VIDEO: Does This 1944 Christmas Eve Mass Look Anything Like Yours?


Many of my readers have no doubt seen this video before. Nevertheless, it’s worth sharing again to highlight the timeless beauty of the Traditional Mass, particularly as we approach Christmas.

The clip itself is taken from the 1944 film Christmas Holiday starring Deanna Durbin, Gene Kelly, and Dean Harens. The scene below was filmed at Christmas Eve Mass at St. Vibiana’s, the old Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. As noted by New Liturgical Movement, the music in the clip includes Puer natus in Bethlehem, the Kyrie from Licinio Refice’s Missa Choralis and Adeste fideles.

Sadly, many Catholics viewing this today would find little in common with the Christmas Masses they’ve celebrated in the past. The liturgical rupture is too significant; the break with tradition too extensive.

For those who attend traditional parishes, however, the story is quite different. The Solemn High Mass heard by my family last Christmas very much resembled what we see in the video. It made no difference that one Mass was offered in 1944 and the other in 2015.

For that matter, the Mass shown in this beautiful clip would be immediately recognizable to Catholic faithful from 1544, 1644, 1744, and 1844 as well. But not to most Catholics today. Think about that.

The question is this: does the Christmas Eve Mass in this video look anything like yours?

Posted on December 21, 2016, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. No doubt the scene was not shot at an actual Mass.

  2. It reminds me of when I first discovered Tradition. My strongest emotion was anger, followed closely by disbelief. I just couldn’t grasp how we threw away all of this, on purpose. Of course I understand it now, not that it makes it any better.

  3. All my life, midnight mass looked like this. But then I was an Anglican. When I became a Catholic, I saw things that still shock me over and again, across four continents.

  4. It is exactly the same as the one on this E mail. The Vatican II awakes no spirituality in me. It is almost totally Protestant.

  5. It uses the ‘cast’ of the real mass – the celebrant is Msgr. John Cawley, 1882-1953, for many years rector of St. Vibiana’s, and vicar-general of the archdiocese. He would be astonished that 70 years later the mass was completely different, and that his cathedral was now merely a venue for fashion shows and parties.

  6. Was this shot during an actual Mass or not? There seems to be some dispute about this. At any rate, it is impressive, and sad to think what we have lost. I am blessed to assist at Mass in the same parish as Brian Williams, the author of this article, and I am happy to say that we have made huge strides in recovering a sense of the sacred. With the full support and cooperation of our bishop, our pastor offers both the Traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo correctly according to the rubrics, with as much dignity, reverence, and beauty as the Holy Mass deserves.

  7. I can honestly say that it *DOES* look like ours but we here in St Louis have a gem of an apostolate with St Francis de Sales run by our beloved Institute.

    One exception…ours is in full color 🙂

    Merry Christmas to you all!

    • Yes, yours does indeed look very like – though I haven’t noticed our lovely Winnipeg girl Deanna there lately! You should persuade Nick to sing the Refice mass.

  8. Reblogged this on Marc's View on Stuff and commented:
    I can claim that YES our Christmas Mass looks like this! (Except in full color!)

  9. No. It doesn’t. Unfortunately, in semi-rural America, we are often too far from locations offering the TLM. Please keep praying!

  10. It’s a movie!!!

  11. Hollywood Mass of 1944!! It’s a mass just like TLM (sic). Sacrilegious mass for ‘fake feel good catholics’. Wake up sleepers it’s a movie. Brian W feels ‘blessed’ by Hollywood movie mass. Shut down this blog and stop spreading SHIT.

  12. Kenneth J. Wolfe

    Note, this is not a “Christmas Eve” Mass (which would have been in violet vestments on the morning of the 24th), but rather the first of the three Christmas Day Masses, at midnight on the 25th.

  13. according to wikipedia, this is footage of an actual Tridentine Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana.

