Sunday, July 22, 2007

AJC: The Latin Mass not cause for contention

Oh, what a jewel of an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there in Georgia - a place where I once lived and a city I fell in love with.

Here is some real straight-talk on the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, by Lorraine Murray and she nails it all perfectly. I don't know if this is one of those news sites that only posts an article for a limited time, so I bring it to you in it's entirety for your reading pleasure!

God bless you, Lorraine! My emphases in bold and comments in red.

The Latin Mass not cause for contention

By Lorraine V. Murray
Published on: 07/21/07

In the sixties, hippies shunned their elders' traditions, including their approach to paying bills, which involved jobs. With time, however, many hippies traded love beads for suits and realized that working beat living on the streets.

Hippies are long gone, but the anti-tradition crowd lives on and reared its head recently when Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Latin Mass would be more widely offered to Catholics.

Some folks protested that the Church was moving backward instead of forward, but what's wrong with that?

First, a little background: The liturgy of the Tridentine Mass, usually celebrated in Latin, dates back to the sixth century.

And it was the only option for Catholics until the Second Vatican Council rolled out an updated Mass in the vernacular in the 1960s.

Although the Latin Mass was still celebrated after that, it became rarer than the proverbial hen's tooth and today might exist in one parish among hundreds of others.

That one parish for Atlanta's Catholics is in Mableton, where the pews at St. Francis de Sales are filled with parishioners from all over the city, as well as adjacent states.

Clearly, there are people who love this reverent and ancient liturgy and will travel far to find it [and why should they have to travel so far, and how many more would be attending if it weren't so far?].

Which may baffle advocates of the newer Mass.

After all, isn't a Latin liturgy confusing and unintelligible? And doesn't the priest show disrespect to the congregation by turning his back toward them during these Masses?

No on both scores: Catholics who cherish tradition find beauty in Latin, which is an unchanging language. And even children follow along at Latin Masses without confusion, since the missals post the vernacular side by side with Latin.

Another wonderful thing about the Latin liturgy is that Catholics can attend Mass anywhere in the world and worship God just like at home, since Latin remains fixed in Nigeria, Paris or Idaho.

As for those critics who claim the priest is disrespecting the people in the pews: He and the entire congregation traditionally faced East, which symbolizes the risen Christ.
[I'll add to this by saying for me, it aided in my seeking the face of God in the Mass, rather than seeking the face of the priest. This heightens my worship of God, who should be at the center of the Mass in all of our hearts.]

I grew up with the Latin liturgy, and when I stepped into the sanctuary, I entered another dimension entirely. [I can relate to that. Step out of the busy, contemporary world and into a sanctuary of prayer where silence is actually deafening!].

One that was serene and dignified, fragrant with incense and echoing with Gregorian chant. [Yeah - the smells upon entering the doors at Assumption Grotto, where incense is used every Sunday at the 9:30am Latin Novus Ordo are inviting to prayer]

Before long, I knew all the prayers in Latin by heart, so when the priest said, "Dominus vobiscum," I knew he meant, "The Lord be with you." [Ditto. I've only been attending the Latin Novus Ordo at Grotto for just over two years and this is my experience with all of the Latin responses, and to many of the parts to which I now listen. This carried over into my one and only experience with the old Latin Mass I attended, on Ascension Thursday at St. Josaphat in Detroit]

Unfortunately, the post-Vatican II Mass has led to some egregious problems.

Traditional Gregorian chant gave way in some parishes to awful, folksy, feel-good music. Organs gathered dust, while guitars and drum machines took center stage. [And, this gave way not only to casual appearance (shorts, tank tops, etc., but it gave way to casual attitudes and replaced reverence. Relationship with God became just as casual - I'm ok, you're ok. I should know, I was guilty, and I find it still difficult to walk into such a casual liturgical atmosphere to not begin to drift back into that casual demeanor.]

Obviously, I favor the traditional Mass, but I see no reason to turn Benedict's proclamation into a war between conservatives and liberals. Instead of girding for battle, let's look at the larger picture.

For one, the pope is not doing anything radical. He is merely giving Roman Catholics greater access to something that is their birthright, since the Latin liturgy was standard for many centuries.

After Vatican II, it took a bishop's permission for such a Mass to be offered, but, thanks to Benedict, all that's needed now is a willing pastor in one's local parish.

People who favor Mass in their local language are not being asked to give it up [as many news articles will have you believe. You would think, by the reaction of some in the media, that King Kong had entered into our midst. But, I believe it is because they fear the loss of the casual among those who will discover and gravitate to the more formal way of worship. This will undoubtedly yield people who know their faith better, who will no longer find acceptable many things the media tries to jam down our throats, which run counter to our faith - in particular, the culture of death]. But those who have sat longingly in the pews, missing the powerful liturgy their ancestors enjoyed, now can have their day. In a church that prides itself on being universal, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Lorraine V. Murray is the author of "Grace Notes. Embracing the Joy of Christ in a Broken World" and "Why Me? Why Now? Finding Hope When You Have Breast Cancer." She works in the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University. Web site:

Source page for article

Once again, God bless you Lorraine, for an article well written. You speak for me!

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