National Catholic REGISTER on Motu Proprio

Here is an article on the Motu Proprio from the National Catholic Register.

My emphases and comments.

Latin Mass Rising

BY Joe Cullen

July 15-21, 2007 Issue | Posted 7/10/07 at 3:05 PM

Summorum Pontificum, the motu proprio granting greater freedom to celebrate the old Latin or Tridentine Mass, puts me in mind of the mercy of God, and how he comes to the aid of his suffering people.

While not all of his people need or want the old Mass, there is a significant constituency [contrast this with The Party Line’s constant mantra that "a very few… a tiny minority" want this stuff.] for whom the lack of this familiar and time-honored form of worship has been a hardship, and Pope Benedict’s action is that of a genuine pastor.  [You mean, he isn’t trying to undermine the Council like a mean dogmatist?]

I am 50 and can barely remember the liturgy that started to drastically change when I was 8, in late 1964.

I first discovered the old Mass by coming upon pictures of President Kennedy’s funeral Mass in an old issue of Life magazine.

Later, I found a pre-Vatican II missal and was fascinated by the color photos of a young priest at various stages of celebrating a Mass.

Despite growing up in the 1960s in an “updated” Church, I was eager to know more about the Latin Mass and longed for it despite never having really known it.

By the time I was in college, this was largely behind me as I concluded that the door had been closed on the traditional form of Mass.

This was reversed in a meaningful way some 20 years ago as Pope John Paul II allowed for limited use of the Tridentine Mass. I found that my original attraction had been warranted, and that my occasional assistance at the old Mass is a great aid to prayer and faith at every level.

I am not alone — and most of the people attracted to the Latin Mass that I know are younger than me.

A now-elderly former colleague called me just this week to tell me how Sunday Latin Mass and daily Rosary are now sustaining her and her husband as he faces cancer treatment. They had been away from the sacraments for decades.

It was not as easy for a childhood neighbor of mine, a gentle and charitable woman who spoke lovingly of the Mass of her youth but who no longer went to church. Over time, it became clear to me that she was put off by the changes. She was too estranged (and too frail of health) to ever come back.

Based on what I have read and seen for myself, many fallen-away Catholics were disaffected by the drastic change in our liturgy — some without fully grasping that this was such a significant factor. Others avoided naming the reason so as not to appear out of step.  [Yes.  This was huge.  The "experts" who did this, who probably had never been in a parish, failed to see the psychological impact of changing the liturgy so drastically.  Change the unchanging, change the one thing with which you have the most contact in the Church, and you leave the impression that anything can change.]

The editor of a glossy trade publication, a man of 57 and a connoisseur of modern music, recently told me that, as a high school student, he simply lost his faith at the sight of Mass in English accompanied by folk guitar.

The late and legendary rocker Jerry Garcia was lost to the Catholicism of his childhood, drawn away by other things, no doubt, but he fondly remembered “the wonderful Latin Mass with its resonant sonorities and mysterious ritual movements.”

Many, like the poet Tito Casini, novelist Agatha Christie, and a host of other artists and intellectuals, were of an elevated sensibility, deeply appreciative of the beauty that all readily ascribe to the old Mass, and did not hesitate to identify the nature of their difficulties.

Through it all, God’s ways are not our ways. He tests us — and cares for us — in a variety of ways. I like to think that Pope Paul VI and his collaborators were doing the old Mass a great favor by insisting on a full switch to the new Mass.  [Hmmm…. that is putting the very kindest interpretation on it that I have ever read.]

It was in those years, the late 1960s, when the western world experienced profound tumult — a true cultural hurricane. When a hurricane is bearing down, you wrap your old treasures up and find a safe place for them, usually the attic, and you leave them hidden until the storms have certainly passed.

English Jesuit Father Hugh Thwaites is especially fond of this analogy because much of the blame for the collapse that Catholicism experienced in many places in those years would have fallen disproportionately on the Latin Mass — had it been around to take the hit.

Instead, the classic form of the Mass was out of sight and safe, and now those who remember it and those who are just discovering it, are reaping what the poet Casini foresaw in 1976 when he predicted the return of the Tridentine missal with the same confidence that he placed in tomorrow’s sunrise:

“It will rise again, … the Mass will rise again … because it is the sun, and God thus established it for our life and comfort.” When it happens, he said, our eyes will be found “guilty of not having esteemed it worthily before the eclipse; our hearts guilty for not having loved it enough.”  [Sorta like Joni Mitchell’s song, right?]

