Monday, August 17, 2009

Which Mass?

I’ve gone to a few Latin Masses (strangely enough, never at the same church), and I’ve come to really enjoy the Extraordinary Form. It has deep symbolism for the mind, rich visual cues for the eyes, incense for the sensitive sense of smell, and beautiful music to really pull everything together. Also, I find, the use of Latin brings about a totally different mindset during Mass than in English. It is another Catholic jewel that I’ve been exposed to since moving to Auburn, and has only deepened my love of the Church and its beauty.

However, my trips normally don’t end with the Mass. Out of about half of the times I’ve attended the traditional Latin Mass, I meet up with other lovers of the Latin Mass. I suppose, as with many other less understood things, these people can come across as, shall we say, dedicated. They love the Latin Mass, tradition, and all things related. And they are willing to debate and defend because they know what they are talking about. At first, I was a bit intimidated with this immersion of things I knew little about. But after going to more Masses, and talking to them more, I think I see why they are so stubborn in their ideas.

The Traditional Latin Mass offers a new (or actually, old) level of worship. I’m not sure if I can adequately explain it here, especially if you’ve never experienced it for yourself, but it gives instantly the sense of the entire Trinity’s presence and is very graceful, which is fitting for praising God. Those who are quite fond of it normally think it should be the only form and have negative things to say about the Novus Ordo Mass (or the Ordinary Form of the Mass in English).

But I’m not convinced. Looking at the only thing I truly know well, my life, I can say that if I had experienced these sorts of people earlier in life, or even the Latin Mass, I probably wouldn’t have gone back.

The Novus Ordo is a big part of what led me to where I am in my faith journey. I remember, as a child, really liking the idea of coming to Mass as you are and not having to change clothes. Jesus wants you there no matter how you look. I talked to my mom a lot about what was happening at the alter, or having short discussions of the homily or the responsorial psalm. Also, the responses were very helpful throughout my childhood, as normally one would just “click” one day, and Mass would change a little for me. It led me to explore the beliefs of the church on my own time and to make the decision to become confirmed.

And although I really love the English Mass, I feel the traditional Latin Mass is helping me develop an adult Catholic faith. There is just so much more there. Just going to these ornate and ancient churches for a Mass is enough to get a person hooked. The Latin Mass, in itself, has shown me just how powerful the Mass is.

But on thinking if this form of the Mass was what I grew up on, would I appreciate it the same? The idea is children will ask lots of questions (which of course they will) and get solid answers from their parents and then they would love Mass for all that it is and be devout Catholics. However, I see how this may turn into being confused and frustrated and maybe not getting the perfect answers they were hoping to find. Or worse yet, not seeing how it connects with modern times. Looking at what really pleased me about the Church in my childhood, I may not be able to find any of those at the Latin Mass, although this is just speculation.

Should we return to the Latin Mass and dismiss the Ordinary Form as a mistake of Vatican II? I think that would be disastrous. Forcing something on to anyone never turns out well. Instead I think we should use the Latin Mass to help deepen faith and spread knowledge of it to those who will listen.

As Pope Benedict states in his Summorum Pontificum:
There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.What earlier generations held as sacred, remains as sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.

So what is my conclusion? The Novus Ordo is quite necessary as a base line for faith (not saying that a person wouldn’t be able to find that in the Latin Mass straight away, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the Novus Ordo is better suited for this task). The Extraordinary Form is also quite necessary in order to convey just what the Church is and keeps within it (and again, this may also be found in the Novus Ordo Mass). I certainly am not in favor of doing away with either as both showcase the glory of God.


  1. One thing that I thought was good for me to keep in mind, is that the traditional Latin Mass, before Vatican II, was not perfect. If you read the Vatican II document "Sacrosanctum Concilium" which is the document on liturgy, you will see clearly how Vatican II wished to change the liturgy. What is shocking, though, when reading the document, is that the document is not what created the Novus Ordo Mass. The Novus Ordo Mass has many changes that were never mentioned in Vatican II.

    The issue of which form of the Mass is better is a tough issue. Pope Benedict said he wishes the two forms of the Mass will influence each other. The Mass we went to in Macon was an example of that: it was a traditional Latin Mass where the prayers were all done aloud and the readings were in English (which are elements of the Novus Ordo). In time we shall see where the Lord guides His Church...

  2. It seems like the pre and post Vatican II time frame is extemely important. I honestly don't know much about what led up to the council, and how the liturgy was changed.

    I really liked how the Macon Mass was done (even if they taught themselves). I think it helps people follow along, esp the readings being in english.