The National Catholic Review

"The Tridentine Mass: Why I Couldn’t Go Back," my blog post of March 8, evoked numerous comments—63 to be exact. These surely set me thinking. Thanks to all who pitched in! At this point, I prefer not to revisit the debate, but to move forward constructively in two directions. I ask two questions: 1) what values of the Tridentine Mass might be more present in the current order of the Mass? and 2) what values might those who favor the Tridentine Mass be more aware of?

1. Many cite the sense of the sacred, the beauty, the reverential sense of God present in the Tridentine Mass. One can rely upon the ritual. It engages the spirit, and is more contemplative and prayerful. I would like to think that the current order of the Mass can and should also have these values. But only if the various moments and periods of silence called for in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (No. 45) were observed more consistently. The Instruction rightly emphasizes singing and music (Nos. 39-41). I would describe this as singing the Mass rather than singing at Mass and this too could help deepen the sense and experience of the holy.

2. On the other hand, those who favor the Tridentine Mass might recall that as the Catechism indicates, the Mass is not only a sacrifice but also a meal or banquet re-presenting the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles (CCC 1323 and 1382). Secondly, while it is true that the strong focus of the Tridentine Mass is upon God, the Mass is not only about God but God-with- us. I would hope, for example, that more elements of the Prayer of the Faithful (awareness of and prayers for the needs of the church and world, especially the poor) could be part of the celebration.

A few final thoughts. I would encourage those who attend or celebrate the Tridentine Mass to share their experience of its values. Let me repeat that at least for now I myself would not choose to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. But I do favor choice and thus admire the family that brings the children to both the “old Mass and new Mass” and will let them eventually make their choice.

Peter Schineller, S.J.

Comments

Juan Lino | 3/22/2012 - 4:14pm
You have a point ?i?n? ???#?1?8? but p?lay nice Jim! 
Juan Lino | 3/22/2012 - 4:12pm
Perhaps I am one of those “regular readers of America and this blog who have a Hispanic background and Spanish as a first language” that Anne was thinking about, (but maybe not) but since I do fit the description I’ll share a few thoughts born from my experience.
 
For the majority of my life as a Roman Catholic Christian I have participated in the “ordinary form” of the Roman Rite (in various languages – Chinese, Catalan, Japanese, etc.) and a few other rites in the Church (the Byzantine Catholic, the Maronite, Ambrosian, Dominican, etc.).  
 
I have, however, only participated in the “extraordinary form” about 6 times and turning to the question: what values of the “extraordinary form” might be more present in the current order of the Mass? I’d like to share my experience.
 
I certainly gladly drank in the sense of Mystery and I loved that the priest and people faced towards the East, it made me feel as if I was also participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass. I must, however, say that I also did feel a bit detached because I felt as if I was watching a performance.  Additionally, the reverence seemed to slide a bit towards fear, something that disturbed me.  I am not saying that this was indeed the case, I am just saying that it felt a bit Jansenistic to me. 
 
Turning to the community aspect, again, to me, I didn’t think there was a strong sense of community or, to be clearer, I felt unwelcome since some of the looks I received seemed to say: “what’s he doing here.”  Perhaps if I was part of the “regular crowd” this wouldn’t be the case and I can’t say that attending a non-Hispanic Mass is really that different. Perhaps this example will clarify what I am saying.  I was very active in my former parish (and my current one also) which was a predominantly non-Hispanic parish.  For a variety of reason, I wasn’t able to attend Mass there for about 3 months (I did attend Mass but just not there.)  I also help at a Spanish parish but, again, I wasn’t able to help for three weeks due to saying yes to too many projects.  So what happened?  The Spanish priest called me to ask if I was OK.  The other priest, who I work very closely with also, was absolutely silent.



Regarding community in general; if it’s genuine it is beautiful!  However, warmth is not necessarily “community”.  One thing I can’t stand is what I call “contrived community”. The “presider” says, “Hi, call me Bob” and the ministers of hospitality imagine that they are your best friend.  Give me a break and leave me alone.  What makes moves it away from a “contrived community” for me.  Genuine love!  Of course, coming from a Spanish background this doesn’t mean that there can’t be arguments, yelling, back-stabbing, etc., but that underneath our human messiness there is a genuine love of the other as they are.  Thanks be to Christ I am in a community like that.
 
Silence in the ordinary form is vital.  Not silence as a “program” but silence born from wonder, wonder on front of what Christ is doing at the Liturgy with us, with the bread and wine, etc.  So, it must be a silence pregnant with a Presence, a presence that loves me, you, everyone!  When this happens it’s magic and the entire parish prays as one!   
 
