Monday, 1 October 2012

Trids, Trads and Neo-Cons Part I

This week I'm going to write about people who adhere to one strand of liturgical, theological and certainly anthropological thought in the Roman Catholic Church which may not be of interest to Other Singles of Good Will. So I hope the Other Singles of Good Will will forgive us Catholics as we chatter and bicker (respectfully) and fuss in the combox. Of course, some of you may be interested in how traditionalism manifests itself in social life, for you may yourselves adhere to religious tradition in the face of religious innovation.

(This reminds me that I am absolutely longing to see Calvinist Cath for a tremendous chat. Cath, can you come to supper next Tuesday?)

Part 1: How I Became a Trid

Now, only the concrete is good (as Lonergan says, paraphrasing Aquinas) and context is important, so I should explain that I have been involved in "Traditional Latin Mass Catholicism" for only four years. These four years have followed the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which liberated the Traditional Latin Mass from its imprisonment in the margins of the Church into the mainstream.

Therefore, my experience as a "Traditional Latin Mass Catholic" is going to be very, VERY different from that of anyone who actually grew up as a "Latin Mass Catholic," caught in the sad pre-2007 culture war between those who refused to get on board with the post-Vatican II program and 99% of those Catholics who didn't just apostasize in anguish or boredom and went obediently to the New Mass.

No, your Auntie Seraphic went to an ordinary, wreckovated post-V2 parish and to ordinary Catholic schools and an ordinary Catholic college and eventually to an ordinary Catholic theological school run by Canadian Jesuits whom she adored.

However, Auntie S was made a traditional Catholic at a very early and impressionable age by accident. For, I think, my sixth birthday, my parents gave me a rosary with tiny orange beads (soon broken, but never mind), Heroines of God by Father Lovasik and Prayers for Catholic Children by Father Robert J. Fox. I loved both these books--Heroines of God being my absolute favourite book of books for YEARS--and Catholicism was to me what Fathers Lovasik and Fox said in these books, plus what Father Cryer (obedient to V2 but unfashionably Marian) said on Sundays, plus the Good News Bible (with the cartoons), plus Butler's Lives of the Saints (my parents still have the complete set).

However, something confused me. There was a divide between all the above and (A) Catholic church interiors and modern Catholic church architecture and (B) how the priests at another local Catholic Church said evening Mass--very jokey and speeding through so we could get home and watch the Toronto Argonauts football game. Oh and (C), there was the time I went to Confession at the jokey priests' church and my confessor told me he was tired of hearing sins, so I should tell him the good things I had done instead. I was probably under 12, but even then I knew this was not okay. Nothing weirds out kids like grown-ups being weird, and a priest being weird was particularly weird.

(This is not, by the way, a creepy priest story. I honestly think the priest had been pondering what a shame it is that innocent children are made to reflect on their sinfulness when really they should be shown that they are angels of light, and that he would do this noble, prophetic thing via confession. It was the Eighties, you know?)

Anglican churches frightened me because they were so beautiful, inside and out. Their very beauty was a spiritual temptation, so I tried to avoid them. Having been born after the destruction of Catholic church interiors, and of course, during the never-ending Canadian Church building project, I did not know that Catholic churches used to be just as beautiful as they. Thank heavens I never heard Anglican music--much of which used to be our music, too.

I did hear some of our old music because my brothers were in a Cathedral boys' choir school founded long before the post-Vatican 2 era made such things quaint or counter-revolutionary. And eventually I wondered why, since Mass was so beautiful (in spots) at the Cathedral, it was not so beautiful elsewhere in the diocese.

Of the Catholic traditionalist movement, I knew nothing. When I was in high school, I joined the local pro-life movement, which was shared mostly between Catholics and Evangelical Protestants. The Catholics fervently admired John Paul II, and even the Evangelical Protestants were grudgingly impressed by his emphasis on the Gospel of Life. I did not know it at the time, but we Catholic teens were mostly Neo-Cons. We were also influenced by spiritual movements centered on Fatima. We had rosary meetings in each other's homes, which were followed by lunch.

However, by the time I went to university, I noticed some of my pro-life friends from the countryside doing odd things during Mass, most notably after the Life March in Washington D.C., in that huge Cathedral. They would kneel when the rest of us stood, and just keep on kneeling. One girl, Katie, explained to me afterward it was because this Mass was not the Real Mass; although it had the Eucharist, it wasn't proper Mass. I thought this crazy talk.

