The Ordinary Form at Holy Rosary


Holy Rosary Parish may enjoy the greatest liturgical diversity in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The rite or ritual expression that is most familiar to American Catholics today is certainly the “Ordinary Form” of the Mass in the English language. Naturally, Holy Rosary provides ample opportunities to experience this rite, also known as the Novus Ordo or even “the New Mass.”


As a prelude to the history of the Ordinary Form of the liturgy, one should note that the public release of this Mass ritual dates from 1969 and was accomplished by the authority of Pope Paul VI. At that time, the most outstanding feature of this rite of Mass from the American perspective was the blanket permission to celebrate the entire liturgy in the English language. For this reason, Americans familiar with both the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form, under the aegis of Pope Pius V (1570) and Pope Paul VI (1969) respectively, will often refer to the newer ritual as “the English Mass.” In technical terms, this is a misnomer since all current and authentic rituals or rites of the Roman liturgy are first composed in the Latin language and only subsequently translated into the vernacular, if at all.


The history of the Ordinary Form or New Mass is rather brief. Following the liturgical reforms mandated in 1962 by the ultimate and twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church (Vatican II), Pope Paul VI officially approved the idea for an organization of cardinals, bishops, and experts (a.k.a. periti) both to update and to adapt the relatively inflexible Latin ritual of previous centuries. This process of reform concretely began in 1964 with the inauguration of an organization known as “the Consilium.” It was roughly modeled on the workings of a congregation of the Roman Curia within the Vatican bureaucracy. Hence, the cardinals, bishops and ecclesiastics of the Consilium became directly subject to the Roman Pontiff in all their reform efforts. The Pope commissioned the members of the Consilium to revise every aspect of the Roman rite. Of course, the first ritual visibly to change was the Mass ritual. After its intense work and explicit support and approval by Pope Paul VI, the Consilium presented a reformed Mass to the very first Extraordinary Synod of Bishops (1967). This first reformed Mass was known as “the Normative Mass.” In essence this ritual acted as a skeleton for the current liturgy, known as the Novus Ordo or New Mass.


After the Normative Mass was celebrated before representative bishops of all the world’s bishops’ conferences in 1967, the same episcopal delegates voted on the reformed ritual and made further critiques of the same. By and large, the new ritual was found to be acceptable. A solid majority favored the overall reform. However, many of the details and individual parts of the new ritual were found to be more or less problematic for certain cultures and/or mentalities. As a result, Pope Paul VI required further study, critiques and reforms. In effect, Paul VI’s ulterior reform restored many elements similar to, or in imitation of, the older Mass of Pope St. Pius V. In this way, Pope Paul VI hoped to satisfy both the needs and desires of the world’s bishops for updating the liturgy, while simultaneously attenuating the radical nature of some of the proposed reforms through healthy recourse both to medieval and patristic elements from the prior liturgy of Pope St. Pius V. The end result was the publication of the unchanging parts or “Ordinary of the Mass” in 1969. This was followed by a decree obliging the Latin Church to adopt the complete Mass ritual and its prayers in 1970.


As in all matters of art and taste, the reception of the new Mass was mixed. Whereas missionary populations often embraced the reforms enthusiastically, Western and Central European populations, along with their descent, experienced the reforms as a mixed blessing. It was not at all clear how best to integrate several hundred years of art, language, literature and culture surrounding the Missal of Pius V into a ritual that was often ill-suited to the former forms of expression and piety. This confusion, sometimes paired with a libertine attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church’s perennial doctrinal teaching, led even to a total loss of this or that local church’s cultural and devotional inheritance. On the other hand, there was a near universal appreciation of the accessibility of the new liturgy in the vernacular. As it stands, the Novus Ordo is the de facto and de iure ordinary or regular form of celebration for the majority Catholic population in all countries within the Western Hemisphere. It also reflects the worship of well over 90 percent of Christians in union with the Roman Pontiff.


Why isn’t the Ordinary Form of the Mass celebrated in Latin at Holy Rosary?

