To a priest who learned the Traditional Mass and then quit because it was hard.

traditional-latin-mass-altar-your-viewI have often written about how priests are never the same after having learned how to say the older, traditional form of Holy Mass in the Roman Rite.  Many priests have related to me about how, once they learned, or relearned it, their sense of themselves as priests, as priests at the altar, as priest victim, as priest redeemed sinner has ever after exercised its influence over how they work and act, especially in their ars celebrandi.  In turn, this creates a slow but inexorable knock-on effect in their congregations.

Take note of the following from Liturgy Guy (my emphases and comments):

What Priests Learn by Learning the Latin Mass

A reader of Liturgy Guy shared the following story with me recently. One anecdote wouldn’t necessarily be worth dedicating an entire blog post to; however, as I have personally heard similar experiences from others, I believe there to be merit in sharing this with you now.

I used to regularly communicate with a priest who was trying to learn the Traditional Latin Mass. Another priest promised to teach him but warned that “it will very likely ruin your life.”

What he meant, he explained, was that it would cause this particular priest to clearly see the deficiencies in his own formation and in his understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass, ultimately causing him great frustration. Of even greater significance, he was told, learning the traditional Mass would make it difficult to celebrate the new Mass any longer. [Yes, these effects are also possible.]

“You won’t want to go back to it.”

Several months later I checked back in with the first priest. He told me that he had indeed gone on to learn the Traditional Latin Mass and had even celebrated it for some time before finally deciding to give it up.

Give it up, I asked? Why?

In the end, he said, “it was too foreign” to him. I asked him (very carefully and respectfully) how was it that the Mass which had been celebrated for the vast majority of Church history seemed too foreign. What did this say about his formation?

He agreed completely that his priestly formation was obviously lacking in a significant way. He simply did not have the background and formation in the theology and spirituality of the Holy Mass to deal with the ancient rite.  [This is where the priest loses me.]

It was shocking to him.

Sadly we are finding that the Church has often failed priests in teaching them the Faith, and in so doing they have failed the laity who are supposed to be sanctified by these very same priests.

We often think of the classic expression lex orandi lex credendi (as we pray, so we believe) as being applicable to the laity. In reality, it is just as applicable to our priests. Possibly even more so. [Yes, even more so, for sure!]

Remember too, many of the priests formed by the new Mass over the last fifty years have now gone on to become bishops; and here we are left dealing with the fall out of this liturgical formation and its ramifications for the Church.

The current challenge to orthodoxy cannot be separated from the ongoing assault against orthopraxy.  [And this is why libs so very hate the older, traditional form.]

Pray that more of the laity, more of our priests, and more of our bishops recognize this for themselves. Of course, this first requires a familiarity with the traditional liturgy.  [The USE of the traditional Roman Rite!]

My concern is that many do recognize this connection, and that is why they are so hostile toward the traditional Mass.

Concerning the priest who gave up because the older Rite was tooo haaard.

In InfernoDante describes the fate of those who could not decide to commit and who remained tepid. Dante moves through the gate that says “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”, passing into the “fore-Hell”, he sees a great, bare plain upon which a vast multitude of souls run in a circle chasing a meaningless whirling banner. A great moaning wail rises up. As Dante gazes at them, he says, “I had not thought death had unmade so many.” As they run, wasps and flies sting them. These are the souls who were tepid, whom God spewed out. They are “hateful to God and His enemies”. As commentator Anthony Esolen describes them in his good translation, they are the “unnamed spirits whose cowardice relegates them to the vestibule”.

I am reminded of Lumen gentium 14 which speaks to those who know what the truth is but who refuse it.  This particular situation is not exactly parallel, but its serious nature harks to the warning.

I am reminded of a passage from Juan Donoso Cortes (+1853). The passage is from Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism:

“There is no man, let him be aware of it or not, who is not a combatant in this hot contest; no one who does not take an active part in the responsibility of the defeat or victory. The prisoner in his chains and the king on his throne, the poor and the rich, the healthy and the infirm, the wise and the ignorant, the captive and the free, the old man and the child, the civilized and the savage, share equally in the combat. Every word that is pronounced, is either inspired by God or by the world, and necessarily proclaims, implicitly or explicitly, but always clearly, the glory of the one or the triumph of the other. In this singular warfare we all fight through forced enlistment; here the system of substitutes or volunteers finds no place. In it is unknown the exception of sex or age; here no attention is paid to him who says, I am the son of a poor widow; nor to the mother of the paralytic, nor to the wife of the cripple. In this warfare all men born of woman are soldiers.