But as the years went on, I got more and more impatient with the way Mass was said. I was very embarrassed when an Anglican friend made fun of Catholic priests' joking around during Mass and their awkward off-the-cuff preambles and the terrible or banal music. I would argue with this Anglican and then be furious with myself when I secretly agreed with him. My father told me that there was a heresy called "aestheticism," and I did not want to be a heretic.

Jesuit theology school just made me more impatient with the average parish Mass. It was so obvious that Aquinas and all the other saints we studied who wrote about the Eucharist and the Mass were not talking about Mass as we celebrated it. And the watered down, feel-good homilies I heard away from school were simply not in keeping with the intelligence and curiosity of the theologically literate. How unfair that to get the "real meat" and not just the "milk" of Catholic theology, the average adult Catholic seemingly had to take three years off work and do an M.Div.!

I went to Boston, tasted the bitterest fruits of "spirit of Vatican II" theology, and took off to Germany for a summer. In Germany I went to Mass every day, and absolutely loved the German Mass, even though it turns out that the seminary it was held in was (and is) super-liberal.

First, German was different. It was to me a theological and liturgical language I had to work to get and therefore didn't take for granted. Second, the Germans didn't have our lousy 1970s translation; their Novus Ordo was more of a literal translation of the Latin. Third, I couldn't understand the homilies, so my faith and reason were completely unperturbed.

In the midst of that, I went to one English-language Mass, celebrated by an American priest who was (he told me) sick of Germany, and it was one of the worst Masses I have ever been to in my life: loud, angry-rebellious, profane. I walked out, head splitting.

Back to Boston, and then home to Canada, where I was so impatient with every English-language Mass I found that I ended up at the city's German Mass. The average age of a German at that Mass was 152; they were survivors of Bismark's Kulturkampf. No, I made that up. But they were certainly old and very devout, and their attentiveness to the Mass--said very reverently in German--was an inspiration. I didn't experience anything like the devotion in that church until I went on holiday to Scotland.

In Scotland, I met B.A., and he took me along to the two-years liberated Extraordinary Form of [aka Tridentine or Trid] Mass. I fell in love with Edinburgh, and I fell in love with B.A., and I fell in love with Trid Mass. And B.A.'s Trid Mass friends were so much fun, I almost fell in love with them too.

And that brings me well up do date, happily ensconced in the little community that is Scottish traditional Catholicism. It is not under sway of the Society of Saint Pius X, although many of us have friends or family in the SSPX and pray for their eventual reconciliation with the rest of the Catholic Church.

I suspect that Traditional Latin Mass communities change drastically from country to country, from town to town. Mine is very happy and peaceful, although of course each of us has our crosses to bear and not everyone is the best chum of everyone else. Couples with children tend to gravitate towards other couples with children, and the childless with the childless, at tea-time after Mass, but there are no rivalries. There is, I thank almighty God, no aggression between the men and the women--not that I have seen, anyway--and only rarely does an elderly woman snap pettishly at a young newcomer (who, of course, is rarely or never seen again). Adults still hugely outnumber babies, but the babies are making gains.

Tomorrow: When "Our" Men Turn Mean.


Urszula said...

I'll be interested to read what you post tomorrow. I grew attending the Latin Mass from about age 7-15 and although I do agree the Mass itself is beautiful, and more than frequently celebrated in a beautiful setting, the whole reason my family and I stopped going to the Tridentine Mass were toxic, unwelcoming churchgoers (I wouldn't even call them a community).

I wonder if this is an American phenomenon, though?

Looking forward to tomorrow's post.

Miss Doyle said...

Great description Seraphic and all the points you make re the Extraordinary Form certainly speaks to me.
The only quibble I have isn't to do with the form of the Mass per se but the common attitude that people have towards anyone else who doesn't attend they same Mass they choose to.
Bearing in mind that I've been sufficiently exposed to communities who prefer the EF in 3 countries (more or less) around the world, the attitude which can prevail is one of exclusivity.
It can take the form of: "The OF is the devil incarnate and therefore not really Catholic", which conveniently leads to a superiority complex (the wrong sort), as well as a lack of a true apostolate which seeks to bring others in rather than sitting pretty being "quite content with what we have and to hell with everyone else" mentality.
Does that make sense?
Yes, that's a generalisation, but you know what they say about generalisations!
So, I tend to go to the EF about once a month, while attending almost daily OF Masses and I try my best knowing that God forgives my humanity when I'm distracted, and I try to help others discover the dignity of every Mass I attend. As well as that, it's good to promote both forms of the Mass as two options, different but the same in their substance from outside the cozy camp.

