Old Mass/new Mass thoughts – part 6

Under another entry there has been some consideration of the age of Catholics who prefer the newer form of the Roman Rite, the Novus Ordo. 

Some suggest that people of a certain age may be more interested in the Novus Ordo, while younger people are more open also to the older form of Mass, the TLM.

So, would some of you younger folks take some time to write your thoughts about the new Mass/old Mass question?

I also invite seasoned Catholics to do the same.

Let’s see some responses.

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  1. Response:

    I am a 65 year old woman, well formed in the old liturgy and discipline of the Church. I was in my late teens/early twenties when the changes started to come down – the very worst age to deal with the instability also occurring in society at the same time. When I looked to the Church, the rock I always depended on, for guidance, I found she was also changing. I was working at a university then and the Catholic chaplain put on some very strange experimental liturgies. His freewheeling theology kept me always just a little off balance. I left the Church to join the revolution, not so much because of the liturgy mess. I came back to the Church 18 years later after a very intense conversion experience. It felt like I was in a time warp. I got used to the new Mass, but after some years I became restless. I attended the indult Mass a few times and was drawn back by my vivid memory of the prayers. I dug out my St. Joseph Daily Missal from 1957 and basked in the beautiful old prayers on the English side that seemed engraved on my very brain. This was how Mass was supposed to sound. I joined the newly forming schola and now I’m chanting the Mass in Latin, praying the office partly in Latin, and observing the old calendar and devotions. Is it nostalgia? Well, partly that, and partly all the wonderful music I’m learning. I feel downright deprived if I have to attend a new Mass.


  2. Response:

    My husband and I sought out and travel one hour each way to attend a parish that offers a TLM. Prior to the indult, this parish offered a Novus Order Latin Mass as its High Mass and offered about 5 other Masses on the weekend in English. After the indult, they retained the Novus Order Latin Mass as the High Mass and added a TLM Low Mass. Even though my parish offers 2 Latin Masses every weekend, we almost always go to the English Mass. This may strike some as odd, but I can explain. I knew that any parish that offered any Latin Mass would be more orthodox and more respectful of the Catholic tradition than one which did not. From the fact that the parish offered a TLM, I could easily predict that (i) the Tabernacle would be in the center of the church (and not stuck in the broom closet), (ii) they probably would have all male alter boys (and no alter chicks), (iii) there would not be any electric guitar music (and maybe I could get lucky and get some chanting), (iv) they would probably have more Masses offered and more confession times available than other parishes, (v) the vestments would be beautiful and tasteful, (vi) the homily would be not heretical (and perhaps I might actually learn something), and (vii) they would say the black and do the red. Almost every prediction I made was correct (recently an electric guitar was introduced at the 8 PM Sunday Mass. My husband and I took every opportunity to mock this non-liturgical instrument and it has thankfully gone away, I hope never to return). The TLM was a proxy for a good parish, and this parish exceeded our expectations (birettas, 40 hours devotion, 24-7 Eucharistic adoration etc). 

    So if we like traditional beautiful things, why don’t we attend the TLM? My husband and I just find it too distracting to try to follow along in the booklets. I am constantly fumbling and cannot participate as fully as I can when I am listening to the words in English. Incidentally, this is not because we have no Latin: my husband can sight-translate Aquinas and I took two years of Latin at Columbia, and we still have this problem, largely because (a) to follow the text, you have to constantly flip through the book, and (b) the priest doesn’t always pronounce or parse the Latin correctly. We can follow the Novus Order Latin Mass better than the TLM, but I personally get more out of it if I can follow it more easily. These ICEL people have done us a great injustice by their horrible translation, and I have never heard a good reason as to why we cannot just have the TLM exactly as it is in English. The translations are sublime. I know I am preaching to the choir, but the ICEL translations are an abomination (which is why I love your site). 

