I got a very interesting e-mail from a reader.
A reader sent an article from the San Francisco Chronicle with this explanation:
Hello Fr. Z!
Strange: in the print newspaper the article is "Latin Mass Makes a Comeback"; but on-line, it is " "The Latin Mass Under Fire in Oakland". Same article!!!!
Let’s look at the article with my emphases and comments.
Latin Mass is under fire in Oakland
Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008
Under the vaulted ceilings of St. Margaret Mary’s Church in Oakland, a revered tradition once forsaken has gained new life.
About 300 Roman Catholics go there every Sunday to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, a rite rich in symbolism that has been on the margins of Catholic life for more than four decades. [A positive description.]
But over the past year, decrees by Pope Benedict XVI have given the traditional Latin Mass greater official standing in the Catholic Church, opening the door for some churches to go back to it. [In the previous sentence, the point was made that it was "on the margin". Now it has "greater" standing. This is good. Often newstories say it was "suppressed" or "abolished". It wasn’t.]
Now, at St. Margaret Mary’s, grandparents [Which makes people think of "old people". Not so! I know grandparents in their 40’s.] practice the rituals of their childhood. Young couples are being married under a tradition they encountered only recently. People drive from all over the Bay Area – and beyond – to worship there. The priest says an elderly Modesto woman comes from Stanislaus County once a month by taxi.
But the revitalized tradition is drawing controversy. [Matthew 10:34] Some question whether the traditional rite is too outdated for a church grappling with the needs of a diverse membership and facing unprecedented challenges, such as an increasingly interreligious world. [Uh huh. The way to deal with challenges is to abandon our identity?]
Those challenges are underscored this week, which is Holy Week. Today’s Good Friday service has been criticized by many Jewish groups, for example, because the Latin liturgy includes a prayer for God to "enlighten" Jews so they will "acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men." [NEWSFLASH! "DOG BITES MAN!"]
The Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism released a resolution saying it was "disturbed and dismayed" by the prayer and that it undermined decades of productive Jewish-Catholic relations.
The Rev. Michael Wiener, who presides over the St. Margaret Mary’s service, said it would deny the core of his faith if he didn’t say the prayer. [Yep. And it would also violate the rubrics.]
"Is it appropriate today to pray for the Jews? Of course," he said. "It can’t harm anybody to pray for them. Either God exists, and he helps us and he loves us, or this is just imagination, and only ideas."
The Good Friday prayer is but one element of one particular day’s service. Those who attend the traditional Latin Mass say it offers a vast universe of imagery, gestures and song. [As I can affirm is the case, after being celebrant for the Vigil at St. Augustine’s in South Saint Paul, MN.]
Believers at St. Margaret Mary’s say the Mass has emboldened their faith. These worshipers speak of mystery and beauty and truth. [Rem acu!]
"It has been said that the traditional Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven," said Brandon Angelo, 34, who was not raised on the Mass but now attends seven days a week. "I truly believe it is."
Those unfamiliar with the Mass, even lifelong Catholics, might find it impossible to follow its many details. [Practice makes perfect.]
Gestures, garments and even the position of the priest have meanings. The altar is to the east, facing sunrise. [I like this writer! He did homework!] The gospel is said to the north, "the realm of darkness, paganism," explained Wiener, who also leads traditional Latin Mass services at the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel in Santa Clara.
Elements in concert
Angelo sees all the elements working in concert.
He feels closer to God when he smells the burning incense, hears the bells intone, and sees the symphony of symbolic gestures and movements among the congregants at St. Margaret Mary’s. [To use a term from music, it is like a Gesamtkunstwerk.]
The service "draws you in bodily by appealing to the physical senses, but it also provokes and draws in the soul."
Angelo believes some churches have made faith too easy. [And therefore uninteresting. But remember: progressivists tend to think that people are a lot stupider than they are. So, in a kind of benevolent condescension, they dumb down language and gesture of the Church’s liturgy and soften doctrine so people won’t be overly taxed, or they seek to amuse.]
"In some churches," he said, "there might be an effort to get more creative, the priest and the congregation try to keep people entertained, as opposed to holding to the tradition that God has passed down to us, which is infinitely rich."
The Latin Mass played a pivotal role in shaping Christianity, said Frederick Parrella, professor of theology at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution. [I would go farther: The older form of Mass helped shape Western Civilization.]
