Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Request from Fr. Z for old Mass/new Mass thoughts

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has posted a call for submissions of short pieces from young Catholics on the new and old Mass. I sent in a bit that hasn't yet been posted in the comboxes (although a good number have):

Age: 25, married w/o children; raised in an orthodox N.O. family, attended 1st TLM two years ago when offered on law school campus following S.P.; attended TLM most of the time since

What drove me to go to my first TLM, and then to return despite the confusion of the new experience, was the sense that there was something important there (beyond the Obvious Thing present at any Mass): that there was value in praying the way that saints, popes, and my ancestors had all prayed. I read my law school assignments and saw how twentieth-century jurists had thrown centuries of logical, accepted legal doctrines out the window on the basis of emotion, poor reasoning, and chronological snobbery; the result is a sickening mess. I haven’t been able to resist seeing the same forces in the jettisoning of the old rites. Maybe that makes me a grumpy reactionary. But I have “positive” motivations as well: I enjoy having the entire ordo in front of me; I enjoy the untruncated invocations, the scripture interwoven in the rites, the knowledge that I’m not going to be distracted by father’s use of New, Improved, Unapproved Mass RubricsTM, and—frankly—I enjoy Latin. But I also recognize that these things, these ancient rites, would be invaluable even if I didn’t enjoy them, because they are what we as Catholics do, or at least what we have always done. I simply don’t see any way in which it is possible for us to make reasoned decisions about what we as Catholics ought to be doing in our homes, in church, or with our families if we act as if history began in 1970.

I might also add a follow up to the last line, which I omitted from what I sent Fr. Z because of length concerns. I believe my parents did a finer job than most of raising my siblings and I to be decent folks and loyal Catholics. We all have a decent amount of what John Sonnen periodically calls "team pride." But my father, who is primarily responsible for that sort of thing, had advantages in that task that many of his contemporaries, and indeed I would say almost all of my contemporaries, do not. He pulled from a substantial reservoir of pre-concilar piety, discipline, and memory in raising us in the Church. Outside this campus, you might have to travel several states to find another person my age who was taught double-genuflection by his parents and remembers it. If there is one thing in his life my father holds a grudge about, it's the sister who told him he wasn't allowed to kneel after Holy Communion any more in grade school. He once explicated in very clear terms why the abolition of the Index was a terrible idea. And my father isn't what anyone would call a traditionalist: he doesn't regard it as his place to have any sort of opinion or input about the Church's liturgy, aesthetics, or positive law, and he likes his prayers in English.

But the memories of the things he was taught, the things most people were taught a generation ago, allowed him to pass on a rather sizable chunk of Catholic culture and practice that is in many ways simply vestigial in a a purely N.O. world. Catholics of my age, without the same memories, have to find some way to access that same reservoir of knowledge if we are to have any hope of preserving any part of our cultural patrimony. Most of that knowledge will be found in the Missa Antiqua.

Were there things that needed reforming? Of course. The Church has needed reform in every age, because the perfect nature granted Her by Her Founder can only be preserved imperfectly by Her earthly stewards. New saints would be nice. I like the cycles for ordinary time (but their use for important feasts is destabilizing, I feel: the pattern of the liturgical year's accentuated points should be memorable and universal, not shifting). It probably would have been appropriate to shift the readings to the ambo. And this is just me, but I would really enjoy it if the itte, missa est came after the last gospel. If the priest says "it's over," it should actually be over. But ye gods and little fishies, the N.O. is a horse of a different color.

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