The Latin Mass and the Laity
In view of the liberalization of the old Rite of the Mass now being so widely spoken of, I thought it germane to discuss what the freeing of the traditional Rite will mean for the hypothetical average Catholic man-in-the-pew. Typically, it is assumed, and vigorously argued in some venues, that it will mean nothing to him: forty years of the vernacular Mass have first inured, then bewitched, the common man. He cannot, it is supposed, go back to the old challenging form of worship; he is too happy with the easy, vernacular Mass with more variety and more inculturation. And while there is a measure of truth in this line of argument, for the most part it is oversimplified hogwash.
How could I say this? You may well wonder. The anchoring assumption of the no-one-wants-that-old-latin-anyway argument is that sin has triumphed finally, that grace is inoperative, and that modern man must simply be accomodated or he will use his consumer's choice and leave. While it is true that a large number of individuals do in fact come to their religion from a consumerist mindset, it is hardly these that we should be thinking of when we make decisions for the good of souls. Never will the offerings of God's Church, which must, if they are to be authentic, make demands in the here-and-now, compete with the offerings of Satan, who is all too ready to fool the mind with rest today if he can claim the soul in agony forever. The idea that you can compete with Satan on his own turf leads to many errors in modern "ministry," from misguided youth group activities to some varieties of pop Christian "music."
But we know that this is not the nature of man. God made man to worship Him, and in the absence of right worship the soul of a man is disordered. This is a disorder than man cannot help but feel, no matter how he may drown it with drink, television shows, pornography, obsessive hobbies, etc. The malaise, bordom, and fatigue of the modern western world springs from sin and from the fact that the lives of men are ordered away from what God intends. Those who are not ready to have a good time in the way advocated by our humble assembly -- namely, by obedience to God's will -- simply will fail, in the end, to have a good time at all.
This connects to the old Mass quite directly. As a pristine and otherworldy form of liturgical worship, a ritual composed by more than committees of overeducated moderns, it can speak past a man's critical apparatus to his heart and soul in a way that the new Mass cannot so easily do. I often think of the businessmen who, in the time before the council were the primary attenders of those famous "22 minute" low Masses -- often made so short so those men could catch a train to work, or in some other way move speedily to the next duty in their state in life. These are mocked as the worst of the old way, but to my mind they show how the priests and people of the unruined Catholic culture of those days understood something that our experts cannot: that those men were *at daily Mass* and wanted to make it a part of their daily lives in a way that few can, or wish to, today. You can get retirees, college kids, and a few others out for a vegetable-dyed stole daily Mass-in-the-round; to get ordinary working men there, you either must demand more, or make it fit into their scheduled lives. The old way did both: it demanded piety, or else the men would not be there; and in return it was adapted to their schedules.
It is men who will return to their faith with the return of the no-nonsense latin Mass of the ages. They will come, each for his own reasons, guided by grace. The ritual, the austerity -- these will attract him in a way that the new ways never can. And if the men will return, the women will follow, and will learn again to take pride in the differentness of their Church, in the learning of their priests, in the piety of their husbands and fathers. More than swallows to Capistrano, the return of the men to the practice of the Faith is what we should most eagerly be awaiting.
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