 Joe Cullen writes from
Floral Park, N.Y.

Very good points.  I particularly like the way he emphasized the dire impact the changes had on some, how they fell away from the Church.

IMO, we need, like never before, a vast, system wide project to bring fallen away Catholics back to the Church.

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17 Responses to National Catholic REGISTER on Motu Proprio

  1. Florida John says:

    “Through it all, God’s ways are not our ways. He tests us — and cares for us — in a variety of ways. I like to think that Pope Paul VI and his collaborators were doing the old Mass a great favor by insisting on a full switch to the new Mass.”

    Forty years in the desert was quite a test for us but we are coming out and soon will be in the Sacred land of the Extraordinary Latin Mass, our joy and Salvation!

  2. Arieh says:

    Father Z,

    Which Joni Mitchell song?

  3. peretti says:

    The seismic change in the liturgy, not only in the Mass itself, but going from
    beautiful choirs and chants to folk guitars and yes, even drum sets (I belonged to a Dominican parish that dove off the deep end early on). Those were the kind of things that drove me out of the Church, and for 10 years, out of the Church I stayed. What brought me back? The communion of saints. The prayes of my beloved mother, who was still with the Church Militant at that time. I spent my 10 years in a desert of my own choosing, and I will spend considerable time in Purgatory for that as well as my other mis-deeds. I’ll not leave the Church again, and I do not suffer well any fools who try to preach their liberal, evil-defending philosophy. I have seen that road, and it is a road to ruin.

  4. Xavier says:

    “Which Joni Mitchell song?”

    My guess: “Big Yellow Taxi”

    “Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot.”

  5. Jordan Potter says:

    Yes, I know of one man in particular, in his 50s, who dropped out of the Church because of the massive changes to the Mass. More recently he has been coming back to church again, in part I think due to the influence of his wife and their daughter who attends the parish school. But for some three decades or more, he was estranged from the Church because of the Mass. I’m sure there are many others in our town who dropped out for the same reason.

  6. William A. Torchia, Esquire says:

    Miragile lectu.

    William A. Torchia, Esquire
    Philadelphia

  7. Ooooops!!! Mirabile lectu! Parcite mihi.

    William A. Torchia, Esquire
    Philadelphia

  8. Prof. Basto says:

    “Through it all, God’s ways are not our ways. He tests us — and cares for us — in a variety of ways. I like to think that Pope Paul VI and his collaborators were doing the old Mass a great favor by insisting on a full switch to the new Mass (…)

    It was in those years, the late 1960s, when the western world experienced profound tumult — a true cultural hurricane. When a hurricane is bearing down, you wrap your old treasures up and find a safe place for them, usually the attic, and you leave them hidden until the storms have certainly passed. (…)

    …the classic form of the Mass was out of sight and safe”

    It reminds me of God’s command to Joseph, that he take the Holy Family into Egypt so as to be protected from the killings of Herod.

  9. Michael E. Lawrence says:

    “IMO, we need, like never before, a vast, system wide project to bring fallen away Catholics back to the Church.”

    Absolutely. Every time I pray for the conversion of the Muslims, I also pray for a reversion of the fallen away Catholics.

  10. Kate Asjes says:

    I am 42 this year and spent most of my life in ignorant bliss concerning the Holy Mass in AmChurch. About 10 years ago our family moved to Norway. There, my former Evangelical husband was converted by holy and masculine Norwegian priests AND the Novus Ordo. He had been to PLENTY of Masses in the United States, but he says today that he would still be a Protestant if we had not spent those 3 years in Norway. It was also the beginning of my own spiritual awakening. What was it about this Norsk Mass that was so different? The answer: Awe, Respect, A sense of the Holy, Dignity, Maturity. Clearly something VERY IMPORTANT was happening! It was the same Mass I grew up with, but not wacky, and unpredictable. Since that time my desire to assist at a Latin Mass has grown and grown.

    In Norway, we had Mass in English, Vietnamese (Tagalog?), French, and Norwegian on Sunday. I went to daily Mass a few times and followed along with the Norwegian by the simple cadance of the prayers, but it occured to me at those times that if the Mass were still in Latin, we could all worship as one without the language barrier, and the priestly burden of so many Masses just to accomodate all of the languages.

    I had never heard the hurricane analogy. It thrills me. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass was stored away in safety FOR ME and my generation. Could I be the only one my age, with a young family, yearning for this Mass? I do not think so. Thank you, God! And thank you PopeBenedict!

