San Diego Union-Tribune: A Catholic who prefers the Traditional Latin Mass

In the San Diego Union-Tribune there is a piece about the Traditional Latin Mass sure to thrill the local ordinary.

Opinion: I’m a Catholic who prefers Latin Mass. For my family, it’s about handing on tradition.


Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, my wife and I received a diagnosis for our son as on the autism spectrum. This helped us to understand him better and gave us a deeper appreciation for some of his behaviors and developmental delays. We had been having trouble with getting him to behave in church. Though we had some experience of the traditional Latin Mass, we more often attended the “ordinary form” in English. The latter, also known as the “Novus Ordo,” is the form of the Catholic Mass that is far more widely accessible, so that’s where we usually went.

As the world shut down during the pandemic, it became difficult to get to Mass. When we finally were able to return to regular Sunday worship, our son’s behavior and tolerance for the liturgy had worsened. We tried different parishes and different Mass times to accommodate him, but it wasn’t until we consistently attended the Latin Mass that our boy began to develop a healthy pattern of behavior in Mass. We noticed that the attraction to ritual and routine that is built into human nature was magnified in the experience of our son on the autism spectrum.

The differences between the Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo extend far beyond language and translation. The traditional Latin Mass is more solemn. In the new, the practices are more focused on modernizing the experience of the worshiper rather than simply offering sacrifice to God. The orientation and postures are often directed toward the congregation rather than the crucifix or tabernacle. A great many of the prayers themselves were changed, rather than just translated.

That ancient liturgy has a sort of beauty to it that is otherworldly. Life is saturated with all that is new, relevant and flashy, but this form of worship seems set apart from the rest of life. My family has come to appreciate this silent order as a retreat from a chaotic world of sensory overload.

Unfortunately, though, those Catholics like my family who find themselves attracted to this liturgy are often thought of as divisive. Some even think that we have animosity or distrust toward the pope and the Second Vatican Council. It seems obvious to me that nothing could be further from the truth.

As a father of three, I try to know my children (albeit, imperfectly) better all the time, that I might love them better and improve in my ability to discern what is good for them. Those Catholics who love the traditional Latin Mass seek the same thing from our spiritual fathers. We don’t want to be seen as rebellious teenagers. We have a filial love and respect for our priests and bishops. I find that sort of posture toward our priests, bishop and the Holy Father in my traditional Latin Mass community.

Catholics who are attracted to this form of worship are not worshiping ashes. We hope to preserve the fire of our living tradition. Many parents have a desire to hand on a Christian way of life that seems to be disappearing from today’s society. That is what tradition is: handing on. The rituals and forms of worship of our forebears are important in that handing on.

The way we worship is not meaningless. It informs — and is informed by — what we think is important. Belief in transcendent and objective truth means we need a solid anchor of continuity in worship. That is not merely the Latin language, but all the trappings and ceremonial extravagances of the traditional Latin Mass. The Catholic conviction that beauty is not relative to cultural or personal preferences requires a deep solemnity in the music, postures, art and architecture that accompanies our worship. That tradition of worship impacts what we believe.

Tradition, in both belief and practice, can be freeing. A dear friend of mine is a priest who celebrates both the traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo. He told me that the older form of the Mass liberates him to just be a priest, whereas there is a pressure in the new Mass to engage the congregation like a talk-show host. If our worship makes a priest feel as if he needs to entertain, what are we saying about the nature of worship and of our relationship with God?

The Catholic Church makes the radical claim that it has the fullness of truth. If we believe that claim, then we should strive to preserve the most important aspect of the church’s life and activity, a lived experience that developed slowly and organically over 1,900 years. Some Catholics are uncomfortable with replacing that organic development with dramatic changes crafted by a committee in just a single generation.

My constant prayer is that in God’s mercy, my family will have continued access to our traditional form of worship. I know my son needs it. The brokenness and weakness of my own heart needs it. The church and the world need it, too.

