Since His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has allowed the Latin mass to be celebrated by Priest without special per mission, many younger Priest and young Catholics have been celebrating the Latin mass more often. Do you think this is a comeback of the Latin mass? Do you the Novus Ordo may eventually be outnumbered by the Latin mass sometime in the future?
It seems almost like a war of attrition, doesn’t it? Whose churches or Masses will empty faster?
I know, this seems like a pretty negative assessment, but I don’t see anything to be gained by false optimism.
In the short term, no, the Traditional Latin Mass or Extraordinary Form is not going to outstrip in numbers the use of the Novus Ordo. There are many obstacles to the TLM, including the near complete ignorance of Latin among clergy of the Latin Church. The destruction of integrated Catholic education and formation at levels before major seminary saw to this, despite the fact of St. John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia.
Enemies within the Church knew that they had to destroy the foundations, so Latin had to go.
By the way, the Code of Canon Law in can. 249 requires… it doesn’t suggest… it requires that all seminarians be taught both Latin to the point that that they are very proficient (bene calleant). They are also to be taught any other language useful for their ministry. As far as the law is concerned for programs of formation, this is not an either/or question, this is a both/and issue.
The problem is, by the time men come to seminary, and men are often older today than once upon a time, it is a little late to bring them from zero to 60 in four years. So, what do we do? Add a couple more years of formation? Have a couple propaedeutic years for Latin and Greek, other basics of a classical liberal education which they ought to have had and which a Catholic seminary formation presupposes? What do we cut from the curriculum to make room?
I know of one school in Rome which has determined – with great courage – to reform their 1st Cycle to include a propaedeutic year including Latin and Greek. This is absolutely necessary. But the fact remains that men have to have a foundation in Latin before they get to major seminary. This simply has to happen.
Another obstacle to the TLM is the hatred that squishy-identity Catholics have for it, because of its emphases on sacrifice and it’s clarity about the Four Last Things. When you start experiencing Mass in the older form, you begin hearing “No!” to your baser passions and you begin to encounter something transcendent and, indeed, frightening. It is a harder path.
In the longer term, will the TLM survive and the Novus Ordo die out? I suspect it won’t look like that. I suspect that something along the lines of what Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI thought would happen will take place. That is, having jump started the more organic path of liturgical development, with the greater frequency of the older, traditional forms alongside the Novus Ordo, some tertium quid will eventually emerge, wherein the two forms have influenced each other in a process of “mutual enrichment”. They will exert what I call a “gravitational pull” on each other and the Roman Rite will organically develop.
What is clear to me, however, is that we urgently, desperately need a renewal and revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship. Without a solid liturgical base, no initiative of evangelization (or of “New Evangelization”) will bear lasting fruit. Every aspect of the Church’s life flows from and back to our worship of God, which we owe by the virtue of Religion.
Therefore, we need more and more celebrations of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
One of the reasons we need wider use of the Extraordinary Form is because of the knock on effect it produces through the priests who learn it. When young priests learn the older, traditional form, it shapes their priestly identity in a way that the Novus Ordo simply cannot. The deepening and strengthening of the identity of the priest at the altar will in turn produce effects among the people who are entrusted to the priests pastoral care.
Meanwhile, I suspect that we will see a more and more divided Church.
Far and wide we will see a deemphasis on doctrinal clarity that will, coupled with vague liturgical worship, produce weak and vague Catholic identity among a majority of those who self-identity as Catholic. A sort of Immanentism Lite will continue to enervate Catholic identity.
On the other hand, there will be some Catholics who are fortunate enough to have solid priests and bishops who maintain sound and reverent sacred worship, who teach with clarity true Catholic doctrine without watering it down under the pressure of the world, the flesh and the devil. I fear, however, that they will be isolated in enclaves, oases, ghettos. Through the Church’s history, in times of trouble, there has been a temptation to isolate, to preserve the core by separation. This tendency, human as it is, in part brought about the rise of monasticism. In the modern world, however, in which is nearly impossible to isolate oneself on a mountain top, I fear that strong identity Catholics may disengage from other Catholics and from action in the public square. This is why I am always nagging traditional Catholics to be active in their parishes, to be the first to get involved with parish initiatives and, especially, corporal works of mercy. Strong or hard-identity Catholics simply must be more engaged with their parishes and active in the public square.
We have to be willing to suffer and make sacrifices. That’s the path of the traditional, faithful Catholic. All else is … something else, maybe even another religion.
We cannot abdicate “Catholic identity” to the squishy, to the “Olympian middle” that we see on the rise in the blogosphere these days. In a way, I think that is more pernicious than the obvious radicals of the Fishwrap and America and The Pill, who are really feeling their oats these days.
Okay, I’ve ranted enough.
On that note, I saw today, thanks to an alert reader, this piece in USA Today:
Latin Mass resurgent 50 years after Vatican II
VATICAN CITY — Fifty years after the traditional Latin Mass was abandoned by the Roman Catholic Church, it is making a comeback.
The Second Vatican Council ruled a half-century ago this month that the Mass could be said in local languages while the priest faced the congregation. The longer Latin Mass involved elaborate choreography, and the priest’s back was toward the pews. [That old canard? No, everyone was facing the same direction!]
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI formally allowed the majestic Latin Mass to be more accessible to congregations. Since then, participation has mushroomed.
“Interested Catholics now realize it’s not some peculiar thing tucked away in an embarrassed corner,” said Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society based in the United Kingdom. “Once they’re in the door, the Mass speaks for itself.”
Many enthusiasts of the Latin Mass are too young to recall when it was the standard for Catholic churches.
“There is a movement among young Catholics to know, discover and preserve their Catholic heritage, and the traditional Latin Mass fits in with that,” said Joseph Kramer, a Rome-based priest and longtime advocate of the Latin Mass. “I think they are drawn to the liturgical richness of the past.”
Though figures on attendance at Latin Masses are not available, there is evidence interest is growing. The International Una Voce Federation, lay groups associated with the Latin Mass, said member organizations are growing in all parts of the world.
“I think people are drawn to the Mass’ beauty and depth and its internal coherence,” said James Bogle, president of the federation.
Churchgoers who attend the Latin Mass say the seriousness of the service is appealing.
“In my church in Miami, people come wearing short pants and checking their cellular phones during the service,” said Antonia Martinez, 33, a Catholic school administrator who attended a recent service in Rome. “This Mass has a more reverent tone that seems more appropriate for worshiping God.”