Traditional Latin Mass: Impacting Contemporaries

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Newsmax, in a March 30, 2015 article entitled “Young Catholics Drawn to ‘Timeless’ Worship of Latin Mass” included the following testimonies taken from various media outlets (http://www.newsmax.com :

Anthony Scillia, 32, of Saddle Brook, New Jersey, commented after attending his first traditional Latin Mass, “For me, it was a heightened experience. For that hour and 15 minutes, it’s as if the veil is drawn back and you have a chance to see and really experience that bit of paradise on earth. Is it a holier experience? I don’t want to say that. Above all things, Mass is about worshiping Jesus Christ. I just feel that, for me, this Mass really elevates that experience.”

Patrick O’Boyle, 40, echoed those sentiments: “It was a wow experience for me,” O’Boyle said, “a beautiful celebration that more fully represents the sacrifice of Calvary. I love modern music and architecture. Art is always evolving because it has to. But this Mass is not about old or new. This Mass is timeless.”

Vida Tavakoli, 27, of Miami, stated: “You come into it and you’re kind of lifted to another world, which is really what’s supposed to happen on a Sunday when you’re praying; in really a truly beautiful way and not just kitschy or trendy and what is going on with the times, but what is timeless.”

Tavakoli’s fiancé, Josue Hernandez, 30, added: “When you go to the older Mass, you have the Latin, you have the incense, you have the priest facing the crucifix, and the focus is completely off you,” he says. “All the attention is turned toward the sacrifice.”

Father Christopher Smith at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, South Carolina, who has held a daily Latin Mass in recent years has seen attendance at the Mass grow from about 60 to more than 300 worshipers, and he noted that the renewed interest in the ancient rite is more from the young than the old. The priest stated:

“What they tell us is they see a great sense of beauty and reverence and devotion, and also a sense of historical continuity. You know when you come to a Mass that’s celebrated in Latin that you’re praying the same prayers that saints from 1,500 years ago were praying when they went to Mass, in the same language. “There’s a great sense of connectedness, and I think a lot of young people are searching for something very concrete and very deep in their spirituality. The Latin Mass fulfills a need that many of them gravitate toward.”

The following testimonies about the Traditional Latin Mass are from Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s lecture at Steubenville, “The Old Mass and the New Evangelization: Beyond the Long Winter of Rationalism”, published on https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/09/dr-kwasniewskis-lecture-at-steubenville.html  and later published in his perceptive book, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Kettering: Angelico Press, 2017)

Dr. Kwasniewski began his lecture by saying:

“I’d like to take an experiential or inductive approach, by looking at what Catholics themselves say when asked what struck them about the traditional Latin Mass the first time they attended it. Personal testimonies are abundantly available.”

Dr. Kwasniewski gave the following examples : Carl Wolk, “The Flight to Eternal Rome and the Mass of the Revolution,” OnePeterFive, June 11, 2015; James Kalb, “What the Traditional Mass Means to Me,” Crisis Magazine, December 4, 2014; “Finding What Should Never Have Been Lost” The Catholic World Report, August 19, 2014; Anne M. Larson, ed., Love in the Ruins: Modern Catholics in Search of the Ancient Faith (Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2009).

He then quoted the following testimony from Maile Hanson, as it appeared in the magazine Mass of the Ages, Issue 185, 9:

“I took more notice of what the priest was doing, which surprised me. His facing away from us was refreshing, because I liked the fact that he is one of us, looking towards God, representing us. . . . The smell of the incense, kneeling for Communion, wearing of the mantilla, quiet prayer . . . all focused on God with reverence and humility, and I was not distracted by the priest or altar servers.

Another testimony he gave was that of Philip Dillon (see Mass of the Ages, issue 182 (Winter 2014), 8.):

“It was a Missa Cantata, a sung Mass. All I had known [before] was folk Masses, people singing ‘Kumbaya,’ and the first thing that struck me was the seriousness of it. … I was just amazed at the solemnity of the people and the priest. … I felt really focused for the first time in a Mass. … The main thing I like is the silence. … It is an opportunity to meditate and contemplate. I like to think of myself at the foot of the Cross.”

