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.