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)