Monday, September 21, 2009

St. Matthew, ora pro nobis

Check this out:

I cover my head when I worship. I am not a Muslim woman but a Roman Catholic who attends Tridentine Mass.

...Novus Ordo was a response to the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, which declared that “the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance.”

Simplified it was, but substance? What I learned about my faith in those early years you could’ve stuck inside a fortune cookie.

Not surprisingly, then, I fell away from my faith in college — like so many other students — because the foundation of my beliefs was a pile of sand, not the solid rock of Christ. I stopped attending Mass and neglected my spirituality altogether.

I hear this a lot from Catholics who grew up in the 1970's and 80's: "I was horribly catechized, I knew nothing of my faith, I fell away for a few years, I came back after hearing a good speaker really drive home the rudiments of the faith." This is still largely the world we face as future diocesan priests - two generations worth of badly catechized lay Catholics. One of our professors, Fr. Bleichner, once said in one of his books that all prospective seminarians should be required to read through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church before being admitted. He doesn't think words like "liberal" or "conservative" (or "Vatican II" and "JPII") are appropriate labels for young people these days because so many of us are still learning the names of the chess pieces, let alone playing the game, so to speak.

At one point I attended a couple of Greek Orthodox worship services. I remember there being something alluring in the stunning and elaborate series of rituals that I saw there.

You'd be surprised how often I hear this too. Many, many Catholics I've met in the Bay Area have told me they gave serious thought to converting to Orthodoxy. An increasingly common occurrence is Evangelicals swimming the Bosphorous instead of the Tiber. Why do you suppose that might be?

And that’s how I found myself at Our Lady of Sorrows in downtown Kansas City, and heard for the first time what Mass sounded like to countless generations of believers prior to Vatican II. It was in Latin, so I had no idea what the priest was saying. The strange old rituals of this Mass, what I’d come to know as the “smells and bells,” were completely foreign to me.

But it had me right away. I realized that very first hour that I had come home. The beauty and the reverence of this rite struck a chord deep inside of me that resounds to this day.

...But it’s not just about smells, bells and knowing what Agnus Dei means. For me, it is about experiencing the fullness of my faith.

When I attended Bishop Cordileone's High Mass yesterday, I was struck by how many young couples with children were in the pews. None of them were old enough to remember the pre-conciliar Church; I'm certainly not. I once told an older woman in a parish I was staying in that young people have a deep hunger for a greater sense of transcendence, mystery, and awe in the Mass. Many of them are finding it in the Extraordinary Form. She said, "But they're not old enough to remember it!" Think about that - the premise of that exclamation is that the only people who could love the EF are those indulging in nostalgia.

Those young Catholics who haven't fallen away from the Faith completely sense that there is more to the Faith than what they grew up with. They know that the Church did not begin with Vatican II. What I always tell people is, "I don't want to 'live in the past.' I just want there to be a little more continuity with it." Or to put it another way, "Why should we imitate the current fashions and trends in the wider culture? We'll always be five minutes behind the times, and young people can always find those trends in their undistilled forms outside the Church." That is why our current Holy Father is working so hard to restore a greater sense of Catholic identity.

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