In the 16th century, the Catholic Church was rife with corruption. Bishops, cardinals and even the papacy lived regally, funneling church money to fund their lifestyles. Priests didn’t know Latin, and instead mumbled gibberish during Mass. Others sold indulgences, the remission of sins. [GRRRR…. Now this is a gross simplification. That was also a period of great holiness, too!]
At the Council of Trent in the 16th century, Catholic bishops led by Pope Pius V codified certain rituals and liturgy. The council also demanded a higher level of knowledge among priests and created seminaries, Parrella said.
The traditional Latin Rite became the dominant form of Christian worship around the world. That would change after the Second Vatican Council, from 1962-1965, which sought full and active participation of congregants. [However, the "active participation" of the members of the Church was always desired. You have to understand what "active participation" means in this context.]
The many changes included allowing the language of worship to be in the local language. No longer would the priest have his back to worshipers. The traditional Latin Mass was replaced. [Do you get the sense that this is now a different writer? I wonder if an editor didn’t get hold of this and start reworking it. That would account, perhaps with the conflict in the title of the article?]
Many traditionalist [Now they are "traditionalists"] Catholics were deeply upset, and left the church to form their own flocks. They have long gathered in homes or other meeting places. A group calling itself the Society of St. John the Apostle meets at the Fisherman’s and Seaman’s Memorial Chapel at Pier 45-B in San Francisco to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass.
An opening in 1988
Pope John Paul II opened the door a little in 1988, allowing parishes to worship using the traditional Latin Mass with the permission of a local bishop. Many local bishops did not, but the Diocese of Oakland allowed a traditional Latin Mass to be held at St. Margaret Mary’s. The ultimate breakthrough came last July, when Pope Benedict XVI declared that it was up to local parishes to determine whether they want to use the Mass.
Demographers say Christians increasingly are moving toward more personal, "charismatic" relationships with God – as opposed to relationships mediated by the church. A revival of the traditional Latin Mass would seem to defy that trend. [Again, I get the sense that more than one person wrote this.]
But on Sundays at St. Margaret Mary’s, the pews are packed.
Couples walk in with children, their daughters’ heads covered in lace mantillas. Elderly retirees and yuppies sit next to each other. Generations of a family worship together, in Latin, following rituals scripted centuries ago.
"I go because I’m a counterculture kind of guy, and to me the most counterculture thing is being a Catholic," said Rob Martinez.
Dressed in all black, with seven tattoos (in mostly religious themes) and 11 body piercings, Martinez said that the traditional Latin Rite "is a very artistic, deep … great expression of Christianity. It’s been the Catholic Church’s way of expressing worship for hundreds and hundreds of years."
But Parrella, the Santa Clara [Jesuit] University professor, said believers’ needs in the 16th century are different than the needs of those in modern society. And the church, as well as its worship, ought to reflect that.
Many Latino Catholics are switching to Pentecostal churches, which emphasize a more personal relationship with God. In the Diocese of Santa Clara, lay people are increasingly taking leadership roles once reserved for priests.
Needs of the people
"If the church meets the needs of the people, then the church is really a church," Parrella said. [Which sounds rather like the Church needs to cave into the world, even the ephemeral.]
But Parrella said many of those at St. Margaret Mary’s also participate in subjective spirituality. Catholics are obliged to support their local parish, a designation of geography. But these Catholics are choosing a parish based on worship style, he said. [Let’s see if I get this straight. Parella says the Church has to meet people ‘where they are at’, so to speak. But people who desire the TLM are engaged in ‘subjective’ spirituality. So, they are not supposed to go to a place that meets their needs, but rather they should stick to the geograhical parish? I see. Sense a problem?]
"These people who go to the Latin Mass show how modern they are," said Parrella, a practicing Catholic. "Just like the liberals who ‘parish shop,’ they’re shopping."
E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page B – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
I remember duing Papal April of 2005, a reporter at the Holy See Press Office who had come to Rome for the event wanted my comments about Card. Law celebrating one of the Masses of suffrage before the conclave. I gave her some points. I wound up being horribly misrepresented. She later explained that my comments were cut and pasted not by her, but her editor in SF to make it seems as if I didn’t think the scandal in the USA in those days was a big deal. I was pretty steamed. Thus, it occurs to me that a reporter wrote a decent article, but perhaps too favorable and the editor tinkered with it a bit.
Just a theory.