  14. We can doubt that Wikipedia knows anything definitive as to that! There is a powerful flood light from the right, presumably for the filming. There are also close-ups of the Sacred Ministers, and crane shots, that no doubt Mgr Cawley would have (rightly) ruled out as being excessively obtrusive and irreverent for his actual mass. Perhaps everyone was asked to turn up early for a pre-mass filming session…. There is also film of the choir in the gallery and the organ, but as I have never seen any other photographs of that part of the cathedral building.

  15. I believe, now more than ever, we must commit ourselves to the restoration of Holy Mother Church. Saint Jerome wrote, “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.” When will the great bulk of the sleeping Catholic faithful awake and find that the Church has become Modernist? Not in our Church’s official doctrines, of course, but in praxis and worship.

    Part of this restoration requires outreach. For example, what if traditional Catholics organized a unified letter/e-mail campaign to EWTN and encouraged their noble priests to celebrate the televised Holy Mass ad orientem? Imagine the crowds of sleeping Catholics who would witness this venerable, ancient posture? As Fr. Z likes to say, brick by brick.

  16. Yes Christmas Eve Mass looked like this in upstate (northern) rural NY…and it was standing room only.

  17. At least in the EF masses I’ve attended, the prayers at the foot of the altar begin at the exact same moment the introit is intoned, and they overlap completely. the chanted introit will usually last through the prayers themselves, right up to somewhere in the middle of the censing. The introit will usually end mid-cense, at which point the choral kyrie begins. by the time the choral kyrie ends, depending on the setting, the ministers have finished censing the altar, recited the introit, recited the kyrie, and gone back into position for the priest to intone the Gloria (then recite it quietly) before they all go and sit and wait for the choral gloria to end.

    what this video shows is a bit different. the scene begins close to the end of the prayers at the foot of the altar (“S. Deus, tu convérsus vivificábis nos. M. Et plebs tua lætábitur in te…”). But instead of a chanted introit, a quiet organ interlude is playing, leading up to the choral “Puer Natus” as the ministers ascend to the altar and cense it. they also seem to get through the censing quickly, before the “puer natus” is over. Then, they audibly/loudly recite the kyrie before choir sings it.

    Where did the introit go? did the schola get through it so quickly, that there was time not only for an organ interlude, but a fully interpolated single verse of a christmassy choral piece too?Or perhaps not being a principal sunday mass, and there being no asperges, the introit began straightaway when the procession began, and ended early in the prayers at the foot of the altar?

    Or could it be there simply was no introit?

    I’ve read that gregorian chant was a tough sell in some (or most?) places in the midcentury, and that many places had a long-standing practice of substituting chanted propers with appropriate hymns. Paragraph 32 in Musicam Sacram (1967) allowing for “alius cantus aptus” as a substitute for propers seems to have confirmed what was already a longstanding practice in many places.

    People had… interesting taste in the ’40s. I’m pretty sure most people here have seen that 1941 easter mass video narrated by Fulton Sheen. The chant is perfect, but the sung ordinary is simply awful. So I don’t find it hard to believe that a major feast in a cathedral in a large city might, as a way to respond to popular tastes and bring in more people, replace “stuffy” gregorian chant and substitute more affective hymnody. an organ-accompanied “puer natus est” fits that bill. So too does the “adeste fideles” sung after the second confiteor (I’m assuming the second set of “domine non sum dignus”-es after that (rather badly chanted) second confiteor were edited out, and that the adeste fideles coincided with the distribution of communion.)

    I think the EF crowd these days likes to imagine that the Pre Vatican II world was a golden age of liturgical purity, when in fact it was full of funny business, mumbled latin, optional (absent) homilies, and all sorts of other weird stuff. The liturgy shown here is beautiful, for what it is, but I can’t help but imagine that things like an “alius cantus aptus” would gnaw at the most devoted liturgical purists of the present day. As it is, a lot of musical directors of EF masses these days eschew congregational hymnody and the four-hymn sandwich, which existed in abundance long before V2…

  18. Devastating.

  1. Pingback: CHRISTMAS EVE EDITION | Big Pulpit

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