    I am 39 years old and was baptised Catholic but my mother is not Catholic and my father does not practice. My parents divorced when I was very young, but my mother kept her promise to raise me Catholic. I went to Catholic school and the parish associated with my school was very orthodox and traditional (in the 1970s-80s everyone still received communion knelling at the Communion rail (mostly on the tongue but you had the choice)), parts of the Mass were retained in Latin, chant, etc. I joined the junior Legion of Mary when I was 12 and learned my faith from the adult mentor of the junior Legion of Mary (a man who drove a bread truck for a living) and from the great homilies given by the priests of that parish. As a teenager, I was profoundly affected by the heavy hand of the bishop who used every means in his power to force the pastor to “conform to Vatican II.” I really had no idea how unusual the parish was or graced I was that I attended it until I left home for college in 1988 and saw the vast wasteland that’s left in upstate NY (Bishop Matthew Clark’s diocese). I went to the “Catholic” Mass offered by the Catholic campus ministry. I truly did not recognize it as a Catholic Mass. I called my husband (who was then my boyfriend) and told him that I must have gone to a protestant service by mistake. Besides the hideous music, the liturgical dance, the clown vestments and everything about the “worship space”, they had written their own Eucharistic Prayers that had phrases like “save us from the bondage of capitalism.” My time in upstate NY was like being lost in the wilderness (I did not own a car so was forced to endure what I had access to). I stuck it out and went to Mass every week with gritted teeth.


  3. Response:

    I’m 28, a cradle Catholic living in Texas.  I spent a few years in college away from regularly going to Mass, however I am now back at the hard work of following the narrow path.  My usual Sundays are NO masses, however some of the Dominicans at Holy Rosary Parish in Houston (I mention this only in case other readers from Houston aren’t aware of this opportunity) offer TLM each Sunday, and I have been to TLM a handful of times.  I would go more, but the time is inconvenient for me at the moment, and although I can honestly say that I’d prefer TLM more than NO, that preference isn’t strong enough to keep me from going at that time because I have access to other respectful NO masses that use the Communion rail and still offer some of the prayers of the mass in Latin.  My impression (based on just a small number of times attending TLM) is that the ritual of the alter is heightened during Latin mass, and that there seems like there would be far, far fewer places where it’s even possible for accidental or purposeful alteration of the liturgy, especially during the consecration.  I must add that my personal preference to see an expansion of TLM is also based partly on negative experiences that I’ve had in some parishes with NO, as well as the Holy Father’s own advocacy of TLM.  I’m not exactly sure why, but for some reason I try to listen and respect what Il Papa says!  

  4. Response:

    I am a 46-year-old “re-vert” married to a 39-year-old convert, with five boys ranging from 3m- 11y.  I am at work and don’t really have time to write at length but I find this topic fascinating and after reading some of the comments you’ve posted so far I wanted to chime-in.  My earliest memories of Mass (Latin and ad orientem) in a very conservative parish ca. 1965-67 were: “I don’t know what those guys are doing but wow they take it seriously!”  By the time I was a teenager the Church had entered the Age of Aquarius and my own impression precisely mirrored that of your earlier correspondent who “was unable to take seriously a Church that did not appear to take herself seriously”!  It is hardly surprising that I dropped-out around age 18.

    When I returned to the practice of the Faith eight years later it was usually a chore to attend Mass.  It was only after discovering the indult Mass in the early ‘90s that I began to take the Church seriously again, ironically at a time when most Catholics who chose to attend the T.L.M. were routinely marginalized by the institutional Church.  Even though I only attended it sporadically, it was comforting to know that it was there, and that there were still some grown-ups in the Church.

    I’ve heard this theme again and again – from my wife, who went through R.C.I.A. twice without converting but swam the Tiber within months of the time we began attending the T.L.M. exclusively in 2000; from my own kids, two of whom serve the T.L.M. and who simply cannot believe that they’ve really been to Mass after they attend the Ordinary Form; and from numerous converts and “re-verts” – the Ordinary Form as celebrated in most parishes is simply not the liturgy of a Church that takes itself seriously!  Conversely, you’ve mentioned the theme of “Catholic Identity” quite often, and nowhere do I see it more vividly exemplified than in the Extraordinary Form.


  5. Response:

    My preference is quite strongly for the Novus Ordo, provided that the mass is celebrated reverently and with dignity. 

    I’m a Catholic convert in my mid-40’s: until my early 20’s I was a committed, practising Anglican in the Church of England. 

