Advice for #Synod2018 about young people and traditional liturgy

Julian Kwasniewski (any relation to…?   Nah… couldn’t be…) interviewed Archp. Sample of Portland and the transcript of the interview is parked at NLM.   The interview took place last June.

Archbp. Sample talks about why young people are attracted to traditional liturgical worship.

NLM rightly puts this out into public view right now because the 2018 Synod (“walking together”) on “youth” is going on.

My old friend Archbp. Sample and I, when we were a lot younger, sat at the table at St. Agnes in St. Paul and heard the long-time pastor, the late Msgr. Schuler, explain why the seminaries and vocations directors of the time were failing disasters.  He’d say, “They can’t answer three questions: Who is Christ? Who is the Church? Who is the priest?”

The first question that Julian asks Archbp. Sample is: “What is a priest?”

Let’s have a taste of what the Archbishop says about liturgy.  We pick it up well into the interview.  Read the whole thing over there.

JK: It seems that many young people these days are rediscovering contemplation and an ability to give themselves joyfully to Christ through loving the Latin Mass and the old liturgical prayer of the Church.

AS: That’s a very good point, and it’s a point I made in the homily I gave at the Solemn Pontifical Mass at the National Shrine in Washington D.C. You know, the Church was filled with young people!

A lot of times, priests expect that if you go to a Traditional Latin Mass according to the 1962 missal, the church will be filled with grey hair, old people filled with nostalgia for days gone by, and that they have a sort of emotional attachment to the liturgy they grew up with.

But more and more, the majority of the people in the church at these masses are people who never lived during the time when this was the ordinary liturgy, that is, before the Council. If you are under a certain age (and that age is getting higher and higher), you never experienced this liturgy growing up. And yet young people — which is something Pope Benedict XVI said in his letter to the world’s bishops when he issued Summorum Pontificum — have discovered this [form] too, and have found it very spiritually nourishing and satisfying. They have come to love and appreciate it.

That is amazing to me: young people who have never experienced this growing up in the postconciliar Church, with the Ordinary Form (sometimes celebrated well, sometimes very poorly with all kinds of aberrations and abuses), have still discovered the Latin Mass and are attracted to it.

JK: What, in your view, accounts for that attraction?

AS: I would say its beauty, its solemnity, the sense of transcendence, of mystery. Not mystery in the sense of “Oh, we don’t know what’s going on,” but rather, that there is a mysterium tremendum celebrated here, a tremendous mystery. The liturgy in the old rite really conveys the essential nature and meaning of the Mass, which is to represent the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ which he offered on the Cross and now sacramentally, in an unbloody manner, in the Holy Mass.

I think young people are drawn to it because it feeds a spiritual need that they have. There is something to this form of the liturgy, in and of itself, that speaks to the heart of youth. Young people will continue to discover this, and they will be the ones who carry forward the Extraordinary Form when the older generation goes to their reward. Certainly this will be young people of your generation, but … I’m 57. I was baptized in the old rite, but by the time I was aware and cognizant of Mass, we had already come to the new liturgy. So everybody younger than me has no experience really of this liturgy. Anyone under my age could be considered “young” in discovering this beautiful liturgy!

JK: Your Excellency, what would you say is the most important element of tradition for the Catholic youth to hold and cherish at this time?

AS: I think what young people need to do first is to discover — and many have — the Church’s tradition. Many young people have been deprived, in a certain way, of our Catholic heritage, of the great tradition which is ours in the Catholic Church. I know for myself I feel I was … I don’t want to say cheated because that sounds like someone did it intentionally out of ill will for me … but I feel like I was deprived of real teaching and appreciation and contact with my Catholic culture and my Catholic tradition and where we come from. I lived in and grew up in an age when there was this attitude that the Church had, in some way, hit a reset button at Vatican II, and that we could let go of all the past, as if the Church needed a new beginning and a fresh start.

You are far too young to have lived through that experience, and you are very blessed to live in the time that you do, because there was nothing like this for me when I was growing up. I grew up in a time when all of those things in the past had to be cast aside. Even something as simple as the Rosary, it was kind of discouraged — or if not discouraged, it was certainly not encouraged. I never saw Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction until I was a college student. I never knew such a thing existed. I grew up when there was a lot of experimentation with the Mass, always trying to make it “fresh and new.” There was a period of time growing up when you came to Mass on Sunday, and you just didn’t know what was going to happen next! The changes were coming so fast, and not just changes but experimentation and aberrations. So I was deprived of any contact with my tradition; I discovered it, on my own, as a college student.

