Skip to comments.We'll Take "The Quiet Mass"
Posted on 10/16/2002 10:48:45 AM PDT by ultima ratio
by Jeffrey Tucker
We'll Take the "Quiet Mass"
Early one Sunday morning, my son, age 3, asked whether we were going to the "quiet Mass" or the "fun Mass." The choice was between the 100-mile drive our family makes once a month to Atlanta to attend a church that offers the Tridentine Rite the old Latin liturgy that prevailed until 1969, when the Vatican II reforms were implemented and the quick hop down the road to our local parish church in Auburn, Alabama.
In This Article... The Old Is New Again A Middle Voice A Case to "Reinstate"
The Old Is New Again
There, we can see friends and neighbors, sing along to bouncy liturgical music, feast on donuts afterward (the Latin Mass in Atlanta offers only hard cookies), and be home in no time. My son was relieved but also disappointed to learn that this wasn't the Sunday of the "quiet Mass," when we make our monthly trek to be part of what every Catholic in the world experienced 30 years ago.
Yes, the new Mass (Novus Ordo Missae is its Latin name) is "fun." It's accessible and community-minded. Our local parish isn't one of those where abuses thrive, such as making up our own liturgy or letting lay people preach their own theologies in sermons. Our priests love the faith and adhere strictly to the rubrics that the Church has set forth for the Mass's celebration. Their homilies are not overly politicized. And they do their best to invest the English liturgical text (a victim of a tone-deaf translation committee) with profundity.
Nonetheless, the overall effect of our parish Mass is not so much scandalous as spiritually and aesthetically prosaic. Despite the new liturgy's attempt to reach us where we are, its effect is oddly abstract and distant compared with that of the old. It's great to be with the community and hear a nice homily, but the whole point of the Mass is something very different: that in the sacrifice on the altar, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. In the multitude of readings, greetings, and songs in our parish church, that point tends to fade into the distance.
Even my toddler son and my older daughter, age 6 (my youngest is a baby), understand that something is missing at the "fun Mass." I make a point of never disparaging the new rite in my children's presence. That's because I recall a conversation I once had with a fallen-away Catholic. She said, "Oh yes, my father loved the Latin Mass. After Vatican II, he refused to go to church at all." I wondered at the time if her father's stubbornness position inadvertently played a role in his daughter's loss of faith. I didn't want that to happen to my children, so I swore that I would always keep my complaining to myself. I want my children to grow up as faithful Catholics, regardless of which rite they attend.
A Middle Voice
But can the new rite ensure this as well as the old? The old rite provides theological depth, transcendental complexity, the right mix of exterior and interior textures, and a historical link to the whole of Catholic liturgical tradition. Can a rite designed in 1969 do the same? I'm not taking any chances by denying them exposure to the old rite as well as the new.
I've tried to put myself in their place and deduce why they are attracted to this old-fashioned ritual, which is not inherently child-friendly. Maybe it's the smell of incense and the strange sights and sounds: the clanking chain of the thurible, in which the incense burns; the complicated altar choreography; the high-pitched Sanctus bells. Maybe it's the Gregorian chant, a form of music so intrinsic to the Faith, it seems to evangelize all by itself. Or the silence in the church before and after Mass. Even the very unfamiliarity of the Latin language that challenges their ears.
Most likely, my children treat the old Latin Mass with respect and deference for the same reason my wife and I do: the entire liturgy takes us far away from everyday life, envelops us in a sense of mystery and spiritual solemnity, transports us out of time and place, and feeds our souls. It is not one thing in particular but the whole package, so integrated and thick with meaning, so radically unfamiliar and yet deeply penetrating, that causes us to hope that the Church will no longer treat this Mass as a bone thrown to quirky people willing to drive long distances to attend it, but as a mainstream part of everyday Catholic life, as it once was.
Catholic writers such as Michael Davies have gone to great lengths to demonstrate the theological superiority of the old Mass and its continuity with the practices of the early Church. Philosophers such as Catherine Pickstock of Cambridge University have contended that the old Roman Rite is so significant as a distinct language form that it solves the very riddle of linguistic meaning that the French deconstructionists have raised. She argues that the old liturgy, developed over 10 centuries, emerged as neither pure "text" nor pure revelation from God, but a "middle voice" between time and eternity, one that takes us to truth.
But in the end, such arguments are not as important as the simple fact that the Latin Mass calls me personally and intimately to communion with God, and that everything that happens during that hour is directed toward that goal.
A Case to "Reinstate"
The Tridentine parish in Atlanta that we attend, St. Francis de Sales, opened only last year and is one of the few in the country where all the sacraments are offered in pre-Vatican II form. The pastor, the Rev. Mark Fischer of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a Vatican-approved order dedicated to the Tridentine rite, raised money to purchase a former Baptist church on the outskirts of town and with its plain red brick exterior, hanging interior ball lights, acoustic ceiling (think public school, circa 1955), and pile carpet, let's just say this is no Chartres.
And yet the people come. There are two Masses on Sunday, and both are three-quarters full and growing.
Children of all ages can be seen at these Masses. In fact, most of the people there seem to be under 40 and over 65, with the generation that came of age during Vatican II conspicuously underrepresented. Many, like us, travel long distances to attend. The congregation includes a broad cross-section of races, ethnic groups, and social classes. What unites us all is a love of the old liturgy and our faith.
