains:

We well know that not merely does [baptism] cleanse sin and bestow on us the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is also the sign of Christ’s suffering…. So in order that we may realize that Christ endured all his sufferings for us and our salvation actually, and not in make believe, and that we share in his pains.

It is understanding the link between the early Fathers, Sts. Gregory and Cryil which bring us to understand the sheer importance that the sacrament of baptism plays in the Catholic’s life.  He is bound to the Church in a way which is wholly and completely unique. He is literally changed.  The sharing in the passion, death, and resurrection allow for the Catholic Christian to actually participate in what Pope Pius XI called the source and summit of our faith.  The liturgical action extends beyond the Mass insofar as it imbibes the faithful.  It is a way for Catholics to commune with God the Father in a way that is so intimate, is so open, is so awesome that it is very hard to compare.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ. (CCC #1275)

One cannot completely share in the Eucharistic banquet unless he is baptized.  And it is through baptism and with the Eucharist that we come to fully, consciously, and actively participate in the liturgical action.

In closing, Benedict XVI said in 2010:

With Baptism, [new Christians] become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection, they begin with him the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples. The Liturgy presents it as an experience of light. In fact, in giving to each one the candle lit from the Easter candle, the Church says: “Receive the light of Christ!”

NLM Interview His Excellency, +Bishop Sample

We try to post wonderful content promoting the beauty and richness of the Traditional Latin Mass, and I have personal ties to both Peter and Julian Kwasniewski, so this article is fitting for our Una Voce DSM group.

It was taken from the NLM blog back in early October.


NLM is pleased to present the following transcription of an interview conducted by Julian Kwasniewski with the Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample, Archbishop of Portland, in connection with the Sacred Liturgy Conference in Salem, Oregon, June 27–30, 2018. Much of what his Excellency says is highly pertinent to the Youth Synod taking place at the Vatican this month. This interview is published here for the first time.

Julian Kwasniewski: First off, I just have to say thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Archbishop Sample: I want to encourage you young people, and especially young people who are serious about their faith and about the sacred liturgy. I want to do everything I can to encourage you.

JK: The first question I want to start with is very simple. What is a priest?

AS: It is a simple question and it might strike someone as kind of an odd question — we all “know” what a priest is because we see them. But do we really understand who the priest is?

I think over time, perhaps particularly since the Council, there has been a reduction, if you will, in people’s understanding of the nature of the priesthood and its place within the Church. A lot of people have come to see the priest as what he does. The focus is what the priest does. Even that has changed a lot, but I think the average person might say the priest celebrates Mass, he hears confessions, he supervises the parish, he administers things. They see his functions; they don’t see his identity. That is key: his priestly identity. Who is he? It’s not so much what he does; it’s who he is, because everything he does flows from who he is.

So who is he? He is a man chosen by God, called to this order and through the sacrament of Holy Orders, through the laying on of hands and the prayer of the church; he is sacramentally configured to Christ the High Priest. There is that an ontological change that takes place in him, change on the very level of his being. He becomes something new, since his soul is forever marked with the character of the priesthood, so that he can minister in the Church in the person of Christ the head, in persona Christi capitis. So there is a close identification between the ordained priest and the High Priest, Jesus Christ; he is called to be an alter Christus, another Christ. All Christians are by our baptism called to be other Christs, but the priest in a particular way represents Christ in the Catholic Church.

He participates in the tria munera, the threefold office of Jesus Christ, as Priest, Prophet, and King. The priest is ordained to teach, to sanctify, and to rule or govern God’s people in the name and person of Christ. He is to teach the doctrine of the Church, always according to the mind of the Church and in harmony with the magisterium. He is a sanctifier; he is the one who sanctifies God’s people, especially through the sacraments, and most especially through the celebration of Holy Mass and the hearing of Confession. He is a shepherd, the guide of the community, he points the way to eternal life.

If we understand who the priest is in this sense — the sense in which the Church understands who the priest is — then we see that all the functions that he does and all the things he does flow from this essential identity.

To finish reading the interview, click here.

Participatio Activa & Participatio Actuosa

Participatio Activa & Participatio Actuosa
by Andy Milam

In 1987, my mentor Monsignor Richard Schuler wrote regarding full, conscious and active participation.  This was one of the very first principles that he would teach when speaking catechetically about the liturgical action and how man relates to it.  This was the very first principle that he taught me.  Over time, I will be expanding this principle; writing  about how we can enhance our participation in the liturgical action and how this can be applied to everyday assistance at Holy Mass.