Latin is a “sacred language.” This is taken to mean that it is a language that has been designated by the Roman Catholic Church as particularly suitable and specifically reserved for the language of worship. Of course, there are historical, cultural and theological reasons why Latin remains an important aspect of Roman Catholic Worship. Therefore, it is understandable that some Catholics are in fact attached to the Ordinary Form in Latin.

Though Pope Benedict XVI (cf. Summorum Pontificum 2007) canonically or lawfully secured respect and provision for the rightful aspirations of Catholics to worship in the Extraordinary Form, and thus in Latin, he did not provide for a similar provision for the Ordinary Form. In general, the reforms of the Consilium, as approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970, emphasized the advantages of the vernacular in the celebration of the liturgy. In fact, many regulations on the celebratory language of the Novus Ordo are provided for on the national and diocesan level.


The diocesan bishop has a certain authority with respect to use of the vernacular within his own territory. Though Latin is encouraged for international gatherings among persons of diverse linguistic backgrounds, and though the Second Vatican Council and subsequent legislation encourage the faithful to learn various prayers and hymns of the liturgy in Latin, no obligation exists to celebrate the Ordinary Form in the Latin language. Still, Holy Rosary does attempt to provide the worshipper with a diverse enough experience of the Church’s artistic and linguistic heritage to allow a notable number of hymns and musical pieces, including some from the Ordinary of the Mass, to be sung in Latin. Oftentimes using a “sacred language” is associated with enhancing an experience of the sacred. This fact accounts for Holy Rosary’s notable inclusion of Latin into the Ordinary Form. Granted the existence of a fully Latin liturgy Extraordinary Form, those who desire a full immersion into the Latin language are encouraged to explore the Latin Mass or Mass of St. Pius V.


Why does Holy Rosary offer the Ordinary Form?

Even if Holy Rosary has been designated a parish specifically dedicated to the celebration of the Extraordinary Form and to the Anglican Usage, it also serves as the Italian National Parish within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In fact, the original community within the confines of Holy Rosary’s mission and jurisdiction was the Italian immigrant community. After the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the publication of the vernacular liturgy, the vast majority of our parishioners of Italian heritage opted to follow the liturgy in the English language. As such, Holy Rosary attempts to meet the needs of those who fall within the scope of her historic mission.


Secondly, the popularity of Holy Rosary has resulted in ulterior acquiescence to the pious desires of many local residents and devout Catholics whereby they may satisfy their Sunday obligation with recourse to the Ordinary Form of the Mass. This explains the two Ordinary Form liturgies provided for each weekend at Holy Rosary.


What is unique or diverse about Holy Rosary’s Ordinary Form?

Each local parish within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has embraced the Ordinary Form. As one would expect, local culture is often homogenous. Therefore, it is not unusual to find many commonalities at diverse parishes within the Archdiocese, even if the liturgical laws and books do not always necessitate such uniformity. On the other hand, the liturgical law and books also provide for a legitimate diversity of local and even idiosyncratic customs according to the rightful aspirations of each pastor, parish and pious group within that very same parish. Provided that each individual and group respects the universal norms of the Latin Church, the Roman Missal and the bishop’s local decrees, the Church allows for a high degree of latitude in the manner and custom of celebration. Holy Rosary attempts to provide its faithful with a unique experience, often in contrast to the more homogenous customs of other Indianapolis parishes.


Some of the peculiarities of Holy Rosary include a traditional repertoire of sacred and choral music from both the Latin and English traditions of composition. This more sacral approach to otherwise vernacular liturgy is coupled with ritual options that are meant to engage the senses. Holy Rosary engages the worshiper through the use of incense, bells and ornate vesture and altar accouterments. These all betray an approach to worship that attempts to activate all five senses of the worshiper, yet in a manner that is familiar to those who have an appreciation of the age-old European inheritance of art and culture. The desire for such worship is primarily to offer external honor to God and symbolize, to the degree possible, His glory. The second goal of such a mode of worship is to dispose the mind of the worshipper to be passive not only to the sensible, but even to the supernatural. This is accomplished by heightening the senses, while encouraging a constant and harmonious form of worship meant to facilitate meditation and tranquility.


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Designed by Branden J. Stanley Maintained by Angie Mattingly

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church

520 Stevens St.

Indianapolis, IN 46203



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