I always say Mass at St Peter's at least one day when I am in Rome. There was some discussion yesterday about whether St Peter's had changed their attitude to requests from priests to celebrate the Ritus Antiquior so I thought I might as well be straightforward about it, go there and ask.
But first the normal procedure. St Peter's now opens at 7am. I am sure it was earlier when I was a student, hence half an hour of prayer in the square before getting in. There were at least 500 people ready to go in at 7am. Clearly the news has got round that if you want to go to the tomb of Pope John Paul II, it is not a bad idea to get there early.
In the sacristy, any priest can turn up and say Mass before about 8.30am. The sacristy provides everything including amice and alb. You are given a Roman style chalice (tulip shape) and everything is perfectly laundered and starched by the good sisters who look after the sacristy linen. Then an altar server (chierichetto) will lead you to a free altar. If you want a missal in English (or another modern language), the server will bring it for you. If you ask to say Mass in Latin, he will get it from a cupboard hidden at the side of the altar itself. Often the server will simply leave the cruets on the altar and go. If it is his first Mass of the day, he will stay, make the responses and receive Holy Communion.
So today, I turned up with my Ecclesia Dei rescript and asked if I could say the old rite Mass. The response was that the Hungarian Chapel is in use. This might sound like the exchange of a coded greeting in one of those black and white films set in the Cold War. What it means is that the only chapel where the old Mass is permitted in St Peter's is the (not very beautiful) Hungarian Chapel. If it is in use, tough. It is given for use to other groups. So if you want to say the Old Mass in St Peter's, you have to book in advance. However, I have to say that the Sacristan was perfectly proper and polite. If you know the rules and follow them, you can say the old Mass. But why those rules!
I told the sacristan not to worry and said I would say the Paolo Sesto Mass (Paul VI). I was rather hoping that the server would just leave the cruets and go. Unfortunately, of course, it was his first Mass of the day and therefore I had to try to remember the Novus Ordo Confiteor.
Never mind. It is always a great thing to say Mass in St Peter's. I managed to get to confession as well and gain another plenary indulgence, Deo volente.