JK: Was the liturgy the only area in which you felt deprived of contact with tradition, or are you speaking more broadly?

AS: In ‘tradition’ I would certainly also include the teachings of the Church that I never learned. I never understood what the Mass was — and I went to 12 years of Catholic school. If you has asked me what the Mass meant, I would probably have told you that it was a reenactment of the Last Supper, the last meal which Jesus shared with His disciples and in which He gave them His Body and Blood … which is part of the truth. But the idea that the Mass was in any way a sacramental re-presentation of the paschal mystery, that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was made truly, sacramentally present at the altar — and that it is an altar, and not just a table! — that would have been a foreign idea to me.

So certainly part of the tradition is that young people need to be deeply in touch with the Faith, what we believe, what the Catechism teaches. Young people must not take it for granted that what they have received in education (whether in a Catholic school or a religious education program) is an adequate formation in the Faith. They need to really delve into the teachings of the Church, the Catechism, they need to read good, solid books and articles, and other media forms, whether internet or movies. So that is part of it.

But of course, a big part of our tradition is our liturgical tradition. It’s in our DNA — and that’s why many are attracted to the traditional forms of the liturgy — because it’s in our Catholic DNA. Young people need to acquaint themselves with the richer, deeper tradition. Vatican II did not hit a reset button. Although, perhaps, the tradition needed to be renewed and refreshed, it never was meant to be destroyed or cast aside.

This was helpful and constructive.

It occurs to me that full, conscious and active participation in the traditional rites of our sacred liturgical worship make every young again, in a sense.  They bring us into contact with Mystery, ever ancient and ever new.  They have a way of making us young and ancient in our participation in them.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Akita says:

    Hmm. Denying the faithful Eucharistic adoration via exposition of the Blessed Sacrament does seem something done in malice done by non-believers with a Protestant mindset.

  2. LeeGilbert says:

    Archbishop Sample said, “I never learned. I never understood what the Mass was — and I went to 12 years of Catholic school. … But the idea that the Mass was in any way a sacramental re-presentation of the paschal mystery, that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was made truly, sacramentally present at the altar — and that it is an altar, and not just a table! — that would have been a foreign idea to me.”

    Thanks be to God, I had Sister Amadeo and she had the Baltimore Catechism. So when it came time for my son to prepare for First Holy Communion in 1985, I looked at the religion text and out of the six units in first and second grade, only one had anything more to say than “God is love” in many different ways and words.

    So with the Baltimore Catechism in hand, we prepared him, and by the time came for his First Holy Communion he had many questions and answers in his mind specifically about the Mass as a sacrifice. But the thing that astonished me was that SO DID HIS FOUR YEAR OLD SISTER , who had been listening in on our fifteen minute per evening sessions. Before she even entered that parochial school she already knew more about the faith than did its 8th grade graduates.

    Although many educators and parents will balk at this, I am a firm believer in beginning catechetical instruction when the children are only four years old. They have already learned the English language, for pity’s sake, and at that age they LOVE to memorize things. See Dorothy Sayer’s essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, in which she describes the Poll Parrot Stage of cognitive development. They may not UNDERSTAND, nor do they need to; that will come later.

    For this reason I wish a) bishops and pastors would pass out the Baltimore Catechism at Baptisms and tell parents and godparents to make sure the children are well grounded in the faith; b) that children not be admitted to Confession and Holy Communion without being able to answer basic questions such as, 1) What is a Sacrament?; 2) what is the Mass?

    My grandmother told the story of how she had to report to the rectory for questioning by the pastor before receiving Holy Communion. IMHO, this is great in principle. This would have been 1910 or so. Father asked her one question, “Who made the world, Katie?” “God made the world, Father.” In this way she passed muster. Of course we all smile at this, and a pastor does need to be paternal, but nevertheless at this pointing demanding so little of our children while admitting them to the sacraments effectively inoculates them against the faith. They leave the Church without the slightest notion of what they are leaving!

    There is a lot of antipathy toward the Baltimore Catechism on the part of the catechetical establishment, and I understand that perfectly, for I too dreaded it as a child. Yet I think the problem may well have been that it came too late in our cognitive development, for the memory of a seven and eight year old is no longer as plastic as that of a four year old. Moreover, our parents were not going over this with us at home.

    In many and diverse ways the Church speaks to us through various catechisms, but when she spoke to us through the Baltimore Catechism she left an indelible impression on many young minds and left Catholics in her wake.

  3. FrankWalshingham says:

    I am praying that the Pope sends Archbishop Sample to clean up the swamp in DC…the Catholic swamp in DC.

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