Growth in celebration of the Extraordinary Form: Promises or Perils?

I have had a number of long conversations with self-proclaimed “Trads” (traditionalist Catholics) in recent months. My engagement with the local Trad groups has become an endeavor to build bridges between Catholics like me, who honestly prefer the Ordinary Form, and those who gravitate to the Extraordinary Form. I think that relationships, not arguments, are more important in building the Church.

Over that time, I have come to a conception that there are both wonderful opportunities and potentially frightening risks in the growing celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and other prayers that had been eclipsed after Vatican II.

On the upside, I think there are wonderful opportunities for the growing use of the Extraordinary Form to deepen and broaden everyone’s understanding of the liturgy. I am not a Latin speaker. I am only just beginning to explore the theological bases of the Tridentine Rite, and so far it’s been interesting and enlightening.

On the downside, it seems to me that among some Trads (a reasonably large proportion of a reasonably small but growing subgroup within the Church), there is a nascent or implicit rejection of Vatican II. Further, in a number of my conversations, I have detected a notable contempt for parishes that celebrate mass in the Ordinary Form, accompanied by a apologetical stance that draw heavily on pre-conciliar (and possibly counter-conciliar?) theological works. I’ve also heard criticism of the placement of the tabernacle, the use of guitar and piano in liturgical music, and modern vestments.

I can totally understand that preferences vary in liturgical style, but there seems to be much more than that at play – again in a large fraction of what is now a small group. Among this group, there seems to be an unmitigated assertion of the superiority of Tridentine rites and theology, and it is in this phenomena that I see risk for the future of the Church. Not only have I heard criticism of Vatican II, but overt sympathy for schismatic groups like the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and a willingness to attend their liturgies. When I’ve brought up Sedevacantism (debating them was how I was introduced to Tridentine theology), it seem that the only problem it that many of the Trads I’ve met have is that it denies that there’s a pope… surely, there must also be something wrong with the Sedevacantist claim other than its rejection of the post-conciliar papacy!!!

Does anyone else see a risk here? While I think it is fruitful for every Latin Rite Catholic to experience the Tridentine mass and other services, I am concerned that the mere demographic growth in groups celebrating the Tridentine rite could create greater rifts between Catholics – which is the last thing we need right now. Is my approach of trying to build relationships with my local Trads a good approach? The way I see it, mutual understanding is best achieved when “the other” is seen as a friend and brother, and not a theological rival.

I actually think the growth towards traditionalism (in an Orthodox way) is a good thing.

While there are those who feel that the OF is invalid,etc, I believe most traditionalist (with a lower case T) object to the “Spirit of Vatican II,” not what Vatican II actually said or did. Also, many do not have an issue with the OF when it is celebrated reverently.

Personally, I do not like guitar at Mass either and would rather had a choir sing in Latin, at least during communion.

I am glad you are seeking to build bridges! It may be helpful to keep in mind that the trad community bears scars and wounds. For decades they were told that the TLM was “against the Council + against the spirit of Vatican II + abrogated + no longer valid/allowed + dangerous + etc”. Thanks especially to Pope Benedict XVI for setting that right in Church law! And in many places not just the TLM but Latin, genuflecting, kneeling, purgatory, Sacrifice, altar rails, high altars, indulgences, chant, Humanae Vitae, the sacerdotal male priesthood - all these things, doctrinal, liturgical, and traditional, at various times and places were derided and rejected and minimized because they were “against the Council + against Vatican II + not with the times + etc”. We know that Vatican II rejected none of these things, but it can be hard, really hard, to mentally untangle the real Vatican II from the blunt weapon called “the Spirit of Vatican II” that they rightfully resented for a long time. In any case, as a new trad, I ask for continued understanding and an open heart to all that the faith allows. God bless!

