‘MC’ Hammer

‘MC’ Hammer

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These Guys Get Liturgy Done

They are a generation apart, born on three different continents. But they have one highly unusual thing in common: they are all Masters of Ceremonies (MCs) for the traditional Latin Mass.

How did three men from such disparate backgrounds decide to devote their time and talents to tending the Mass, as it has begun to take root again in the highly secularized soil of the 21st century?

In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Manila, Philippines MC Miguel Madarang, Connecticut MC Bill Riccio and Manhattan MC Eddy Jose Toribio talk about the Mass and the role of the MC today.

Tell us about where you grew up and your early experiences of Mass.

Bill: I was born in 1953 and grew up in St. Anthony's parish in New Haven, Connecticut.  It was a liturgical parish, with processions, Holy Week, and Forty Hours devotions — all done with great solemnity and practice. Every First Friday there was an 8 o'clock sung Mass with solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a noon Solemn Mass before the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for the school kids. This all lasted until about 1966. 

By the time I was in 6th grade, things changed. We were told something so ancient was now passe and what was to happen would be better — that everything that happened before was wrong.

I was profoundly moved by the liturgy and couldn't understand the changes. They weren't better. In fact, the translations were like talking to God in the parlance of the supermarket.

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I was profoundly moved by the liturgy and couldn't understand the changes. They weren't better. In fact, the translations were like talking to God in the parlance of the supermarket.

Serving Mass, we were all confused — changing the book, where to stand. Even the priests were confused. Fr. Remegio Piggato, once the rector of the Scalabrini seminary in Staten Island, got flustered one Sunday morning and burst out in his thick Italian accent, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now saying the Mass backwards.”

Everybody hoped these things would be experimental, and we'd get back to normal. It wasn't to be, however.

Eddy Jose: I was born in 1983 in Nicaragua. My brother and I used to go to 7 am Mass every Sunday with my grandmother because we “had to.” I would fall asleep for big chunks of the Mass because it was too early for me. Being in a Latin American country, solemn processions and outside religious customs were popular. I always liked these things, and missed them after we moved to the US in 1997.

Miguel: In 1992, when we were being prepared in Parochial school in the Philippines for our 1st Holy Communion,  the teacher told us that “before the Mass was said completely in Latin, with the priest’s back to the people.”  She expounded on this by saying that, to quote, “now, the priest is facing the people, and the prayers are in the local language or even dialect of the people, but all that has changed is the language.”

As the day of my first Holy Communion drew near, 7 December 1992, my maternal grandmother gave me her old missal, which I only read years later, on a Christmas break. I quickly saw that, contrary to what we were taught in school, it was not only the language that was changed in the Novus Ordo Mass.  Everything was changed.

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I quickly saw that, contrary to what we were taught in school, it was not only the language that was changed in the Novus Ordo Mass.  Everything was changed.

Even as a lad, the transformation struck me. A few days  before, I had received our Lord in Holy Communion on the hand while standing, in a rowdy Mass from a wooden plate. Now, I held in my hands a missal where Mass was characterized by silence.

I then started ‘playing’ the Traditional Latin Mass, without any regard for any rubric I admit, save for the rule that this Mass was to be said in a low voice.  Unlike when I ‘played’ the Novus Ordo Mass and my voice could be heard outside the room because I wanted to imitate the priests I saw; now I was whispering every single word on that missal.

It was an experience which left me longing for an ‘actual Traditional Mass.’ My first actual experience of the Traditional Latin Mass came 13 long years later, at the Most Holy Redeemer Parish.

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Even as a lad, the transformation struck me. A few days  before, I had received our Lord in Holy Communion on the hand while standing, in a rowdy Mass from a wooden plate. Now, I held in my hands a missal where Mass was characterized by silence.

When did you get involved with the Latin Mass? Why?

Bill: I held onto the hope that the Old Mass — the REAL THING — would reappear. I was certain that nothing that good and that substantial could disappear at the whim of a committee. By the time the first indult appeared in 1984, I had seen a poster for the St. Gregory Society, looking for support to start an indult Mass in the New Haven area. I jumped on board. 

By that time I had returned to St. Anthony's because a priest who at least tolerated tradition was trying to bring back some of the practices. I became an organist and the Master of Ceremonies during Holy Week. We brought back the repository for the Blessed and re-instituted the grand processions.

