I will ask for confirmation from you readers, but I am seeing a trend.
The Motu Proprio is out, and we are feeling the calming of the adrenline. Official statements of dioceses have been passed, and posted and parsed. After posting lots of them, and reading even more, I see a pattern.
Many bishops were warm in an unreserved way about Summorum Pontificum. I must say many more were very guarded. Over the last couple weeks the wagons have circled around a campfire smoking with their Party Line: "We don’t expect the Motu Proprio will make much difference… not many people want this… we have already done enough… there isn’t much interest."
The diocesan statements are slowing, but articles and op-eds in secular publications seem to be picking up.
In the secular media I see articles from lay people in favor of the "return of Latin" and an older style of Mass. Some are imbued with a bit of nostalgia. Others convey a sense of wonder at a gem discovered in a loney place.
The really interesting articles are from those who are not sure what to think, but they are intrigued.
Take this item in Time.
In reading what follows remember what I have written in these pages. Pope Benedict has a very large vision. Derestriction of the older Mass is part of a larger project to reroot and rinvigorate a Catholic identity, for the sake of the Church within herself and then, consequently for the good God given work of shaping the world.
The writer of this piece will say things sure to set some teeth on edge. But consider if she is not precisely someone whose Catholic identity, through no fault of her own, is crippled and confused? Consider if the older form of Mass, even approached in the way expressed in the article isn’t precisely what some people need, even if it only jumps starts something dormant or quickens that which never had the chance to live.
Friday, Jul. 20, 2007
I Confess, I Want Latin
By Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since I last attended Mass. I have instead spent Sunday mornings attending total-body workout classes at the gym, after which I have been attending brunch. In other words, no uncommon circumstances kept me from coming to church. I expect as penance a boatload of Hail Marys.
I come today having heard that Pope Benedict XVI has just removed restrictions on celebrating Mass in Latin. Many of those who favor a return to the Tridentine Mass were born before 1930 and long for it out of conservative nostalgia. Not me. I confess: I want to hear Mass sung in a language I don’t understand because too often I don’t like what I hear in English.
Father, I attend Mass for reasons familiar to any good Roman Catholic: habit and guilt. Never did a Sunday go by in my youth without an hour slouched on a wooden pew. You see, my father was once one of you. Like many Irish-American boys of his generation, he joined the seminary as a teen and wore the collar until his mid-30s. On his mission in Japan, he met a lovely young Buddhist whom he successfully converted. After he wrote to the Vatican and renounced his priesthood, she in turn successfully converted him into a husband. I am one of four offspring of a former priest and a convert who overcame great odds–even scandal–to marry in the faith. Mass for us was not a scheduling option.
Though I was born after Vatican II, I did not grow up comprehending the liturgy. In Japan, Mass was said in a traditional form of Japanese too obscure for me to grasp. Twelve years of Sunday school–held inexplicably and inconveniently on Saturdays–did not help clarify all the mysteries of the missal. My father instructed us to spend the time in prayer. I inspected Jesus on the Cross and wondered what he thought of my life. I inspected the boy across the aisle and wondered what he thought of my hair. There were times I thought I would pass out from boredom. There were times I probably did. Not understanding all the words spoken during the endless sermons, I had little choice but to spend the time in thought about myself, my family, my God.
There’s something to be said for that, isn’t there? Mass became for me an hour-long meditation in the community of the faithful, reaffirming ancient beliefs in familiar if inscrutable chant. I’m not so sure that isn’t what the Apostles intended.
This changed when I came to America. At first I was too busy jamming to the guitar band at my parish to notice; I even joined the tambourine section. Eventually, though, the newly comprehensible sermons began to sink in. I clearly remember one involving a newborn baby left in a Dumpster that somehow in the end advocated against laws allowing abortion. There was that time you beseeched us, Father, to write letters of protest to a Senator who supported stem-cell research. Not long ago, your homily excoriated divorce. You used as your rhetorical cornerstone the 1998 Lindsay Lohan vehicle The Parent Trap. As if that were not galling enough, you failed to note that, as previously divorced people, the characters played by Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson would be denied communion in the Catholic Church.
It almost goes without saying that as a young, progressive-minded American Catholic, I’m at odds with many of the church’s rules and with much of its politics. You might thus infer that my generation instinctively rejects the age-old traditions of the church. That would be wrong. In a world unmoored by violence and uncertainty, there is something deeply soothing about participating in ancient rituals practiced by so many. Whatever our issues with the tenets of Catholicism the religion, we still cling to what unites us in Catholicism the faith: our devotion to the celebration of the Eucharist. I confess I adore the rich minutiae of the Mass: the frankincense, the Kyrie, the droning of creeds in a sacred space. It comforts me to know that my family around the globe takes part in the same weekly rites. The common purpose of shared ceremony helps me reflect on the Holy Spirit. With apologies, Father, homilies based on your Netflix queue do not.
Once I thought I had all the time in the world to mull over my quarrels with the church. The thing is, Father, I don’t. My mother has fought cancer for years now, and it is spreading fast. This is not a good time for me to deny myself the support of spiritual community and inspiriting ritual. In my desire to return to church, I see the Latin Mass as an acceptable solution: With your back to the congregation and speaking in a dead language, you would find it difficult to tell me how to vote. Allow me to experience the joy of communion without the anguish of our modern-day differences. Bring back the Latin, and bring back an embattled believer.
So, the writer is trying to be clever. There are signs all through that she doesn’t understand how a teaching of the Church on faith or morals is any different from a "rule". She is somewhat trapped in the idea that what she experiences at Mass must be in harmony with the positions she brings with her. Somewhat snide is the crack about a dead language at the end, and the issue of voting.
Nevertheless, if she is sincere in her desire for the Eucharist, and I think we must take her at her word, then we must also accept that what she has experienced lately hasn’t been helping her very much. And yet she doesn’t not separate the Eucharist from her daily experience.
She is ready for a new older thing.
Read it again and notice the moments when her language is elevated, when she says something beautiful.
If the older form of Mass could move 1 in 100 of these younger Catholics who feel like her, the folks inside the wagon circle will find they have a serious situation.