Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just when did free-standing altars appear in the Sanctuary?

Right after Vatican II, you say?

You would be wrong according to J.P. Sonnen, a St. Paul man currently studying in Rome and doing a little tour guiding on the side. Sonnen claims in his blog, Orbis Catholicus [Catholic World], that the first church in the U.S. to have their altar set up versus populi" [Facing the people], did it in 1938, and believe it or not, it was in the basement of the brand new Nativity of Our Lord parish in St. Paul. Sonnen also mentions that the parish received permission to have a "recited mass." I wonder what that meant? Certainly not in English, one would think. Ideas anyone?


Margaret said...

I am not a liturgy expert but from reading WDTPRS I believe Missa Recitata is as opposed to Missa Cantata, sung Mass. Nowadays Missa Recitata is what we all know as our regular form and Cantata is more unusual (and traditional). Then recited Mass was probably kind of new, and more participatory (since the congregation recited prayers with the priest).

John Paul Sonnen said...

Yes, it was the first "new" church to have the altar face the people when it was constructed, albeit it was just the basement altar. Later, St. Helena's in Minneapolis was built to have the main altar in the main upstairs church face the people, too.

A "recited Mass" means "Missa Recitata" which means a "Dialogue Mass" (where all of the congregation says all of the Server responses together).

Great blog. God bless!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Margaret and JP!


Being in grade school (in Duluth) in the 50s, I don't ever recall the congregation saying the responses. That was one of the "honors" of being a server. We could do something they couldn't do.

But I'm sure they could have, those that had missals, as many did in those days.

I'm in a schola that chants at St. Anthony of Padua in Northeast Mpls most first Saturday and Holy Days that occur on Saturdays.

Father Glen Jensen every Saturday celebrates a Marian Mass ad orientem and says many of the prayers in Latin. The congregation says the responses. 8:30 a.m. with Benediction at 8:10.

Most of the congregation is elderly but they all sing along with us for the Common of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, etc.

Terry Nelson said...

The Dialogue Mass was approved for low Masses to encourage 'active participation' - a notion which pre-dates V-II. In grade school our daily Masses were like this - we used "Leaflet Missals" for the responses. (I had CSJ's - their Motherhouse only blocks away from Nativity.) The practice was encouraged for youth and religious houses. It never caught on. The innovation originates from the liturgical reform movements in Germany and France in the late 19th early 20th century. The free standing altar was positioned as a revival of the more ancient custom, making the option of facing the people available if permission was granted to do so - again - for the purpose of active participation.

This archdiocese has always been considered rather progressive you know.

Unknown said...

Thanks Terry,

That must have happened after I graduated from high school and wasn't attending Mass. And Duluth wouldn't have been a hotbed of liturgical liberalism in those days.

But the Newman Club at the UofMN would have been, but I was rarely there.

Terry Nelson said...

Someone sent me an email that St. John's at Collegeville was to blame. Bad Benedictines. ;)

Adrienne said...

I still have a Dialogue Mass booklet from Nativity with the responses (that was my childhood parish)

Unknown said...

I've read that St. John's Abbey, for its size alone (once it was the largest abbey in terms of numbers in the world) was very influential in the world of liturgy.