To some this may be like a lot of externals, but to me it was a manifestation of what we said we believed as Catholics.  During this time I got a call from Britt Wheeler of the St. Gregory Society, and he asked if I was interested in becoming the MC. I studied the liturgy, read my Adrian Fortescue and re-learned the liturgy.

By January 12, 1986 we started a monthly sung mass at Sacred Heart Church, New Haven.  Ironically, the church is two blocks from St. Anthony's.  It really was like riding a bicycle. Things just came back to me.  From there, I got a reputation as “the MC from New Haven.”

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I held onto the hope that the Old Mass — the REAL THING — would reappear. I was certain that nothing that good and that substantial could disappear at the whim of a committee.

Miguel:  At university, a very holy Spanish Dominican priest, Fr. Lucio Gutierrez, told me “the Mass need not always be grand for the people, but it must always be grand for God” (sic).

In 2007, I became a regular Traditional Latin Mass attendee, under the auspices and fatherly care of the very same priest who offered the Mass I attended in 2005 – Fr. Michell Zerrudo. I owe much to the many priests, and lay people, who led me (back) to the Mass of all ages, but I owe Fr. Zerrudo the most, and I dare say that the Traditional Latin Mass movement in the Philippines owes almost all, if not everything, to this holy, humble and dedicated priest.

Elevation of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Rev. Fr. Michell Joe Zerrudo – chaplain and spiritual director of Una Voce Philippines – offers Missa Defunctorum with Absolution over the Catafalque last 2 November 2013 at Holy Family Parish, Roxas District, Philippines.

I owe Father Zerrudo the most, and I dare say that the Traditional Latin Mass movement in the Philippines owes almost all, if not everything, to this holy, humble and dedicated priest.

Today, in Manila, a scan of the congregation at a TLM will reveal a good number of young professionals.  A quick look at the choir loft will reveal to you a schola completely composed of young bankers, chemists, physicists, and engineers.  We also have students, mainly from the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas and the State University of the Philippines.

 A good number of our attendees travel through four cities just to attend the weekly Sunday Traditional Latin Mass, yet you will find them in Church an hour before Mass starts. Now that is dedication!

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“Today, in Manila, a a quick look at the choir loft will reveal to you a schola completely composed of young bankers, chemists, physicists, and engineers.   A good number of our attendees travel through four cities just to attend the weekly Sunday Traditional Latin Mass, yet you will find them in Church an hour before Mass starts. Now that is dedication!”

Since the Traditional Latin Mass began in Holy Family Parish in Manila in 2012, the average number of attendees is 130 to 150.  We are now aiming to increase that number by a strong information drive.

Eddy Jose: In 2001, I began to read about the history of the Church; a website, Vademecum, led me to the traditional Mass. I was curious about the changes to the Mass, and the consequences those changes had among the faithful, priests, vocations, and Catholic identity in general.

Determined to experience the traditional Mass, I found the Church of St. Anne in NYC. I went to this Mass so that I could see with my own eyes what had been given up in the 1960s. From the moment I entered, the beauty of the church struck me. It was well-preserved, with most of its traditional elements — real candles, big beautiful statues, flowers decorating shrines and altars, beautiful marble altar and communion rail, etc.

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Determined to experience the traditional Mass, I found the Church of St. Anne in NYC. I went to this Mass so that I could see with my own eyes what had been given up in the 1960s.

I began to go as many Saturdays as I could, then to serve this Mass; soon I found the Church of St. Agnes which offered the traditional Mass on Sundays. I read about the Mass, the history of the Church, and the immemorial ceremonies of the Catholic Church. I began slowly because without a job I couldn’t afford many books. But as I began working, I discovered looks on the Liturgy at inexpensive prices online.  I began a small collection of books on the ceremonies of the Mass.

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I read about the Mass, the history of the Church, and the immemorial ceremonies of the Catholic Church. I began slowly because without a job I couldn’t afford many books.

I also got involved with “The First Friday Friars,” a small group of men who met for Mass on first Fridays to practice the devotion to the Sacred Heart. This group was somewhat private; only men attended this Mass. Soon after, we opened the Mass to everybody who wanted to fulfill these first Friday devotions according to tradition, and I invited servers from the other churches. Soon enough, we had more of everything —  more people, more servers, a larger choir and more Sung Masses.