    Liturgy had a large part to play in my decision to become a Catholic. The first time I attended a mass I was struck by how Real the presence of God felt. It was a Novus Ordo mass in English and the first Eucharistic Prayer was used. Seeing and hearing very clearly the mass offered was quite a revelation to me – the feeling of God’s presence was astonishing. The difference between the Anglican and the Catholic Eucharist was like the difference between seeing an old black and white film of a great event and actually being present with a front row seat! What I had previously seen only “through a glass darkly” was now really present and clearly visible before my eyes! Bearing in mind that this, the first mass I had ever attended, was a fairly informal student mass, with a guitar/folk group and modern songs and hymns (not my personal preference for worship), I was, as someone who is basically a traditionalist, quite “bowled over” by the tangible holiness of that mass. 

    I doubt if a Tridentine Rite low Mass, with a large part of the mass virtually inaudible and much of the ritual invisible to me, would have had the same effect on me.

    In short, the Novus Ordo, vernacular, folk-music Mass really caught my imagination (despite my being an Anglican traditionalist in matters liturgical) and was a significant factor in my becoming a Catholic.


  6. Response:

    I’m a 24 yo cradle catholic raised in the Rome of the West (Saint Louis), and now residing in Columbus, OH with my wife (same age, a convert at 22) for graduate study. I grew up in a NO parish. I was fortunate that my pastor (from age 6 to 22) focused on the mass and resisted ad libbing, teen masses, etc. that went on at surrounding parishes. As I grew up I became more interested in the older form of the mass (I took Latin in high school and really got into chant), that Catholics had always celebrated until my parents generation. I’ve attended about a dozen EF masses and really prefer the EF to the NO, although I see the positives and negatives of both forms. Honestly with the new translation of the Missale Romanum coming out soon (Advent 2010?), an increase in real Catholic music (like chant) and contemporary music by real Catholic composers (e.g. Proulx), and sticking to the rubrics, I would happily attend an NO mass for the rest of my life (ad orientem would be a nice bonus).

  7. Response:

    I’m a 27-year-old cradle Catholic.  I grew up with a very orthodox pastor who said the Ordinary Form reverently.  Mass was versus populum in a beautiful church.  No Gregorian Chant, but the hymns were infinitely better than they are in my current parish.  Father got me involved as an altar server as soon as I made my first Holy Communion.  As I grew he hired me as parish sexton and for snow removal during the winter.  My love of the Church, the Mass, and life with as strong a Catholic culture as could be expected in the 1990s was fostered in that parish and with the Novus Ordo.

    Now then, my parish was closed in 1999 and we moved on to the neighboring parish.  The music is horrible, the EMHC are distracting, and the wreckovation of the Church is far more noticeable than in my first parish.  That being said, the priests are orthodox.

    In 2000 I started at Boston College.  I returned home for Sunday Mass whenever possible, but when attending at either a campus chapel or the Jesuit run parish on campus the liturgical life was scandalous and often infuriating.  Liturgical abuse was the norm and the priests were almost always heterodox.

    After graduation to the present day I am back in my second parish.  A few years ago, however, I took the initiative to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at the home parish of the Latin Mass community of the Archdiocese of Boston (pre-SP).  I don’t know Latin and I was a bit lost thumbing through the missalette, but I LOVED it.  The simple act of the priest facing the altar instead of me, the often quite prayers that I couldn’t even hear gave the new sensation of their actually being addressed to God instead of being performed for me, the rich, beautiful, prayerful chant, the quite time for reflection instead of constant rote responses – it was everything the Mass should be.

    I look forward to the day when the EF is said all over the place and I don’t have to make special treks to someone else’s parish.  I want to remain in my parish, I want to have that home base, but I want the OF improved.  I want the OF and the EF to enrich each other (although I suspect that will be largely a one way street).  If only we could say the OF Mass ad orientum, with altar rails, Gregorian Chant, more Latin, and more QUIET time, I think we would be well on our way to reclaiming our liturgical heritage.  And this orthopraxy can only lead to greater orthodoxy.