Regarding talking in Church, screaming babies, etc., sometimes I am ready to kill and other times I reminded that Christ willed to enter precisely into that mess we call life. 
 
Wow, reading over what I wrote above, I revealed a bit too much of my inner life for my taste but the post seems to warrant it.  In the end, there’s probably not one answer to the questions posted because each of us has a mysterious, personal (not individualistic) relationship with Christ in and through His body.  So, what attracts me will be different than what attracts the other.
 
Anne, who I've grown very fond of and who I remember in my daily prayers, among others here, will certainly not be surprised if I gently provoke her a bit by declaring that the 'optimum' blend of the traditional and progressive exists in the Catholic Church - Christ’s original Church – minus the priestesses, of course!  ; )
JIM MCCREA | 3/22/2012 - 3:15pm
David @ #16:  ditto for Latin masses.  Different culture.  Just an observer.  Not my experience, desire nor culture.

At least Hispanics worship in a language that is theirs, not someone else's myth that is imposed on them.  And they do it joyfully, loudly and with a lot of jubliant music.

Ditto for African and African-American liturgies.

Only white bread folk take boring as their operative liturgical style.
JIM MCCREA | 3/22/2012 - 3:12pm
" On this matter of - screaming children,"

Practice contraception and that won't be a problem.  Of course, you could ban children from mass altogether.  Then you can have your selfish silence all the time, but you will be disobeying Christ by doing that:  "Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."  (Lk 18:16).

If you think you can keep children quiet through a 60 minute service that absolutely does not speak nor cater to them, they you must not be a parent.
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/22/2012 - 2:19pm
Maria,  you are entitled to your preferences. However, you might want to refrain from judging those who so offend you - they are not necessarily being disrespectful.

Your understanding of community worship is not typical. Others see that Jesus welcomed crowds, and especially children, and that means noise and commotion. When Jesus wanted silence he went away by himself - to the mountain, to the desert. I too crave silent prayer - that is why I practice Centering Prayer. Community worship is different from personal prayer.

I would suggest that you avoid Hispanic masses - they would distress you, even though the love of Jesus is usually palpable. 
Bill Taylor | 3/23/2012 - 12:27pm
The crying baby chorus reaches a critical pitch after people stand for the Gospel.  But to this old priest, it is a welcome sign of life.  And any priest who wants to get into a lose/lose situation will advise his parishioners of the presence of the cry room. 
Anne Chapman | 3/22/2012 - 10:24am
William, #10 - Perhaps your comment would have been a good response to the first post, as David Power suggests, but it doesn't really matter if it was posted there or in this follow-up post.  Once a post ''falls off'' the page of the computer, few people add comments, nor read any new ones, so putting it here was the better choice because I hope that a lot of people will read it and think about it.

 I agree with what you say.  Although I do not speak Spanish, I find the Hispanic liturgies I have attended (including in an extremely poverty-stricken area of Latin America) to be so much more alive, so much more about the community, so much more about love than the staid liturgies of the English speaking world, much less those of the even more formal and staid liturgies using a dead language that is not spoken by anyone. There are at least a couple of regular readers of America and this blog who have a Hispanic background and Spanish as a first language - perhaps some of them might weigh in?

 The extent of the US Catholic church's rapid decline has been masked somewhat by the influx of immigrants from Latin America during the last 20 - 30 years.  Given that their liturgical preferences are for more participation, more vibrancy than is typical of English masses, it seems that the move to increasingly formalize the mass and almost eliminate completely the participation of the community as a whole will not be attractive to this part of the American church, who will be the majority of membership within 20 or so years. But decline is beginning there also. There has been a dramatic change in Latin America, with Catholics dropping out in huge numbers, often to join Pentecostal churches, known for their vibrant and Spirit-filled worship and their very strong sense of community.  In the US, this is happening also.  The cold, overly large parishes of today are places where most who attend (who don't have children in the school if there is one) don't recognize more than a few others in the crowd of hundreds. The Hispanics are a community - and that includes in their parishes and at their masses. The distance that is palpable in churches of most Euro-descended populations of Catholics in the US is not part of the Hispanic culture in general. Do not touch, do not make eye contact, do not sing very loudly, and now, increasingly, do not even sing or pray together - just read a missal and listen to the homily.

There is no reason there cannot be multiple forms of liturgy available except for over-burdening the few priests left - the traditional Latin for those who want it, the current English for the many, and the Spanish for the fastest growing part of the American Catholic population.  I would suggest that those who have never gone to a mass for the Hispanic community do so.  You will gain a whole new understanding and appreciation for the concepts of community and celebration of Jesus's life and teachings - the new life he brought into the world, not just the sadness at how he died.