I became aware of the traditional Mass first through mere curiosity. After I attended my first traditional Mass, I thought it was unjust for the entire Church to give up something that had been Hers for so many centuries and to replace it with something that was not as ancient or as reverent. I always feel very moved and inspired by the traditional ceremonies of the Church.

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After I attended my first traditional Mass, I thought it was unjust for the entire Church to give up something that had been Hers for so many centuries and to replace it with something that was not as ancient or as reverent. I always feel very moved and inspired by the traditional ceremonies of the Church.

What, exactly, is the job of a Master of Ceremonies in a Latin Mass?  

Eddy Jose: According to Pio Martinucci, the Papal Master of Ceremonies under Bl. Pius IX, there are three main tasks: 1) to direct the servers and Sacred Ministers, 2) to ensure that the ceremonies/functions are carried out properly, and 3) to be well-versed in the ceremonies of the Mass. All of these things are needed in order for the M.C. to avoid and prevent confusion, accidents and undue delays.

In 1921, the American Ecclesiastical Review specified “… in the matter of obeying the Master of Ceremonies, there is a question of public order and edification…” In order for the Sacred Minister and the servers to trust the MC, he must have a very solid knowledge of the ceremonies of the Mass.

Many books and articles on the Rubrics of the Mass talk about the M.C. and his duties, how much he must know, how he should direct or correct — when absolutely needed — inaccuracies, and how he should behave while the ceremonies are taking place. All of this is aimed at keeping order and reverence in the Sanctuary.

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With the help and cooperation of the other servers, the MC also ensures that a reverent silence is maintained in the Sacristy and in the Sanctuary, and that everything is in order for the Sacred Ministers and for the graceful carrying out of the ceremonies of the Mass.

The MC must ensure that everything for the celebration of Mass is ready and in its proper place. With the help and cooperation of the other servers, the MC also ensures that a reverent silence is maintained in the Sacristy and in the Sanctuary, and that everything is in order for the Sacred Ministers and for the graceful carrying out of the ceremonies of the Mass.

Miguel: In my humble opinion, being just one of three Masters of Ceremonies, the exact job is to be the least of the servants in the liturgy.  This role calls for a service of love to the Mass. However, to be a servant, one must know how to properly do one’s ‘chores’. 

The current Ceremoniale Episcoporum is clear. We “should be well-versed in the history and nature of the liturgy and its laws and precepts… with a thorough knowledge of the rite he will oversee, must know liturgical and ecclesiastical protocol, and must also be of even temperament – very important in case of emergencies. He does not have to have a degree in liturgy, although it is desirable.”

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We ‘should be well-versed in the history and nature of the liturgy and its laws and precepts… with a thorough knowledge of the rite he will oversee, must know liturgical and ecclesiastical protocol, and must also be of even temperament – very important in case of emergencies.

Furthermore, “the certificate of competency granted by reputable institutions is a guarantee that the lay Master of Ceremonies knows his stuff. However, one who has been tutored by a competent liturgist can also be a Master of Ceremonies as long as he knows what he is doing.”

Since the Mass is now simply taught but no longer experienced in local Ecclesiastical houses of studies, we rely heavily on the wealth of knowledge of the Traditional Institutes and Fraternities of Apostolic Life which are in union with the Holy See, the decrees of the local Bishop’s Conference before the Liturgical reform – such as the Acta et Decreta Primi Concilii Plenarii Insularum Philippinarum, and of course, on Fr. Zerrudo.  We cling to him like a man in a ravine, clinging to a strong rope for dear life.

In a nutshell, the Master of Ceremonies is a servant of the Liturgy, a page boy in the Mass.

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In my humble opinion, being just one of three Masters of Ceremonies in Manila, the exact job is to be the least of the servants in the liturgy.  This role calls for a service of love to the Mass. However, to be a servant, one must know how to properly do one’s ‘chores’. 

Are there more challenges today for Latin Mass MCs?

Eddy Jose: On a practical and relevant level, today it is often common for the MC to be more familiar with the Mass than Sacred Ministers are. More priests now want to learn the traditional Mass and need help doing so, but they don’t have much free time to devote to learning.

So, it is more important for the M.C. to be well-versed in the Rubrics now than it may have been in the past, when priests were already familiar with the Latin Mass.

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The late Archbishop Francois Gayot of Haiti celebrated the traditional Pontifical Mass in NYC, wearing the ‘Cappa Magna,' a timeless symbol of the gravity of his office.