I also prefer the use of Latin in the OF as well as the choir. Personally, I have a preferential option for the EF. But the thing we have to consider is that neither form will die now. And neither form should. Both are beautiful and acceptable. That was the whole point of Benedict XVI’s Motu Propio “Summorum Pontificum”. To recognize both forms and hold them both up as equally valid, and letting the faithful attend the liturgy that speaks most to them spiritually.

Also a side note. The “modern” vestments used in parishes have their origin in the gothic vestments used by the church before the “traditional” vestments (the fiddlebacks) of the Tridentine Rite. Before the council of Trent (trent, Tridentine, etc) the gothic vestments were the norm in the West. Just a fun factoid to correct a large misconception. The fiddlebacks are really a more modern vestment design than the gothic vestments.

:highprayer:

It seems to me that those who oppose any Latin, Gregorian chant, organ, etc. are the ones who reject Vatican II. And if ecumenism and collegiality are the issues, I don’t think the “trads” have a monopoly on those rejections, if any, either. I think if one calls someone else out on the rejection of Vatican II, they should be more specific.

This is a good point. It’s hard to blame the old trads for resenting Vatican II itself, when they wree unanimously told that the destruction of their parishes in the 1970s and '80s was “called for by Vatican II” – and this from their priests, who they trusted. They are also somewhat exclusive because they were generally excluded.

But for people my age who never went to a Latin Mass before it was rehabilitated by Pope Benedict, I don’t see that kind of thinking going on except for a few individuals. We don’t see ourselves as anything other than just Catholics (we don’t use the word “trads” except in joking, usually) and we happily join other Catholics of all stripes (and Protestants and other people of goodwill for that matter) in charitable projects and pro-life activities, and so on.

I think it’s great what you’re doing to build bridges. I did go through a phase when I first discovered the amazing Catholic heritage that no one had ever bothered to pass down to me when I resented the wider Church for shoving our corporate history and culture into a kind of ghetto, but God showed me that was not a Christian response and that all humility and charity was called for.

Sort of. If you look at pre-Vatican II “Gothic” chasebles (our priests use these more than the fiddleback ones) they have a number of differences in shape and structure from the “modern Gothic” ones that jumped out even to me, a layman who can’t even remember the names of all the vestments. It’s kind of like when your MLB team wears their “throwback” jerseys. They’re inspired by the old ones, but they’re still made of synthetic fibers, have short sleeves, and no knickerbockers.

On that note: Go Birds!

Since both liturgies are sanctioned by the Church they are both equally valid, yes. However, I don’t think it was Benedict’s intention to just have these two liturgies co-exist permanently. Even his usage of OF and EF were not meant to become permanent terms. I’ve heard many liturgists say his intention was to prompt a compromise - a more reverent novus ordo.

Speculation.

Pope Benedict XVI is alive, in fairly good mental and physical health, and still very involved in the life of the Church. Perhaps we should let him declare for himself what his “intention” was, and not speculate.

To be clear: I don’t oppose Latin, Gregorian chant, etc. I have very little prior exposure to the EF, so I’m trying to just understand it.

On the specific issues I’ve heard mentioned:
[LIST]
*]The Eucharistic prayer of the OF is deficient.
*]For the priest to pray toward the people in the OF is to erase the distinction between priest and laity, who should be marked as offering distinctly separate sacrifices.
*]Removing the tabernacle from the central Altar diminishes the centrality of the Eucharist in the OF.
*]It is less worthwhile for laity to simply follow along with the priest’s prayer, as in the vernacular OF; it is more spiritually efficacious to offer a separate Eucharistic prayer specifically intended for Mass.
*]Piano and guitar are insufficiently reverential instruments for liturgical music.
*]The melodies and musical arrangements of traditional Tridentine music are an essential part of proper worship.
*]The loss of reverential, traditional liturgy is a large contributor to people leaving the Church.
*]The replacement of sermons with homilies has eroded the moral sense of the laity.
[/LIST]
While I understand the thrust of many of these arguments, it is hard for me to see many of them as going much beyond aesthetics. Or to put it in another way, one that’s not so reductionist, one might choose to spend one’s time performing a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything deficient in spending time consecrating one’s heart to the Immaculate Heat of Mary. Both point to God.

