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Posts Tagged ‘National Catholic Reporter’

I recently read an opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter titled “Time to put the ‘catholic’ back in the Catholic Church.”

It’s not necessarily a hit-piece on those who enjoy the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). However, it didn’t paint the TLM movement in a positive light, either.

Born after Vatican 2, I never experienced the Latin Mass in my youth. However, I remember witnessing some of the changes in my parish, such as moving the altar forward, replacing the crucifix with a statue of the Risen Lord. As a cradle Catholic, I just went along with the changes and gave it little thought … until one day, I traveled abroad.

Well, I really didn’t travel abroad. I traveled to Canada. Québec, actually. Montréal to be precise.

During my stay, I attended Sunday Mass at chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, “Our Lady of Good Help”, in the district of Vieux Montreal.

The Chapel was breath-taking and I waited with bated breath for Mass to begin.

Everything seemed to be exactly like what I experienced in my local parish in the States — until everyone began speaking.

Not that I’m a francophobe. I just felt removed — not a part of the parish. Sadly, I didn’t feel “catholic.” In fact, I really didn’t feel “Catholic” either. For the first time, I understood why the Latin Rite was in Latin for so long.

Years passed since I attended a Traditional Latin Mass. My wife and I had recently moved to California. My wife, who was Lutheran at the time, leaned trad.  (Actually, she leaned Orthodox … Russian Orthodox.) Since we often attended different services at the time, we both found common ground with the Mass of the Ages.

Though my wife truly enjoyed it, I again felt removed. I didn’t feel “catholic” (lowercase c) However, I did feel “Catholic.”

After that Sunday, I returned to attending Mass at my parish, Saint Finbar.

It was a multicultural parish in Burbank, California. Founded by Irish, the congregation now also included Latino, Filipino, and Vietnamese parishioners. For the first time as a Cradle Catholic, St. Finbar’s gave me a sense of “being catholic”. The Masses and music were reverent. The Sanctus and the Agnes Die were sometimes sung.

One priest eloquently sang the entire Eucharistic prayer.

I remember the first time I heard it, I rolled my eyes. Is this going to be like Godspell, I remember saying to myself, fearing a contemporary music abuse of the Novus Ordo. It was Southern California and Burbank was in Hollywood’s backyard. However, to my surprise, it was moving. So moving, I would intentionally skip his Masses, from time to time, to make sure that I was attending Mass for the right reason, the Eucharist alone.

Later, as a fundraiser, the parish music ministry put out a CD of their liturgical performances, which included the Eucharist prayers. I would often listen to these recorded prayers when stuck in traffic or on my way to work.

The only negative thing I can say about this “experience” was that many of the Masses were in the native tongues of the parishioners. Except for Holy Days of Obligation and Soup Fridays during Lent, the Church Community of St. Finbar rarely gathered together as one Catholic community.

Yet, the parish never lost its true sense of being “catholic.”

On one of those Sundays where I had no choice but to attend a Mass in Spanish, I never felt removed from the Mass.  In fact, I often preferred the Spanish Mass. The celebration didn’t seem to end. It flowed out of the Church and went forth to the veranda outside the church. Music played as families handed out loaves of bread to anyone in need. It was beautiful.

However, it was helpful that I understood Spanish. Then it happened…

It was Easter Sunday and I was outside the church assisting as part of the Greeting Committee. I felt that I didn’t meet my Sunday obligation and picked up a bulletin to see when the next English-speaking Mass was scheduled.

“Have you ever attended a Vietnamese Mass?” one of the greeters asked me.

“No, they’re usually on Wednesday,” I added.

“There’s one following this Mass,” she continued. “Stay behind and attend. It’s beautiful.”

So, I did.

I had never experienced such a beautiful Liturgy. The entire Mass was sung, from beginning to end, by both the Priest and the Collect. I stood in the back, watching with great awe. And even though I did not understand a word of it, I was captured by its elegance, grace, and reverence — especially for the Eucharist.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was forever changed.

Years have passed and my wife and I moved back to New York after starting a family. Though we started attending Mass together, nothing matched the feeling about being “catholic” that I experienced at St. Finbar.

In an effort to better evangelize, my present parish has embraced a less traditional model of worship taken from the pages of the book Rebuilt.

Though I applaud the efforts made by the parish in Maryland, I am highly skeptical of any Church where I have difficulty finding the word “Catholic” on their website. A second concern comes from their use of the term “service” over Mass and their focus on “tools and tricks” such as building a sense of theater.

Though our Pastor had greatly improved the reverence experienced at Mass, few parishioners appear equally reverent. We are among the few who improve our wardrobe during Mass, often receiving comments (all good) on our boys’ attire and manners.

Last year, I approached my pastor and expressed our possible need to go elsewhere. I’m not a big fan of “Church shopping”, but something had to change.

Speaking of my thoughts about attending a TLM, I harkened back to my Easter Sunday experience and said, “I’d rather go to a Church where my kids didn’t know what was going on and everyone else did than be at a Church where they knew what was going on and those around them don’t.”

Of course, I was referring to the holiness of the Mass.

Since there was not a Diocesan Traditional Latin Liturgy close enough to attend, I confessed that we attended a Saturday Liturgy at the SPX church in our area. After a long conversation, too long to discuss, out of loyalty to the Church,  he kindly asked me not to attend an SPX Mass, but understood my reasons for wanting to go to a Traditional Mass.  

