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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Some obvious rambling, and a difficult question.

A question for you all. How does one encourage the interest of young people in the old rite Mass? I drag the odd friend along from time to time, but most of them don't come back - they think it's not their cup of tea. Which is, on one level, absolutely fine - I'm all for legitimate diversity, have no quibbles with the validity of NO, etc etc. At the same time, however, going to one old rite Mass isn't likely to mean that you've got a handle on the differences between the liturgies; and it seems to me that there is so much good to be gained from the old rite that as many people as possible should have the chance to become acquainted with it. But it's quite difficult to say to folk - especially students, it seems - 'Look, this liturgy is great, and enormously edifying and prayerful, and has helped me hugely... but you might want to read all this stuff first, and it'll take about six weeks to stop being confused by singing one thing while the priest does something else...' Or rather, it's perfectly easy to say; it's just difficult to get them to do it...

I began going to the Trid - just after I realised I had to become a Catholic - primarily because, a) as a medievalist I had a professional curiosity, and b) I had a couple of Triddy friends whose judgement I trusted. (Actually the first old rite Mass I heard was in a convent in Liechtenstein and I had no clue what was going in, but it all helped to push me to Rome...) It occurs to me that these factors involve several helpful circumstances. Not having been going to Mass all my life (which is obviously not good per se), I was used to the notion that one might have to put some effort into following liturgy, at least for a while; I was well aware that there had recently been vast changes in the practice of Latin Catholicism, and had a much firmer grasp on fifteenth-century that late-twentieth-century ecclesiastical matters; having first been familiar with bits of the Mass for musical purposes, in Latin, I knew just how awful the ICEL translations of the Mass were.

To state the obvious: a great many young cradle Catholics have practically no idea that the Mass changed recently, beyond vague ideas that it used to be in Latin and there were no altar girls. Now young folk I know are by no means hostile to the idea of the old rite as such (unless, and inasmuch as, they associate it with the SSPX and disobedience: lots of first-years in Edinburgh wander into the SSPX chapel near their halls, and it hits them for six). At the same time, however, they have absolutely no idea why it might be quite a good thing to have some notion of liturgical tradition: no idea that the Church has two thousand years of liturgical development with which to nourish her children; no idea that dubious vernacular translation is a matter for concern, because it robs the faithful of food; no idea that learning how the Latin Church conducted her liturgy for a thousand years or so might offer aid in living out one's baptismal vows. All of which, I think, is accompanied by a vague idea that Vatican II changed everything (in some unspecified way) and that this was somehow necessary. This may all be an unfair over-generalisation, but, purely anecdotally, this is the king of impression that I get. And while such ideas might result in benign indifference to the celebration of liturgy according to the old rite, it is clear that general indifference to the riches of tradition is not helpful for souls. People may do perfectly well, of course, without paying any attention to things before 1969; but it seems almost wilfully counter-intuitive to ignore the feast of prayer, thought, discipline, art and devotions which may well help so many of the faithful.


So, carissimi, are there any particularly good ways to encourage people to put in the bit of time and effort it will take to become newly acquainted with Tradition? Particularly since lots of my Catholic chums probably pigeon-hole me (in the nicest possible may) as Mad Retro Convert. There are, of course, all the practical political problems as well - advertising being a bit of an issue, lack of enthusiasm from bishop (though he allows it, Deo gratias, and I suppose he can't be enthusiastic about everything), not wanting to tread on other PPs' and chaplains' toes, blahdiblah... I appreciate that Being A Saint is always the best answer to, well, pretty much anything. But apart from that ongoing project - any hints and tips?

Comments [9]

Blogger Lactantius:

You have touched upon one of the greatest problem facing the Latin Mass, its promotion. Stopping short of hiring a professional to devise a cross-media campaign involving giving the Latin Mass a modern twist or offering the sort of incentives you get from university C&S's, there is very little that can be done.

You can adopt any number of methods to draw people from paying them to personal invitations to public displays to presentations at the Catholic Students Society to putting up billboards at major intersections to performances of sacred music but in this age of personal taste and progress, you are unlikely to get people in pews. (Sorry to sound so disparaging.)

