I have had two very different, but very good Mass experiences recently. On Saturday I watched the nearly 2.5 hours long broadcast on EWTN of the Solemn Pontifical Mass in honor of the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. This Mass was in the Extraordinary Form (Usus Antiquior, Traditional Latin Mass, old Mass, etc.), and it was stunning, truly stunning.
Then, on Sunday evening, because of our crazy weekend schedule, my family ended up attending a 7:30 PM Mass at our local Newman Center, which we have not attended before (we’ve been to the Sunday morning Mass years ago). This Mass, as you might guess, was in the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo, new Mass, etc.), and it was also wonderful.
If you have been following this blog you know I have become increasingly interested in the old Mass. It seems more and more clear to me that the new Mass (and especially the many abuses of the new Mass) has been a kind of tragedy for the Church. I am not alone, however I tend to take a less strident, trenchant, vehement, or angry stance towards Vatican II or the Novus Ordo than do many traditionalists. I have concerns, but I do not label myself a traditionalist. Still, I think the traditionalists largely have it right. Therefore, you might find it curious that I would find the Mass Sunday evening to have been a joy. Here’s why:
- The church was packed. Lot’s of youth (mostly college students as you would expect), but also the elderly, families, etc.
- Everyone was singing loud. (Yes, the music was contemporary, a bit praise and worshipy, but it was very good) Everyone recited the creed loudly too. A lot of enthusiasm in the church that evening.
- The homily was good, not great, but it was very encouraging. I could tell the students in the row in front of us were paying attention. And it was a call to give one’s life to Christ and pursue the divine life.
- After Mass everyone was gathering outside, lot’s of energy, lots of chatting and fellowshiping. There was a buzz in the air. There is LIFE in this parish.
- BUT also… this church has chairs and no kneelers, and little room between rows to allow people to kneel even if they wanted to. So many, especially the boomers and elderly, do not kneel at all but remain standing. However, all the youth kneeled in reverence. My family did too (we are used to that coming from our own parish). A few others did as well. This told me that the youth are seeking reverence. Some of them will eventually discover the TLM, but they are also bringing reverence into the NO. I found this encouraging.
- AND… my eldest daughter, almost 18 yrs old, is in need of a Catholic community to join. Although our local Newman Center is not our family parish, I would be delighted to see her “plug in” to this group where there’s communal life suited to her spirit and age group, but with all ages present too. I could tell this evening Mass, and the various indications of the community surrounding it, was a revelation to her. I am encouraged.
- At the end of Mass there were announcements for an upcoming spring formal dance, and also that dinner would be served after Mass (at 8:30 PM!) with cake for April birthdays. I could tell my family thought this sounded fun, but we couldn’t stay.
At the Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon, he gave a homily that stressed the Novus Ordo and TLM are two forms of the one Roman Rite, and that they should inform and mutually enrich one another. I believe his Excellency thinks that if given a chance the TLM will naturally attract more and more Catholics. He specifically called out the youth, who have shown so much interest in the TLM. I’m sure he also believes that the NO Mass can sometimes have a positive action that is encouraging and leads one closer to Christ.
In case you wanted to hear his words, here is the Archbishop’s homily:
I came away from this weekend very encouraged. I felt the Pontifical Mass and the National Shrine was a potential turning point in the resurgence of the Traditional Latin Mass in this country. I also felt the Novus Ordo Mass at our local college campus parish, with its energy and community, was beautiful in its own way. And the reverence shown by the youth at the NO Mass indicates that the fields are ready for harvest, and also that, for all its faults, true reverence can actually be found at a Novus Ordo Mass. This is why I cannot be a hard-core traditionalist. I love, love, love the traditional Mass, and I pray every day it (and many other old Catholic traditions) continues to grow in popularity and becomes common in our archdiocese. On the other hand, There are places, like this Newman Center parish, where the new Mass is linked to a vibrant and dynamic college culture. For some reason it seems to be working.
Perhaps one form is more about worshiping Christ and the other more about celebrating the Church (which, of course, is the body of Christ). If I had to pick one it would certainly be worshiping Christ, but I wonder how the two can come together more. My desire is to know Christ and become holy. I pray for these things for my family, and for their ultimate salvation. And I want to fellowship with other Christians in these pursuits. These things are more important than which form prevails. However, I also believe the majority of problems in the Church today can be traced to poor worship and a lack of faith — both of which go together (as we see again and again in Church history and the ancient history of Israel). The resurgence of the TLM will, I believe, help bring back a focus on worship proper to Christ our King, and thus promote faith.
Finally, a bone for you traditionalists: As the Novus Ordo Mass began my daughter, who has of yet, since becoming Catholic, only experienced NO masses (mostly at an older and more solemn church we normally attend, but NO nonetheless), leaned over to me and said this Mass seemed very Protestant to her. I have to say, in a way, she was right.