The following was written under the pen name Zita Mirzakhani, “An Atheist’s Conversion to Catholicism” (accessed August 20, 2015):

“It was here [in Oxford] where I first experienced the Mass in Latin. It was a solemn high Mass, and it was perhaps the most beautiful experience I have ever had. Though now I know the liturgy, understand what is happening upon the altar, and am familiar with the replies in Latin, in my ignorance on that happy day in Oxford I was able to experience that Mass as a blind child, imagining the angels singing from on high, as I was too embarrassed in this foreign place to turn my head back to get a glimpse of the choir loft. … There is an unsurpassed solemnity that the “old” rite carries.”

The following testimony is from Emily Stimpson, “Singing for God,” Franciscan Way, Summer 2015, p. 5. “It opened up a whole new world to me. At the end of the liturgy, I broke down and cried because I had never experienced such beauty.

“In Mass of Ages, issue 185 (Autumn 2015), p. 11:  “Coming from an atheist background, my fiancé and I have been attracted to the Catholic faith this year through the beauty of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. We were taken in by the liturgical music, tradition, and reverence of everyone that attended. It sparked a curiosity in the faith that led to us being received into the Catholic Church.

“This writer’s name is J. Mackenzie, who describes himself as a convert from Anglicanism (Mass of the Ages, issue 183 (Spring 2015), 7:

“I came by chance to discover the [ICKSP] Shrine Church in New Brighton and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I was immediately transported to another realm. The obvious spirituality, respect, and devotion that I saw amongst the people and clergy moved me to such a degree that I was transfixed and knew immediately that I had found what I never knew I was looking for. . . . Being given this wonderful chance to draw close to God for the first time in many years, and to engage with him at a far deeper level than I ever believed possible, is something that I could only have found in the Traditional Mass.”

Traditional Latin Mass: Theocentric, Christocentric, Hagiocentric

After presenting these testimonies, Dr. Kwasniewski summed up the elements common to all of them as follows: [check to see if I quoted or paraphrased]

“First, the old Mass is theocentric, focused on God, “vertical,” evocative of the transcendent.

Second, it is Christocentric, bringing out the priesthood of Christ and His supreme sacrifice on Calvary, and throwing into high relief the ministerial priest’s acting in persona Christi, while downplaying his idiosyncratic self.

Third, it is hagiocentric, emphasizing the holiness of the ritual, the piety and reverence that should characterize our approach to God, the peculiar modes of addressing the tremendous and fascinating mystery that God is, with hushed awe and holy fear, and a heightened awareness of one’s own interiority—one’s capacity for recollection, meditation, and contemplation. (Note how these features line up with what is most needed, most neglected, and even most derided in our times).

In other words, the usus antiquior Mass follows the great sacramental principle of doing what it looks like, and looking like what it is.”

In a footnote Dr. Kwasniewski explained this statement as follows:

“What I mean is this: water cleanses dirt from the body; therefore baptism, which is for cleansing sin from the soul, is done with water, and that water, together with the words, really cleanses the soul. Similarly, bread and wine nourish the body; therefore the Eucharist, which is for nourishing the soul, is given to us under the forms of bread and wine. In scholastic language, we say a sacrament effects what it signifies.”

“If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is indeed a tremendous mystery, a reality so awesome and divine that we cannot possibly wrap our finite minds around it but can only yield ourselves to it and be carried away by it, then it should come across that way to us.

“A sacred encounter with the transcendent God should look and feel both sacred and transcendent. It should signify what it is, and be what it signifies. If the liturgy does its work well, we will be humbled in its midst, provoked to prayer, stirred by singing, brought to silence, caught up in things invisible, turned inward to the depths of our soul, turned outward to the absolute primacy of God. The usus antiquior does all these things exceedingly well. The question may then be asked: Why is it so efficacious? How does it work?” (Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com)