Leading with the Rite


In the sport of boxing the idea of a fighter “leading with his right” is generally considered bad technique. The reason is simple: most boxers employ an orthodox stance (left foot forward and right hand back) in order to favor their power. In other words, for a right handed boxer to lead with his right, he negates much of his power, while simultaneously exposing his weak side (the left) to his opponent.

Now contrast this with our Catholic faith, particularly with the resurgence of the Latin Mass in recent years. When it comes to introducing people to the traditional liturgy, leading with the Rite is usually the best technique to use. Promoting tradition by simply presenting tradition is playing to our strength. That which is true and beautiful attracts. Those of us who eagerly seek the restoration of the sacred, who long for greater availability to the traditional Mass, must trust in the power of the Rite to accomplish this.

How is this done? In large part it’s already happening.

The Internet and social media have become highly effective means for promoting Catholic tradition. In the ten years since Pope Benedict released his motu proprio  on the traditional Roman Rite, images of Latin Masses have become more prevalent online. Many Catholics who have yet to attend a traditional Mass themselves have nevertheless become familiar with its sacred beauty.

From fiddleback chasubles, to the great elevation following consecration, to pictures of veiling women kneeling for Holy Communion, all have become familiar images to Catholics in recent years. Drawn to the beauty of the liturgy, the faithful discover what (in many cases) they had never known before. A reaction expressed by many following their introduction to tradition: “We were robbed of our heritage.”

And this is why those who have already found the treasure of tradition must lead with the Rite. Speak of its transcendent beauty. Share photographs and videos of the Mass. Introduce others to sacred music. Gregorian chant and polyphony are the authentic soundtrack of the Roman Rite and have the power to stir the soul. Discuss the antiquity and beauty of the prayers and the impact the traditional Mass has upon the interior life.

Leading with the Rite means highlighting that:

  • The Mass is offered ad orientem
  • Holy Communion is received on the tongue while kneeling.
  • Prayer is facilitated through silence and sacred music.
  • Active participation is achieved through both interior disposition and exterior posture, such as standing or kneeling.
  • Traditional liturgical vestments and ornate vessels glorify God through their beauty.

But all of this requires humility. The devastated liturgical landscape facing us today was caused by man, not by God.  Therefore, the solution will not be found with man…nor by committee. Rather, it will be discovered when prideful man (recovering his humility) steps aside and once again places God first.

It’s important to conclude by clarifying what “leading with the Rite” doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean vitriolic denunciations of the New Mass. It is not insults over instruction; after all, most who discover tradition do so only after years spent at the New Mass. Sharing experiential knowledge gained and offering an explanation for the why and how of the current liturgical crisis are commendable. But it’s a tricky business and it requires true charity and spiritual maturity.

In the end, the promotion of the traditional does not mean the denigration of the new. Instead, we must trust in The Lord and in the power of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to heal and restore. Lead with truth and beauty. Lead with the Rite.

[Photo image: Rocky Marciano lands a right on Archie Moore during their heavyweight championship fight at Yankee Stadium, September 21, 1955]


Posted on August 4, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. John D. Horton

    I was finally able to “come back to tradition” in 1996 after playing my Gregorian Chant phonograph records down to the “bone” for 30 years from 1966 – 1996.

    I also collected old missals, Liber’s etc. from 1966 – 1996 thinking that all of this (“Old Order” Catholicism) could not possibly be totally gotten rid of and that the old Mass would see a come back some day.

  2. Franklin P. Uroda

    Couldn’t you have used another example rather than prizefighting-which is considered immoral by the majority of Catholic moral theologians-to illustrate the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus?

  3. Francis Philip

    You make liturgy into an idol. Seek God in the Eucharist or you will lose Him altogether.

    • Actually I don’t, but thank you for volunteering to be my spiritual director with that rebuke. I simply do not divorce the Eucharist from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is of course the ultimate prayer of the Church. Anyone present at Holy Mass when the priest elevates the host, allowing us to adore Our Eucharistic Lord, has found Who it is we all seek.

      • Francis Philip

        Then why not write more about how you adore the Lord in the Eucharist even while participating in the Ordinary Form? Why not talk about how accepting the fruit of Vatican II Council, in that act of obedience, is an act of love for God Who guides His Church via these holy, ecumenical councils? That’s our common faith.

      • Francis Philip

        Didn’t intend it to come off as a rebuke…but more of an attention-getter.

    • Isn’t it God who seeks us and finds us and “feeds” us by way of the Eucharist?

      Indulge me as I employ a neologism, but it seems to me that a “sola Eucharistica” mentality is a cousin if not a sister of a “sola Scriptura” mentality. Go down the “sola Eucharistica” road a little ways and you find that “communion services” have replaced Mass. Go a little farther and even “communion services” shall be dispensed with…..just show up at your local parish, make your donation, receive the Eucharist, perhaps pray a little and leave. I’m deliberating painting a garish picture, because that road is a dead end.

      I may not agree with every last thing the “Liturgy Guy” writes (for one thing, I wish he would clean up his use of terms…..as just one example, “Latin Mass” really applies to ANY Mass celebrated according to the Roman Rite); nevertheless, I like how he is drawing our attention to the importance of WORSHIP, the pointing of ourselves in a collective and reverent fashion (think: liturgy!) to the God who created us.

      • Francis Philip

        But to love God is simply to obey him. When we reject His guidance which comes through holy ecumenical councils as did the guidance to change the liturgy, then we show a lack of faith, and for some, hatred for what God wants. We should be humble and meek, turn the cheek, accept the Wind wherever it takes us.

      • @Francis Philip…..I rather disagree that to love God is “simply” to obey Him. But at this point we’ve departed from the main line of discussion, I think. Let me just say that I like how you wrote “councils” in the plural. Of course, among these councils is the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Tremendous gift to the Church. But as it’s been said, the Church neither began nor ended in 1965. Humility, as you mention, and the “hermeneutic of continuity” will go a longs ways to stitching God’s pilgrim Church back together.

      • Francis Philip

        But just remember: tradition is meaningless when the external does not represent, in truth, the necessary internal.

      • On that last point, Francis Philip, I could hardly agree more. As for the earlier suggestion that we “accept the Wind wherever it takes us”, let us also invoke the Holy Spirit to help us grasp Ephesians 4, especially 4:14. Did the Holy Spirit guide the hatchet jobs perpetrated on many a fine church in the United States in the heady days following the Council? I don’t really mind new churches being built in more modern, yet tasteful, styles, but what was really so wrong with the lovely worship spaces that our immigrant fathers and mothers in the Faith bequeathed to us? These are gifts, veritable treasures, and as such should be lovingly cared for, not hacked up. Yes, I’m venting a bit. Fortunately, this “turn everything upside-down and inside-out” bug didn’t catch hold in all places. I have visited fine, old churches in the Southern states which have been lovingly preserved. In any case, it is clear to me that the way forward for God’s pilgrim Church is the “hermeneutic of continuity”….to embrace another hermeneutic is to ignore the prompting of the Spirit in our times.

  4. Separating Holy Mass and our Eucharistic Lord is a false dichotomy.


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