It would also be a good idea for every priest to follow William's example and sit in the pews in their non-clerical clothes at some point. It might be eye - and soul - opening. As far as ''grading'' the masses of my life. The pre-Vatican II everyday Sunday Latin masses would get  a D on average, the post-Vatican II masses in English average a B.  The masses I attended in the Latin American community I mentioned earlier and in a local parish, probably B+ to A-.  The most moving and spiritual experiences I have that were part of religious services were services that were not masses.

Those seeking  a way to create an ''optimum'' blend of the traditional (includng with some Latin) and the new might want to visit a few Episcopal parishes. The liturgies of the parish I attend would probably please most who want a little more tradition and formality - and incredibly amazing music - as long as they wouldn't have heart failure during the masses presided over by a woman.

Juan Lino | 3/23/2012 - 10:55am
I am sure you realize that I believe that Anglican/Epicopalian orders are invalid but you are right Anne that it was wrong of me to express that belief in an intentionally insensitive way, so I apologize to you and any other members of any other ecclesial communities that read and/or comment here. 
 
However, I do not see a problem with calling a female priest a priestess because the Oxford English Dictionary defines a “priestess” as “a female priest; a woman who holds the position and performs the functions of a priest.”  So, it should be used (minus any condescending tone, of course) because it is PRECISE!  And I am a great champion of precision in language and by that I mean that I am against the social engineering of language (think Orwell!).
 
My intention, as I said was to provoke you, specifically your desire (often unintended, sometimes not) to be an apologist for apostasy (IMHO).  Yes, if you and others want to entice people to leave Christ’s original Church, that’s your right, just as it is my right to affirm that not every church that call itself a church is really The Church. 
 
On my journey to Christ I personally studied Protestant claims and, like John Henry Newman, I found them wanting. 
 
I realize that some will read this and think that I am being insensitive but I value Truth over our culture’s desire to be politically correct.  I agree with you that we must always be respectful and loving to persons but erroneous beliefs are not entitled to those things. Yes, disagreement must be civil (and vigorous) and I freely admit that I can easily lose sight of that.
 
KEN LOVASIK | 3/22/2012 - 9:00am
As one who prays the entire Liturgy of the Hours (and sometimes even the Liturgia Horarum - I am a Latin teacher who loves Latin, but not a Tridentine Catholic), I find the Psalms, Canticles, Antiphons, and Readings from Scripture to be an 'ongoing dialogue between God and His People.  Because I believe, as a Catholic that these Scriptural passages are ''inspired'', I do believe that they are the Word of God. I do not pray, however, believing that the quoted "words of God" become my words.  There is not a hint of narcissism in the Church's official prayer.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy - Sacrosanctam Liturgiam - makes it very clear that the proper way to pray the Liturgy of the Hours is to remember that praying those texts sacred to us are, in reality, Christ praying IN us, His Body, offering adoration and praise and glory to the Father. Whether I pray in English or in Latin, I believe that the same Living Christ prays in me to His - and our! - Father.  For me, the Liturgy of the Hours is no longer ''the office'' (an obligation or duty), but the very sustenance, along with the Eucharist, of my Christian life. 
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/23/2012 - 9:02am
Juan, Juan, Juan. WHAT am I going to do with you? They're priests - not priestesses! They're christians - not Wiccans!  It is polite to accord respect to the preferences of other Christian denominations, is it not?  Catholics often get very upset at the slightest hint of disrespect towards anything Catholic a nd should be sensitive to the issue and return the courtesy. Using ''priestess'' instead of priest is meant  to insult, and surely you are above that kind of thing?  The Juan I know is.

Thank you for responding with such a thoughtful post. I was hoping that you would! 
david power | 3/22/2012 - 4:34am
William,

Seriously you have to look at the article you are speaking about before commenting.Read it again and I am sure you will ask for your posting to be pulled.Your comment belongs in the previous blogging by Fr Schineller and the  one he is trying to move away from and which you are trying to pull us back to.

@Fr Schineller, Thanks for following up on this and also thanks to all those commenters who made contributions regarding the article.

 
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/23/2012 - 8:53am
It seems that some are talking about extremes with children in church. Few would disagree that a crying baby or a toddler having a temper tantrum should be taken out of the church. And they usually are. I don't know where others live, but at the megaparish where I was a member for 30+ years (3000+ families, 7 masses each weekend) and in other parishes in the area where I have gone to church at times, I can count on one hand with a couple of fingers to spare the number of times a parent failed to take out a crying or otherwise disruptive child. (I am in my 60s - that's a lot of masses)  Perhaps some people are overly sensitive and overly critical of normal children behaving normally.

