Saturday, February 12, 2011

Of Daggers and the Extraordinary Form

I love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  I love sacred polyphony, traditional hymns, and Gregorian chant (and, aided and abetted by a certain Dominican friar just south of the border, am quickly becoming a Dominican chant addict).  I love the Latin, the silence, the atmosphere that fosters recollection, and especially the priest turning away from me and facing God.  I am very sorry that so many of my fellow Catholics do not love these things, and indeed loathe and despise them, and flee from them as though they were mortal sins.  I am especially sorry that this number includes even many priests and bishops.

When you love something, you want everybody else to love it, too.  How do I convince my fellow Catholics to love the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy and all that goes with it?  Unfortunately, I am about the last person on earth equipped to bring about this much-desired result.  Too often my passion for these things, coupled with frustration and impatience, turns into hot-blooded vehemence.  Then out fly the daggers from my mouth, and from my keyboard.  And how sharp my daggers are, and how swiftly and skilfully I drive them home!  Right through the heart of charity.

Should I blame my fellow Catholics -- sincere, observing Catholics who try to live their faith as they understand it -- for looking at the Extraordinary Form and seeing a monstrosity where I see celestial beauty?  Or for listening to Marty Haugen's "Mass of Creation" and hearing the music of the spheres where I hear nails screeching on a chalkboard?  Or for reducing to just another political special interest my desire to revive the Mass of tradition in my city?  After years and years of the wolves overrunning the sheepfold, how can the average Catholic be expected to know that the very things they despise are the keys to the undreamt-of supernatural realities for which they strive?  Or that the liturgical mediocrities they cherish actually hinder our confrontation with God, as Dietrich von Hildebrand warned they would do 45 years ago?  Merely human talents and abilities hesitate and collapse, or rage impotently, before such difficulties. 

And so when I find myself about to rage, impotent to do anything except give unnecessary pain, I must just shut my trap, set side my quarrel, and give place to those practiced in the ways of charity and patience.  And I must resign myself to the fact that charity and patience do not move nearly as fast as I want them to, but do move at just the right pace for both the sensibilities of all concerned and the lasting good of the ultimate desired outcome.  

The purpose of this long preamble is precisely to talk myself into giving way to one more practiced than I in charity and patience, who expresses more eloquently than I can why we should love the liturgy in its Extraordinary Form -- and who finds that the best way to do so is by explaining why he himself loves it.  Rev. Christopher Smith is a young priest devoted to the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, and whose methods of coping with opposition are far superior than, say, mine.  He begins thus:
I was having a delightful meal recently with a bishop whom I love and respect as a father, and who has been extraordinarily kind to me. My personal policy never to even mention the extraordinary form of the Mass at the dinner table was circumvented by one of my brother priests whom I also esteem as a friend and colleague. “So what do you think of the Tridentine Mass, Bishop?” Sweat began to form on my brow as my stomach churned and the previously delectable filet mignon on my plate suddenly revolted me. “Not again,” I said to myself as I began to drown out what I knew would be an deluge of verbiage against the Missal of Pius V/John XXIII by reciting the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar from memory.
Read the rest here -- especially if you are curious to understand the attractions of the Extraordinary Form.

And if you have ever been the recipient of my dagger-thrusts...please forgive me.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the smae way whenever we are forced to endure the "Life Teen"Mass at our parish (We had to forgoe the EF due to my husbands' work schedule- he is a railroader and is always on call, usually when we were heading out the door for the EF) Last Sunday, the priest was blesing the maried couples, and the females acting as ushers for the collection wouldn't shut up or stoip smacking their gum- Don't even get me started on their attire!