As you have already noted, we are confronted by Catholics who are either blissfully ignorant of their liturgical heritage or unwilling to perservere with the Latin Mass. Then there are those have become comfortable with the banality and mediocrity of the Novus Ordo, that arousing their sense of beauty, goodness and sanctity is like trying to wake the dead.

Again it does not help that the Latin Mass is often seen as a clique or cloak.

Perhaps if there was a revolution whereby young Catholics were told the truth that the Novus Ordo is not the only rite in existence, then we might have a chance of attracting them. (Since coming to the Latin Mass that has been a major gripe of mine.) Alternately if the Latin Mass became the subject of a book or film, like the one on the Carthusians, there might be interest.

Wed May 31, 01:28:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Liam:

I'm certainly inclined to attend TLM and have on occasions to a SSPX Chapel in Eddystone. But I've got to be honest with you. When I saw the women and young girls wearing skirts down to their ankles, I was immediately struck by the memory of Jonestown, and the Rev. Jimmy Jones.
Now I'm not implying in anyway shape or form that they (SSPX) is any way remotely similar. I believe in women and girls dressing modestly, and men dressing appropriately in attending Mass. All the females appeared to have the same style black skirt, it just struck me as very odd.

Wed May 31, 07:56:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

Sorry, suspect I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic to have any clue about what Jonestown is!

Juventutem definitely didn't involve uniform female dressing... (I don't know if folk think I'm weird for only wearing skirts. For my part it began out of vanity: I look awful in trews.)

Thu Jun 01, 10:04:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

Crivvens, just googled 'Jonestown'. Mass suicide cult. Crikey. Requiem eternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis; requiescant in pace.

Thu Jun 01, 01:39:00 PM GMT  
Blogger chrysogonus:

There aren't any magic tricks or short cuts to get people interested - anything worthwhile involves work, and usually hard work. Even after having done such hard work, there are no guarantees, and many people will still not be interested. Several people I know accept that translations are woeful, liturgy is poorly celebrated, but feel as long as they turn up to Mass, that's sufficient - of course, technically it is sufficient and their obligation is satisfied, but they equally know the best has not been brought to public worship, due to poor music, liturgical abuses etc So, they do recognize these problems, but for whatever reasons, don't feel the urge to address them. There is a lot of apathy, and indifference around, and it exists jsut as much, if not more, in the traditioinal community, than other communities. Contemporary catholic culture has become a culture of mediocrity unfortunately, and any sense, without wanting to sound too corporate here, of a "pursuit of excellence" in worship has been lost. Given all that, I suggest you do all the usual things here, and continue to invite people, promote your Masses, organize discussion groups, and of course pray like mad. If possible, invite people to Solemn Mass, not low Mass as well. Every Catholic should go to at least one Solemn Mass in the old-rite in their lifetime just from a point of view of acknowledging and respecting their Catholic heritage.

Thu Jun 01, 10:51:00 PM GMT  
Blogger 1dayin7:

Well, as a fellow convert I wish you well, but I can't help feeling that "Tradition" in this definition is a bit like a nice hobby at best, and a waste of time at its worst (or, God help us, a nice stick to beat up "low" Catholics with).

Having known large portions of the Latin Mass from singing settings of it by Bach and Mozart, I can't say it's a bad thing, but I think that it's "amazing restorative powers" are astonishing overrated by supposed educated people who should know better.

It was useful to condense a lot of Tradition (not all of it, because it's a life, and like John's Gospel of today says, a Life is bigger than all the books the world can hold) into a compact form while Catholicism as such was under attack.

However, we do live in new times, Tradition has developed, and quite frankly, all the criticism of the new vernacular translations is b-o-s-h, as anyone with a smattering of Latin can see. They are perfectly clear and concise; what is lacking is understanding on our part.

What is needed is a new appreciation of the Church as communion with Christ and a new catechesis of Christ as the answer to man's heart, not a narrow conception of Tradition as something which can be defined down to the last detail.