And don’t tell me you don’t wish to fight; for the moment you tell me that, you are already fighting; nor that you don’t know which side to join, for while you are saying that, you have already joined a side; nor that you wish to remain neutral; for while you are thinking to be so, you are so no longer; nor that you want to be indifferent; for I will laugh at you, because on pronouncing that word you have chosen your party. Don’t tire yourself in seeking a place of security against the chances of war, for you tire yourself in vain; that war is extended as far as space, and prolonged through all time. In eternity alone, the country of the just, can you find rest, because there alone there is no combat. But do not imagine, however, that the gates of eternity shall be opened for you, unless you first show the wounds you bear; those gates are only opened for those who gloriously fought here the battles of the Lord, and were, like the Lord, crucified.”?

If I were to talk with this priest, I would remind him of his identity.  I would remind him of the stakes once he has learn what is “out there”, the patrimony that has been denied him.  How can one turn back?

Prayers for the priest, whoever he may be.

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21 Responses to To a priest who learned the Traditional Mass and then quit because it was hard.

  1. Uxixu says:

    I do fear much of the hostility is due to:

    1) Inadequacy – Many people have difficulty with the humility to maintain good bearing and disposition when their expertise in their profession is revealed to be deficient. It’s careful to stress this is through no fault of their own. These priests (and now bishops) are used to be the focus and font of knowledge for their flocks and are revealed to be lacking in crucial understanding.

    When they uncover the tip of the iceberg, then they learn they even do the sign of the cross wrong and even the position of their thumbs is wrong when folded together. That takes an enormous amount of humility to proceed when they have decade(s) in ministry. Those who do naturally might be inclined to be overwhelmed and resentful.

    In the words of a holy FSSP priest who oversees formation at the North American seminary, many were formed at the worst possible time and most just don’t know what they don’t know.

    2) The patrimony they did receive is ultimately foreign to that of traditional Catholicism. As Cardinal Newman said: ” To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Unfortunately, there are way too many similarities to the Ordinary Form with the programs of Cranmer and Luther most especially in the exclusive use of the vernacular and in versus populum and communion in the hand (all originally implemented in the 16th century specifically to contradict Catholic dogmas on the sacrificial priesthood, transubstantiation, and the Real Presence). This is going to lead to cognitive dissonance at best, as all through their formation they were told one way. They are faced ultimately with a critical eye towards men they were formed by and in most cases emulating.

    The line can be walked but when most are stretched thin on time and resources and their flocks aren’t demanding a return to tradition, one can see why all but the most strident would be… disinclined and those who are WILL face complaints from those with poor catechesis for any number of petty reasons not only directly but above them to the diocesan chancery and be put in the position of defending even moderate reforms.

  2. New Sister says:

    O Father… reading this made me very sad for the said priest. Promised prayers for him.
    My immediate thought was “HE NEEDS TO FAST!” because, according to His Reverence Fr. Scalia, fasting is the remedy for sloth. (explained very well in this lecture series at ICC if anyone is interested; it’s excellent preparation for Lent to boot: https://instituteofcatholicculture.org/talk/the-seven-deadly-sins/)

  3. New Sister says:

    I know a priest who wants to learn the TLM but who told me he is too old, and memories aren’t so good when we’re older… so much to learn…etc. I told him (from first-hand experience) that it isn’t a matter of memory but of will — we do get lazy as we age, I believe.

  4. Lavrans says:

    I have found the opposite to be true, which coincides with Liturgy Guy, in terms of not being able to return (or sometimes stomach) the Ordinary Form after having been exposed to the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinariate Form. I serve in the latter, and am increasingly disappointed in the English Ordinary Form Mass of the Roman Rite. I think it is likely only a matter of time before I abandon the Ordinary Form altogether and go “whole hog” into the Ordinariate.