“They’re good people,” he said.  “But some of the things they say about the Pope….”

“There’s a picture of the Pope on the wall when you walk in,” I added.

Pope Francis?” he asked shockingly.

Yes, I nodded.

“Before I was a priest,” he suggested. “I would often worship with my eyes closed at Mass.”

“I do already,” I added with a smile. “Before you were here, the cantor would start the Lamb of God while people were still shaking hands during the Sign of Peace. I’d close my eye so no one could interrupt me while I focused on the Agnes Dei . One time, a woman in the pew in front of me kept smacking my shoulder while I was praying — just so I would shake her hand.”

We both chuckled and moved on to more kinder and gentler topics, like my wife and my boys.  Out of respect to our pastor, I submitted to his authority and continued to worship at our local parish.

On Father’s Day, ironically, our pastor shockingly announced that he was being transferred to a new parish. We were away that weekend, as we are most weekends in the summer, attending Mass at the parish by our summer camp. 

Without an appointment, I visited him at the Rectory and luckily arrived at a time where he did not have an appointment.

In short, we revisited my original concern — specifically with the Rebuilt program.

“If you ever left, our backup plan was at St. Ann’s,” I said with a chuckle in my voice. 

St. Ann’s is Catholic Church in the rural town where I work. Her pastor was well-known for his orthodoxy and reverence. The altar servers still use patens during the reception of Holy Communion, which is rarely seen today in a Novus Ordo Mass. 

“But,” I added. “They transferred him (St. Ann’s pastor) too.”

Though our out-going had nice things to say about the incoming pastor, he gave me his blessing to move on if we felt the need.

“You have to go where you’re fed,” he said. Of course, he met “go where you are fed” within the Catholic Church.

And that was the answer I was looking for.  That’s the answer we’re all looking for! To be fed!

I felt lost in the Mass in Quebec, not because I did not speak French. It was because it appeared perfunctory. I felt disconnected with the Traditional Mass in L.A., not because I didn’t understand the Latin. I do. It was because it appeared methodical.

Now, I’m not saying all the Masses in Quebec are perfunctory. Nor am I saying all the TLM are methodical. Nor am I saying that all Vietnamese Masses are life-changing.

I am saying that a Mass done correctly is life-changing.

So, how do you know when a Mass is done correctly? Trust me, you’ll know. You’ll feel it and see it. You’ll see all the participants: the priest and the people in the pews, the readers and cantors, all the ushers and musicians reverently partaking in the Supper of the Lamb, fully focused on the Source and Summit of our faith, “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

It doesn’t matter what form it’s in. It doesn’t matter what language it is in. It doesn’t matter if it is illicit. All that matters is that the faithful come together with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as God’s Temple. (1 Cor 3:16)

Being “catholic” does not mean that we worship using the same words and music. On any given day (or from Sunday Mass to Mass in larger parishes) one can go to a Mass in Latin Rite Church, in which I belong, and experience a difference in song or celebration.

The New Order Latin Rite is also divided into an ordinary and extraordinary form. That’s not very universal.

Further, within the Latin Rite, there are some other Latin liturgical traditions, such as the Ambrosian (habitually celebrated in the Archdiocese of Milan), the Mozarabic (celebrated in a more restricted manner in Toledo in Spain), and that of the city of Braga in Portugal which is permitted in that diocese but not widely used. [1] Pope Paul VI celebrated the Ambrosian Rite.

Even in the Traditional Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which has garnered so much attention lately because of Pope Francis’s Moto Propio “Traditionis Custodus“, one can experience a High Mass or Low Mass.

The list of liturgical differences goes on and on. Change the music and the sense and feel of a Mass changes completely. Just by having a different priest and a different homily, the true universality of the Mass is removed.

In fact, the Catholic Church is comprised of six individual rites and within those rites are 24 sui iuris (self-governing) Churches — all with their own unique traditions and treasures.

“In the liturgy, above all that of the sacraments, there is an immutable part, a part that is divinely instituted and of which the Church is the guardian, and parts that can be changed, which the Church has the power, and on occasion the duty, to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelized peoples.” (CCC 1205)

What makes the Catholic Church truly catholic is not only the immutable part in the rubric of its Masses. What makes the Church truly catholic is the power of the Church to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelized peoples.

People are going to go where they are being fed. We all have cultural and social needs and desires.  Rebuilt works for just as many people as the TLM does.   That’s why “[t]he celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples. (CCC 1204)

The Catechism states: “In order that the mystery of Christ be ‘made known to all the nations . . . to bring about the obedience of faith,’ (Cf. SC 37-40) it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled: It is with and through their own human culture, assumed and transfigured by Christ, that the multitude of God’s children has access to the Father, in order to glorify Him in the one Spirit” (CCC 1204)

The Church has been aware of this for centuries. In 1570, the Church declared “[t]he Sacrifice (of the Mass) is celebrated with many solemn rites and ceremonies, none of which should be deemed useless or superfluous.”

So, why this sudden “desire” by Pope Francis “to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion”?

It seems to me that the more reverent liturgies we have, the more catholic the Church becomes.  In the end, that’s what truly makes the Church “Catholic”.

Watch Dr. Brant Pitre’s Mystery of the Church.

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,  and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to All.   For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to write — and teach. To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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