Why I Don’t Support the Latin Mass

Yesterday I spoke on thee merits of the Tridentine Mass, today I want to share my concerns. (Click here for the first part of this article!)

Have you ever read a missal from before Vatican II? They are really an amazing piece of history. Personally, I collect them, (and anything else Catholic for that matter) and every time I walk through an old book store, I’m always hunting these down. It’s the first place I go, every time. I find them simply fascinating. I will be the first to admit that I long deeply for that sense of connection to all of history that one must have felt with the old Mass.

The are not just books I shelve though, I really actually read through them. I am brought to two major conclusions.

First, nobody really knew what the heck was going on. Yes, there were of course the die-hards, just like today, but it’s obvious to me that the average person saw himself more as attending an event then actually participating in it. Was it holy, oh yes it most certainly was, but was the average person truly engaged? I’m not so sure.

Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine you are at Mass, and everything is in Latin. You know your responses by heart, but you don’t really speak Latin at all. When it comes time for the Bible to be read, it’s like they are reading Greek. You have no idea what they are talking about. What do you do? Well, you are at Mass, so you can pray of course. Can you imagine sitting around with everyone quietly praying their rosary while the priest was up there doing his thing? Pulling out your missal so you can read in your language whatever the priest is mumbling up at the altar?

Mass was truly a personal experience, a chance for you to have some quiet prayer time in the midst of all the other Catholics in your community. Yes, there were moments when everyone would act together, but for the most part, you sat and prayed while someone else did all the work. You would sit and listen to the clacking of rosaries on pews and the rolling of Latin prayer reverberating through the room.

Now I’m not going to say it was all bad, in fact I think it was all good. Prayer is never a bad thing, and the way the Mass was celebrated truly gave you a sense of the Holy. You were not however personally involved.

Vatican II really set a new focus on the “People of God”, and in doing so really changed the whole view of what it meant to celebrate the Mass. I’m not saying this was a change in teaching, merely a change in emphasis, from institution to laity, and this is a good thing. With it came a required mandate to actually involve the people that the Mass was being said for.

So now we get to understand what is being said. This is very good. We are involved, this is also good.

Before I wrap it up though, I must throw in a thought.

I am rather intellectual, and have a tendency to think in the abstract. So it is very important to me to imagine the regular average Joe who is coming to Mass. The Mass is the only catechism he will get, and I have to imagine that he does not really know what is going on. Does the Mass as it stands call him to worship and prayer? Does it allow the gospel to really enter his heart? I know that God can do anything and work in any circumstance, but does the way we celebrate truly engage him?

The Tridentine Mass certainly did, he knew he was in the presence of something supernatural. I’m not so sure he would get the same feeling now, and fear he may leave out of boredom and confusion.

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13 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Support the Latin Mass”

  1. Don’t you think it’s a bit arrogant to assume you understand how the “common man” would perceive the traditional Mass in the old days? There is a presumption in your argument that you are much smarter and sophisticated than the “Average Joe” who might walk into a Tridentine Mass.

    From anecdotal evidence I have heard from elderly Catholics, very simple laypeople were able to understand the liturgy with great clarity. Read what the recently deceased Cardinal Bartolucci had to say about this in this interview: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2009/08/bombshell-of-interview-mons-domenico.html

    Key excerpts: “So that you won’t think that I’m just saying anything, I know how participation in old times was like, both in Rome, in the (St. Peter’s) Basilica and outside it, for instance down here in Mugello, in this parish, in this beautiful countryside, which was then populated by people strong in faith and full of piety. During Sunday Vespers the priest could just start singing “Deus in adiutorium meum intende” and thereafter fall asleep on his seat to wake up only at the “chapter”, the peasants would have continued alone and the heads of the family would have intoned the antiphon!”

    “Dearest friends, have you never read Saint Paul: “It is not important to know anything but what is necessary”, “it is necessary to love knowledge ad sobrietatem”. At this rate, after a few years people will pretend to understand “transubstantiation” in the same way as they explain a mathematical theorem. But just think of it that not even the priest may quite understand this mystery!”

    And are Latin Mass goers today more learned and better catechized than their spiritual ancestors? Why do they seem to understand the liturgy and its purpose so much better than their Novus Ordo attending brethren? I constantly encounter Novus Ordo Catholics who do not realize that the Mass is a sacrifice. I did not understand this until I attended the TLM at age 21, and I thought I was a fairly well-catechized Catholic.

    Finally, you really need to make a distinction between interior and exterior participation. All of your gripes about the lack of participation in the TLM only pertain to exterior manifestations, but we all know that interior participation is more excellent.

    1. First, I think I need to make it clear that I am a supporter of the Latin Mass, not a detractor. I wrote two articles, one that illustrates some problems with the Novus Ordo, and one that shows why I feel the change to the Novus Ordo was a bad idea. As with all things, there are both pros and cons, and I think I made it clear that I feel the Novus Ordo, as it is, is not as beneficial to the faithful as it could be.