The following are the words of Monsignor Richard J. Schuler:

With the constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, issued in 1965 by the Second Vatican Council, everyone became very conscious of personal participation in the sacred liturgy, particularly in the Mass.

But active participation in in the liturgy was not a concept created by the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, even the very words actuosa participatio can be found in the writings of the popes for the past one hundred years. Pope Pius X called for it in his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, published in 1903, when he said that “the faithful assemble to draw that spirit from its primary and indispensable source, that is, from active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.”


The Mass of its nature requires that all those present participate in it, in the fashion proper to each.

This participation must primarily be interior (i.e., union with Christ the Priest; offering with and through Him).

  1. b) But the participation of those present becomes fuller (plenior) if to internal attention is joined external participation, expressed, that is to say, by external actions such as the position of the body (genuflecting, standing, sitting), ceremonial gestures, or, in particular, the responses, prayers and singing . . .

It is this harmonious form of participation that is referred to in pontifical documents when they speak of active participation (participatio actuosa), the principal example of which is found in the celebrating priest and his ministers who, with due interior devotion and exact observance of the rubrics and ceremonies, minister at the altar.


It is made clear that it is baptismal character that forms the foundation of active participation.

Vatican II introduced no radical alteration in the concept of participatio actuosa as fostered by the popes for the past decades. The general principle is contained in Article 14 of the constitution on the sacred liturgy:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in the ceremonies which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.

Such participation by the Christian people as a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (I Pet. 2:9; 2:4-5) is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true spirit of Christ . . .


A true grasp of the meaning of participation in the liturgy demands a clear understanding of the nature of the Church and above all of Christ Himself. At the basis of so much of today’s problems in liturgy lies a false notion of Christology and ecclesiology. Christ, the incarnate Word of God, true God and true Man, lives on in this world now. “I will be with you all days until the end of the world.” Even though He has arisen and ascended into heaven, He lives with us. The Church is His mystical Body, indeed His mystical Person. We are the members of that Body. Its activity, the activity of the Church, is the activity of Christ, its Head. The hierarchical priesthood functions in the very person of Christ, doing His work of teaching, ruling and sanctifying. Thus the Mass and the sacraments are Christ’s actions bringing to all the members of His Body, the Church, the very life that is in its Head. Participation in that life demands that every member of the Body take part in that action, which is primarily the liturgical activity of the Church. The liturgy is the primary source of that divine life, and thus all must be joined to it in an active way. Baptism is the key that opens the door and permits one to become part of the living Body of Christ. The baptized Christian has not only a right to participation in the Church’s life but a duty as well. It is only the baptized person who can participate.

The difference between participation in the liturgy that can be called activa and participation that can be labeled actuosa rests in the characteristics of baptism.  It is this very sacramental seal that grants one the right to participate. Without the baptismal mark, any action we conduct at Mass, singing, walking, kneeling or anything else can be termed “active,” but they do not constitute participatio actuosa. Only through the sacrament of baptism can any action be truly participatory. Let’s say that a pious Jew attends Mass, takes part in the singing and even walks in a procession with great piety. In the same church is also a Catholic who is blind, deaf, dumb, and isn’t able to leave his chair; he can neither sing nor hear the readings nor walk in the procession. Which one has truly and actually participated, the one who is very active, or the one who has confined himself solely to his thoughts of adoration? Obviously, it is the baptized Catholic who has exercised participatio actuosa despite his lack of external, physical movement. The Jew even with his many actions has not been capable of it, since he lacks the baptismal characteristic which is the topic of discussion.

Through the necessity of baptism, it still is imperative for the Catholic Christian to take part in the liturgy actively by a variety of interior and exterior actions. This means that the internal actuosa participatio, which the indelible mark of baptism empowers, must be aided by those external actions of which he is capable. He should do those things that the Church sets out for him according to his role in the liturgy and the various conditions that age, social position and cultural background dictate. He must join participatio activa to his participatio actuosa which he exercises as a baptized Catholic.  In other words, his outward actions should first and foremost be illumined by his internal action.

What are those actions that make for true active and actual participation in the liturgy? They must be both internal and external in quality and quantity, since man is a rational creature with body and soul.  The Church proposes many bodily positions: kneeling, standing, walking, sitting, etc. She likewise proposes many human actions: singing, speaking, listening and above all else, the reception of the Holy Eucharist, when properly disposed. They demand internal attention as well as external execution.  The first thought should not be as a formal or extraordinary minister, but rather as one who joins in worship to God, the Father.  It is our first right, above all other to assist at Holy Mass and give all glory and honor to God.