On a practical and relevant level, today it is often common for the MC to be more familiar with the Mass than Sacred Ministers are. More priests now want to learn the traditional Mass and need help doing so, but they don’t have much free time to devote to learning.

There is another challenge for MCs today.  After all the changes to the altars and architecture of churches that took place in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, we must allow time to understand what the current space of the church will permit. Very often, modifications to functions, ceremonies and sitting arrangements have to be made because of the very different configuration of churches in comparison to when the books on the rubrics of the Mass were written. Therefore, with this in view, today’s MC needs to be more flexible than an MC in the past.

For example, at the first Pontifical (Requiem) Mass at the Church of the Holy Innocents in NYC in November 2009, we were not allowed to move the New Order Altar. This meant that the center of the Sanctuary was not going to be as spacious as it would have been in the past.  This affected the lineup of the servers and sacred ministers, so we had to adjust.

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After all the changes to the altars and architecture of churches in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, we must allow time to understand what the current space of the church will permit. Very often, modifications to functions, ceremonies and sitting arrangements have to be made because of the very different configuration of churches in comparison to when the books on the rubrics of the Mass were written.

How important is the MC’s role?

Eddy Jose: The MC’s role has always been considered very important. It is still officially required for Pontifical Ceremonies, according to the rubrics for the Latin Mass. It would also seem very strange to have a traditional Solemn Mass without an MC, and it is very common to see an MC at Sung Masses.

While the role is critical, it is essential that any individual MC not allow himself to become irreplaceable or completely indispensable, because there are many circumstances which might prevent him from being available to serve — such as commitments to work, family, school, health. There always needs to be somebody else who can take his place without too much difficulty.

 Miguel: How important is this role?  Can you say that a coffee stirrer is important? To a certain extent, yes.  A coffee stirrer’s role is to be used to stir coffee, after which it is to be set aside.  The importance of the role of a Master of Ceremonies lies on the service he renders to make the liturgy solemn, not solely by his own actions, but by those around him.

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How important is the MC's role?  Can you say that a coffee stirrer is important? To a certain extent, yes.  A coffee stirrer’s role is to be used to stir coffee, after which it is to be set aside.”

Do you see much interest on the part of other men to learn to be a Master of Ceremonies?

Miguel: In Manila, the past year has seen a deluge of young men who have shown interest to serve at the altar of the Lord.  However, they are to be assessed by the Masters of Ceremonies to see if they truly wish to be servants at the altar, or just want to be “seen”.  The Mass is not a show, but an act of worship.  In short, they shall be measured by their fruits.

In the coming months, we plan to double the catechisms, talks, and trainings we organized this past year.  This was in fact pointed out to us by one of our affiliate-priests; “This movement is for the salvation of souls! Go and preach!”

Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

In Manila,  the past year has seen a deluge of young men who have shown interest to serve at the altar of the Lord.  In the coming months, we plan to double the catechisms, talks, and trainings we organize.

Bill: There is no formal class for becoming an MC. It's really a matter of giving guidance to those men who want to a) learn more about the traditional liturgy and b) desire to take it further by learning the various roles within the Solemn Mass or Missa Cantata. 

Over the years — yikes, more than 27! — I've tried to cultivate those guys who have an eye for the liturgy and see it as a means to contribute their talents and increase their faith (not in that order). 

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Father John Zuhlsdorf (left) at the Pontifical Requiem Mass in NYC on All Souls' Day, 2013.

Over the years — yikes, more than 27! — I've tried to cultivate those guys who have an eye for the liturgy and see it as a means to contribute their talents and increase their faith (not in that order).

At the risk of making it sound like I'm tooting my own horn, I've done dozens of tutorials for priests and servers since we started back in 1986. In a sense, Eddy Jose is a product of a tutorial I did at St. Agnes Church at the request of Monsignor Clark back in 1989. On that day we had a day-long tutorial for priests and servers, and some of the guys who were involved became MCs and have taught others. That's really how it's done.

Eddy Jose: Based on my experience in New York City and New Jersey, today there is great interest in serving the traditional Mass in general, especially among younger men. There is also a tremendous interest in passing down the technical and the practical knowledge about how to serve the traditional Mass in all the roles needed.  

I am not aware of an officially organized attempt (of large groups or classes), but I know that there have been some training sessions in the past for servers as well as priests, though they did not focus exclusively on the role of the Master of Ceremonies.

