I grew up when the Liturgy became a make it up as you go along. It was a kind of factory mentality. If you are not satisfied with your product, you just press out a new one that is more appealing to your liking. The Church’s worship became customized to the whim and fancies of the local worshiping community. Now some would argue that is not what the Church wanted. But wanting and allowing is another story. We live in an unending flow of paper. And the Church is no less part of this. There have been countless document on implementing the “reformed” Liturgy, and trying to stem the abuses since the close of the Second Vatican Council. Many of these documents have been worthy attempts to put an end to the Liturgical chaos. The problem with all of these documents is that no one was willing to enforce them, and some had (have) the intention of subverting them.
“[W]e have a liturgy which has degenerated so that it has become a show which, with momentary success for the group of liturgical fabricators, strives to render religion interesting in the wake of the frivolities of fashion and seductive moral maxims. Consequently, the trend is the increasingly marked retreat of those who do not look to the liturgy for a spiritual show-master but for the encounter with the living God in whose presence all the ‘doing’ becomes insignificant since only this encounter is able to guarantee us access to the true richness of being.” (Cardinal Ratzinger’s preface to the French translation of Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, 1992).
When one can go from parish to parish and find a completely different Liturgy there is something seriously wrong. The Catholic Church has many legitimate Liturgical Rites, but today there are as many Rites as there are clergy and Liturgy Committees. It is bad enough when one has to face these situations as a lay person, but think of the newly ordained priest who is constantly ridiculed, berated, labeled, and forced to compromise the Church’s Liturgical norms with the fear of punishment from on high. That is the environment which priests who have have solid Liturgical formation have suffered since 1970 until the current day.
Ten years ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued a Moto Proprio entitled Summorum Pontificum. This document did something that baffled and angered the Liturgical progressive. It gave priests the authority to celebrate the Tridentine Rite, now called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite without permission of the Bishop or Religious Superior. Because of Benedict’s move, any priest in good standing has the right to celebrate the Rite of his ancestors without special approval. It was not longer the Bishop who had the authority to stop to the Church’s birthright without a darn good reason. And so, since 7 July 2007 the Mass of the Traditional Roman Rite has spread like wildfire among a new generation of clergy and laity.
I must admit that I was never too taken up by the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass). I had attended a few and thought it was ok, but not for me. That was until I attended one celebrate in my parish on 8 December 2007 for the anniversary of the Little Flower Home. I decided to attend to support the Home and to see what this was all about once again. I sat in the front pew along with a Religious Sister that was also not too thrilled about the TLM. We had the little red booklets to follow along. But I still had no idea what was happening or where were were in the Mass. What I experienced changed my view about the TLM, and defies what most Liturgists say about Mass in the EF. The Liturgists say we must have active participation. And what that means for most of them is that the Mass must be in the vernacular, the music ought to be contemporary, singable, and as many people as possible must do something. Clearly for the modern Liturgists the TLM doesn’t fit the bill.
But, it was in this silence, not knowing what was going on that I received a very tangible grace. Something clicked inside of me, and Mass in the EF came alive. The grace I experienced was so strong that I actually felt it in the depths of my being. From that moment on, I knew that I had to, I wanted to learn to celebrate the TLM.
After some investigation, I attended a Latin Mass Workshop put on by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantus at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein, IL. The workshop was very intense. I thought that it was way beyond me and I would never be able to celebrate the TLM. But, I took the advice of Fr. Frank Philips. He told us that we were well prepared, and we can wait until we think we will do it perfect. Just celebrate it and if you make a mistake, you have done everything to do it correct.
Following the workshop, I prepared for another few weeks and decided to just do it. Since that time, we have a weekly Missa Cantata in our regular Sunday Mass schedule. My priesthood has been enriched, and my celebration of the Ordinary Form has been influenced greatly. I cannot now imagine my life without the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
And for that, I’m forever grateful!