MaryJane said...

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's post. I too have found most "EF" communities to be uppity and judgmental, but thankfully I have known some lovely people who prefer the EF and are just happy to share that joy without pointing fingers at others.

Usually, the happy EF people are newer to it, like you, and did not live through the 'persecution' that many of the older ones did, which I think tends to make them kind of bitter. Actually, now that I think about it, since SP it seems like more people are fine with trying it out, and are open to it in a way that they were not before. So maybe that has to do with it, too - more people, statistically, I guess, more possibility of normalcy.

But the men. Oh, the men. And not in a good way. Simcha's "Pants." post really gets at the heart of it.

Alephine said...

I feel lucky to live in a parish where the parish priest celebrates both forms (the EF is most often a Low Mass, though). This means there is no problem with cliquishness.

Seraphic said...

I feel deeply sympathetic to the Old Guard, people who were really made to feel like lepers while they saw beauty being destroyed all around them by those who made them feel like lepers, and want to cut them some slack. On the other hand, I myself have never had a moment's unpleasantness from the Old Guard, so that's easy for me to say.

On the other hand, as they gave up so much to keep the Mass it was, and travel long distances to get to it, I can also easily see why they wince when babies scream and are suspicious of what newcomers might do. There were women serving at the Cambridge University Chaplaincy TLM; that's among the average Trid's worst nightmares.

As for cliquishness, I am increasingly interested in "base communities" which to me is just a newfangled Latin American way of describing small church communities. When you think about it, the average urban American Catholic parish is a Mega-Church of hundreds if not thousands of Catholics. There is no way to get to know everyone, and the only way to feel at all "at home" is to get to know a small group.

I wish my community was a BIT bigger, but the benefits of being a small group are palpable.

MaryJane said...

I try to be sympathetic to the old Guard, too, which is easier as an adult than as a teen who was told that John Paul II was a raging liberal and I was practically a heretic for being charismatic (at the time); and using the universal catechism for a textbook - instead of the old baltimore catechism - was a recipe for heresy; and having a theology teacher who was a faithful convert and had us learn (gasp!) Bible verses in support of the sacraments was cause for questioning a school's Catholicity... well, you can see why as a 15 year old one might swear off all trads for many years following! Thankfully there are many nice ones who apologize for the crazies in their movement.

What is funny to me is that sometimes the persecut-ees became as nasty as their persecutors! I think SP eased a lot of the tension, though.

And of course, the beauty of the thing itself can be shadowed, but never marred, by its devotees. When you come to love the saints and realize that every single one of them in the canon was formed by the EF, it is truly life-altering.

Athanasius lover said...

Interestingly enough, most of my experience with Trids/Trads has been with young people (college age or a little older) who have not lived through the times of change that many of the "Old Guard" had to endure. I've never had much contact with the "Old Guard," but unlike others in this thread, I have found the younger Trids/Trads to be just as judgmental. One of them took me to task for receiving communion in the hand (which I do because I have a jaw problem, because the only time someone dropped a host when giving me communion was when I tried to receive on the tongue, and because the Church allows it) and acted like my going to the OF made me a heretic. When I told her that if the Pope decreed that communion in the hand was no longer an option I would certainly start receiving on the tongue, she told me, "That's exactly what's wrong with the Roman Catholic Church today!" She showed more respect to Protestants and atheists than she did to me because I was an OF-attending Catholic. Likewise, the Trids/Trads at the Catholic dorm I attended seemed to set themselves up as the superior "true Catholics" and were very critical of the other (often very faithful) Catholics in the dorm.

The thing is, I'm actually a lot closer in liturgical preference to the Trids/Trads than they give me credit for, because they assume I'm practically a heretic for going to the OF. But my favorite OF Masses are those celebrated in Latin ad orientem. And I would definitely prefer to receive on the tongue if it weren't for my jaw problem that makes it difficult for the priest to put the host in my mouth. Not to mention, I love Gregorian chant. My experience has been, however, that the Trids/Trads focus on our differences rather than on what unites us because they find going to the OF to be such a stumbling block to someone's being a "True Catholic."