  5. Geoffrey says:

    I am reminded with what traditional reverence the priests of Opus Dei celebrate the Ordinary Form, and that adherence to the Extraordinary Form is not a requirement in the Christian’s duty to answer “de universali vocatione ad Sanctitatem”.

    But, although the Extraordinary Form is not a requirement, it can certainly be a help!

  6. Gaetano says:

    I am not surprised that the priest found this alien to him.
    My religious formation began and ended with Karl Rahner, with a slight nod to David Tracy. We had to seek out retired professors for special seminars on Augustine & Aquinas. Scripture class was nearly all modern exegesis, with little delving into the actual content. Ethics was almost entirely situational and relativistic. Liturgy class was all about novel ceremonies, and we were to compose our own liturgies. We never examined Jungman, Fortescue, or Reid.
    The malformation was deliberate. We weren’t given the capacity to look back.

  7. Tom A. says:

    It is obvious that the modernists clergy are petrified of the TLM. They believe how they worship (NO) and clergy who worship with the TLM are seeing the true Catholic faith as believed by generations of Catholics for centuries.

  8. Rich says:

    So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha. Yet upon cresting the mount Jesus stopped and let the cross fall to the ground, whereupon he turned the the multitude and declared, “Forget this.”

  9. donato2 says:

    On the “can’t go back” issue, this post is timely in that just yesterday I had my longstanding suspicion that I can’t go back to attending the new Mass strongly confirmed. Yesterday, while in another city for business, I attended a daily new Mass for the first time in a year or so. It was in a very beautiful Cathedral. Two years ago the daily Mass that I attended yesterday would not have fazed me in any major way. But now, after over a year and one half of attending the Extraordinary Form low Mass on a more or less daily basis, what I saw and heard yesterday — the 50-plus year old female altar server who served no discernible function but looked ridiculous wearing a surplice and cassock, the reading done by a guy wearing cords and a pullover shirt, the priest who gave a short of running narration of the Mass (“now please sit as we prepare the gifts”) and used repeatedly used the phrase “my sisters and brothers” — it was all too much. After Mass I happened upon Anthony Esolon’s WSJ article about the lack of beauty in churches. It was a consolation. Misery loves company.

  10. Kerry says:

    Re: Lex orandi, lex credendi is this fine essay from Vultus Christi: http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/category/essays/page/2/

  11. Mike says:

    When our anecdotal Father says he lacks the formation to offer the Traditional Mass, I’m inclined to take him at his word. To be sure, such an admission calls into question his fitness to offer Holy Mass at all, as well as the spiritual peril of those who attend his Masses. But in any case, given two generations of largely rotten formation, I think he and his myriads of lost brethren are at least as much to be pitied—and prayed for—as scorned.

    [That doesn’t mean GIVE UP. It means TRY HARDER.]

  12. billy15 says:

    My priest is under the age of 50. He is a godly man; a great homilist who challenges us to live with a true Christian identity, and is very reverent when saying Mass. He has the parish chant the Our Father during Lent and Advent, and also requires us to chant the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin during these two seasons.

    However, when inquiring about whether or not we could have the Extraordinary Form of the Mass said for an upcoming parish celebration, he said it would be difficult to get done because we would need a priest who could say the Mass, and the altar would have to be modified. I didn’t press him much after this; I just told him about my love for the EF. We have a free standing altar for Masses said versus populum, and we have the tabernacle front and center on a wooden altar which I assume was used as the main altar years ago. The priest and deacon have chairs directly in front of it which they sit in during Mass. I’m not a priest, so I don’t know the answers to the following questions, and I guess I should’ve asked my pastor but I froze up…

    In most churches in the US, is the tabernacle placed on the old altar?

    If the answer is yes, then is it really that hard to “modify” that altar for the EF? Is it possible that there is no longer a relic in this old altar, and because of this Mass cannot be offered on this specific altar?

    What would actually keep someone from saying Mass (ad orientem or in the EF) on the altar that the tabernacle rests on?

