Rediscovering the Riches of the Latin Mass

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The following guest post was written by Conor Dugan. Conor is a husband, father, attorney, and parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article originally appeared at the diocesan website and is reprinted here with his permission. 

Silence. That was the first thing I noticed about the traditional Latin Mass, more formally known as the Extraordinary Form. Frankly, it was disconcerting. Attending a Mass that has long stretches of silence and requires quiet reflection was a jarring experience. I was born in 1978, well after the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and ’70s. The new rite, or Ordinary Form, is the Mass that has nourished me, taught me. It is the Mass that I still attend the majority of the time.

Yet in recent years, my faith has been deepened by attending the Latin Mass on a more regular basis. The silence, while uncomfortable at first, has given me space to listen for God’s still, quiet voice. I find this carrying over into my workdays. I’ll often shut the door for five minutes of quiet time with the Lord. As the father of four rambunctious kids and a lawyer in a busy practice, these times of reflection are needed!

In 2007, Pope Benedict issued an apostolic letter allowing greater celebration of the Extraordinary Form. I reflect frequently on his words: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” (Summorum Pontificum)

What are these riches that can benefit us all? This is what I have found.

First, there is the deep sense of sacrifice and reverence built into the Extraordinary Form – from the incense to the common orientation of the priest and people toward the altar. Many of the priest’s prayers are whispered or inaudible, which veils them in mystery. The Latin language adds to this mystery. At first, this foreign tongue was also a bit off-putting, but over time I’ve come to appreciate its beauty and cadence. And, paradoxically, not knowing the language reminds me that the liturgy is not my work, but God’s among us.

The prayers are pregnant with meaning and convey the weight of what occurs at Mass, the eternal sacrifice at Calvary re-presented in a humble church. This heightened sense of mystery and majesty carries over when I return to the Ordinary Form. I have a deeper sense of Christ’s presence in the Mass in both its forms.

Second, the connection to our Church’s rich heritage of art and music. In attending the Latin Mass, I am united with my grandparents and great-grandparents who worshiped in this manner week in and week out. My forebears in Germany, Quebec and Ireland celebrated this Mass. Further, the Extraordinary Form is the repository of the organic development of art, music and custom in the Western Church. For instance, one is exposed to the Church’s great treasury of chant, something the Second Vatican Council sought to give primacy to in the Mass. This chant is so unlike the everyday music on my iPhone that it reminds me of the special nature of what we are doing in the liturgy. It takes me out of my everyday routine.

Third, the rich diversity of the Church. Far from being a one-size-fits-all crowd, the Latin Mass has exposed me to the incredible breadth of the Church. On a given Sunday, I can look up and see a retired federal judge, a young father who works a blue-collar job, a tattooed man with long hair, a Latino family and a young artist. There are people of every race and age. There are elderly who need assistance walking and babies who babble. Seeing this diversity allows me to see the universality of the Church.

Fourth, the silence. My days are filled with audible noise and the “noise” of devices – tweets, texts and status updates. There are few places where I can find refuge, few places where I are not overwhelmed by busyness and clamor. The Extraordinary Form is just such a refuge. Silence is built into the liturgy. The silence allows God the space to speak to us.

Ultimately, this form of the Mass has increased my desire to share Christ with the world. I invite you to attend the Extraordinary Form sometime. Come, experience one of the great treasures of our Church.

Photo credit: Markus Kuncoro

Posted on April 5, 2018, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Raymond F Rice

    I think it is time for people to realize that the Mass is not primarily a contemplative prayer but a social response to God in community!

    • I hope I’m not misinterpreting what you wrote, but it is not a very clear sentence and can be taken several ways. My instinct tells me that you are being critical of the Traditional Latin Mass.

      The Holy Mass is so much more than a commutative response. Even if the Mass were attended by no faithful, it would still communicate the Eternal Reality that it cannot forsake. The Mass is contemplative and active all at once. It is not a zero sum entity.

    • Raymond, if by Mass you mean the novus ordo missae, you are quite right to assert that it is a “social response to God in community”. If, however, you mean the old Mass that is where you err: the old Mass is above and beyond anything else a sacrifice, it is **the** sacrifice foretold by the Prophet Malachi (see chapter 1, verse 11). It is offered to God, for His sake alone. The priest who offers the Holy Sacrifice and the people who assist in that offering through their presence stand facing the same direction, the east, toward the Almighty, acknowledging that that Mass is a true offering to God.

      With the greatest of respect, it has to be said that the sense that the Mass is a social event which God is present at has been absolutely devastating to the Church, Her priesthood and Her mission on earth (which is of course to guide souls to salvation). The Mass as a social event presided over by a sort of liturgical MC who gathers the people has been absolutely corrosive to the Church’s strength, vitality and confidence.

      The future is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by men formed in the Scholastic tradition who know that the reason for their existence is to offer the immemorial Mass of Ages to the living God, and as more and more people – especially the young – discover this Mass they will like Jacob be able to say: “How awesome is this place, this is none other but the House of God and the Gate of Heaven!”

  2. Can someone help me with this? I’m deeply shoked right now. Thanks, God bless you.

    • The authors of this video are giving the most extreme examples of abuses to prove their point. The Novus Ordo has the bare essentials and is not invalid. Many of the practices are illicit, but one would have to change the words of consecration, be ordained by a bishop not in the lineage of the apostles, or have a non-ordained man/woman celebrate the Mass to make it invalid.

      We must be very precise when we are discussing theology. Just go to the Traditional Latin Mass and don’t worry about abuses. We have to answer for our own souls at our judgement, not anyone else’s.

      • Thank Fr. Kloster you for you answer.

        The video underlines that in the NO the words of consecration has been DRASTICALLY ALTERED. If we go to the Pius V’s Bull, De Defectibus we read “For this is my body” and “For this is the chalice of my blood, of the new and eternal testament: the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins”.
        >> (!!BOLD!!) >> “Now, if one were to REMOVE, or CHANGE ANYTHING in the form of the consecration of the Body and Blood, and in that very change of words the [new] wording would fail to mean the same thing, HE WOULD NOT NOT CONSECRATE the sacrament” << (!!) you can find this at the beginning of EVERY MISSAL until 1962.").

        You can find a good comparison between the two Ordi here: http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2014/01/28/latin-mass-and-novus-ordo-mass-consecration-formula/

        SO? Do we then worship just a piece of bread and therefore we do commit mortal sin? (video CIT.). The mere idea that many can go to their death for that and no one warn them makes me trembling. If that's the real case, we have the serious DUTY to warn our brothers, otherwise we will be gravely charged for this omission.

        I'm very concerned right now and thanks for helping. God bless you.
        S.

      • Working Hermit

        The video does indeed show abuses which are not typical in the average Novus Ordo parish, but it is significant that they generally occur without being disciplined.

        Let the priest dare to say a 1962 Mass, or even use Eucharistic Prayer 1 (the Roman Canon), and watch the fireworks. I have been stunned, and frankly scandalized, to see how even minor changes of a Traditional nature draw the wrath of bishops, parish councils, etc.

    • Please note that this video was produced by sedevacanists. While we can discuss the efficacy (or lack thereof) found in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, it’s validity is unquestionable. I would normally delete this link but the ensuing discussion & responses are quite beneficial.

  3. I wish more Parishes would celebrate the Latin Mass as they would a High Mass. Be it once every Sunday, once per month, or on Holy Days of Obligation.

    So many parishioners just don’t know the rich history of the Liturgy, and would be in awe if they were exposed to it.

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