True Confessions: What’s So Fascinating About the Latin Mass?

True Confessions: What’s So Fascinating About the Latin Mass?

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Finding your way to a Latin Mass isn't always the easiest thing to do. In this second in a series, Catholics open up about the circumstances in their lives that drew them to the ‘strange' and ‘mysterious' Latin Mass — and what they experienced there.

Linda in Wisconsin: I wanted to see for myself what my dad always longed for. What he so often talked about. 

Also, I had a broken heart at the failure of my civil marriage in late 2005.  I had fallen away from the Church for most of my adult life. As so many Catholics do. The world is very seductive. And I went with the world.

I was not married in the Church. When that fell apart, I did not intellectually think ‘I have to get back to church.’  But, I knew that the Church is immovable. Unending. Familiar. Home. I knew I had to go to Confession.

And I did.  It was Tuesday 7 pm Mass. I knelt in the confessional at 6:50 pm. And exploded in tears. It had been 10 years since I'd been to confession. Poor Father. Ten minutes before Mass and he gets someone like me. He was so kind. Patient. Merciful. And normal. Like I had just told him what I had for lunch, or something. 

Poor Father. It was Tuesday 7 pm Mass. I knelt in the confessional at 6:50 pm. And exploded in tears. It had been 10 years since I'd been to confession.  Ten minutes before Mass and he gets someone like me. He was so kind. Patient. Merciful. And normal. Like I had just told him what I had for lunch, or something.

The unchanging normalcy and strength of everything I had remembered from when I was a child going to Mass and confession was still there. That drew me back in.  I went to confession a couple of times a week in those days. To get everything confessed and absolved. So I could feel clean again. And happy. 

Rosa in New Jersey: Fr. Adrian, a Benedictine Monk, invited me to come to the Tridentine Mass he celebrated every Sunday, by indult. Whilst living in Baltimore, I'd gone to a spiky high Episcopal church, which had glorious music (Masses by Palestrina, Byrd, Haydn, Mozart, as well as chant); however, as lovely as the music was, I came to see the ceremony as exquisite theater.

Fr. Adrian told me he thought the Tridentine Mass would lead me to the solid, substantial faith I was craving.

I'd gone to a spiky high Episcopal church, which had glorious music by Palestrina, Byrd, Haydn, Mozart, as well as chant; however, as lovely as the music was, I came to see the ceremony as exquisite theater.

Neil in North Carolina:  I’ve always been interested in history, and I took a course in church history (at a Protestant college) as an undergraduate. I was instinctively drawn to the sound of the Latin words; I loved the sound of Latin when chanted or sung. As a young man, I considered the priesthood and decided against it, but remained active in the church.  I began blogging on Catholic topics in 2005 and quickly noticed that arguments, pro or con, about the TLM were a contentious issue among Catholics. There were Catholics who loved the Traditional Latin Mass, and those who despised it. I wondered what all the fuss was about.

There were Catholics who loved the Traditional Latin Mass, and those who despised it. I wondered what all the fuss was about. In 2006, I heard sacred polyphonic music and was absolutely entranced.

In 2006, I heard sacred polyphonic music and was absolutely entranced. When I realized that this was music specifically composed for the older Latin form of the liturgy, I was really curious. If music this good was composed for the Latin Mass, the Latin Mass must really have something going for it. I did not have the opportunity to attend a Traditional Latin Mass, however, until June of 2013.

Steve in Washington: I converted because I became convinced that there really is a God, who really did have a Son, who really did found a Church in 33 AD (not 1962).  My background was Protestant, in churches of relatively modern origin — and I was leaving that.  Moreover, Chesterton said that Catholicism is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.  So, when I went into a church, assisted at a Mass, heard a homily, or read a book, I was looking for a sense of timelessness.  And yet, my RCIA class hung all truths of the Faith upon only the documents of Vatican II–as if there had been no Catholic teachings prior to then.

Chesterton said that Catholicism is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.  So, when I went into a church, assisted at a Mass, heard a homily, or read a book, I was looking for a sense of timelessness.

Robert in Chicago:   I was born in 1961, the year before the Second Vatican Council was convened.  During my years in Catholic grammar school (ca. 1965-1974), the “reforms” were being implemented.  Remember, Chicago’s Cardinal Cody was heavily involved in the Council, and he pretty much led the American Church in interpreting and adopting all of the changes.  The Archdiocese of Chicago moved quickly, so from second grade on (1967-1968), Mass became clapping and singing, we stopped saying the Rosary and learning about the lives of saints, novenas, etc.  In fact, I never learned about – or even owned – a scapular until I was an adult. 

