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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Young Vocations and The Extraordinary Form of the Mass

A chapel full of students at the University of Notre Dame attend the first Mass in the Extraordinary Form post Summorum Pontificum. As you can see, the Chapel was full. Deo Gratias!


Having been a high school teacher prior to my change of occupation, it was becoming evident to me that the students who were more serious about their faith, their prayer life, and their catechetical and intellectual development, were increasingly drawn to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), or the Extraordinary Form as it is now known.

These were brilliant Catholic students and their interest in the TLM was not to go back to a time "long before they were born", but in most cases it was a reaction against the abuses and lack of reverence they saw at Masses. What the previous generations saw as "updating" the Mass, or making it more "relevant", was to these kids (the diehard Catholics of the future) actually making the Mass banal to the point of frustration. The things that older generations thought were hip and new - these kids simply think is ridiculous to the point of comedy (more along the lines of a tragedy). In the TLM they saw order, beauty, and reverence - and they were drawn to it. Whatever problems existed with the Mass before Vatican II, young people today are, in most cases, simply not aware of them. What they see today at a TLM are very devoted people , reverently attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And from these students are coming, and will increasingly come, the vocations of the future. People can fight it or try to ignore it, but they are coming - and they will be coming in ever larger numbers.

A presenter at the National Vocations Directors Conference labeled some of these kids as rigid, and their rigidity as a potential obstacle to vocations. I couldn't disagree more. Their "rigidity" is born out of a frustration with laxity, lukewarmness, and abusive liturgical innovations. In them is a profound love of our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Mother Mary, and the Saints. Their reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is tangible. These are not weak foundations for a vocation to be built on.

Rather than see these as obstacles, I can only see them as building blocks for holy vocations. Much preferred to the numerous "faithful" Catholic students who are involved in under age drinking, premarital sex, contraception, pornography, support gay marriage, and are openly pro-abortion. I see these as far larger obstacles to vocations than I do virtuous students that are adamantly opposed to rock bands playing at Mass.

Read the article below. Read the quotes from the young people attending the TLM, like this one: The Tridentine Mass "detaches me from the world and lifts my mind, heart and soul to heavenly things," said Michael Malain, 21, of Houston.

Those are not the words of a "reactionary traditionalist". Those are words that should not be seen as obstacles to a vocation. I assure you they aren't, and we will be hearing more of the same in the years to come. Those Diocese that embrace these young people and form them in a positive way will see a marked increase in vocations. Those that don't, well, they will probably continue to see a "vocations crisis".

Mass Appeal to Latin Tradition
From the Washington Times:

October 28, 2007
By Kristi Moore

Roman Catholic churches nationwide are rushing to accommodate a surge in demand for the traditional Latin Mass, which is drawing a surprising new crowd: young people.

Since July, when a decree from Pope Benedict XVI lifted decades-old restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass, seven churches in the Washington metropolitan area have added the liturgy to their weekly Sunday schedules.

"I love the Latin Mass," said Audrey Kunkel, 20, of Cincinnati. "It's amazing to think that I"m attending the same Mass that has formed saints throughout the centuries."

In contrast to the New Order Mass, which has been in use since the Second Vatican Council in 1969 and is typically celebrated in vernacular languages such as English, the Tridentine Mass is "contemplative, mysterious, sacred, transcendent, and [younger people are] drawn to it," said the Rev. Franklyn McAfee, pastor of St. John the Beloved in McLean. "Gregorian chant is the opposite of rap, and I believe this is a refreshing change for them."

Susan Gibbs, the director of communications from the Archdiocese of Washington, said the attraction demonstrated by the young adults is "very interesting."

Besides the liturgy"s rich historical content and spiritual significance, the younger generations show an interest in the old becoming new again, said Louis Tofari of the Society of St. Pius X, an order of clergy that opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

"People who never grew up with the traditional Mass are finding it on their own and falling in love with it."

The Tridentine Mass helps people in their 20s and 30s who have grown up in a culture that lacks stability and orthodoxy see something larger than themselves: the glory of God, said Geoffrey Coleman of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter"s Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary in Denton, Neb.

The Tridentine Mass "detaches me from the world and lifts my mind, heart and soul to heavenly things," said Michael Malain, 21, of Houston.

Kirk Rich, 21, of Oberlin, Ohio, remembers the first time he attended a Tridentine Mass and recalls thinking that a new religion had been invented.

"That"s certainly what it seems like when comparing the two forms of the Mass," Mr. Rich said.

