The morning is gray and dark. A low overcast sky hangs above the damp roads. I have driven to the next town, to another parish, to another Mass for what I hope will be a meaningful experience. A friend has invited me to come and worship in the ancient form of the Church. This is a local experiment, and my first time. A young priest has been given permission to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in the morning on the first Saturday of each month in this church. I am curious.
Strangely, as I drive, and then as I enter the church, I feel like I’m sneaking surreptitiously to a secret destination for some underground meeting. But I am also excited and hopeful. January is dark but the church looks warm inside. I come early. There is a long line for confessions, so I get in line. The line moves slowly and I realize there will be no time for the priest to hear my confession, so I grab a missal and find a place in a pew. In the few moments before Mass begins I look at the missal. It is a small single-fold, staple-binding paperback, yet the simple woodblock prints and Latin words seem to contain the weight of centuries.
I look around the nave. There are a few souls, not many, sitting quietly and praying or just staring ahead in thought. The cantor and the organist finish their brief rehearsal. The priest has no more time for confessions and walks to the sacristy to prepare for Mass. A few more people show up and take their places in the pews.
After a few minutes the priest comes out to the ambo and welcome us, and says a few words to prepare us for the Mass. We are to not worry too much about when to sit, kneel, or stand he says. Just pay attention and we will figure it out. We can use the missals if we want to follow along, or not. We are encouraged to just experience it as best we can. He then goes back to the sacristy.
A couple minutes later the priest and altar server make their way along the side wall of the nave to the back of the church. This is a minimal crew: priest, server, cantor, organist. But it is enough.
The music begins, signaling the procession is beginning. We all stand.
Catholic News Service recently did a series of video reports on Gregorian Chant, what it is, and how it’s making a comeback in the Church. This is a great introduction to the music of the Church, in essence an ancient form of prayer that seemed at times to have been lost, but has been with us all along.
This last video is somewhat interesting in that the music in it is mostly not chant at all. Still, beautiful music.
I love this video. Fr. Mike Schmitz does such a great job of cutting through a tendency so many of us have. That is, he takes to task the idea that the Mass is about us and what each of us can “get out of it.” Rather, he says, the Mass is about worship, and that worship requires sacrifice. Watch the video to get a better understanding of what I am poorly representing.
I am convinced that if more Catholics focused on worship at Mass, many of the disputes about what form is best, or what music is best, or should we hold hands or not, etc, etc, would just go away.
Filed under Liturgy, Video
An EWTN show called Extraordinary Faith did a couple of episodes on new church designs and old church restorations that reflect the traditional patrimony of the Catholic Church.
The information here is great, and shows something of the rebirth and growth in recognizing the timeless and appropriate architectural and artistic designs of those buildings we instantly recognize as churches. Consequently many parishes and religious groups are wanting such buildings again.
I love the level of exposure to these beautiful churches and those who build & restore them this shows brings. There is a great deal of skill and work involved in any traditional Catholic church building. I also love the passion exhibited here for the traditions of the Church.
[An aside: Of course, and as expected, in the “spirit of EWTN” the production quality is serious, thoughtful, and sometimes (unintentionally) humorously amateurish. I would love to see EWTN level up two or three notches with its productions. Perhaps something like Bishop Barron’s Catholicism series, which would be at least a place to start. I’m not just complaining. I used to be a professional television producer and director, so I know a few things about what it takes to make good television, and it’s mostly not a question of money. EWTN too often is caught somewhere between 1980’s professional television and community access television.]
Filed under Architecture, Art, Beauty, Catholic Church, Church History, Curious, Liturgy, Sacraments, Saints, The Early Church, Theology, Tradition, Video
Here is a great video how one Catholic parish in America has renovated its church building, invigorated its parish life, helped its community, and is contributing to the restoration of the Church at large. The video is from 2010, but its message resonates still. Basic things: repair the building, offer vespers, bring back pomp and reverence, Latin, chant, Corpus Christi procession, altar boys, communion on the tongue while kneeling, incense, mystery, etc., etc. They also employed an architectural and liturgical expert, Denis McNamara, to help lead the restoration.
The church interior was completed in 2014. Here are some stunning images, including before and after photos of the project. What beauty. My parish should do this! I’m sure the first response will be about money, but I really think it comes down to the will to do it — as do most goals of highest value.
If there is any one formula or silver bullet for creating vibrant parishes it seems to be: get back to the roots, restore the old ways, focus on truth, goodness, and beauty in the Mass, and do those things that support these things, like renovating your church building inside and out.
Filed under Architecture, Art, Beauty, Catholic Church, Christian Life, Church History, Curious, Evangelism, Liturgy, Sacraments, Tradition, Truth, Video