Monday, March 08, 2010

Gearing Up

This Saturday evening, I plan to attend my first live Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  Since this is my first one, and I want to know what to do and get out of it as much as I possibly can, I have begun my preparation.  Today, I went out and picked up Baronius Press' Summorum Pontificum edition of the 1962 Missal -- the last one in the shop, as it so happened, sitting apart from all the other prayer books, as if it had been set out just for me.
As I looked through this classy volume, I couldn't help contrasting it with The Redoubtable One's one-volume English-language breviary, circa 1962.  The language in it is far superior to the ICEL translation of the Divine Office currently in use; on the other hand, the volume is full of the sort of weird, cubist/LSD-type drawings that still infest the covers of missalettes -- a symptom, even at that early date, of coming dislocations.  However, there is no place for that kind of nonsense in this missal.  Here is a typical illustration:
(For those of you who have clamored to see a picture of me, there's my thumb.)

Since beginning this Mass preparation, I have been reflecting on the fact that, in the wake of Vatican II, the liberals have succeeded not only in having Gregorian chant, the Latin language, and the Tridentine Mass shelved; they have also managed to instill in many Catholics a visceral hatred of these things.  The standard objections to these "relics of the past" -- nobody understands Latin, chant is "too hard" or "too depressing," etc., etc., etc. -- are so irrational and without foundation that hatred and prejudice, coupled with an utter lack of understanding of true Catholic worship, are the only explanations for them that makes sense.  

There is nothing "hard" about the Mass in Latin.  Generations upon generations of people far less educated than you understood the Mass.  And understanding the Mass is what the Missal is for.  I will grant that the Missal is a little on the complicated side, but the difficulties are not insurmountable.  Certainly, if you know your way around a breviary -- and not a few laymen do these days -- then the 1962 Missal will not be too hard to figure out.  Even if you don't recite the Office, the help is out there.

But here is the essential beauty of the Missal:
English on one side; Latin on the other.  Simple!  Not to mention all the nifty explanations in between -- because it doesn't kill us to learn new things.

And then there is the handy-dandy cheat sheet for when to stand, sit and kneel:
This Missal is also a treasury of devotions and essential Catholic prayers, which make it even more worth possessing.

So I, for one, am not worried about being able to follow what's going on at Mass this Saturday evening, or how I'm going to engage in "active participation."  The "active participation" starts now, with this volume.
The only thing that worries me is how, once I have experienced the beauty and the power of the traditional Mass, I'm going to be able to cope with the crappy music, etc. at the regular Masses I'll attend on the days when I can't get the Extraordinary Rite.


  1. OK, I have to be honest with you. Even with that book, you are going to be lost, and then you'll be discomfited and think you've lost your focus.

    So, my advice is this: take what you know, follow what you can, but also BE READY TO LET GO! Be willing to DROP the book and just BASK in the liturgy, in the presence of God, in who you are in relation to Him. Realize that the Liturgy is not about intellectual understanding, but rather, the connection to God that is fostered by the rituals. Put the book down and look at the altar, the attention focused there, the prayers addressed on our behalf and with our cooperation.

    Be who you are, and don't fear saying, "I didn't understand what was going on at that point."

    We aren't meant to understand everything at once. We are meant to know God.

    That's what I learned upon my first EF. I had to let go. I didn't "get it" until I let go.

    And yes, I still struggle to "let go" every time I am able to go, which hasn't been often.

    Can't wait to hear your experience!

  2. Dear Anita, having grown up in the 50's, sung in the children's choir, and been an altar boy, I could say so much -- but will say only that I'm sure you'll find the TLM goes deeper into your soul than anything nowadays possibly can (as you realize). Allow me to respectfully disagree with you about the picture of our Lord: to my (largely untrained) eyes it looks rather Art Deco, an attempt to be simpler than the over-ornate pictures of the pre-WWI era. All that said, I wish you well. Dominus tecum!