Why, if the case for the old Latin Mass is so apparent to so many of all ages, do we have to drive so far to find it? Part of the answer may lie in Church politics (many liturgists have invested heavily in the notion of "reform" that the new rite seems to entail) and part in sheer inertia. The new Mass is now the "tradition" in most parishes, like my own in Auburn.
Still, I'm inclined to think that eventually the majority of Catholics will come to recognize and reinstate the beauty and profundity of the "quiet Mass" of the Tridentine rite, which my 3-year-old son can see so clearly.
(This article reprinted with permission of Beliefnet.com.)
Copyright © 2002 Catholic Exchange All rights reserved.
I don't think "superiority" is exactly the right word, but it is close.
Christ is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, at every Catholic mass, whether Novus Ordo or Tridentine.
Christ is infinite.
His Presence at both masses is equal.
The Catechesis of this reality in the Novus Ordo is certainly inferior.
The reverance of the preponderance of Novus Ordo masses I've attended is far inferior to that of the Tridentine Masses I've attended, but...
The Novus Ordo masses in Latin at Mother Angelica's new shrine in Alabama was the single most sacred, reverent, beautiful, comprehensible, and moving masses I've ever attended.
I've attended the Indult Tridentine Latin masses in Cleveland, Erie, and Pittsburgh, (and I'll probably be back to the Indult mass at St Rose in Cleveland this weekend while I'm at a medical conference there) but none of them hold a candle to the Novus Ordo mass in Latin I attended in Alabama.
Christ is present in all these masses.
To say He is less present at one or the other is simply heretical.
To say that sacramentally the Novus Ordo is inferior is also heretical.
To say that prudentially, the Novus Ordo is lacking in Catechesis and often abused or celebrated with little reverence or sacredness, and is even in some cases an illicit mass, as compared to the Tridentine Rite, and thus prudentially the Tridentine Rite may be superior, may be correct. Of course, one must note that while certain Novus Ordo masses are said in an illicit way, all SSPX masses are by the nature of the schism of the SSPX intrinsically illicit until Pope JPII says otherwise.
Many yearn for the beauty and glory and the quiet holiness and sacredness of that which has been lost.
I'm inclined to think not.
Most American Catholics like the Novus Ordo and would "vote" to keep it, saccharin anecdotal stories like this one notwithstanding.
Very good point. Especially when it's been 14 years now since the pope told every bishop to extend a "wide and generous" application of the indult to allow everyone access to the Latin Mass who wanted it.
Another very good point on your part. I must travel 92 miles each way to my nearest Indult Latin Mass. I wish this Pope would sack the heretical/dissenting/gay hierarchs in the USA before adding to the Rosary for that matter.
Cleaning out the rot in the US hierarchy would give me much more cause for joy and celebration, for example, than adding to the Rosary, regardless of the merits of encouraging Rosary prayer.
I am sure that you are correct. It should also be remembered that most American Catholics vote Democrat.
Transubstantiation happens in all languages. How deeply and reverently that is ackknowledged depends upon the catechsis, faith and receptivity of the believing community. I think reverence for the Eucharist is prominent at Masses in Latin because the worshippers there are strong believers who go out of their way to attend and participate. It does not follow that if the Masses are celebrated in the vernacular that Jesus is any less there or that the Masses are not a legitimate expression of worship. It is fortunate that you have the availability of a Latin Mass that helps you and your family grow in the Catholic faith. However, it is unfortunate that you do not have Mass in the vernacular that is that is just as reverent and points to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Unfortunately for all of us, authentic worship experiences that truly express what is wondrously happening in our midst, in Latin or in the vernacular, are few and far between. All of us need to keep focussed on the center of our faith, the Presence of Jesus in the blessed Sacrament among us. All other devotions, teaching and church activities need to point to Him. When He is lifted up, He will draw all people to Himself.
Amen to that, brother.
What does that have to do with whether or not American Catholics like the Novus Ordo?
Or are you going to try to make some lame equivocation between the Democratic Party and the Novus Ordo?
I'm sure lots of Catholics who favor the Novus Ordo also eat carrots; that says nothing about the Novus Ordo.
"Ergo hoc, ergo propter hoc."
I grew up in the post-Vatican II Church. I've never even been to a latin mass, so I cannot comment on that form of celebration. I do, however, love and cherish a "modern mass" when it is reverent and focuses on the Eucharist. It can be a very powerful and moving mass.
I can't speak for the rest of the country, but if you visit central and southern Arizona you can find some very, very "progressive" masses. The music and musicians yield the spotlight only for the homily. It can be very difficult for me to focus on the Sacrifice. The music dominates the liturgy. It often even accompanies the readings. The congregation claps with the music, waives their hands in the air and many of the songs have their own "hand gestures" (apparently based on ASL).
I know this version of the Liturgy is very popular with teens, but as my faith grows deeper I long for the quiet and find more conservative Liturgy more difficult to find.
Maybe I'm just getting old, or maybe I have some ingrained prejudice against anything that appears "too protestant"?
Today our "Catholic" DemocRAT Shannon O'Brien, running for Governor, came out in favor of legalizing gay marriages.
Bet she'll win.
Thank God I don't go with the majority. God save us all.
You could be right, but in my experience, most/almost all Catholics don't even know there is still a "Latin Mass" available. I don't think most diocesan newspapers mention it.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.