Sunday, 7 December 2014

More thoughts on antipathy to the traditional Latin Mass

As so often when I blog, I forgot half the things I had meant to say when I sat down to write yesterday's post.

I blame.... something or other, I forget what....

Anyway, here are some of the other reasons people may find the Extraordinary Form unappealing.

One is the rules: things like kneeling to receive and receiving only on the tongue; and possibly even women covering their head (which is required more stringently in some places than others, in my experience). This demands obedience, which is antithetical to a modern understanding of human autonomy and dignity - but essential in the Christian life, if we conceive of that as the imitation of Christ.

At another level, there is the simple unfamiliarity with the traditional form of the Mass, and with the cultural assumptions that go with it, such as being quiet in Church. A lot has been written about our almost automatic aversion to change, and in particular change which we have not initiated or do not understand, but it is important to remember this aspect.

Another factor may be a feeling of disloyalty. Our bishops and priests, largely, are fans of the new form of the Mass, and it may feel just a bit wrong to act in ways that suggest they may not be 100% right.

And then of course, there are the people who go to the traditional Mass.  They may be variously perceived as unwelcoming, unfriendly, or even weird.  Some of that is due to the different assumptions at work: those going to the traditional Mass are likely to see the kind of socialising that characterises many new rite celebrations as inappropriate when we are gathered in the presence of God, to adore Him.  So whilst there may, on a good day, be someone at the back of the Church handing out missals or booklets, they will not be giving everyone the big Hello!

But it is also true that some who attend the traditional Mass can be abrupt in their correction of behaviour they see as inappropriate, whether that is talking in Church, omitting to genuflect when passing in front of the tabernacle, failing to wear a mantilla, or whatever. That is clearly unhelpful and we need to address it whenever we encounter it.

And then, some people who go to the traditional Mass are, quite simply, odd. Personally, I like that. It is part of the Catholicity of the Church that it is a Church for all, not just for that select group of our neighbours with whom we feel at ease, or of whom we approve.

But in my experience, odd, unwelcoming, or unfriendly though people may seem to be, if one approaches them after Mass, outside the Church (or at least in the porch) and asks a question or simply introduces oneself, then they are suddenly much more friendly and welcoming. Which makes sense: they have done the serious business which they came to do - the adoration, contrition, supplication, thanksgiving, and communion with God that are the point of Mass - and are now free to give their full attention to us.

So to conclude these ramblings, I offer two reflections. If you are a devotee of the traditional Mass, do be aware of any newcomers, and offer a welcome after Mass. Restrain those who may tut disapprovingly at them, too, if you are able to do so; and do ensure that there is a supply of missals or booklets with the Ordinary of the Mass (at least) available for them.

And if you are thinking of going to a traditional Mass for the first (or second or third) time, brace yourself for the culture shock: it will be different. Suspend your judgement, both of the liturgy and of the people, until you have had time to think about both, and possibly experience both more than once or twice.  And ask questions about anything and everything: it is the way to learn.


Update: ...and see my Third thoughts, here.

1 comment:

Sylvester Edwin Lambert said...

Thank you for one of the most sensible articles that I have ever read on the Latin Mass! You manage to show understanding of all sides.

Personally, the main bar to me attending is the attitude of a sizeable percentage of attendees who view the modern rite as inferior and often as not even valid ~(often whilst still attending the services of SSPX!) Although I do not attend the Latin Mass, I have had prolonged contact with those who do, so this comment is not merely my preconceptions but is based on experience.

Your article manages to address concerns from all sides and is a welcome voice of calm moderation! If only more people had such an attitude!