I will say that I have met one very nice, not at all judgmental, EF-attending Catholic my age, and I am sure there are more like her. In the communities I've been in, however, people like her are far outnumbered (or at least seem to be--maybe there are lots like her but they are just much quieter) by the personality types I mentioned earlier.

Seraphic said...

Athananasius Lover,

Oh, dear. What a shame you did not merely say, "I'm sorry. I wish I could receive on the tongue, but I have a serious jaw problem." That would have eliminated any argument with any but the crankiest Trid.

(And, of course, having a word with the priest before or after about it would clear up and sorrow or confusion he might feel. Believe it or not, some people march into Trid Masses and stand when we all kneel and march up to the priest with hand outstretched to Make a Point. Even the Queen of Spain did something like that to the Pope himself, and we were H-O-R-R-I-F-I-E-D.)

Yes, it is an option to receive in the hand. But this is one of those lightning rods because originally this option was only for people in your or similar situations. The innovators ran with it.

Anyway, easiest way to end a fight with a Trid is to meekly say "I'm sorry, I wish I could but...." Because the point is not to win but to get along, right?

Athanasius lover said...

Ah, yes, I did tell this person why I receive on the hand and told her about my jaw problem. I realize now that that was unclear. That did not make any difference to her. It was only after that that I made the comment about obeying the Pope. To be fair to Trids, this person was cranky about a lot of things, and probably would have been just as cranky if she had preferred the OF, but her pet peeves involved liturgical differences. Other Trids I have talked to have immediately apologized to me for any argumentative comments when I explain my jaw problem.

And, of course, when I am in a situation where everyone is expected to receive on the tongue (like an EF Mass, papal Mass, or Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy), or when the host is unusually flaky and I don't want any part of the precious Body of Jesus to be lost, I do try to work around my jaw problem as best as possible and make an effort to receive on the tongue.

And you are right, the best thing is to focus on getting along rather than on winning arguments.

Jam said...

I am basically always disappointed, sometimes to the verge of being frustrated and angry, in the way most trid communities seem intent on living up to negative stereotypes about trads. I mean! I would love to be able to introduce people to the old mass and only have to guide them over the hurdles of an unfamiliar liturgy without the additional hurdles of crabby fellow parishioners. I am amazed that they don't seem to get that they WANT to have people among them who don't seem to get it, because that means there are NEW people!!

That said. I have been part of many Catholic communities as an adult, including an uber-hippy college ministry, a run-of-the-mill lackluster multicultural* NO parish, a vibrant bi-ritual parish, and a few different EF chapels -- and the vast majority of my friends and coworkers have been non-, lapsed, or ex-Catholics -- so I feel like I have had opportunities to gain perspective. For instance: that hippy-dippy college ministry? the one that prided itself on being "welcoming" and "nonjudgmental" regardless of what anyone believed? I knew many friends who were or became lapsed and hated that place because it was "too cliqueish" and the people who went there were "holier than thou".

So I guess what I have learned is that for me, as an individual laywoman in the pew, the important thing is charity. It sucks when someone shoots you a Look because your head isn't covered or you don't shake hands at the sign of peace. It sucks even more if someone nags you about it afterward or if you never have anyone to chat with after mass. But you can't help the behavior of the busybody who gave you the Look or the "fraternal correction", you can only consider their point in charity (which is to say, calmly, prayerfully, and honestly) and excuse whatever rudeness they may have exhibited by considering how often you yourself are rude.

THAT BEING SAID, all of our communities need to be prayerfully, humbly, and fearfully eager to bring souls to Christ in obedience to what the Church really teaches. It is no one's charism to build up a special little bubble only for the pure and special ones.

* in the sense of having large immigrant populations, not in an ideological sense.

Seraphic said...

What should be pure and special is Mass!

I think one serious problem in church-going, which may have existed before the chaos during and following Vatican II for all I know, it an overemphasis on the congregation.

The reason we go to church is not to meet like-minded Catholics or to perform some strange, uniform military manoeuvre of stand-sit-kneel-stand-queue-stand-kneel or to meet boys but to worship God.

People who get upset because not everybody is doing the same thing at the same time in the same way have lost the plot. People who want to be entertained by the priest, either by his creative monologues or by his homily or by his sunny personality have lost the plot. People who go to Mass demanding entry into any group of friends they fancy there have also lost the plot.