As I mentioned in the first post, the reason I see potential difficulties in the future is that I’ve heard people say that they’d attend an SSPX parish if there was one nearby. I’ve heard the someone say that “defeating modernism is our primary goal.” And, to be clear that there are issues that go both ways, I have no doubt that there are a number of unfair anti-EF assumptions and biases that people who prefer the OF hold. For example, I’ve used the term “smells and bells” to joke around with the Trads, and some laughed and others seemed offended.

To me, to celebrate both EF and OF is a good thing. But to segregate ourselves into Trad and “Vanilla” Catholics seems fraught with perils. We all need to be humble in acknowledging that none of us has a monopoly on faith. 1 Corinthians 12 is pretty clear that there are many parts but one body, and I think liturgy can be an example.

Regardless, the practical outcome as been a coexistence. I am all for a more reverent OF. But the effect of the document established the norms (fleshed out later) for the EF to be offered as well as the OF.

:highprayer:

As someone whose territorial parish is bilingual I see much more segregation between the Masses of different vernaculars. I wouldn’t exactly call people whose mindset is “They got their Spanish Mass; we have our English Mass” as aspiring to be “one” body as you put it. There is much more unity as I see it between those who attend the Latin OF and those who attend the EF.

There is no typical “trad” in my experience, so I don’t know if understanding these arguments is really the key to understanding these people. But I think if you want to build bridges, you’ll have to set aside your idea that it’s all about aesthetics, otherwise you’ll never understand them.

Personally, I wasn’t drawn to being a traditional Catholic by a bunch of argument over liturgy. I just wanted the Faith as handed down for generations. When I realized the place that best offered that to me was a parish with the TLM and strong Catholic culture, I suddenly found myself very much at home.

I mean, when I read about history and the lives of the saints, I know I am worshipping at the same liturgy, walking in the same processions, saying the same devotions and understanding my place in the Church and the world the same way. That’s very edifying to me!

I was drawn to the timelessness of not only the EF Mass but the mindset and lifestyle that Catholics had when it was the norm. They go hand in hand, IMO. With the mindset and the lifestyle, yes perhaps the EF is just an artistic masterpiece, but together it’s like stepping out of your country and century and being part of a long chain of saints and sinners.

I don’t know if this comes off as rambling, but that’s what the EF means to me and while I might have an opinion on those arguments you posted, I don’t care to argue about them or give them much thought, because I’ve found something that is *lived *and not a mere ideology.

I quite agree. I might call myself a “traditional Catholic” when a conversation like this comes up, to make a useful distinction, but I think of myself as just a “Catholic” or perhaps a culturally “Irish Catholic.”

Please remember we are talking about the mass here, where Jesus Christ becomes fully present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Not a painting.

I think the biggest issue is vigilance. Traditional communities are hotbeds for sedevacantism, and many Novus Ordo communities are hotbeds of liturgical/doctrinal abuse. We must remain authentically Catholic, and not be swayed by emotional arguments and categories of division between believers.

:highprayer:

My fault for being unclear, but I was talking about what drew me to the TLM and away from the OF. Since they both offer the same Sacrifice, that wasn’t a difference to bring up.

This need for traditional-leaning Catholics to prove that we aren’t somehow heretics or schismatics is very troubling for us. I’m all for being wise as serpents and simple as doves, but it’s tiring to be labeled, judged and face hostility when visiting new parishes or meeting new Catholics. I can say that from experience.

“Trads” are a diverse lot. Some simply like the solemnity of the EF and nothing more. Some think the EF is more theologically enriching. Some think the OF is perfectly fine but it should be in Latin and ad orientem. Some think the OF is valid but was invented out of whole cloth. Some think the OF is invalid. And there’s everyone in between.

