There was a surprise at Commonweal, which generally leans left and against Tradition. It is about a week old, but I missed it: I don’t real Commonweal unless I can’t avoid it.
It starts out with an off-putting reference to the disastrous Silence by Shusaku Endo, but it improves. The writer juxtaposes it with the silence of the traditional Roman Rite.
Finding Peace in the Latin Mass
By Michael Wright
There was never silence or stillness at Mass for me growing up. I was, and am, afflicted with attention deficit disorder. For a long time, my family worshipped in the gym of the local Catholic school, crammed into folding chairs, kneeling, standing, and watching Father Joe turn purple during a homily on compassion. For me, Mass was a test of endurance. I could never find the peace the nuns told us about in CCD. Although I’d learned what each part of the Mass meant, I couldn’t linger on what was happening in front of me. I raced ahead in the missalette, willing the priest to speak as fast as I read. My restlessness never left enough room for grace to find its way in.
Then, three or four years ago, on a whim, I attended Latin Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, Texas. Just a block from the State Capitol, St. Mary’s is modest, with bare wood pews and a sanctuary set back from the congregation. I paged through a blue book that had Latin text on one page and English text on the facing page, with stage directions and illustrations in the margins.
Despite Catholic school and all that CCD, I didn’t realize until then the Novus ordo wasn’t just a straight translation. The Latin readings confused me; I couldn’t tell, for example, just when the transubstantiation was occurring. But I knew without looking at the translation when we were saying “Lamb of God” and the Lord’s Prayer. I watched these strange ways of doing familiar things. The priest faced away from us. We knelt to take communion on the tongue. All the altar servers were male. I bowed at the priest during the recessional, incense still in my nostrils. Then I did something I’d never done after Mass. I sat in a pew, and I felt it: peace.
He goes on to talk about his life, the older Mass, and even critiques a little the likes of that mass constructor of straw-men of Mass destruction, Massimo “Beans” Faggioli.
But the Latin Mass has a place for me. I don’t think it’s the future of the church, even though [!] I’ve noticed the pews are filled with fellow Gen X-ers and their children. (My nine-year-old daughter has been to more Latin Masses than English.) The English Mass is too easy; the unfamiliarity of the Latin Mass requires me to quiet my mind, to focus, to attend to my faith in a way that Mass in English does not. It isn’t a refuge from a changing world, but a base from which to engage it. My faith is not certain, and my doubt leads to questions. The Latin Mass welcomes me into the silence that allows me to seek the answers.
I applaud his honesty.
His observation that “the English Mass is too easy” hits several nails on the head all at once. Frankly, in no way to people benefit from futile attempts to make what is really hard, Mystery, easy, even simplistic.
The author observes that the people who attend “the Latin Mass” where he goes, “seem to be a community with a community” and that they want a parish of their own.
I often write about the importance of being involved in the whole life of the parish where the TLM is celebrated. On the other hand… I fully understand that people who have what Pope St. John Paul called “legitimate aspirations” should want a parish where they can have the whole package, where they have consistency without being made to feel like second class citizens. It is understandable that they would want to have a parish where the Mass they desire, quite rightly, to attend isn’t relegated to the edges of Sundays. They would prefer to have all the sacraments according to the older rites, including, for example, absolution in the confessional. They would like to have traditional devotions that don’t have to be rediscovered piecemeal.
At times I have written (i.e., whined a little) about those who prefer the older forms and who disappear between Sundays.
On the other hand, even factoring in the fact that people are busy, and sometimes live at quite a distance from the church where they have the older Mass, I am also cognizant of the legitimate aspirations that they have and also suffer with.
Moving on, the writer observes that the pews are filled with young families. I observe that recent research suggests that there will be traumatic consequences for church attendance in the next few years because the majority of young people don’t identify with any religion. Moreover, large numbers of priests will exit active ministry one way or another. On the other hand, traditional groups of priests are growing and young people are filling pews at traditional Masses.
Where tradition is tried, it seems to work.