From a reader:
Over the past 10 years have assisted at a few dozen EF masses. I usually go alone and sometimes with my very Catholic friends, but this weekend I took a group of high school students and their parents. For all, this was their first EF experience.
Most were less than enthusiastic going into it (don’t understand the language, priest facing the “wrong way,”), but afterward they were excitedly making plans for the next time they could all get together and do this again.
I heard a lot of the expected reactions, e.g. more reverent, “holier”, more intimate. What struck me was the varied approaches each one took toward the Mass. Each of the parents and students were all over the map personality wise, spiritually, and intellectually, but they all intuitively found a place for themselves and participated enthusiastically. Some insisted on following the missal the entire time, while others (who came in a different car and I didn’t get the chance to give them any heads up as to what to expect) did not even pick up a missal. Some embraced the challenge of trying to understand this or that prayer or gesture, others didn’t. No one had trouble following along.
For me, the EF had always been an occasional refuge from our poorly organized and largely uninspiring weekly OF mass, and, if attending with my friends, it felt like the “big boy” mass; something for those with a good theological education and a good deal of enthusiasm for the Church in general. My experience today prompted me to reflect on the highly pastoral nature of the EF.
Throughout my theological training (graduate level) it was constantly impressed upon us that we should “meet people where they are,” and that we should be prudent about engaging people on the more difficult Church teachings. Today I was impressed by how the EF did these things, and did them so “effortlessly”. I and the rest of our pastoral team have frequently bent over backwards in an attempt to meet people where they’re at; with the EF, it happened, seemingly, without anyone even trying. The Church did it all for us.
I hope I get the chance to assist at many EF Masses in the future, but I will no longer look on it as the Mass for the advanced. There’s truly something for everyone there!