The most demanding of human actions is that of listening. It requires strict attention and summons up in a person his total constructive effort.  It is possible to sing, especially a very familiar tune, and not be conscious of actually singing. However, one cannot truly listen without attention to that which he is hearing. Especially in our day of media attention, whether it be radio, television or social media, we are able to tune out almost every sound we wish. To listen attentively demands full, conscious and active human concentration. Listening can be the most active form of participation, demanding full effort and attention.

The Church does not have the entire congregation proclaim the gospel text, but rather the deacon or the priest does it. It is the duty of all to listen. The canon of the Mass is not to be recited by everyone, but all are to hear it. Listening is the most important form of active participation.  This is why it is often referred to as “hearing Mass.”

There is a variety of roles to be observed in the public celebration of the liturgy. There is the role of the bishop, priest, deacon (and sub-deacon), acolyte, lay reader, cantor, choir/schola, and congregation, among others; because each office has its own purpose and its own manner of acting we have the basic reason for a distinction of roles. If the lay reader or the cantor is to read and/or sing, certainly the role of the others is to listen. If the choir is to sing, someone must listen and in so-doing participate actively in the liturgy, even if during the period of listening he is relatively inactive in a physical way.

During each period of history, since Christ founded His Church, mankind has participated in the liturgy through baptism, all as members of the Church and part of the mystical body of Christ. Every Catholic Christian has shared in the right and duty of actuosa participatio. If, as Pius X insists, the liturgy is the primary source of the Christian life, then everyone must take part in it to attain salvation. Active participation is not an innovation of our day; the Church in her wisdom has consistently shared the life of Christ with her members in the Mass and the sacraments, the very actions of Christ Himself working through His Church and His priesthood.  It cannot be said that because the medieval period developed a chant that was largely the possession of monastic choirs, the congregations who listened were not actively participating. Perhaps not according to post-Vatican II standards, but one must carefully avoid the error of judging the past by the present and applying to former times criteria that seem valuable in our own times.  The truths of the Church are timeless.  Just as Palestrina’s polyphonic Masses require the singing of trained choirs, can one assume that non-choir members in the renaissance period were deprived of an active participation in the liturgy? No, of course not. The sixteenth-century baptized Catholic did participate through listening along with other activites, as no doubt an eighteenth-century Catholic did when he heard a Mozart Mass performed by a choir and orchestra.  The twenty-first century Catholic participates in the same way.  Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus said:

We are realizing more and more clearly that silence is part of the liturgy. We respond, by singing and praying, to the God who addresses us, but the greater mystery, surpassing all words, summons us to silence. It must, of course, be a silence with content, not just the absence of speech and action. We should expect the liturgy to give us a positive stillness that will restore us. […] One of man’s deepest needs is making its presence felt, a need that is manifestly not being met in our present form of the liturgy. For silence to be fruitful, as we have already said, it must not be just a pause in the action of the liturgy. No, it must be an integral part of the liturgical event. [The Spirit of the Liturgy, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), p. 209]


A very important aspect of the liturgy is the elevation of the spirit of the faithful who worships. At the end of the day, liturgy is the public prayer of the Church, the most visible act of adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and reparation.  It is offered to God the Father, through God the Son (as an unbloody memorial of that self same bloody sacrifice on Calvary once and for all), by the power of the Holy Spirit; and as such, produces true actuosa participatio. Thus beauty, whether it appeals to the sight, the ear, the imagination or any of the senses, is an important element in achieving participation. The grand and beautiful splendor of a great church or the sound of awe inspiring music, or the solemnity of the ceremonial movement by ministers clothed in precious vestments, or the beauty of the proclaimed Word and words of the Mass, all can effect a true and salutary participation in one who himself has not sung a note or taken a step. But he is not a mere spectator as some would say, in the post-Vatican Council II era; he is actively participating because of his baptismal character and the grace stirred up in him by what he is seeing and hearing, thinking and praying.

We can conclude with this definition of participatio actuosa:

(It is) that form of devout involvement in the liturgical action which, in the present conditions of the Church, best promotes the exercise of the common priesthood of the baptized: that is, their power to offer the sacrifice of the Mass with Christ and to receive the sacraments. It is clear that, concretely, this requires that the faithful understand the liturgical ceremonial; that they take part in it by bodily movements, standing, kneeling or sitting as the occasion may demand; that they join vocally in the parts which are intended for them. It also requires that they listen to, and understand, the Liturgy of the Word. It requires, too, that there be moments of silence when the import of the whole ceremonial may be absorbed and deeply personalized. (Colman E. O’Neill, “The Theological Meaning of Actuosa Participatio in the Liturgy,” in Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform after Vatican II. Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, Rome, 1969. p. 105.)


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