From second grade on (1967-1968), Mass became clapping and singing, we stopped saying the Rosary and learning about the lives of saints, novenas, etc. Religion class became a form of social studies: we had missionaries talk about the poor in Guatemala, and South America.

Religion class became a form of social studies: we had missionaries come-in and talk about the poor in Guatemala, South America, etc.   I would hear stories from older relatives about the Latin Mass; we had an old missal at home – stuffed with holy cards – that had beautiful pictures of priests and altar boys celebrating Mass in majestic old churches.  The language of the old Mass was exalted…the rubrics were much more reverent and God-centric than what I would read in the “missalettes.” So, I grew-up feeling like I had “missed something.”

Neal in West Virginia: The longer I was a Catholic, the more I felt like something was missing– the more I saw that many modern Catholics (including priests) have thrown away their heritage and no longer hold to the Faith. One example is the mostly protestant Mass in which the focus is no longer on God and our sacrifice to Him in atonement for our sins. It’s now an ‘iMass’ in which it is all about us and our “communal meal.” Many no longer feel it necessary to go to Confession; I have had priests in my area that don't give out penance for those that do go to Confession. Many don't seem to believe in sin, or hell, or the Real Presence, or much of anything else.  

The longer I was a Catholic, the more I felt like something was missing– the more I saw that many modern Catholics (including priests) have thrown away their heritage and no longer hold to the Faith.

In stark contrast, the TLM and traditional Catholicism in general was EXACTLY what I felt that I had wanted to join in the first place.

Robert in Chicago:   I attended my first Tridentine Mass in 1994 at St. John Cantius in Chicago.  Armed with a missal that I had bought at a rummage sale, it was naturally very easy to follow along.  I never could understand those who complained about Latin.  The translation was right next to the Latin in the missals, and after awhile, it becomes familiar.  

But instantly I felt like a man who had been wandering in the desert and found fresh, cold water to drink.  St. John Cantius also is known for their music, but this Mass was accompanied by live Gregorian Chant.  I couldn’t get enough.  I imagined this is what Heaven must be like: the celebration and glorification of God – human souls giving God their absolute best.  I remember the reverence – the only word I keep going back to – reverence – of the altar servers, the priests, the musicians and even the attentiveness of the congregation. Even the children were well-behaved!

There are tears in my eyes as I think back of that experience.  And the anger I felt that this Mass and so many sacramental were discarded – and that millions of Catholics my age and younger have never experienced this.  It got to the point to where I couldn’t wait for Sundays so I could experience it again.  Before long I volunteered to serve Mass and got involved with the “after Mass breakfast club.”  I had found a spiritual home.

There are tears in my eyes as I think back of that experience.  And the anger I felt that this Mass and so many sacramentals were discarded – and that millions of Catholics my age and younger have never experienced this.

Over the years, I’ve brought both Catholic and Protestant friends to the TLM.  Most Catholics (especially older ones who remember the TLM) cry because they mourn what was lost…having not even thought about it for years. The problem is many live in parts of metropolitan Chicago where there the TLM is not offered. 

They are also moved by the physical beauty of the church.  Sadly, many suburban churches look like airplane hangars.  The post-Conciliar Church has forgotten that we are multi-sensory beings: artwork, lighting, the smell of incense…all contribute to our spirituality.  God gave us five senses.  

Surprisingly, my Protestant friends are even more impressed, especially with the music and the  multi-sensory experience of the TLM.  Of course…it’s like nothing they have!

I’ve brought both Catholic and Protestant friends to the TLM.  Most Catholics (especially older ones who remember the TLM) cry because they mourn what was lost. The post-Conciliar Church has forgotten that we are multi-sensory beings: artwork, lighting, the smell of incense…all contribute to our spirituality.  God gave us five senses.  

Rebecca in Montreal: I was very interested in experiencing something so old yet so new to me. As a cradle Catholic, I was surprised to find out how little I actually knew about the history of the Church and her liturgy.

The pictures I saw on Facebook were breathtaking!! There was no way I would miss out on that.

As a cradle Catholic, I was surprised to find out how little I actually knew about the history of the Church and her liturgy. The pictures I saw on Facebook were breathtaking!!

 

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