  11. Arieh says:

    Xavier,

    Wouldn’t you know it, “Ladies of the Canyon” is one of the few Joni Mitchell albums I don’t own. I am gonna have to run out and get it just to get the song out of my head!

  12. Ted says:

    I can sure empathise with this author. It brings back the memories of my sad experience as a boy in those days. In the end I was made to feel that the Church no longer wanted me, in that it was an exclusive club for modernists who professed that hootenanies were more sacred than all that praying in Latin at the high altar.

    Thanks to Benedict for bringing back the Treasure that had to be rescued and hidden away for a while, so that all those who had been scattered can now once again share in its wonders!

  13. Tony says:

    Yes. This was huge. The “experts” who did this, who probably had never been in a parish, failed to see the psychological impact of changing the liturgy so drastically. Change the unchanging, change the one thing with which you have the most contact in the Church, and you leave the impression that anything can change.

    I was 8 years old at the time, an altar boy fast tracking toward the priesthood. My faith was shattered. I wandered in the “desert” for almost 40 years (and I didn’t even know I was there).

    This is one reason I have a certain empathy for those in the pews right now. Pastorality (is that a word) should be the order of the day.

  14. Rivendell says:

    Reading this commentary made me think back to my own long absence from the Church. I’m around the same age as Mr. Cullen and as a kid attending Catholic school, I too was a witness to the drastic changes that were occuring. At the time, I really wasn’t aware of what was going on or how different the mass had become. I don’t have any recollections of the old mass in my childhood, although I’ve seen old baby pictures of my baptism taken in 1958. After Catholic school I moved on to public high school in 1970 and I left the Church around then, thinking that I’d never return. Now at 49, I get excited at the thought of attending a Latin Mass for the first time in my memory. There isn’t one available nearby yet but I’m hoping that there will be soon. I recently ordered a 1962 daily missal and I can’t wait for it arrive in the mail. I never thought this would become a big deal to me, but it has.

    I like the idea brought up in the piece that perhaps God in his wisdom had Pope Paul VI yank away the Latin mass and quickly roll in the new liturgy during the tumult of the 60’s. I’ve had similar thoughts. Maybe the traditional mass needed to be ripped away and kept from us for a while until, as Joni Mitchell’s song goes, we didn’t know what we had til it was gone. Now we’re beginning to have a new appreciation of it. All part of God’s mysterious ways. Maybe all of this had to happen in the way that it did in order for the old mass to be treated with new found love and respect. And hopefully having learned our lesson, we’ll be very careful with it this time.

  15. Diane says:

    Wow. I could have written parts of that same article. Since the beginning of these discussions on the motu proprio, I was doing a deep dive on my own feelings on the Mass, some that were apparently suppressed.

    Reading through this man’s article, I recall very vividly now, how I longed for both Latin, and all things traditional in the Mass from the time I was a small child. Yet, having been born in 62, I don’t recall ever experiencing it. My only early recollections are of the new Mass, celebrated in a small rectangular brick building when I was perhaps 4 years old.

    Even as a teen, I recall trying to teach myself Latin. I bought books. Then, I remember thinking, “what’s the use – no one is using it anymore”. But, I loved the language and the beauty of how it sounded. I loved it in Latin songs.

    Ditto with church music. I even played in a folk band (gasp), while interiorly longing for polyphony and chant.

    I too recall when Pope John Paul II asked that the older form of the Mass be made generously wide and I was so very excited, but then disappointed with the realization that it was so limited. It would be many years later when Detroit would have its first Indult and I, at the time, could not drive to St. Josaphat which was about 30 minutes away.

    With the impending release of the motu proprio coming all these months, my excitement grew. It was finally ok to want this Mass.

    The release of the motu proprio did something else for me. It affirmed what I have long suspected – that my longing for the traditional, for the Latin, and the sacred music and all that goes with these things, were the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

    Deo Gratias!

  16. michigancatholic says:

    Arieh,
    Don’t bother. It’s on youtube and you’ll probably only want to hear it once anyway.

    Knock her pitch flat about half a note, and she’s a prototype for the ubiquitous parish musician around here. Clothes and all. Can’t even tell 37 years have passed. Heh.

  17. michigancatholic says:

    No, God does not do evil things (foment disorder and disobedience) to bring about good. God guided us and we didn’t listen. We got ourselves into this mess with our corporate disobedience and in God’s infinite mercy, he is going to make something good out of evil.