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.



14 responses

30 01 2011

“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.”

I know I’m way late on this conversation, but this remark struck me because it describes my dad’s attitude toward church so perfectly. He doesn’t give a shit about it, but he’ll never miss a Sunday Mass because going to church is “just what you’re supposed to do.” I finally realized why all my traditionalist zeal for the “Mass of all times” and angst over the new Mass when I was younger never made a lick of sense to him. It’s because through it all he was a Catholic and I wasn’t.

30 09 2008

Hi, Arturo–

I have mixed feelings about what you’re saying here. On the one hand, I agree that people who are getting too bent out of shape over the liturgy need to relax. Nothing is ever completely the way *we* want it to be, and focusing on what we want the Mass to look and sound like is a classic example of Paying Attention to the Wrong Thing. On the other hand, it seems to me that forcing oneself to attend an indifferently-celebrated and tacky liturgy for mortification’s (or obedience’s, or edification’s) sake is just the flip side of the same coin.

I have been to Masses at which the priest kept up a continuous stream of ad-lib invocations in lieu of the text of the Novus Ordo. I have approached the altar for a blessing at Communion and had mumbled over me a sentence which included no mention of the Trinity. I have seen priests read the Gospel while swaying like trees in a strong wind as they apparently attempted to dramatically portray the characters speaking in the reading. I have heard (too many!) priests pronounce blessings addressed to “all of us” (instead of “you”).

All these are, not observances of, but abuses of the Novus Ordo. I have no problem with the authorized rite being performed reverently and decently. I have a significant problem with the authorized rite being performed sloppily and carelessly. You know me well enough to know that I can’t stand the ICEL translation, but I won’t claim it’s invalid; nor, although I mourn the stripping of manual & devotional acts from the liturgy, will I claim that the Novus Ordo is deficient. The question is, when I have the choice of attending a rite which is attentively & decently done over a rite which is sloppy and lazy, why on earth would I choose the latter over the former?

Maybe that’s a different issue than the one you’re addressing, though…

30 09 2008

Hi, Arturo. Long time no see.

You said: “I thus can really not fathom why people can obsess over what they do for an hour and a half of their week.”

Might I suggest an answer: it’s precisely because most people only get an hour and a half a week, or even only an hour, that they obsess.

26 09 2008
In response to recent comments « Reditus: A Chronicle of Aesthetic Christianity

[…] Comments jacobus on On Self-KnowledgeThe young fogey on At the traditional Mass…Leah on At the traditional Mass…The young fogey on At the […]

26 09 2008
The young fogey

Being self-conscious about liturgical matters is part of the fun of Anglo-Catholicism but regarding natural versus contrived traditionalism, true.

And you’re right, Leah, not only about the old differences based on ethnic cultures but different spiritualities and even theological schools of thought. Like the differences between the Franciscans and the Jesuits for example. Or between Francisco Franco and Dorothy Day, both communicants in good standing of the ‘old’ church. As Paul Goings and I like to say preconciliar Catholicism is not monolithic. Part of the problem with trads is they think it is and take just one kind – 1950s parish practice (the indult-now-motu ghetto) or Counter-Reformation religious-order life (the SSPX, Fr Anthony Chadwick’s insight into their problems) – and act like it’s the sum. (Where’s the Lefebvrist Catholic Worker movement?)

The big differences in the RC Church today, bigger than Irish vs Polish culture (which caused a schism in America 100 years ago that still exists!) or Dominican vs Franciscan spiritualities, are very real and much like Anglicanism’s churchmanships. (High/Anglo-Catholic = trads and reform-of-the-reformers, Low = charismatics, not a big phenom any more, Central = rank and file in the pews and getting married and buried, Broad = the old liberals running the RC Church in America.) Hilary White has well described the insult to one’s intelligence and the arrogance (‘I’m above all that’) from the RC pollyannas who deny they exist.

26 09 2008

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but at some point I began to realize that the communities that cluster around the TLM are as fake as the ones that flock to guitar masses. I often hear that traditional Catholics are the same as devout Catholics 50, 100, or 200 years ago, but that is simply not true. I doubt that Catholics 100 years ago were as self-conscious about liturgical matters, episcopal appointments, Vatican politics and the other issues that to populate traditionalist discourse. Most people probably didn’t know what went on in the next parish over, much less in the papal household.

It just seems very strange at how Balkanized everything is in the Church: traditionalists in that parish, the “people who like chant but not in Latin” parish, the “people who like Gregorian Chant but in a Novus Ordo” parish, the “guitar mass” parish, the parish for people who don’t like chant or guitars, the black parish with Gospel music, etc. Then again, there was probably just as much balkanization pre-Vatican II, except then it was based on ethnicity.

26 09 2008
The young fogey

P.S. Though Orthodoxy has its own ecclesiola in ecclesiæ problems: cultlike convert parishes and fringe groups like Old Calendarists and the flaky people who used to be in ROCOR who’ve since left for the Old Calendarists after ROCOR’s union with Moscow.

26 09 2008
The young fogey

As much as I disagree with most Orthodox on contraception (Rome’s right) and hate Orthodox anti-Westernism this aspect of Orthodox life grabs me: the traditional IS still normative; the spectrum from left to right is narrower and all of it is well to the right of modern Western practice. It’s not the fantasy world, self-righteous church-within-a-church, play-acting or preciousness that dog both the RC trads and Anglo-Catholics (for all the good that both have).

25 09 2008
Joe B.

I am very sympathetic to what you write having had many of the same experiences as you, still if I were you I would look at what the Fathers say about acedia. I do not mean to judge you, and I am probably completely off the mark, but you tone brings that to mind. God Bless you.

25 09 2008
brother Charles

Great post…you capture some of my own loves and doubts about the old Mass and its traditionalist partisans, at least as I have been trying to learn it in an effort to prepare myself for an eventual obedience to Summorum Pontificum (it that call ever comes.)

25 09 2008
Matt K

Funny, I had a similar experience two weeks ago, attending a Tridentine High Mass for the first time since May (which was, actually, my wedding Mass). I just had the feeling of I don’t belong here, I belong in the church that is three blocks away from my apartment, with all its flaws and eccentricities.

Still it’s nice to go to mass from time to time where they have Confession on Sunday morning, side altars to Joseph and Mary (probably the most annoying absence from my local church), and of course that always-thrilling language and chant.

25 09 2008

Sam: I resonate completely.

Arturo: Obedience, of course, is ultimately about edification, and I don’t think the latter is the problem. I think the problem here is that we want to consciously experience that edification on a short term basis and when we don’t, we are disappointed.

24 09 2008
Sam Urfer

I hear what you are saying. There is a falseness of tone to be found among the liturgically Pharisaical in the modern Church, which can be as off-putting as any liturgical abuse.

I find myself in a weird place, coming from a deeply anti-liturgical background, now in love with the transcendent beauty of the liturgy. The thing is, I feel the power and beauty of the Mass whether I go to the Tridentine, Latin Novos Ordo, or to a normal English language Mass around the corner with David Haas and Marty Haughn (actually, I have a huge soft spot for “The Mass of Light” because I first experienced the liturgy that way and fell in love). The Eucharist is the Eucharist, and while it is good to yearn for a well done Mass, it is unhealthy to become fixated on seeking a perfect liturgy. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” and all that.

24 09 2008
The Shepherd

Can you not think of any one particular reason why you felt this way?

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