Pre-1955 Holy Week Permission Granted


I have been told by the liturgical scholar and Benedictine monk Dom Alcuin Reid that his monastery (the Monastere Saint Benoit) and several FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter) parishes have been given a provisional indult (for 3 years) to use the pre-1955 rites of Holy Week. What do you think of these permissions? What do you think that it offers for the Church’s sacred Liturgy?


Maybe you could explain what the pre-1955 rites of Holy Week are and how they differ from current practice?


Check out this series from New Liturgical Movement. It is quite comprehensive:


One of the biggest changes was the change from 12 readings for the Easter Vigil to 4. The ancient rite of Good Friday that paralleled the rite of Mass was also removed. The Missa Sicca (dry Mass) that was used for the blessing of the Palms on Sunday was removed and replaced by a completely different rite. Tenebrae was moved from the evening to the morning. There were smaller ritual changes, but these were the biggest.


In addition, the Mandatum (washing of the feet) was moved from a separate ceremony to after the homily (or gospel, if there was no homily). This is not in accord with the gospel passage, as Christ washed the feet of the Apostles after the Last Supper.


I think it is wonderful. A great deal of liturgical richness was lost after Archbishop Bugnini’s 1955 “revisions” of the Holy Week liturgy - richness that is absent even in the Holy Week liturgies of the 1962 missal, and even more so in the current “ordinary” rites. For examples, the knocking on the door of the church with the Crucifix on Palm Sunday and the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday.

Besides, a return to the pre-1955 Holy Week liturgies is more in tune with the charism of the Eccelsia Dei societies. The other rites of the Church were not altered until after the Council. Therefore, it is fitting that the Ecclesia Dei societies should celebrate the rites which underwent changes in the years immediately preceding the Council in their pre-revised forms, so as to more perfectly align with the “spirit” of the rest of the 1962 calendar.


I agree with you, and I think that this indult could also be given to diocesan parishes who request it. In fact, Mater Ecclesiae Parish in Berlin, NJ, and St. Mary’s in Norwalk, CT have used the pre-'55 rites for a few years without permission (I am against using the rites without permission, but this shows that there is interest among diocesan communities).


Indeed, I pray that the indult is widely granted. Too much of our liturgical patrimony is locked away behind canonical red-tape. Both the clergy and the faithful should have an unhindered path to access its beauty so that they can be enriched by the truths that these sublime liturgical acts illustrate about our Faith, and come to a deeper love for Our Lord in His Passion and Resurrection.


In truth, I think that the entire 1953 Missale Romanum should be available, but this is definitely a few years away. I think that if this indult is a success, and if it is continued, that could pave the way for the restoration of the 1953 Missale. I would also love to see a restoration of the ancient Roman psalter (as codified by St. Pius V), but right now, that seems to be even further away…



God willing.


There’s not a huge difference. It will be in Latin. I have the 1944 ritual here and it’s essentially the same.


Yes, the rites of Holy Week from the Council of Trent to 1955 were unchanged, but PCED (Pontifical Comission Ecclesia Dei) has specifically given permission for the 1953 books, as they it was the last editio typica of the Missale Romanum before 1955, and yes, it will be in Latin.


But there are differences in the Kalendar from 1944 to 1953 (new feasts).


An even more ancient one, in the form of the Benedictine psalter, still exists today and has been in continuous use in both pre- and post-Conciliar forms since the 6th century. In terms of weight, and some of the psalm placements, it is similar to the Pius V psalter.

You’ll never see the Pius V psalter in secular use as it is too heavy at 250+ psalms per week (Pius X reduced this to 150), and you won’t see it in any Becedictine, Cistercian or Carthusian monastery either as the proper psalter for those orders is the Benedictine one.

So in my opinion, your wish will never happen on any kind of scale, moreover Pius X formally abrogated the Pius V psalter, but not the monastic one.

Edit: you can compare the Pius V and Benedictine psalters here. They are almost identical:

Pius V:


You can see that the similarity, and the fact that the Benedictine psalter is still in use in both pre- (Fontgombault, Barroux, Randol) and post-Conciliar (Solesmes, St. Wandrille, and others) forms would rather make reviving the Pius V redundant, especially as its weight would make it very impractical outside religious communities.