Those who think the OF is invalid should be dismissed out of hand. Those in between, “The EF is theologically richer” and “The OF was invented out of whole cloth” can potentially be the most “dangerous” IMO. And you can count me among them, sort of. I agree with them that much lower-case-t tradition was lost in the OF and it should be returned. But I don’t agree that every difference should be resolved in favor of the EF. The danger lies in the potential of bringing back the worst of the EF. E.g., incomprehensibility, less participation, needless repetition.

Good observation. Actually, I think that in general, we segment ourselves too much for all sorts of reasons: language, economic status, neighborhood type, etc. Liturgy is just one way by which we can lose track of the larger Church outside our own parish walls.

Every EF I’ve been to consisted of only English-speakers as far as I can tell.

Before the OF, the Germans had their EF, the Italians had their’s, etc. It’s completely understandable. Italians don’t understand German homilies.

The unifying nature of a Latin Mass can be seen on special occasions when multiple languages gather (e.g., papal Mass) or when you’re a fish out of water, i.e, somewhere where Mass isn’t said in your native tongue. For 98% of people 98% of the time, Latin has no unifying effect. Moreover, for a very significant portion of Catholics, Latin would unify them in incomprehensibility. A Klingon Mass would be equally unifying to many.

Sound advice. That’s why I keep going back!

Personally, I wasn’t drawn to being a traditional Catholic by a bunch of argument over liturgy. I just wanted the Faith as handed down for generations. When I realized the place that best offered that to me was a parish with the TLM and strong Catholic culture, I suddenly found myself very much at home.

I can understand that for certain.

I mean, when I read about history and the lives of the saints, I know I am worshipping at the same liturgy, walking in the same processions, saying the same devotions and understanding my place in the Church and the world the same way. That’s very edifying to me!

And to be honest, and I say this with as much humility and desire to avoid sounding like it’s a competition as I can manage in text, I feel the same about the OF. To me, when the priest raises the Blessed Sacrament before me and says, “this is my body,” I feel like I’m watching the same sacrifice as the first Christians did when the Lord did it before them for the first time. It reminds me that Christ’s sacrifice is one for all time, transcending time and space.

I also am fascinated with the history of the early Church, and to me, I feel that the OF hearkens back to the practice of the first Christians, when they gathered in “house churches” and sat around a table to celebrate the agape feasts (mentioned in Jude). The Roman catacomb image of the chalice being raised by one figure at a table where others sat also reminds me of what I’m witnessing in the OF liturgy in my own vernacular tongue. Now, I may be totally imagining that parallelism into my own liturgical preferences, I grant you that! But it’s a real desire in my heart to that the liturgy of which I’m a part reflects the early Church. It concerns me, and I admit to taking umbrage, when someone asserts that the EF liturgy is somehow a truer representation of what it means to be Catholic.

I think we all look for I think we can both agree that fundamentally, it’s about our Lord.

I was drawn to the timelessness of not only the EF Mass but the mindset and lifestyle that Catholics had when it was the norm. They go hand in hand, IMO. With the mindset and the lifestyle, yes perhaps the EF is just an artistic masterpiece, but together it’s like stepping out of your country and century and being part of a long chain of saints and sinners.

I can appreciate that. It seems to me that people who self-select into the EF “way of life” are, on average, doing so because they are seeking a more authentic way to live their lives for Christ. But I would simply hope that, unlike the RadTrad crowd, that orthodox Trads can also see that there are plenty of us seeking the same within the OF.

I don’t know if this comes off as rambling, but that’s what the EF means to me and while I might have an opinion on those arguments you posted, I don’t care to argue about them or give them much thought, because I’ve found something that is *lived *and not a mere ideology.

Amen!


I’d say – you’d need to work within the Traditionalist community – to root out “toxic” Traditionalism-- that “fruits” the type of thinking below. This does not do the EF any favors.

“How to explain what is wrong with the Novus Ordo”

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