  3. Adoro: You're probably right, I may well lose track of the Missal during Mass. That's why I went ahead and read through the Ordinary and also the propers for this Sunday, and put my ribbons in place ahead of time, like I do with the Office. That way I can go in having looked at it in advance.

    Bob: Based on the design and the lettering, I'd agree that the pictures look like they come from the early days of Art Deco, or maybe a little before. To be sure, they're not Michelangelo, but they are a vast improvement over felt banners or the kindergarten scribblegrams of, say, Sr. Corita Kent, or other religious "art" that has prevailed since the '60s. At least none of the pictures in the book looks like the artist was dropping acid!

  4. Currently, Anita, I assist at Mass in a Parish which is Home to The Traditional Mass, in Manhattan. Even in the Ordinary Rite of The Holy Sacrifice Of The Mass, There is Gregorian Chant(Plainsong), whereby the Opening Antiphon is chanted by Classical Organist B.Andrew Mills, The Kyrie is sung in Greek, The Sanctus is sung in Latin, The Agnus Dei is sung in Latin, The Communion Antiphon is Chanted in Latin, and many of the Faithful opting to kneel at The Altar Rail for Holy Communion. There are NO Extraordinary Ministers Of The Eucharist. Only Two Hymns are sung, while The Eucharist is received in Silence. This is at St Agnes Church in Midtown Manhattan, Where Archbishop Fulton J Sheen used to preach his Good Friday Sermons:
    Meanwhile, 1 Video of an Anglican Man from the Philadelphia Suburbs, speaks of the Failings of Anglicanism in The West, followed by 1 Video of a Sarcastic Tribute to a Modern Pastor in the RC Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, headed by a Bishop with ties to the Scandal in The RC Archdiocese of Boston & 1 Video about a Priest who forbade the reception of Communion in the Hand, who was persecuted by said RC Diocese of Rockville Centre, just east of the RC Diocese of Brooklyn, NY. Stop on by my blog.

  5. Ooh, Anita! I'm so happy for you! I took a group from St. Auggie's up to Coeur d'Alene on Sunday, and it was wonderful! I'm getting to the point where I feel comfortable at the TLM; everytime I go, it feels more like "my Mass," if you know what I mean. We had Fr. Michael Irwin, FSSP come and answer questions from the group afterwards and it turned out that he was a tertiary Dominican--since 1964! Is that cool, or what!

  6. Ooh, Anita! I'm so happy for you! I took a group from St. Auggie's up to Coeur d'Alene on Sunday and it was wonderful! Every time I go, it feels more like "my Mass," if you know what I mean. Fr. Michael Irwin, FSSP answered questions from the group afterwards, and it turns out that he's a tertiary Dominican--since 1964! Is that cool, or what!

  7. You will offer it up for the sake of your soul and the poor souls in Purgatory.

    Lucky you!!!!!

  8. Actually, I like the woodcut illustrations of the traditional missals. They have detail, and depth. This is unlike the primitive art depictions in the current missals (which look like they were copied from cave walls). If your mind happens to dig deeper here, you will see latin inscriptions giving greater glory to God.

  9. It has only been within the last year or so that I have been able to go to EF Mass. What a difference! The reverence, the holy ritual, the heavenward perspective... but most of all, that wonderful silence.

    Grew up after VII and never, as a kid, experienced Latin Mass. I sometimes ponder how my religious life, Catholic convictions, etc. would have been different (and I mean BETTER different) had I grew up with EF.

  10. Michael: St. Agnes, NY... Was not Fr. George Rutler pastor there in the late 1990s?

  11. Can't wait to read about your experience :)

    Once I experienced the beauty and the power of the Mass of All Times, I found it very very difficult to cope with the new Mass which is closer to me. I hope and pray that bishops help all of us and allow more Extraordinary Form Masses in all areas, as is the wish of our Holy Father.

    God bless you.