Dear Ora,
I am well acquainted with the ancient Benedictine psalter, as I pray the office using the 1934 Antiphonale Monasticum. I would like to see the Pius V psalter in use in communities of Canons Regular, like the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem. The Pius X psalter had no basis in the Roman liturgical tradition, and as such, I would like to see the true Roman psalter revived. And don’t forget, Papal decrees regarding liturgy (like Divino Afflatu) are not final, as we saw with the promulgation of the Liturgy of the Hours. Just as Paul VI replaced the Pius X psalter with the LoTH psalter, so could a future Pope replace both.

In Domino,


Are they allowed to use all of the 1953 prayers?


I kind of gathered from your username that you would be familiar with the Benedictine Office! I agree with you about the Pius X psalter… yet I’ve had heated arguments on CAF with self-designated “traditionalists” who insist it is a “traditional” breviary. Not!

I have the 1934 Antiphonale (as well as the '35 Antiphonale Solesmense, and 1895 Liber Responsorialis, and God knows how many other liturgical books and breviaries; the Pius X is one breviary I do NOT have LOL!). Which brings up a practical reality. I can’t imagine there are too many pre-1910 antiphonaries and breviaries in circulation these days, whereas the 1934 Antiphonale is still in print by Solesmes. So either communities will have to put together in-house adaptations, or, more simply, adopt the Benedictine as-is without doing too much violence to Roman tradition as the two breviaries are so similar, a big exception being psalm 11 on Sundays in the Roman, and on Mondays in the Benedictine.

I can see the use of these breviaries by communities or chapters of canons, but not, alas diocesan clergy, given their declining numbers and increasing workload. The LOTH is here to stay for them. But even in communities, the Benedictine or Pius V offices are very heavy. The abbey I’m attached to had 42 monks when I made my oblation in 2003. They are now down to 26, and Vatican II abolished the distinction between lay brothers and choir monks, so all the monks participate in the abbey’s workload, which is not obvious for 26 monks with an average age of 70, with many in their 80s and even three or four in their 90s.

I myself pray a post-conciiar breviary, monastic Schema B (all 150 psalms per week with one variation, I divide Vigils over two weeks and use the psalms of Compline for the second nocturne, so that I can use psalms 4, 90 and 133 every night at Compline; this variant is in the General Instructions). I have no particular affection for it as it does even more violence to tradition than Pius X; but it’s what the monks of the abbey I’m affiliated with as oblate use. First and foremost I want to pray in unison with my community. When I do get too busy or tired, I use the LOTH, but do it all in Latin and in Gregorian chant. For Schema B, I do Lauds, Vespers and Compline in Latin Gregorian chant, the rest in French plainchant (recto-tono) with Latin hymns in Gregorian chant, following the practice of my abbey. One other reason I use this breviary, every Wednesday I volunteer as assistant librarian at the abbey library (I’m retired from paid work). So while I’m there I obviously attend Offices and Mass with the monks (their Mass is OF but also in Gregorian chant). For continuity, it makes sense for me to use their breviary.

(to be cont’d)


I like the modern liturgy, especially adapted to include the tradition of Gregorian chant. Have you seen “Les Heures Grégoriennes” for the LOTH, put out by the community of Saint-Martin in France? It is beautifully done for those wanting to chant in Latin.

However the LOTH always leaves me a bit hungry for more, especially Vigils and Vespers. A fellow chanting oblate and myself have dubbed LOTH Vespers as “Vesperettes” (it works better in French, our mother tongue!), especially week III with its very short psalmody. But I still like the LOTH when I use it and in fact is more respectful of tradition in many ways than Schema B, because the distribution of the psalms puts them in their more traditional places. Almost all of the Office of Readings for instance, uses the same psalms in rough order as monastic Vigils. Schema B puts psalm 109, traditionally the lead psalm for Sunday Vespers, at Vigils of all places, which I still can’t wrap my head around, whereas the LOTH leads Sunday Vespers with it every week of the cycle. So I find the LOTH a beautiful and compact little Office for those on the run.


Our local FSSP parish will be using these- I am not a parishioner (yet!), but I hope to attend there as much as possible during Holy Week.


As long as its not heretical, I can’t see any problem with an out of the way monastery and a handful of parishes that really want to do this, being given permission. If it makes them happy . why not?

If these locations were to just do it, without permission, it is likely no one would have noticed the difference. Prohibiting it, after they do the right thing after they ask for permission wouldn’t be smart.

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