Heintschel is headmaster of a classical academy and lives in Escondido. He attends the Latin Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church in Logan Heights.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. sevensixtwo187 says:

    That was very powerful. Actually brought tears to my eyes. When I think of how so much beauty has been destroyed in just my lifetime I sometimes become despondent. But, I then think about the assurance Christ gave us in regard to the Church. It will stand. And I think about our Lord’s words in John 16:33

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    A blessed Easter to all!

  2. The Egyptian says:

    enough to give some higher ups heart palpitations. He has expressed my feelings exactly!
    I am so tired of the mass as performance directed to me not God. I believe the idea of worshiping God instead of entertaining us, frightens many priests

  3. Jim Dorchak says:

    As a side note; One day we will be told what causes AUTISM. Our trusted medical profession i feel knows for certain what causes it, but will not unveil the sin so it can be cleaned, avoided and corrected.

    I am pleased to hear that this good family has through tragedy been directed to a greater faith in Christ’s Church for sure. Something good abounds out of something bad. Truly a blessing.

  4. Sandy says:

    Bravo! This is such an eloquent essay. St. Anne’s is an FSSP parish, and thank God for that. I would be there all the time if circumstances allowed.

  5. Danteewoo says:

    Fine letter

    “Some even think that we have animosity or distrust toward the pope and the Second Vatican Council.” Heck, anyone is very welcome to think that about me.

  6. Longinus says:

    Beautifully stated.

  7. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    My son is also on the autism spectrum, and he also clearly benefits from ritual and the predictable orderly routine of the Traditional Latin Mass. We go to a daily TLM in the early morning, and he talks about how that helps him to have a good day. He can read the propers of the Mass in his missal, and he knows what the structure and order will be. He is able to engage with the content of the Mass in a way that he could not do if it were a matter of only listening to spoken language from some person up in the front of the church talking at him. I realize that there are many facets of nature and grace interacting in that, so I don’t want to sound like I’m treating the TLM as magic. But having something good that works well for my son (and all the rest of my family, too) should not be considered controversial or divisive by the pope or bishops.

  8. JesusFreak84 says:

    Jim, autism goes back in my family to WELL before vaccines, GMOs, and whatever baloney you want to raise to the level of dogma. Autisms’s genetic. Get over it.

    My first through when reading this was actually wondering how many people like Jim here result in autistic adults, (we exist,) and parents of autistic children going BACK to the Novus Ordo, with a terrible impression of trads because of it. I can’t even mention “autism” at church outside of the Confessional, (thank you, Lord, for the Seal,) because I know I would become a “second-class Catholic” for it. Literally the first thing out of my mouth when I finished reading this was, “So maybe if trads would SHUT THE HECK UP ABOUT THE NONSENSE OF VACCINES ‘CAUSING’ AUTISM, maybe this would be a great group of Catholics to get on our side, because Francis is enough of a politician, and so’s Cupich, to understand the optics of shutting out an entire community of disabled Catholics.” But who needs Francis or Cupich to shut out autistic Catholics when trads themselves are so good at it, hmmm? (For the record, I never have this issue with Divine Liturgy.)

  9. Ariseyedead says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing it, Fr. Z!
    My favorite excerpt: “…this silent order…” In such a noisy, chaotic world, I absolutely love that description of the usus antiquior.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Jim Dorchak —

    John 9:3 – “Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents have sinned; but [he was born blind] so that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

  11. AA Cunningham says:

    Typical of the DLEMM – Dominant Liberal Establishment Mass Media – the Union Tribune is removing comments in support of the Vetus Ordo while allowing those that parrot the “Latin is bad” party narrative to remain in place.

  12. Oliver Matthews says:

    This is a marvelous account in favor of our beloved and living Tradition. I can relate to this article on so many levels, especially considering that I am a seminarian with Autism Spectrum Disorder myself.
    The heavenly serenity and constance of the sacred rites of the TLM help me greatly in prayer, even if I can only attend the TLM community on my vacation weeks. I cannot complain, however, about how our superiors celebrate the NO reverently in the seminary, and I can foresee what a great effect this might have on the near future of our Diocese.

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