The time for thinking about those around you is after Mass, either while carefully and cheerfully negotiating your way out of the car park (ugh) or at after-Mass coffee. And even there, of course, you should not expect a red carpet. If you are lucky or, using your head, introduce yourself to the priest or tea ladies, someone will talk to you.

If you are a Trid, keep in mind that people will look at you funny if you act as though the N.O. was the EF. Either behave like everyone else (handshake and all) or go to the EF. If you can't stand to take communion in the hand and standing, consider not presenting yourself for communion. Do not be a pain in the you know what.

If you are not a Trid, but you are going to an EF for the first (second or third time), try not to stand out like a sore thumb and don't be shocked if some cranky old lady is cranky at you. There are fewer of us--we are less dense--so your chances of running into crankies and crazies at Mass are higher than usual.

(This reminds me that I myself was harassed after Trid Mass somewhere in North America. It was excruciatingly embarrassing, inspired by the extremely faulty memory of one of the people involved, and let's just say I won't be going back any time soon.)

It is just bonkers to fuss because the women beside you is or is not wearing a mantilla. In European Trid communities (I don't know about England; I'm counting Scotland in with Europe) we just don't care.

We don't care. Wear a mantilla, don't wear a mantilla. We don't mind. The German trads don't; German Catholic women haven't been specially covering their heads in church since the 1920s; The French go in more for headscarves, apparently, although the Frenchwoman in our community just goes bareheaded and usually wears trousers. Nobody cares about that either.

From what you guys tell me, the obsession with what women wear to church may be an American and possibly a Canadian thing.

And the bitter rancor between different "kinds" of Catholics may be an American and, to a lesser extent, Canadian thing too. Seeing how much liberal and conservative Catholic Americans in Massachusetts hated each other, really HATED each other, blew my tiny mind.

Oh well. More on this tomorrow.

n.panchancha said...

(Sorry, this ended up really long.)

Really interesting discussion. The idea of "speaking the truth in love" à la Ephesians comes to mind.

In recent years I've come more and more to appreciate the necessity of a sacramental life that reflects truth - and oddly, I think this is the biggest thing I got out of T.o.t.B.: the idea that my body needs to express truth in what it does, since we're not acorporial spirit beings. It's all in line with preaching the Gospel, and valuing integrity. The mass is a context wherein our physical response to the Eucharist, to the mystery of transubstantiation, needs to reflect our faith in that mystery.

In the mass, Jesus is present first and foremost in the Eucharist, but also in the person of the priest, and in the Word of God, and in the "people gathered in his name." Faith demands that our minds, hearts and bodies all respond to his presence, and that our actions and words be a response to his love and greatness. We all have to do reparation for the sake of the church when the mass is celebrated without reverence, certainly: it's an affront to God's love, it's an affront to Christ's sacrifice, and it's scandalous in that it's a stumbling block for those beginning to approach Christ.

But. BUT. It is possible to go too far in this direction. The sin of scrupulousness is, I know, a topic that can make those of us wounded by relativism squirm in a muddle of suppressed caveats. But it's important to keep in mind, I think, that the most gloriously celebrated E.F. mass is so much further from what God deserves than it is from the hippy-dippiest of folk guitar masses, and that it's only God's mercy that permits us to approach him in either case. And he does let us approach him. The humility of God in giving us the mass is absolutely mind-boggling.

Catholics who don't celebrate the mass in reverence, or who come primarily for community or for a reassuring or entertaining homily must not, I believe, have been properly evangelized. If they knew Christ as Lord and Saviour, they would be tempted to go into full-on table-flipping mode when the celebration became irreverent - but they simply don't know Christ. This can be true for people who are on their parish councils as much as it can be for the person who attends mass once a year on Christmas Eve, and it's exactly why the church is calling for a New Evangelization. I think those people blessed enough to recognize who Christ is, and what he deserves, are in a very privileged place, but also a place of great responsibility, in terms of committing to that New Evangelization: they can bring the truth to those who need it desperately. But, in the same way that God humbles himself to meet us in our smallness and sin, I think that we have to go and speak in terms that people understand, and to present, above everything, God's mercy, and our (my!) indisputable need for it. We don't sit in cloistered superiority and say, "Come join us, if you're holy enough," but rather we go out to find those sheep, where they are, and in proclaiming the Gospel clearly and simply, allow the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to them.

Protecting the holiness of the mass is beautiful and noble and good; however, I really hope we remember that "the Sabbath was made for Man, and not Man for the Sabbath."