The biggest difference between the two forms is that the Tridentine Mass is always celebrated in Latin, except for the homily. The priest also leads the parishioners facing east, the traditional direction of prayer. The New Order Mass can be celebrated in Latin, but usually is not. There are also differences in some of the prayers, hymns and vestments.

As a result, the overall feel of the Tridentine Mass is more solemn and serious.

"The coffee social is after the traditional Latin Mass, not in the middle of it," said Kenneth Wolfe, 34, of Alexandria. "No one can say, with a straight face, that the post-Vatican II liturgy and sacraments are more beautiful than the ones used for hundreds and hundreds of years."

Like the churchgoers now demanding the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, the priests learning the rite are usually younger as well.

The Society of St. Pius X trains priests in the liturgy of the Tridentine Mass and has received as many as 25 requests a week for instruction since July.

"The phone was ringing nonstop, and I was getting e-mail after e-mail,' Mr. Tofari said. "The response was absolutely incredible; most of the people who call are below the age of 30."

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has collaborated with Una Voce America to host workshops for clergy in Denton, Neb. Una Voce America, which promotes the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, usually teaches the rite to 12 students a session. But in September, it increased that number to 22 to meet the increased demand for training.

Many priests think the changes approved by the pope will do more than bring young people into the church. They think the celebration of the Tridentine Mass will increase the faith of many followers.

The Rev. Paul Scalia, 37, has been celebrating the Tridentine Mass at St. Rita Church in Alexandria. He said the increase in young attendance is evidence that the Mass is something living and life-giving.

"The beauty is tremendous, as it draws us to God, who is beauty Himself," Father Scalia said.

Yes, Fr. Scalia, is the son of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.


What could these young people possibly be drawn to in this centuries old form of the Mass:

After only 40 years of Masses like this:


A Simple Sinner said...

In a different forum altogether the issue of "Sensuality in Contemporary Catholic Music" came up. Well, actually, I started the thread on that one...

I asked: "I have never been a big fan of contempoarary Christian praise & worship music. In many orthodox faithful communities and places it seems to have achieved a status of respectability. It is even frequently used in the Mass by some groups and in some places.

Recently, talking to an aquaintance who is a full time church musician at a Catholic parish, who has a preference for this style over organ music or more traditionaly hymnody or chant, I have been forced to confront what it is about praise music that I just don't care for. She is certainly orthodox, loyal to the Magisterium and very supportive of the teen ministry groups that promote the same...

But in attempting to apply the maxim "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity," I am still left with misgivings about that style of music that I can't just attribute to "personal taste"

Not meaning to be sarcastic or rude, but my experience with praise worship music is that it has a certain vapid top-40 sensibility to it... it comes accross as very sensual at times in a way I find incongruent with matters and situations of worship. Too much of it comes accross sounding like a sensual "Boyfriend Jesus" a la Celine Dion's sappy Titanic theme, or some sort of Hillary Duff-esque light-rockin "Jesus as my crush" or maybe a type of soft-rock ballad like Journey used to offer... Next time you are hear some of these songs, replace "Savior" with "boyfriend" or "Lord" with "Baby"... You will see what I am getting at.

The effect of "swooning" comes to mind. It seems very much to especially appeal to young women who close their eyes, clasp a hand to their chest, put one in the air and have a look to them like they are about to get the "big romanitc hollywood kiss" in a movie...

It seems to lend itself to a sort of sensuality that is just odd to me at the Eucharistic sacrifice. Passions that get sparked... Well, they seem out of place in that setting.

Is this simply my aesthetic sensibilities showing up on the radar, or are others here bothered by this sort of music in the context of a Mass?

Am I just a young fogey or fuddy-duddy because when I compare chant or hymnody to CP&W music I see a radical and slightly unsettlling difference?"

From there, another poster chastised me to read JP2's Theology of the Body and Song of Songs

I respond:

Some of us who are familiar with both TOB and SOS and who very much understand (as finitely as we can) the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist... Well our concearn or thinking on this matter is not informed by ignorance on those things.

Truly TOB in fact is a masterful and brilliant summation of traditional church teaching expressed rather geniusly for a modern age where (western culture especially) we have lost our way, opting for the innovative options widely offered to modern man that contravene Catholic thinking and Natural Law.

That these lyrics may in fact well reflect or be aligned with Catholic thought, does not preclude that this may not in fact be the natural progression for liturgical music. Those of us who do not share in the enthusiasm for this styling are not doing so out of dissent or ignorance or misreceiving TOB or the communion aspect of the Eucharist. We (at least I) have reservation for this genre for other reasons.