  8. Response:

    I am 53 years old, I converted to the Church 4 years ago after being an ‘Anglo-Catholic’ church goer all my adult life. For a long time I saw my journey to Rome as inevitable but the thought of enduring the horrors of ICEL English, guitar choruses and churches that looked like they had been redecorated by the Presbyterians put me off. When I first became a Catholic, I was careful to go only to NO masses — having spent so long in the exotic recesses of Anglo-Papalism, I did not wish to retreat into another liturgical ghetto. Nevertheless even the ‘conservative’ Catholic parishes I attended (‘versus populum’, altar girls, no incense, no lavabo, etc) left me longing for beauty and dignity in worship. I started to attend the Extraordinary Rite regularly. At first it was to be once a month, but before long I was there every Sunday and that it where I intend to remain.

  9. Response:

    Thank you for this opportunity.  I am a convert to the Catholic faith from Evangelicalism.  I chose to convert primarily because as an Evangelical I increasing found myself asking: “What is the point of our Sunday ‘worship’ services, and how precisely should we understand them as ‘worship’?”  I was genuinely confused.  Was worship to be defined as singing emotionally charged—though often quite insipid—praise songs at a ‘church’ service?  Why should it be?  I could gather with friends to do that anywhere, so what was the point in going to ‘church’?  Or was worship to be found in the act of listening to the pastor’s sermon?  As a Protestant, I was exhorted to study the Scriptures for myself—as the highest of virtues—so why should I privilege any particular pastors’ opinion over my own, let alone deem it an act of worship?  Or perhaps worship was in the gathering of community that took place at ‘church’.  But then again, I could build community with my Christian friends much more successfully outside of a structured hour on Sunday.  So again, I was faced with the question, what is the point of all this?

    Thanks be to God it was at that moment in life that I was introduced to Catholicism.  And what Catholicism is was!  At the time (2005) I was living in Chicago, and was blessed beyond imagining to attend my first Mass ever in the Extraordinary Form at St. John Cantius.  There, at last, was a definitive answer to all my confusion regarding worship, and how ought it be conducted.  I was floored.  Completely blown away.  I will never forget the first time I saw a woman prostrating herself before the Blessed Sacrament.  To steal a line from Lewis, it was for me like lightning from a clear sky.  I was thunderstruck.  I simply had no categories in which to comprehend what I was seeing.  And then, the Mass itself!  Sweet heavenly liturgy!  There was absolutely no mistaking what was going on there—the unequivocal worship of God—and that it was emphatically not something that I could reproduce or forfeit on my own.  Needless to say, I was won over in no time by the apologetic of worship where Goodness, Beauty, and Truth were delivered into my heart through the reverent vehicle of a sacred and living Tradition.

    Sadly, however, I soon moved away, and remember how keenly I felt the utter paucity of a Mass in the Ordinary Form, which tragically was almost indistinguishable from many of the Protestant services I had attended before becoming Catholic.  Granted this was almost the opposite extreme (liturgically speaking ) from St. John Cantius, but what I noticed was that the spirit of reverence and adoration present in the people (both clergy and lay) seemed to have been jettisoned right along with the rubrics.  In short, there was nothing which communicated to me what was actually going on—what I had in fact been caught up in.  An uninformed outside observer would have seen only a man in a felt poncho—surrounded by strummers and drummers—orchestrating a bunch of shuffling people around a table and in an out of folding chairs.  But when I was that uninformed outside observer at St. John Cantius, there was no ambiguity regarding what I saw: reverent worship and ritual sacrifice.

    Since then I have fortunately attended many reverent Ordinary Form Masses, but still I find that such they require me to remind myself more frequently of the fact that I am participating in the very Paschal Mystery of Our Lord, whereas with the Extraordinary Form, I find that I am caught up in and carried along by the liturgy itself.