Crying rooms are a good solution - but I know of only one church with a crying room among all the suburban parishes in my area. Some parishes have nurseries where parents can leave their children during mass - but nurseries depend on volunteers and few people are willing to give up another hour or two on Sunday to take care of other people's children and so the nurseries come and go. Mostly go.  Those who complain the loudest about kids at church not sitting absolutely still and mute like statues are seldom to be found among the volunteers at church nurseries. 

Those who want a silent mass environment will usually find that the earliest mass on Sunday mornings has  few if any children in attendance.

Bill Taylor | 3/22/2012 - 2:01am
I attended and celebrated Mass in Latin and would not want to repeat the process.  The Vatican II Mass gives me a profound sense of being with the people.  I try to celebrate as prayerfully as I possibly can and-gasp-choose moments to ask the people to refocus and return their hearts to prayer. 

I had two experiences at a single parish when I went to replace a priest called away to his mother's funeral.   The first Mass was in English.  The people, mostly older,  attended with a thoughtful, prayerful spirit.  The music was traditional, and facilitated that prayerful spirit.  In the end, I could say I enjoyed this experience and was grateful for the role the music played. 

The second Mass was in Spanish.  The greeters welcomed people with affection and joy, and the church was full of energy.  The music, straight out of Mexico, joyful, energetic, engaged the people, who sang at the top of their lungs.  The whole experience was one of joy, mutual participation, veneration, worship, and celebration.   Of the two Masses, I certainly preferred the second because the people were not just reverent onlookers, but were engaged participants. 

As a retired priest, I sometimes simply sit in the congregation.  Any priest with an opinion about liturgy should have this experience.   You are surrounded by movement, by the restlessness of the children, the cry of little children.   The priest is suddenly far away.  The people follow the prayers faithfully, but in clearly different ways.  Some are at prayer, others are busy with children, others have their minds on other things.   The discussion about a ''reverent'' liturgy seems suddenly strange.  There, in the middle of the folks, you are in the middle of flesh and blood, its strengths and its weaknesses. 

At this point, foreign language limitations and lack of prayer style on the part of the priest are painflully evident.  The importance of the music is suddenly crucial.   And so help me, inspite of myself, I would have to give the Mass, any Mass, only about a C+ or B- when it comes to carrying people into the heart of God.  The Latinization of the Mass is a pitiful attempt to make the thing meaningul.   The whole flawed ritual needs to be thought through and redone, and not by those at the top, forcing their will on everyone else. 
Anne Chapman | 3/22/2012 - 11:32pm
Maria, why should silence be the norm at mass? The first eucharist was at a celebration - a major Jewish holiday. Somehow I doubt that there was a lot of silence at that supper. Nor was there silence at the eucharists of the church during its first centuries, when most were celebrated in private homes, around a dinner table, just as the last supper was.  I don't know much about St. Ambrose, but he is not Jesus. Jesus sought silence away from others, not when he was with others. 

And, as a practical matter, what do you suggest parents do with their children during mass if they are not to bring them in order not to ''disturb'' people?

God doesn't ''love'' silence. God loves human beings - including children. Especially children - noisy, messy, rambunctious children.

It's too bad that Ambrose was so crotchety.  Silence is wonderful in the right place - but it is not disrespectful nor irreverant that masses are not dead silent.  It is not meant to be.  For that, do what Jesus did - go away, go to the desert or the mountain or the river. Do as Jesus says and go into your room and close the door.  There are many times and places for silence.  Mass is for the community. Communities are not silent.
Vince Killoran | 3/21/2012 - 11:51pm
I see your point Michelle. 

I do think of the Liturgy of the Hours (and the scripture readings etc.) as being the Word of God, i.e., sort of having quotation marks around it. Hymns with the congregation taking the identity of God seem different. Thomas Day argues that we "'play God" in a kind of narcissistic way.
J Cosgrove | 3/21/2012 - 5:50pm
Father,

I will offer what little I can since I only attend the Latin Mass about once every two months.


There is much more emphasis on prayer in the Latin Mass.  It takes about 10-15 minutes from when the priest approaches the altar to the beginning of the epistle.  During that time there is a series of prayers that the priest goes through.  In order to make the experience meaningful, I read the translation and enjoy the actual prayers though I do not know the Latin.  My high school Latin has long ago deserted me.  But the opening prayer is ''Intro ibo adaltare Dei'' which emphasizes the sacrifical significance of the Mass.  It communicates that something significant is happening.