I am intrigued much by some of the older explinations of the Liturgy (Roman Mass & Byzantine DL) that reference heavily the commonality and continuity of elelments of worship in both the old and new covenant. The Israelite's highly prescribed Temple sacrifice - the liturgy, the liturgical year, the continence of the priests who serve at the altar, it much resonates through the ages to the world in the Catholic Church even today. Emphasis on the sacrifice and all manner of ritual reserved and unique to it - which underlies the contrast between the sacred and profane - is important to us.

I don't use profane in the sense of profanity, of course, but in the classic understanding of that which is very much of the world and day to day.
The past ten years especially have given rise to a new liturgical movement seeking recapture of these classic and traditional understandings of liturgy and the music that serves it. Although it has gained a vibrancy demonstrating we are not just "old fashioned" or "in the past" many of us continue to hear "That's great for you, but that just doesn't play, kids don't like it, it isn't where we are now." (Nevermind that that the Norbertines and Fraternity of Saint Peter with their over-flowing formation programs are filled with 20somethings...)

Frequently this attitude seems rather dismissive or relegates us to the status of some sort of anachranistic curiosity seeker. The thinking being, I guess, that there is always a minority of people that will decorate their homes with finds from antique stores. Or you can always find the odd Young Fogey on a college campus in tweed & bow tie who has taken to having a sherry hour. A curious breed to be sure, but not all that terribly relevent, the thinking seems to imply.

I'm not an extremist, or out to ban anyone, or here to imply only my way is best and to the dogs with everyone else... I certainly don't want to have this discussion go the way of some forums here on CAF where criticism and cynicism trump charity or honest efforts to understand.

But some of our critiques and concearns may be rather well founded, and bare consideration. The more I come to appreciate some of the more classical and traditional thinkings of the liturgy from both East & West, the less comfortable I am with some of this music in the context of the liturgy. And I am very much a supporter and student of the Theology of the Body.

I tend to think this is a fairly fair (if I do say so myself) depiction of the thinking of a lot of us who are traditionally inclined. We are not rejecting so much as embracing older forms that definately stood the test of time.

Marcellinus said...


Excellent post! I cannot wait to get together over Christmas.

By the way, I'm kneeling next to the girl in the pink shirt on the left side of the pew in line with the woman wearing the chapel veil.

And, a large group of ND students are going to St. John Cantius in Chicago on Friday for the Feast of All Souls where the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius will be celebrating a Solemn High Requiem Mass with music from Moart and of course, black vestments! Should be excellent. I'll see if I can get any pictures for your blog, the Johnson Letters is under construction.


Argent said...

The trouble with "praise and worship" (an unfortunate term because is not liturgy in its very essence, even unadorned and without music, is praise and worship of the Crucified and Resurrected Lord...in obedience of the command to give thanks at all times) is that it comes out of the modernist relativist position that to be valid it has to be felt. Sincerity of feeling passes for what is true. So strength of feeling during worship means that I've connected with the transcendent. And singing in the first person, the divine "I", makes it more so. I got into God's head.

I'm going to get into trouble here, but I'm going to say it anyway. This is an outgrowth of the Protestant rebellion. Because holy images were cast out as being idolatrous, the Beautiful was sundered from Truth and Goodness. The ability to contemplate the Incarnation in works of art was looked on as superstitious. So what we have left is an aesthetic sensibility. (Okay, so I conflated the path of the descent into the banal. That would have made for a really long comment.) The attitude we are faced with in planning liturgies at the parish level is, "Well, that's nice. That's your opinion." All opinions are valid because we are such tolerant people.

When in Truth, Beauty is objective. It is the power of God's persuasive Truth. It draws us into the interior life of the Trinity. This is a much higher goal than the all-too-prevalent the-Mass-must-be-relevant-to-young-people thinking. To which I say, "Oh, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ isn't relevant? How so? We must dress it with drums and clown costumes? How did the Church manage to make saints before we discovered such a fact?"

I tell people all the time that Gregorian Chant is an auditory fast, fasting from that which tickles our ears into feeling and closes us in in self-congratulatory worship. Chant forces you to consider the text, to consider the rhythms of Logos/spoken word, to marry word with tune, to give up your individuality for the one voice that rises up like incense as the evening sacrifice. A hard discipline when we're used to the mushy, musical style music over-amplified to deaden our senses.

I should've known you'd have a 'blog, Brad. Take a guess who I am. We spoke last Friday night.