Source of the “Dialogue Mass”: The German Youth Movement

Silence_Understanding the Theology of the TLM_FbWe will publish one more post on the subject of the “dialogue Mass”, adding our contribution to the debate, “Dialogue, or Not”. As laymen, we have no authority to dictate to the faithful what to do. HOWEVER, the known facts, convince us that the laity making the responses – whether High Mass or Low – is not a long-standing custom of the Church, but rather a more recent innovation, and therefore can be ignored by the traditionalist faithful who wish to participate silently at Mass. Here are the facts:

The Jugendbewegung was a German youth (Jugend) movement begun in 1896, which focused on outdoor activities for cultural and education purposes. For Catholic youth, the outdoor activities included Masses, and it is within this movement that Msgr. Klaus Gamber attributes the proliferation of the “dialogue Mass”.

With regard to the fabrication of the New Mass, he says, “Another source of the new Order…is that of the German Jegendbewegung and its DIALOGUE MASSES [our emphasis].” Gamber further states in the same book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, that “The use of responsorial prayers developed much later, during the dialogue Masses, which first came into use in the 1920s”.

Reference the older books on the Mass, such as St. Leonard’s The Hidden Treasure; Cochem’s Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; Gihr’s The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Dogmatically, Liturgically and Ascetically Explained, and you will find nothing that even comes close to advocating vocal responses to the priest by the laity as a means of participating. On the contrary, the older books counsel an interior attitude of recollection and offering of self together with Christ, as other “victims” at the hands of the sacrificing priest. The “dialogue” Mass is actually a subtle attack eroding the role which had traditionally been allotted to the laity: like Mary Magdalen, the laity during Mass were privileged with the better part, the part of silent contemplation. As Ven. Luis M. Martinez puts it, “Something sublime imposes silence.” The stigmatized saint Padre Pio actually advised that the faithful assist at Mass as did Our Blessed Mother – who stood silently at the foot of the Cross.

Continuing to quote Gamber, he wrote: “[f]rom the dialogue Masses came the practice of publicly reciting what were the priest’s private prayers. For example, the introductory rite used to be a dialogue between the celebrant and the ministri (the altar boys or Mass servers) at the steps of the altar while the choir sang the introitus. So too, were the responses, ‘Deo gratias and laus tibi, Christe, to the scriptural readings – [which] IN THE TRADITIONAL ORDO [were] GIVEN ONLY BY ONE OF THE MINISTRI [our emphasis].”

If the dialogue Mass is of recent usage – as Gamber’s research reveals – and “In things relating to divine worship, St. Thomas makes use of the prescription and custom of the Church as a conclusive argument to refute various objections” [quoting Don Pietro Leone, pen-name of a priest], why would traditional Catholics wish to emulate the modern verbosity of the N.O?

One last word: Please do not distort or misconstrue this post as advocating for the ‘mute’ spectator” at the TLM. Interior recollection, the uplifting of the heart, the awakening of a sluggish spirit, the longings and aspirations formed – these are all intense activities that demand one’s focus of heart and mind and soul, so much so, that often times, speaking only serves to perturb the silent, unseen, interior activity of one assisting at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The little book by St. Leonard de Port Maurice, The Hidden Treasure, is a gem of a book on how to best assist at Mass and to gain the most profit from the Holy Sacrifice. Any Catholic assisting at the TLM and following his admonitions cannot be considered by God as a mere silent observer, even were he to refrain from articulating any responses to the priest, as in the “dialogue Masses”.


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