Today I went to the Solemn Mass organized by Juventutem St Louis, at the Church of St Anselm. If you don’t know who Juventutem is, read more about them Here . In short they are a young adults group, who is dedicated to the traditional mass.
Mass. That’s the one word that describes Catholics to most people – Those are the people who have mass. Get up. Sit down. Kneel. Repeat.
On my way home I realized I’m very much a contradiction. I’m 38, and have spent my life very much involved in the liturgy in some form – I was an Altar Server, and then involved in Choir and Music ministry. I grew up during the Pontificate of St John Paul II, a time of frankly bismal catechism, and people over all not knowing their faith. My First Holy communion was more akin to an assembly line than the conferment of a Sacrament, but I digress.
In 1969 the so called “Novus Ordo” or “New Order” of mass was promulgated. This mass was meant to shorten and make the Liturgy of the Latin Rite more relevant and accessible. However, the baby was definitely thrown out with the bath water, and along with the Latin, smells and bells, we lost a lot of who we were as Latin Rite Catholics. Chiefly, How we worshiped was how we believed.
The Traditional mass, wasn’t just celebrated “Ad Orientem” or facing east… but was also celebrated “Ad Deum” – Facing God. This posture alone reminded the believer who mass was intended for.
Along with the new mass, came a shift in posture – Now it was celebrated “Versus Populum”. The concept of “Meal” was emphasized over “Sacrifice”, and suddenly mass, along with our faith, became more about “US” rather than Him. Music focused in on the We, and less about our God.
Growing up as a child.. like a lot of young boys, I wanted to play mass – Ironically though…I played Tridentine mass I had an Alb, and my own Amice. My “High altar” was on a cedar Chest.. and I think I had at least 20 candles I didn’t actually light. I would listen to my grand parents tell stories about how it was.. and find myself confused at how it is in front of me.
As I got older, I became more complacent, and found myself valuing the Church in Community. I thought the parish, being the center of the community, was vital, and that ANY way we could reach people… WE needed to. There’s that We word again.
That’s when a a lot of the “contradictions” started. I am trained classically in music (voice) , and have always loved Gregorian Chant. However, we seemed to only chant when we wanted to be “extra holy” during Holy week, even though the Novus Ordo, has a plethora of chants arranged.
We hardly did bells – Why? “Because bells went out with Vatican 2”. Then there was the rather casual nature that not only people showed up for mass, but how they carried themselves during mass.
All of this points back to us losing an understanding of who we are encountering – and Holy Mass IS an encounter. In thinking on this, it very much reminded me of the Apostles who were walking on Emmaus Road (which just so happens to be the readings for this upcoming week), And they encountered a stranger. They had no idea who this man was, until the Breaking of the Bread, “for they knew him in the breaking of the Bread” ..
Sometimes it takes us a moment to realize Jesus present in the mass , especially in our state of being and in this world. We, like the apostles, are more concerned about our worries and “Current Events”, rather than who we are, and where we are going, and who is there with us.
This is where I am the contradiction. Given my age, I have an affinity for traditional things that is uncharacteristic of my generation. At the same time, I still firmly believe in modern approaches to evangelization, however the mass is for God alone. I can go to a traditional mass, and then on the way home listen to Crowder or Maher. I wish more of the “Catholicsphere” could get that. Maybe then there would be more people at church, because they would realize that their faith life is dynamic, and can be expressed in a modern world, and the Timelessness of the liturgy, is the summit of our faith. It is there that we know him in the breaking of the bread.