  13. WYMiriam says:

    “What he meant, he explained, was that it would cause this particular priest to clearly see the deficiencies in his own formation and in his understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass, ultimately causing him great frustration. Of even greater significance, he was told, learning the traditional Mass would make it difficult to celebrate the new Mass any longer.”

    BING.OH.

    This explains precisely the spiritual turmoil in my life. This has complete application to my own life as a layman {that’s generic, by the way :-) }. I’ve been living in two worlds for several years now, in terms of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass vs. “The Liturgy,” and . . . well, the above quote explains precisely what I’ve discovered about myself: deficiencies in formation, deficiencies in understanding, great frustration, and difficulty in attending the new Mass.

    The good side to this is that, having received a copy of Fr. Jackson’s Nothing Superfluous for my birthday a few weeks ago, and after reading Father Z’s post on The Breastplate of St. Patrick (“The Cry of the Deer”), I now know what my Lenten reading will consist of. Thank you, Fr. Z!!!

    I’m so sorry for the priest who “gave it up”; I beg for your prayers that I do NOT give it up, and thank you for them.

  14. I will offer my Lenten penance and so forth for this particular priest. I generally offer my life for priests, and so this will just be a minor change. And since my cooperation with God’s will is less than perfect, I will daily ask St. John Vianney to obtain a change of heart for this priest.

  15. robtbrown says:

    I try not to be critical of any priest who is following what he was taught in his formation, no matter its deficiency. He was judged by those representing the bishop to be worthy of Orders, and its likely his life was adjusted to the criteria.

    It would be interesting to know the age of the priest and how long since ordination. If it’s been 20 or so years since his ordination, it’s not unlikely that he has settled into his duties as a priest. Perhaps in a few years he’ll try it again.

    At any rate, I have thought for some time that much of the opposition against Latin liturgy (whether or not according to the 1962 Missal) is coming from JPII Neo Cons, who think that family morals and no nonsense vernacular is sufficient.

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    I absolutely love that quote from Cortes, Fr. How powerful that is, and it gives no “out” to anybody. Every person alive should know they are in a battle whether they are aware of it or not.
    Thank you for that.

  17. vetusta ecclesia says:

    I am amused that here in the UK many priests who do not have the Tridentine as their “first” rite pronounce the Latin with a noticeable Italian twang. The priests of my boyhood and youth had a rather flat, very English, style of spoken Latin.

  18. Mojoron says:

    Hard? When I was a little 10 y/o tyke in the 50’s and serving Low Mass all by myself at 5 AM, I had all the latin prayers nailed with no “cheater” cards. What’s wrong with you?

    [There’s more to it, on many levels, when you are a priest.]

  19. majuscule says:

    billy15–

    The altars at my church are set up as in your church and we have had the EF offered there. The tabernacle is in the middle of the older back altar as it was when the church was constructed back when the Mass was in Latin and ad orientem. Fortunately, the table altar is not heavy and at times it has been moved completely out of the way for the EF. The priest’s chair was also up by the back the altar but gets moved to the side for the EF and even for one priest’s OF Masses. (But the chair has a mind of its own and usually makes its way back to its position at the back altar! Very frustrating.)

    The priest who offers the EF also offers the OF since we are an OF parish. But his OF Mass is offered with the same reverence and precision as the EF. I have noticed the other priests have become more reverent in their OF Masses since he has been here, though I know at least one of them has no interest in offering the EF himself. At least yet…

  20. Joe in Canada says:

    I didn’t notice anywhere he said it was too hard, he said it was foreign. In the city I live in, one EF Mass is offered every Sunday. 15 people show up. I wouldn’t mind at all assisting there, but no way could it be expanded elsewhere. It’s almost impossible to get the congregation to sing the prescribed texts in the vernacular, let alone some parts in Latin. A parish priest could start to teach the people correctly, but he would be fighting not just inertia but the example of almost every other devout parish priest, and the Bishop.
    Gaetano – we had to read “Blessed Rage for Order”. The name David Tracy still gives me shivers!

  21. ocleirbj says:

    What is very possible, and what I pray has happened, is that even this short exposure to the EF has transformed the way this priest says the OF Mass. A reverent and correct OF Mass is such a blessing, certainly to the people, and, I assume, to the priest himself.