I would like to put up a short (and unfinished) blog post, which I wrote quite a while ago, while I was still living in Rome. In fact, I think I wrote it only a couple of weeks after arriving in Rome, which was early October. I didn’t post it then because I thought it was a bit pedantic of me, and nobody was really making an issue of it (maybe because almost all my friends were out and out Traditionalists, and I felt like the liberal one!!). It’s something which is now quite important to me and I feel I should post it precisely because I am not in Rome anymore and lo and behold, people are making an issue of it. This issue is of course…Tridentine mass (or Latin mass, the old rite, Traditional Latin Mass or TLM, for short)! If I so much as mention it in the presence of other Catholics who do not share my love of it, there is either almost a groan, sometimes an actual groan, a sneer or a snide comment. Look, I have sat through some truly horrendous masses in my life (one of which was a mass I attended last week. NEVER AGAIN), so I think I have earned the right to wax lyrical about Latin mass, now that I have discovered it, OK?
I thought I would put up the post after reading this (shared with me by a fellow lover of the old rite), where Pope Benedict hits the nail on the head when he says,
“I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.” (Ratzinger Salt of the Earth (1997) (emphasis added)
“For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 [the older Latin Mass] should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?” (Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000) (emphasis added)
Yes, since I ‘converted’ to preferring Tridentine mass over and above any Ordinary Form mass I have ever attended (and that is not to say that I dislike all Ordinary Form masses, I just have an overwhelming preference. That is to say, I would choose Tridentine mass every time, if I could), I have been treated, sometimes by those with whom I am very close, as someone who is a traitor to the modern Church. As if I am saying that I am just too good for Ordinary Form, I’m making this all about me me me, why do I have to make trouble, why am I so focused on this itty bitty thing?! I would like those people to attend Tridentine mass only, for maybe 3 or 4 weeks (the first couple of masses feel strange, but follow a missal with Latin and English closely or perhaps use the guide that LMS have made). Go to Sunday mass in Latin, go to daily mass (if you would normally go to daily mass) in Latin. Then, try going back to your ordinary mass. Just see how you tolerate it now. Then, and only then, will you realise why I love it. I am not saying that I am an expert, that I understand the significance of every little thing that is being done. I am learning and I am still very ignorant. But now, if I could, I would never go back. I wish I had listened earlier to those who tried to encourage me to go. I have been missing out for a long time.
So, here is that old, but unpublished, post! Enjoy!
Yesterday, after a lovely dinner (I finally had my first pizza in Rome, since I arrived here 2 weeks ago…) with lovely people, I was talking with my flatmate about how, when I first started attending Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), I never intended to attend it full-time. That is, I never intended to attend Latin Mass only and not Novus Ordo, which I had attended my whole life.
After the pilgrimage to Walsingham that I did in August with the Latin Mass Society, they asked me to write about my experience, because it was my first pilgrimage, and because, apart from a few masses when I was about 13 and two or three in the past year, I was not very familiar with the TLM. When I wrote that piece, I was living in London, but was only two or three weeks into my internship with SPUC (the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children). I made an effort, while I was in London, to attend mass in the old rite as much as I could, and I did. I thought, however, when I was writing my piece for the LMS, that, although I liked the traditional mass very much, I was more at home with the Norvus Ordo mass and attending TLM would only happen occasionally. I was very wrong! After 6 weeks of attending TLM in various places (I did the Walsingham pilgrimage, I attended mass in St. Mary’s in Chislehurst ((not quite TLM, but sort of)), I did a retreat with an FSSP priest, Fr. de Malleray, and I went to St. James, Spanish Place also), I found that I was very uncomfortable in a Novus Ordo mass. I noticed things that I did not notice before. For example, why were people chit-chatting amongst themselves whilst going up to the altar to receive communion? Why were people not genuflecting when they passed the tabernacle? Why were so many people so nonchalantly receiving Communion on the hand? Sometimes, the priest would be emptying the consecrated hosts from one chalice to another and some would fall on the altar. But that is the body of Christ that’s being scattered (I was thinking)! Before and after mass, people were not praying, but talking (quite loudly…) amongst themselves. We are not often in God’s presence, shouldn’t we take this time to pray a little? I found it shocking, and most disrespectful, that even before the priest had left the altar, people were already gathering their things and preparing to leave!
My big sister gave me ‘The Way’ by St Josemaria Escrívá for by birthday last year and I love it because he goes right to the heart of every problem in life. On the subject of Holy Mass, he has written:
“Isn’t it strange how many Christians, who are quite leisurely and even solemn in their social life (they are in no hurry), in the unhasty rhythm of their professional affairs, at table and in their recreation (no hurry here either), feel rushed and want to hurry the Priest, in their anxiety to shorten, to hurry the time devoted to the most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar?” (p.195).
I will not say that some of these things do not happen in TLM and that I am not guilty of them (I am often frustrated by my inability to concentrate, though I concentrate a lot more in TLM than in other masses), but we are encouraged not to do them because of the fact that the whole mass is so focused on God and not on us.
Well, there you have it. I told you it was unfinished! I suddenly felt a bit silly whilst writing it because nobody made me feel bad about my preference while I was in Rome. I only started writing about it all because I was just so happy that I could now go (since I’ve been back in Wales, I have to say that my old parish is the thing I miss the most about Rome). I was attending mass as often as I could, getting up at 5.30am to go in the morning and relishing every moment.
Anyway, you may be glad to know that I’m not going to go on and on about this, but please, no more groaning or snide comments. This is what was done in the Church up until very recently and it happens to be beautiful. If you don’t like it, it might be because you haven’t actually given it a proper go.