Worldwide Pro-Convert Impact of Traditional Latin Mass

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Dynamo for Revealing Christ’s Truth to Converts: Traditional Latin Mass

This beauty of the Ancient Rite equipped her most effectively to become the “chief missionary tool of the Catholic Church, her main point of contact with Jews, Muslims, Eastern Christians, Hindus, Africans”.

This beauty of the Ancient Rite equipped her most effectively to become, as Peter Kwasniewshi recently stated, the “chief missionary tool of the Catholic Church, her main point of contact with Jews, Muslims, Eastern Christians, Hindus, Africans”. The same author also added that the Ancient Rite empowers the Church to show clearly that “she is not just another spokesperson for the contemporary West, which has little good to offer to any traditional culture, tending rather to spread the pollution of her atheistic and materialistic worldview”. (Peter Kwasniewski, Resurgent in the midst of crisis (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2014), p. 153)

For instance, in China, her power to conquer man’s soul can be seen in the case of Wu Li, (1632-1718), the Chinese intellectual, poet, and landscape painter who is classed as one of the “Six Masters”  of the Qing period of the 17th and early 18th centuries. After he had converted to Catholicism, he dedicated a series of poems ‒ “among the most completely original poems in all of Chinese literature”[1] ‒ to express the deep emotions stirred in him by the Ancient Rite’s gestures: “Again he [the priest] washes his hands,/and then turns around./He prays that he and all assembled sinners/may be washed clean with no iota left:/only then may they not betray Jesus’s compassion./ And why does he make the sign of the Cross over and over again?/The holy death took place nailed thereon./”132. And elsewhere, he wrote: “Christ’s sacrifice benefits all people,/ being the sacred food of the Spirit/ Christ forgives all errors and human faults/ Even to a sinful person like me/ I am so touched that I cannot contain my tears./”[2]

One can also imagine the impact on the Japanese in the 16th century of the first solemn Mass of Francis Xavier or of one of his successors as they perceived the Ancient Rite’s solemn “oriental” sense of ceremonial with “all the ministers continually and gracefully bowing to one another, incensing one another at the Offertory, etc….it is like noh theatre writ large, the Japanese ethos finally transferred into its true home, where it most belongs”[3]. In North America, thanks largely to the “Mass of the Ages” Catholicism became for many native Americans an authentic expression of their own identity[4].

In North America, thanks largely to the “Mass of the Ages” Catholicism became for many native Americans an authentic expression of their own identity.

In Africa, likewise, the  Ancient Rite’s roots in the earthiness of the deepest religious urges of man, her air of the sacred, sense of sin and need for purification, veneration for one’s forefathers and the role of tradition immediately impressed the continent’s sensitively religious peoples and allowed them to accept the priest-missionary not as the “white man” but as the man of God.

“The Church in Africa faces challenges from the influence of a secularised Western culture, from the difficulties of authentic inculturation, and from the tensions and conflicts of societies divided along tribal and linguistic lines. In all these challenges, the Extraordinary Form can prove helpful, encapsulating as it does many of the principles of concern for tradition, reverence, and a sense of sin and of the sacred, that characterise African spirituality; providing a stable bulwark against syncretism which allows a more open attitude to African cultural practices; and avoiding the problems of preferring one language, often a former colonial one, over others. […]

“The Extraordinary Form expresses many fundamental principles of African culture, without the danger of religious syncretism. First among these is the profound respect for tradition and continuity found in traditional African culture, in which past generations of the family and tribe are regarded as continuing members of the community.” (http://www.unavoce.ru/pdf/FIUV_PP/FIUV_PP25_Africa.pdf)

The influence of the Ancient Rite on a young African who converted can be seen in Cardinal Robert Sarah, God or nothing:A Conversation on Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), pp.  20-52. For instance, he states about his childhood “It was unthinkable that I should miss Mass for a whole week. Father [his dad] and I were already convinced that the Mass was the only moment that transforms man on this earth.” (p. 22). He also mentions the similarity between the Ancient Rite’s rogation processions to an animist ritual of his native tribe (p. 20).

In general, his story shows the unifying role of the Ancient Rite in a multi-ethnic and multi-language continent and its ability  through the use of Latin to help distinguish Catholicism from Western colonial powers, past or present. See also the position paper of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce http://www.unavoce.ru/pdf/FIUV_PP/FIUV_PP25_Africa.pdf (accessed on March 8, 2016).

[1] Quoted in Jonathan Chaves, Singing of the Source: Nature and God in the Poetry of the Chinese Painter Wu Li ( Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), p. 75.

[2] Quoted in Jonathan Chaves, Singing of the Source: Nature and God in the Poetry of the Chinese Painter Wu Li ( Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), p. 72. See also the position paper of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce, “The Extraordinary Form and China”, at http://www.unavoce.ru/pdf/FIUV_PP/FIUV_PP23_EF&China.pdf (accessed on March 8, 2016).

[3] Peter Kwasniewski, Resurgent in the midst of crisis, p. 153.

[4] See Tracy Neal Leavelle, The Catholic Calumet: Colonial Conversions in French and Indian  North America ( Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), pp. 1, 16, 187, etc. Also,  John Gilmary Shea, Catholic Missions Among the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1529-1854, (Arno Press : New York, 1969); John Gilmary Shea, The Catholic Church in Colonial Days, 1521- 1763 (New York: F. J. Shea, 1886); Herbert Eugene Bolton, The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921); Herbert Eugene Bolton, The Black Robes of New Spain (Washington DC: Catholic  Historical  Review,  XXI  (October 1935), 257–82).