The Church is a life. I hope we can live it; the biggest need is for charity and education, so let's try to do this, as the great new pope is urging us.

Sat Jun 03, 02:57:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

all the criticism of the new vernacular translations is b-o-s-h

I don't want to be rude, but this is difficult to substantiate. The ICEL Gloria simply misses bits out (Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te is not adequately rendered as 'we praise you, we bless you, we worship you'), moves them around (all those verbs should be before 'Lord God, Heavenly King', for goodness sake!), and elides them (the whole 'Qui tollis peccata mundi' bit, which in the English squashes three interlocking lines into two). Translating 'Dominus Deus Sabaoth' as 'Lord God of Power and Might' is bizarre, more a paraphrase than anything. And the translations of the collects are dire - not necessarily flat out wrong, but just grimly mundane. (Look at the 'What does the prayer really say?' blog!) Not to mention the Canon - again, not wrong as such, but inelegant and very (pointlessly) lowest-common-denominator. As a result I'm not sure that the ICEL translations are 'clear', inasmuch as they do not convey anything like the form and nuance of the Latin, even though they are undoubtedly concise. The loss of Scriptural resonance in the translation of the 'Domine, non sum dignus' as 'Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...' rather than 'Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof...' always strikes me as particularly sad. Loss of an echo of a wonderful Gospel incident, loss of catechetical content and opportunity in the liturgy, and why? The only reason I can think of is to prevent people going, 'Eh? What's the roof got to do with it?' But if they did ask that question and were answered, how much richer they'd be!

Anyway, as a bit of a medieval Latin nerd, I get very upset about this! More importantly, I did not mean to imply that 'Tradition' is entirely incorporated in the post-Trent Latin rite of the Mass. The Tradition of the Church is precisely that - the whole Tradition of the whole Church. And of course the point of the whole thing is life in Christ, and beautifully-performed liturgy is completely useless if it is not for God's glory and our salvation. It seems to me difficult to deny, however, both that there are great riches in the Latin liturgical tradition (let alone the others!) which can be conducive to our Christian lives, and that many young Catholics today have never had the opportunity to encounter them. Worse, even the celebration of the new rite is often rife with abuses which make it more difficult for the faithful to be nourished by the liturgy. I suppose I am really being quite modern and individualist in saying, essentially, 'This form of liturgy is very helpful to me, and here are the reasons why I think it is helpful in ways which the new rite isn't, especially in this particular time and place. Why not see if you find the same thing?'

I hope that clarifies a little. Pax et bonum tibi!

Sun Jun 04, 02:02:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

And having proved I can't actually remember the ICEL "GLoria"... Clearly one of those texts I can only remember when singing. But I had to go to a NO Mass on Sunday, and the Gloria was worse than I'd remembered. "We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory". Not a translation of what's there!

Tue Jun 06, 09:02:00 AM GMT  
Blogger ermenegildo:

An honest answer to your question is:

1. the Latin Mass must be available, so that the people can experience for themselves.

2. the main problem is ignorance; if people knew of the TLM and experienced it they would be encouraged

3. this must be backed-up by education: what's going on at TLM and why - reach a deep understanding of it.

4. recognition that it is not for everyone, just like the charismatic Mass is not for everyone or the NO is not for everyone

5. recognition that TLM has a reputation or tendency to attract people at the fringes; it has connotations and people think it's odd. In other words it is not mainstream. Unless B16 actively promotes it, awareness of it will not grow and it could never be more mainstream, through sheer ignorance. Most people don't know of it's existence

6. Promotion, promotion, promotion.

Having recognised the above 6 points, it should be clear that

(a) not everyone you take to a TLM will want to continue

(b) the ones who are mildly interested, but don't understand what's going on, will be assisted by education and may stay

But all this is not useful unless the TLM is available. I pray that the TLM may be available in central locations in mainstream central churches and not the odd suburban church or on the city's fringes.

Wed Jun 14, 03:35:00 AM GMT  

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