During the same time from the beginning of the Mass in the English, there is a quick prayer, the Kyrie (sometimes the confession is added), the Gloria, another short prayer and then the readings.  It sometimes takes about 2 minutes to get to the readings especially if there is no singing.  So I find the reading of the translation a positive experience while few at the current Mass read the short prayers the priest is saying and are usually staring off into space during the 30 seconds these prayers take.  I personally try to keep up but by the time I get to the right page in the Missallete  the priest has said the prayer and moved on.  The various prayers for each Sunday are treated rather matter of factly.  There is definitely no emphasis on them and I often wonder why there is not more time spent on them and their significance.

 
It took me several years before I understood that the prayer of the faithful was added back into the English Mass because it was part of the early Mass.  Similarly for the sign of peace which was part of early Masses.  It seems these two things should be part of the Tridentine Mass even though they were not for centuries.


I find nothing unusually spiritually about the Latin Mass because it is Latin or more demanding physically except I find myself paying a lot more more attention.  It is certainly more formal and probably wouldn't come off as such if this was the only Mass available.  It self selects the people who attend who are not at this service because it is comfortable or easy to participate.  The people who attend act a lot more reverential than at the English Mass.


So I find it a welcome change every now and then and will definitely continue to go every 5-6 weeks.  If our parish offered a Latin Mass, I would probably go more often but as it is it requires a special trip to a neighboring parish in the middle of the afternoon


Don't knock it.  It has its place and is positive.
MICHELLE FRANCL-DONNAY DR | 3/21/2012 - 10:10pm
I, too, have memories of less than contemplative and reverent Latin Masses, including a recent one (!).  I would concur that more and consistent use of silence in the current form might help us (as a Church) rediscover our contemplative roots.

In response to Vince Killoran, removing any sung piece in which the assembly used the first person in reference to God would gut the Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office).  Many psalms put God's words in our mouths -  in the first person - and of course, the psalms are the bones of this part of the Church's liturgy.   
NORMA NUNAG | 3/21/2012 - 5:47pm
I can't stand this either/or mentality.   I rather like some latin.   It brings me back to my childhood and a sense of stability, security and belongingness and a loving connection with my grandmother.
Vince Killoran | 3/21/2012 - 9:14pm
Three suggestions:

1. Congregational singing of nearly all of the Mass (the language doesn't matter).

2. Turn off (or at least down) the priest et al. microphones.

3. Stop singing songs where the congregation takes the role of God in the hymn (e.g., "I am the Bread of Life": you aren't, so stop pretending).

4. Don't begin Mass by saying, "Good morning eveyone!" 
JIM MCCREA | 3/21/2012 - 5:31pm
One needs to differentiate between those who choose to attend a Tridentine liturgy and their predetermined reactions thereto, and then there would be those who are forced to attend said liturgies if they were the only game in town.  As it used to be.

Pre-V2 the liturgies were FAR from a " sense of the sacred, the beauty, the reverential sense of God."  They may have been as an exception to the rule, but anyone who spent their formative years observing that exercise in non-participation realizes that truly reverential masses were few and far between.

Voluntary participation in those isolated liturgies may indeed present what the seekers hope to find, but as a survivor of Tridentinism at its worst (I am 61) I would NOT go back to that even if it was the only show in town.

I have no problem with a bi-liturgical church (actually, multi-liturgical, what with the non Latin Rites and the new Orneryariate rites) if, for no other reason than maybe the Vaticanes will finally stop imposing their 1% desires on the 99% of the rest of us.
Anonymous | 3/21/2012 - 7:08pm
I went to my second Latin Mass last Sunday.  I cannot say that I prefer the Latin Mass but I had to work all weekend so the 5:30 PM Sunday Latin mass it had to be.

I got there early and luckily there was Confession time.  I went to Confession and then had time to say my penance and to pray.

I did not have a Missel and unfortunately I was called out on a page (I'm an MD) during the only English part of the mass, the homily.

The Mass was beautiful and there was no doubt that I was somehow there at Calvary.  When I approached the banquet table and knelt down to receive and eat the feast of the Lord, I experienced the Eucharist in a new way.

My first Latin Mass was about 6 months ago.  I went with my family because we again had to, due to our schedule.  This Mass was not a good experience because I was so worried about my Wife and children who were in a foreign land with no compass.

I will still go the the ''New Mass'' regularly but I do find myself wanting to return to receive the Eucharist in such a beatiful way.