  10. Response:

    I am a 26 year old, Vietnamese American “cradle Catholic” with a Master’s degree in Social Work from a major state university. I attended parochial school from grades 1-8 and a Jesuit high school.  I recall while a young child, asking about the old side altars in the beautiful gothic church to which my school belonged. A Dominican sister explained to me that those were altars. I remember being intrigued by that response because I reasoned that the priest would be facing the wall during mass since there was no way he could walk around it. Even being a child, I  remember how confused I was but being young, I took Sister’s word for it and left it at that. As I grew up my family attended a Jesuit-run parish who’s liturgies were rife with abuses. I’m sure if you name it, we did it: liturgical dance, chunks of communion bread, fabricated Eucharistic prayers, “new age-y” stuff, affiliation with Call To Action, etc. Long story short, it wasn’t until I served on the liturgy committee at the Newman Center I attended that I first encountered Church teaching on the liturgy, with that year being around 2002 or so when the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal was promulgated. Since that time, I have been enamored by the history of the liturgy and the traditions surrounding it.  A good Dominican priest taught me how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I attended Adoration of the Bl. Sacrament, the Divine Liturgy at a Byzantine church, and finally the Traditional Latin Mass. I believe it was the Holy Spirit who silently stirred in me a love for the liturgy and allowed me to see it through a wider perspective. Pope Benedict XVI has certainly helped me to learn more and understand the context of the liturgy, that it is primarily the worship of Almighty God, not of the community. He helped me to see the Mass as a sacrifice, not just any sacrifice, but the same as Christ’s on Calvary. In 2005 I read “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Cardinal Ratzinger because I wanted to learn more about the new pope that was just elected. That book changed my life. I love the liturgy when it is celebrated according to the authentic traditions of the Church or as Fr. Z says “Say the Black, do the red”. I have a new-found appreciation for the traditional Mass and believe that it is a much deeper expression of the sacrifice of Christ than the Ordinary Form. I still attend an exclusively OF parish (different from the one I mentioned earlier) which has fewer abuses, but my understanding of the liturgy now makes it difficult to commit my mind full to the action taking place during the Mass. I continue to be encouraged by the Reform of the Reform movement and filled with hope for the future. I know many of my peers studying for the priesthood and religious life feel the same way. God is Good!

  11. Response:

    I am a married, 24 year old Catholic attending a top-20 law school. I was born Catholic, considered myself a Deist-leaning agnostic “seeker” by 11th grade, and then returned to the Church through a year-long running debate with a knowledgeable Catholic.

    I appreciate the TLM and like that it has made a return. Personally, I prefer hearing Mass in English, simply because that’s what I grew up with. My favorite Masses to attend, though, are the Anglican-Use liturgies at Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio and Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston. For my wife and me, the reverent, elevated language, disciplined altar boys, and beautiful chants and hymns make these Masses very solemn, and it is much easier to enter into a prayerful state there than at your typical Novus Ordo Mass. At home, we attend a standard NO parish that does a better job with Mass than most.


  12. Response:

    I am a 38 year old wife and mom of seven, a theology major through Catholic Distance University, and a catechist for the CCD program at St. Agnes. I was raised by my mom (a devout Episcopalian) and my dad (a lapsed Catholic/self-proclaimed agnostic). My husband was raised nominally Catholic. When we started exploring religion, we visited my Episcopal cathedral where I was raised (St. Mark’s) and he admired the architecture, beautiful liturgy and music, but would not receive communion. I couldn’t figure out why. We visited his liberal-ish Catholic parish where he somehow retained some Catholicism growing up and I was aghast – ugliest place in the world, I thought, with people singing kum-bye-ah and having a hugfest, a boring sermon on pledging money and a very hurried, informal Lord’s Supper. I left with a sour attitude toward the Church and hoped he would agree to marry in my beautiful St. Mark’s.


    He ran into a friend at college who was SSPV (whatever that meant) and we started attending TLM. They seemed to share my distaste for “mainstream Catholicism”, what they called “Novus Ordo”. My future husband was zealous for learning about his roots so I went along. We married in the SSPV chapel, but I was put off by the ire of the congregation towards the Roman Pontiff (or antipope, as they would say). The more I read about the Church, the more red flags popped into my mind over the SSPV. I decided to leave off practicing this faith I didn’t really own in the first place. My husband kept searching and went to a local SSPX chapel, then joined some friends at St. Agnes. He dragged me by the hair and there it was – all the trappings of my youth and something more… Beyond the chorale and the architecture was a beautiful presentation of the “new Mass” and very sound Catholic teaching and preaching. I embraced the Faith wholly, our marriage was validated, we had a bunch of kids, and threw myself into the study of Theology. Now, with both the EF and OF offered, I see the full beauty of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and I agree with the Holy Father that one form informs and uplifts the other.


