A Lesson Learned from a Frenchman at the Latin Mass


A few weeks ago I met a Frenchman named Paul at the Traditional Latin Mass. Business had brought him to Charlotte, North Carolina that week, but it was the Latin Mass that brought him to my home parish of St. Ann’s that Sunday.  

I first noticed Paul as we arrived at Church; an unfamiliar face among the regulars at our weekly High Mass.  In the courtyard after Mass I made my way over to our visitor to welcome him. 

Contrary to what some contend, most traditionalists are no more or less engaging than any other Catholics.  That being said, those of us who regularly attend the Latin Mass must be ambassadors for the traditional liturgy, whether we want to be or not.  If we are the face of traditionalism to our friends, family, and fellow parishioners, then we must be smiling, friendly, faces.

Upon introducing myself to Paul, I learned that he was from Nantes, France. He said that he was married, in his early thirties, and that his work was not likely to bring him back to Charlotte anytime soon. In fact, he was scheduled to fly back home later that same day. As it was Sunday, however, he had first needed to find a Church to go to Mass.  

Paul explained that while he occasionally attends the Latin Mass in France, few parishes offer it. Still, it was his prior exposure to the traditional liturgy, and his familiarity with it, that led him to seek it out. Put simply, he wanted his experience at Mass to transcend the geographic and cultural context in which he found himself.  On this particular Sunday, the language, movements and music of the Latin Mass was something familiar amid the unfamiliarity of a visit to a foreign country.  

This is of course the genius of the Traditional liturgy; its constancy and universality. Transcending borders and cultures, the Traditional Latin Mass reminds us that (in the end) we are all foreigners.  It is heaven that we call home.

For many, the appeal of the Traditional Latin Mass comes from its timelessness and universality. It is not an American liturgy; it is not a French liturgy. It is simply Catholic. This is what brought Paul, a Frenchman from Nantes, to a small parish in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

(Image of a Traditional Latin Mass offered at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris in June, 2008)

Posted on May 20, 2015, in liturgy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. A beautiful reminder that Paul gives us. That regardless where we are the Mass speaks to the heart since it is the Son praying to his Father in the Holy Spirit. Thank you for this great reminder today.

  2. I remember the Latin Mass very indistinctly; I have vivid memories of “folk masses” however. Even as a small child, I had a profound feeling of bewilderment . Now as an old man, I am comfortable with the vernacular, yet am moved with the Latin rite still, even though at times I find myself struggling to translate. The sacred moments are intruded into by the intellect trying to “keep up”. Most average Catholics I feel are really tired of all the controversy and the idea of constant change. Stability is important, and the manner of rite is not so important as the disposition of the participant. Frankly I myself am getting tired of all the clamor on both sides of the argument about which Mass is better.
    Let me tell you a short story. After thirty or so years of Mass only twice a month in a rural Montana Parish, my wife and I had the good fortune to go on a tour of Italy with our mother parish and Priest. Our very first Mass was in a side chapel of the Lateran. As A Catholic who is an absolute fool for history, I was like a pig in fresh slop. Absolutely overwhelmed by the sensory assaults of sacredness and tradition I participated in what I was sure was going to be the Mass of a lifetime.
    When getting up for the Eucharist, I had the firm intellectual intrusion that “THIS TIME it is going to be different— THIS TIME I am in a REAL church, and now I am going to be forever changed by the Eucharist in this place.
    A strange thing happened in the next moment. my mind was startled by a thought filled with holiness and power– that is the best way I can describe it. and it said,
    “I am the same in Ryegate as I am here”
    That was all; and from that moment on, I ponder the mystery and wonder of it. Even fools like me stumble upon an acorn once in a while; this one was pelted at me from On High.
    So this is my mindset when I hear all the clamor about which Mass is the best. It is simple– whatever one has a Catholic Priest consecrating the Host into Our Lords Body and Blood. End of story.

  3. St. Annes is where my youngest was Baptized~14+ years ago. Thankfully, St. Annes is no longer what it used to be when we attended. Need to get back there for a TLM~live in Monroe, now.

  4. Interesting blog, it reminds me of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet church in Paris, it is one of a few churches in the secular Paris that regularly and exclusively perfoms the traditional Latin-rite Mass.
    I tried to write a blog about it, hope you also like it in https://stenote.blogspot.com/2018/09/paris-at-st-nicolas-du-chardonnet.html

  5. I have to say, I found no problem finding a Latin Mass in France. At least in
    Urban areas.


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