I just read the post in which you shared a reader’s observation about the pastoral nature of the TLM. I experienced something similar. I went to my first TLM on Nov. 2 for All Souls. A few days before I was chatting with our priest and asked him to tell us how to prepare for the Traditional Mass. His answer surprised me.
He said that for the first few times, we shouldn’t try to follow along or read. We should prepare and participate in a way similar to how we would for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – quiet prayer and meditation, while enjoying the beauty of the Mass without distracting ourselves by trying to follow a text. That could be left for later.
The older form of the Mass, he explained, is actually easier for people at any level, any state of mind or at any place spiritually.
Basically, it’s easier for everyone. Those who want to follow along can do so and get a good deal out of it. Those who are not ready to follow along can still “participate” in the way most suitable for them.
My priest is not anti-NO. He said that the kind of participation required for the NO is good for people who understand the texts, are well prepared (theologically) and in the right frame of mind.
Unfortunately, this does not describe most people who attend the NO Masses. The downside, in his opinion, is that it’s all too easy for people to simply fall through the cracks, to just say the replies, without putting their mind or heart into it. If people are not in the right internal disposition, the “active participation” required can actually be a distraction.
I went to the TLM with this advice, and did precisely what he suggested; I prayed, enjoyed it and did not worry about following along. I brought with me a new-age semi-atheist, an Evangelical, my cradle-Catholic wife who had never been to a TLM, our two oldest sons and my Protestant brother. (Interestingly enough, in my experience non-Catholics are much more interested in attending the TLM than the NO.) I told all of them the same thing my priest had said. Chatting afterwards, everyone agreed that it was very beautiful and that it was in fact a good approach to take; even the least Catholic and the least “prepared” could gain a good deal from this. (For this reason I also believe there would be far more conversions with more TLMs.)
Of course, in the future I do hope to get a missal to follow along.
But for now I’m happy with this approach.
The part that is still very pleasantly surprising for me is this; the TLM is *easier* than the NO! If you had asked me a month ago, I wouldn’t have guessed this; it’s in Latin, it’s more in depth, more theologically intricate, etc – I would’ve assumed that since there is more to get out of it, it would’ve been harder.
But my priest was right; it’s easier. The fact that “there’s truly something for everyone there” makes it easier. It is the “Mass for the advanced,” but it’s also the Mass for the weak, the poor, the suffering, the joyful, the ignorant – it’s the Mass for everyone. As your reader said, it effortlessly “meets people where they’re at.”
It is truly easier for lay people to participate at whatever level they are at, and for that reason it is more pastoral.
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