  13. Response:

    I am a 27 year old born and raised catholic, though I didn’t approach my faith seriously until I was in college.  I like and respect both forms of the Mass.  I can appreciate the logic behind the Novus Ordo in wanting to make the liturgy understandable for everyone.  That being said, when I was in France on vacation a few years ago and attending Mass, I was struck that if the service had been in Latin, and was in Latin all over the world, I’d have felt much more a part of a global, universal Church.  Bottom line though, I do like the Novus Ordo, but not the liturgical laxity and irreverence in the congregation that came with it.

    As I said, I’m also attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  I love the tradition, continuity, the aesthetic appeal of the ancient liturgy and the spiritual, beautiful music.  While modern songs like “Days of Elijah” are popular, somehow I don’t imagine the Church will still be singing them in 200 years.  I think, honestly, what I find most appealing about the Extraordinary Form is the marked difference in reverence by the priest, altar servers and in the congregation.  That faith and strong desire to want to be there and participate (mentally and emotionally) is very refreshing.  That being said, I’ll still always take smells and bells over a banjos and hand claps.


  14. Response:

    I’m a cradle catholic age 41, married with five kids.

    I made my first communion at an ultra modern novus ordo (of course) parish in 1975.  Plenty of ugly architecture, neomodern colorful banners, bad electric guitar music, and the like.  One memory of my CCD class stands out: the teacher informed us that the shepherds may not have really been visited by an “angel”; that was just a fuigure of speech.  Rather, some internal sense drove them to the birthplace of Jesus.  At seven years old I wondered how the instructor could be so wrong.  It seems I’ve been searching ever since.  My family bounced from one parish to another over the next several years.

    At age 18 I joined a pretty “old fashioned” parish.  My family felt comfortable.  Two years ago the diocese consolidated parishes, shuffled priests around, updated parish names (oops, it’s no longer a parish, now it’s a faith community).  Thus, began another round of searching, bouncing around again…

    On father’s day 2009, my family decided to attend a Latin mass (an hour trip).  Since that day, we have been at home.  Our fifth was baptized there in September.  While I had thought the TLM to something I’d like to observe, I had no idea the power of this liturgy (the power of silence, the power of a Catholic and universal language, the power of being part of the mass celebrated and attended by the saints!!!).

    I only pray that a TLM will begin closer to home…


  15. Response:

    I’m a 26 year old cradle Catholic in a New Jersey diocese (Trenton if we must be specific)…Who, to be quite honest, is more disengaged from my faith than I’d like to admit. Disability, especially given that it makes me unable to drive (in suburbia no less) means I’m effectively a shut-in…Especially on weekends. Such has been my situation since getting out of college at a Jesuit university. Living with parents is no help: I’ll admit that until college, I basically quit going to Mass on a regular basis after my confirmation – it was too frustrating and awkward going with my parents, and discussing faith issues with them is…How do I put this? ‘Not likely to produce anything of use’ would be charitable. ‘Epic fail waiting to happen’ would be honest.

    Unlike many writing, the EF is to me something heard of but not seen, except maybe in old TV clips. Nonetheless, like most Catholics, I’ve seen good Masses…Bad Masses…And Masses that simply had me confused.

    Personal preference here: I’d prefer, purely out of habit, the OF, done right, in the vernacular. Latin means that almost inevitably, my mind would focus on trying to translate, not on the actual liturgy. The differences from the Mass I grew up with (we sort of parish-hopped, with one parish for CCD and one for Mass generally – the fact that my dad had a…justified dislike of the pastor for our geographical parish probably didn’t help!) would probably drive me bonkers. I’m the type of person who would get too lost in thought to really find the EF Mass a sanctifying experience.

    My honest opinion: I’m disengaged because of disability, not because of choice. Hard to follow the precept on attending Mass when there are multiple highways between home and the nearest parish, to be blunt. Turns out the buses, such as they are, don’t run on Sundays, to make life worse. That said, am I willing to re-engage? Yes. But there’s no path back. (I often say to relatives that I need a Mass over the internet….And the reality is, that is probably truth.) In an urban environment, I’d likely be more engaged…But that sort of move doesn’t look likely to happen for a long time. Until then, I find myself in a curious situation. “Nose pressed against the glass”, so to speak…Wondering if someone “gimpy” like me would be welcome, terrified I wouldn’t be, and left in a sort of awkward limbo.


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