      That being said, your main idea was that I had in some way misconstrued how Catholics, between the fall of Latin as a vernacular and the introduction of the Novus Ordo, approached and appreciated the Mass. While I admit, that my writing style is very colloquial, I most certainly do my due diligence before writing a post. The fact is, many Saints, in their holy piety, write about praying the rosary during Mass themselves as a devotion. This is not me merely speculating. Sure, with the advent of modern education, by the 1960’s most people could read a missal if they wanted too, and I have little doubt that was used extensively, but most of the history of the Tridentine Mass was performed with an illiterate laity, who knew little to no Latin at all. Knowledge of Latin for most of this period is the sign of the educated class.

      Now, I can can recite the Our Father in four languages, but no matter how hard I try, I can only really pray it in my native tongue, English. Sure, I can recite words very piously and faithfully, but as you mentioned, that is an exterior participation, not an interior one. There is a reason that Sacrosanctum Concilium makes such a point about “fully conscious, and active and participation”, and that is because they were concerned about it. Note, that this was before the Novus Ordo, this is Tridentine bishops talking.

      I have to admit, that my words were a little strong when I say that nobody had a clue what was going on. Of course they had a basic understanding of what was happening at Mass, at least as good an understanding as we do now. However, I think I can just as easily say that people who attend Mass now, “have no idea what the heck is going on”, and I don’t think humanity has changed all that much over the centuries.

      All that being said, I stand with my previously stated opinion, that you know a tree by it’s fruit, and the Latin Mass simply bore better fruit than our current Novus Ordo.

  2. I congratulate you on giving an excellent apology against the OF. No one should now be in any doubt that the purpose of the OF is social engineering and indoctrination rather than worshiping the Deity.

  3. Well, that got me sweaty!
    First off, the chosen images depicting the NO/ OF are nauseating and exactly what is wrong w the novus Church! Can we say “charismatic Protestant”!
    If someone is lost and mumbling without the will to learn the Mass or study some Latin then I have one word for that type of person: lazy. Make that 2: unmotivated.

    Don’t you dare act like this new Mass is superior to the Mass of St. Peter! If it sufficed for centuries of saints, dare I say it is sufficient in today’s world?!
    Scrape off from your shoe that pile of Modernism and novelty you stepped in!

    1. I truly don’t mean to be rude, but did you actually read these two posts, or just read the title and look at the pictures? I find it odd that you would criticize me for coming to the same position as yourself.

      In the first post of this series, “Why I support the Latin Mass” I pretty much agree with everything you said.

      Even here, I though I expressed some concerns, (the same concerns the Tridentine bishops had at Vatican II,) I still ended with the caveat that I think the Tridentine Mass was better for the average Joe.

      I am just confused as to what it is you disagree with exactly. I would hardly consider myself a modernist, and I abhor novelty, at least as it comes to the Mass.

      1. Yes, I absolutely read all text in between the photos and I see much lamenting on your part regarding the TLM.

        >>>First, nobody really knew what the heck was going on.<<>>Vatican II really set a new focus on the “People of God”, and in doing so really changed the whole view of what it meant to celebrate the Mass. I’m not saying this was a change in teaching, merely a change in emphasis, from institution to laity, and this is a good thing. With it came a required mandate to actually involve the people that the Mass was being said for.<<>>So now we get to understand what is being said.This is very good. We are involved, this is also good.<<>>I still ended with the caveat that I think the Tridentine Mass was better for the average Joe.<<<
        My apologies if I do not understand your writing style, but I don;'t see this as support of the TLM. What I see is mostly praise for the OF.

        I have 2 words for you: QUO PRIMUM.

        VINCIMUS!!!

        http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm

  4. It is too bad any discussion of the Church nowadays has to be polluted by the screaming mimi’s. If you cannot express yourself constructively, to act according to the ends we want — love of orthodoxy and the embrace of traditional Catholic practice and rites — maybe you should avoid commenting. I am positive that Our Lord does not need defense of tradition in His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church by running people away with venom. No matter how righteous you think you are, it doesn’t justify violating charity.

  5. Don’t agree. Let’s finish with this anthropocentric way of thinking. The old liturgy has fed hundreds generations of cathlic. Look what is happening today. Don’t forget that even after the Vatican II the official language of the liturgy is latin.

  6. I would have preferred to keep the Tridentine Mass, but in the local vernacular. The Novus Ordo seems to have taken the focus off of God, and redirected it towards us in order to get the laity “involved”.

  7. Funny, we use to go to the Novus Ordo Mass until 10 years ago when we discovered the Latin Mass. It brought our faith alive as it seemed going to the Novus Ordo was not much different then attending a protestant service. My sister left the Catholic church years ago and I was beginning to understand why. Our children, who would cry because they did not want to go to Mass on Sundays, when we began attending the Latin Mass they didn’t want to go home. We go to a Traditional Latin Mass, that is completely Latin, everyday all year round. You can pray the Mass with the priest following in the booklet as it is in both Latin and English. You can pray in your heart along with the priest. The most beautiful thing this side of heaven. The Latin Mass brought our Faith alive and has enriched our lives. We have been blessed to be so close to a parish that is all Traditional Latin and so very blessed that our children have been raised with the fullness of the faith. We thank God everyday. http://www.facebook.com/MaterEcclesiaechurch/

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