CHRISTMAS AND THE TRIDENTINE LATIN MASS…one man’s perspective AND invitation

DISCLAIMER–I am a member of All Saint’s Catholic Church, located in NE Minneapolis here in MN. What I am writing here represents my views only, and not the official views of The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter nor the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.

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Personally I happen to be very comfortable with the Novus Ordo (or new order) of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as promulgated under Pope Paul VI . Particularly with the new translation, which is far more faithful to the original Latin, I believe it has succeeded, and has the continued potential of succeeding, in bringing many from other faith traditions into a more coherent understanding of Catholic Christianity. And, for many, we might never have come back to the Church if the Masses were all still in Latin. This is especially true of the more informal evangelical Christians, whose journeys or returns to the Church in the last 25 years or so have been invaluable in helping Catholics to study the Bible and become far more literate in the distinctives of the Roman Catholic Faith. It has and does serve a purpose in a society of internet-savvy youth, as well as some older folks such as myself, who have needed clear and concise understandings of not just the “rules” of Catholicism but the whys behind it. But I also love the Tridentine Latin Mass of Pius V. And when I say love it, that is precisely the word I would choose to use.

For starters, do you realize that there are virtually no canonized Saints who did not regularly participate in the Tridentine Mass (or at least something very similar) throughout most of their lives, including Blesseds John the 23rd and John Paul the Great? Even those canonized since 1970 lived, in almost all cases, the majority of their lives with the Latin Mass and nothing else. In 100 years that may not be the case, but at least for the lifetimes of pretty much all who are reading this today, it is indeed true.

The exception of course are Eastern Catholic Saints but they too followed a similar path of ancient Liturgy and still do. More on that in a moment. And, as a side note, it was ironically in my visiting of a number of Eastern Liturgies that led me back to a hunger for the Latin. They each bring us to an ancient form of worship quite lost to this society of the 21st century and computers. Worshipping in the format of the Tridentine Mass or Eastern rites can cause a person to literally not remember what year it is, thinking we somehow are with the original Apostles and Saints through the ages as we adore our Christ in the way so many of them did. And, in reality, so we are. It is worth thinking about.

The Novus Ordo is in fact a very new innovation, and entire pieces of the ancient Tradition of the Tridentine Mass of Pius V were (I believe unfortunately) eliminated to simplify and streamline the process of Sunday worship. It was done in a time period when convenience and speed had begun to be the rule of the day. And I think that was a mistake on many levels. I love the fact that, for just one instance, in the Tridentine Confiteor (or confession of sin) at the beginning of each Mass that we call upon not just “all the saints,” which takes little or no thought on our parts, but we call upon for prayer and strength to St Michael the Archangel, the Holy Apostles, those whose relics are in our altars, and a number of others, thus doing a more thorough and thoughtful meditation of prayer which connects us very directly to those worshiping with us on the other side at that moment. In other words it is that very richness and those graces which we can so easily miss in the “quick and simplified” version of that same prayer in the Novus. Does this mean Latin is somehow “better” and English (or the vernacular) is then less “spiritual?” No, not really. Not in and of itself at least. And let me be clear that I believe both to be valid Catholic liturgies.

But a Tradition that goes back over 1000 years does have a certain “clout” over that which we have had for the last 50 only. Another example is Gregorian Chant, which if sung well and powerfully, awakens the soul and lifts it to God in a way that a guitar Mass or modern praise and worship music nearly never could. And that concept incidentally is directly from the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, and not just the opinion of some grouchy old man in south Minneapolis, MN! And I think that the extra effort it takes to worship God using and following along with a Missal, and learning at least some Latin words and their meanings, can cause us  to stretch away from ourselves to at times struggle our way to God (while yet remembering that He is closer to us than we are to ourselves) can somehow awaken a certain depth of reverence that is often times missing in the average modern vernacular Mass.

Latin also reminds us of the mystery of God which is brought to us through Calvary. We are not meant or even capable to fully understand either Calvary or the Mass which re-presents it to us each Liturgy. Latin reminds us of that in a similar way that the altar behind the physical wall in the Eastern rites does. Latin in a very real way is that same wall of protection from ourselves and tends to give us a child-like dependence on a Savior beyond our understanding.

We are living today in a society of “easy believism.” And that does not work in the Tridentine or Eastern rites. I think that is what I love most about the Latin Mass and why it attracts me so much. I have noticed something else since attending a Tridentine parish. No one jumps up and runs out afterwards. We have coffee and doughnuts every Sunday, but no one arrives there until we are done, really done, with our post-Communion worship. And those of you who have seen so many dart towards the door before the final blessing at the end of the modern Mass know what I mean. No one talks in the sanctuary or nave but quietly file into the vestibule to socialize while others are still praying. In many ways it is a throwback to the 1950s, when I was little and the Mass was sacred and amazing. And, 50 years later I remember that and attending Tridentine Mass has awakened that side of me.

Our priests are from the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St Peter), which is in reality an off-shoot of the St Pius X Society, only with a very strong commitment to the Vatican and loyalty to the Holy See. We offer confessions before each and every Mass, and sometimes they continue even during the Mass, so that people do not receive the Lord in an unworthy manner, as St Paul warned against. I have gotten more spiritual counsel during those particular confessions than a week’s worth of homilies at many modern Catholic parishes. They simply do not hurry you. And the sense of having your soul ministered to and cared about is the primary focus.

So this Christmas, if you are not otherwise occupied, visit us for Mass, either Midnight or at 10:30 AM Solemn High Mass. Even if you do not understand a word, we are all learning together and I guarantee you will have a very real sense of welcoming the child Jesus if you do. And you may even come back. I did.

Here is our website for further information as well as the Christmastide schedule:

http://www.fsspminneapolis.org/.

And for more information on the “whys” of the Latin Mass and its value today:

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