And today something a little different. Does everybody know by now that B.A. and I go to Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays? If you read my other blog, you probably do. If you read my column in the Prairie Messenger, you definitely do, because Traditional Latin Mass stuff is all I write about in the Prairie Messenger.
"It's like a party," I said to B.A., who may have had a minor heart attack, because "Mass as party" is an idea TLM lovers don't like very much. However, what can I say? I love the Traditional Latin Mass, and I try to get to every Missa Cantata going, and I love to see who else is there. It's like a party.
Okay, now to get to the letter. Yes, there's a letter. I found it in my combox this morning. (My internet was down all yesterday; I almost died when I found a troll's comment had sneaked in.)
Hi, Seraphic. Great post, as usual.
I have a question: I've started to attend a TLM parish and, like you already stated, most of its members are twenty-something men. Nothing against that, au contraire!
But I don't know how to behave amongst these young, conservative NCB. All my life I went to a charismatic parish and it's a whole different world.
I would like to make friends with them and, well, I've never had male friends - I'm a girl's girl and, honestly, I'm not very experienced. They are so nice, giving me flyers and explaining the liturgy, but I barely know them and I would not like to send any mixed signals. It's a very small parish and I don't want to be "the flirt".
This girl's girl was totally anonymous, which is just wrong, so I've given her a name which is New Trid Girl.
So much to say. First, the Traditional Latin Mass attracts men (not mostly twenty-something men in my parish, though) because it is serious. It is entirely lacking in the "Jesus is My Boyfriend" music and sentiments of charismatic worship. It holds linguistic challenges, and as it underscores the serious and special nature of the priesthood, it also underscores the serious and special nature of masculinity. (Masculinity is indeed serious and special to men, and only traditional religious rituals these days seems willing to acknowledge that fact in healthy ways.) It certainly underscores the serious and special nature of the Blessed Sacrament. Nobody touches the Blessed Sacrament with unconsecrated hands, and you can bet that any TLM priest takes his duties towards the Blessed Sacrament very seriously indeed.
If you ask me, men are just less likely to 'get' all the nuances of banquet/community gathering/sacrifice/community sing-song involved in the Novus Ordo as it is said today. The TLM, in contrast, is quite obviously a sacrifice. The Holy Eucharist is unequivocally Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity. The congregation falls to its knees. There is none of this o-but-everyone-stood-in-the-first-century nonsense that completely ignores Scripture references to Christ Himself and St. Paul praying on their knees.
Traditional worship gives men something firm to hang onto, and not only is it worship worthy of God, insofar as the human person is able to make something worthy of God (and the theological discussions here regarding priest-as-alter-Christus could be endless), it is worship worthy of men's own little selves to perform. Women are endlessly tolerant. Men, not so much. Not Trid Men, anyway. As you will discover.
Now, as yet there are not a lot of people who can get to the Traditional Latin Mass, and there are not as yet a lot of Traditional Latin Masses to go to. And this means that Traditional Latin Mass communities are small, tightly knit and delighted when new people come along, as long as the new people don't try to change anything or get up everyone's nose. The great thing about this is that you don't have to do anything but show up, take the handouts, pray, and hang around afterwards hoping someone nice will talk to you. They will. If in doubt, ask someone in the tea-and-coffee queue a question about the liturgy.
When you are gone, other parishioners will discuss you and wonder where you are from and watch to see if you come back the next week. They will probably be delighted to see you again. And, in the natural span of time, people will befriend you. Just keep showing up and look friendly and approachable. Don't worry about mixed signals. Just say "yes" to those invitations that you welcome, and "no" to those invitations that you don't.
I haven't the least idea where you are from. If you are in Britain, than you know better than I do the social rules for Britain of 1962, which is more or less what I think I am obeying these days. Sending thank-you notes or making thank-you phone calls to hostesses is big. I imagine that most Trids (or, as people are more likely to call us, Trads) in Canada and the USA also put a lot of stock in old-fashioned good manners.
As a woman, you are in luck, for TLM people are nothing if not traditional, and traditionally women do not try to make friends with men. Men try to make friends with you. Meanwhile, a girl's girl who hasn't dated much and goes to the TLM is, I suspect, many a Trid man's idea of the perfect woman, so congratulations.* Just make sure you keep up with your girlfriends. Don't get too bedazzled by all the twenty-something Trid men.
The great thing about being a girl's girl is that you don't take men too seriously or fall into masculine patterns of speech and behaviour to be "one of the boys", which personally I think is romantic death. So wear a fashionable but modest dress or skirt to Mass, nice shoes and your lovely new white mantilla. Smile at everyone in the community after Mass, and be particularly attentive to the elderly. Don't just tag along to after-Mass events, but keep your ear sharp and attentive for personal or general invitations.
Incidentally, I hope you and the priest have already exchanged introductions. If not, introduce yourself and tell him that you are new to the Old Rite. Don't be put off if he seems shy. Many TLM priests (and indeed parishioners) have suffered a lot because of their love for the TLM, and some need to get to know a new person a lot better before they risk sharing their opinions and friendship.
As far as I know, no young woman in my community has ever been labelled "the flirt" or anything unpleasant. But at least some of us always notice what young women and newcomers wear. As people often disapprovingly point out, we care a lot about "externals." And, as we might counter, "externals" certainly do influence "internals", which is why we love the TLM so much in the first place.
*Update: I just remembered that that last woman who married a bachelor of my TLM community was divorced-and-annulled little me. Many a Trid man's perfect woman could be a mysterious rich widow or a world-weary German aristocrat in a black leather jacket. You can never tell with men. In the meantime, girl's girl who hasn't dated much is a perennial favourite of men all over, bless their little hearts.