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Based on my experience in New York City and New Jersey, today there is great interest in serving the traditional Mass in general, especially among younger men.

So, how is this intricate knowledge passed on?

Eddy Jose: It is not simple to become an MC so quickly, after a class or two. This is because, besides the technical knowledge needed in order to know the ceremonies of the Mass for all the roles and functions, there is the experiential knowledge that comes from serving in many different places, dealing with different Sacred Ministers and different servers, as well as the different special ceremonies throughout the year. There is also a level of commitment and dedication needed to learn how to become an MC, which might exclude some servers because of their work or school hours or their family responsibilities.

At the Church of the Holy Innocents in NYC, we have at least three or four servers who can MC for Sung and Solemn Masses, in case the main MC is not available. These were chosen based on their level of commitment and dedication to serving the Mass. We typically alternate the roles, so that everyone can perform the different roles for a Low, Sung, and Solemn Mass.

Fr Rutler

EWTN's Father George Rutler preaches in NYC's Church of the Holy Innocents.

It is not simple to become an MC so quickly, after a class or two. This is because, besides the technical knowledge needed in order to know the ceremonies of the Mass for all the roles and functions, there is the experiential knowledge, too.

Bill: I have given tutorials at Holy Cross, Boston, the Diocese of Springfield, MA, the Diocese of Bridgeport, etc. In the process of tutoring or consulting with those who want to begin the Traditional Mass, I have attempted to single out one or two people who want to take it further into becoming a master of ceremonies.

At St. Mary's in Norwalk, Ct, one of my students from St. John's Stamford, John Pia, became an excellent MC.  In fact, he's surpassed the teacher in his knowledge of the rubrics and ceremonial and has made that church a mecca of doing things properly. There are three MCs at St. Mary's (including myself) plus another three in training.

Another great MC is Jeffrey Collins, whose book on liturgical ceremonies has been cited by some very high-ranking clergymen in the movement. I know because they've told me. His knowledge is just beginning to be appreciated.

What is the role of priests in all of this – growing the Mass and identifying MCs to help?

Eddy Jose: In my experience, priests are integral. Here’s a case in point: in 2007, the Saturday Mass moved to the Church of the Holy Innocents. Fr. Thomas Kallumady, the new Pastor there, had already contemplated the idea, as several people had suggested this to him.

For the first anniversary of the motu proprio we asked permission to have a Sung Mass. He agreed, and we had a beautiful Sung Mass with solemn veneration of a Relic of the True Cross. Soon, our Confraternity of the Sacred Heart started having first Friday Masses there. The Mass expanded from Saturdays-only to Mondays through Fridays, until finally we were also able to have the Mass on Sundays.

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In my experience, priests are integral to growing the Traditional Latin Mass.

I served all or most of these Masses and was in charge of recruiting and training new servers and of helping new priests become familiar with the ceremonies of the traditional Mass. Very soon, we had a good rotation of servers. When we started having the Mass daily, we were able to get a good rotation of Priests. We helped those who needed to learn the traditional ceremonies for Low, Sung, and Solemn Masses.

Bill:  Many times, priests will point out guys they want to learn to be MCs, and I will do tutorials with them privately.

One of the graces of the last few years has been teaching clergy the rite. At first it seemed a bit topsy-turvy — a layman teaching a cleric — but the MC is probably the best suited to do it, because he has to know the Rite cold.

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If done well, the Liturgy brings people to God. I know of many converts who've come over to the Church, specifically because of the traditional liturgy. It made them understand what the Church believes and teaches.

Each tutorial has been a way of not only getting the priests and deacons to learn the Rite, but getting them to understand that the ceremonial is an integral part of what goes on: it is a manifestation in sight and sound of what they are doing at the altar.

If done well, the Liturgy brings people to God. I know of many converts who've come over to the Church, specifically because of the traditional liturgy. It made them understand what the Church believes and teaches.

As I get older and face my own mortality, I'm hopeful that when I come before the Judge of all, what little part I've been able to play in the restoration of the ancient rites of the Church will weigh in my favor against, as the Offertory prayer says, “my many sins, negligence and offenses.”

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As I get older and face my own mortality, I'm hopeful that when I come before the Judge of all, what little part I've been able to play in the restoration of the ancient rites of the Church will weigh in my favor against, as the Offertory prayer says, “my many sins, negligence and offenses.”

 

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