At the traditional Mass…

24 09 2008

This last weekend, I broke down and finally went to the traditional Latin Mass in Oakland. AG and I usually go to one of the churches here in Berkeley for Sunday Mass, but as she was feeling under the weather, I had an opportunity to go back to my old stomping ground. Perhaps it was a result of making myself believe various ideas about liturgy, or maybe it had something to do with the fact that I don’t go to it regularly anymore. Maybe it was just the time of day (it started at 12:30 p.m. and ended after 2.:00 p.m., which is an ungodly time to be indoors in California on a Sunday afternoon). But I just felt really disconnected from it. At this point, I just see the whole phenomenon of Catholic traditionalism as less and less real. Probably before, during my years of ecclesiastical sojourns, I had lulled myself into thinking that the liturgically bizarre is what is supposed to be the norm. But now I just see it for what it is: a bubble within a bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I love the regular Catholic Mass. If anything, I really don’t like the fact that I am “talked at” so much in the post-1960’s rite.  When I am at the old Mass now, all I can think is, “this isn’t normal”, “this is not what they do at the Catholic church down the street”, and other such thoughts. I suppose when I was with the SSPX, I nearly brainwashed myself into thinking that what I was doing there was what was authentically Catholic. I couldn’t come up with a good explanation of what other people were doing. I knew other SSPXer’s did, and I didn’t necessarily agree with their remnant fortress mentality. I was just there for the liturgy. I could have done without the politics or even the arch-reactionary, nearly farcical scholastic theology that they spewed. Now, I think I could do without the liturgy too.

Unlike most, there were years in my life when church WAS my life. In seminary, we went to church five times a day at least. In the monastery, services went on for hours. I thus can really not fathom why people can obsess over what they do for an hour and a half of their week. Maybe I have just learned to wean myself from it. Maybe I have just had enough church for one lifetime, and I consider all of it as something to be endured. I guess with anyone who obsesses over liturgical questions, I am just tempted to grab him from the collar and shake him saying, “This is not your life, get over it!!!!” Maybe if we looked at church going more as a matter of obedience and not edification, we would be in much better shape. Something tells me that, for better or for worse, this has always been the Catholic attitude towards Mass, in spite of what modern reformers have tried to do to it.

The war against the saints

24 09 2008

On the extirpation of “idolatry” in a Mexican village

…And here also we can see, naively acknowledged, the purely pagan character of Baroque religion when it is examined in its essence. Vallemont certainly regards the liturgy as something sacred; but, to his mind, sacred means untouchable, something to be preserved intact at any price, and something which cannot be kept intact without the complete renunciation of all attempts to make the practice of it intelligent and living. No notion more fundamentally unchristian can be imagined: here, in fact, the kind of false “holiness” of the pagan mystery-religions is given the name of the true holiness of Christ.

-Louis Bouyer, Liturgical Piety

In one chapter of John M. Ingham’s book, Mary, Michael, and Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico, the author discusses religious change in a small village in the Mexican state of Morelos. In the town of Tlayacapan, there was an attempt to impose more correct forms of Catholicism and liberation theology beginning in the middle of the 1950’s. The clergy who served in that town often felt that their parishioners were far too pagan and used the festivals of the saints and their side altars to behave in an unchristian manner and divert attention from Christ Himself. They thus began to refuse to say Masses for the dead and the saints, and even began to tear down the side altars to various patrons of the village. In this way, they felt that they were creating a Catholicism more in harmony with the Gospel, and completing the evangelization of the people that began almost five hundred years before.
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