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The Bear's Latin Mass

The Bear pulled the nail out of his paw and traveled to the Big City to meet a fellow ephemerist and his impressively intelligent and charming girlfriend. We went to Mass at a big, old, Baroque church of breathtaking beauty.

The Bear doesn't want to talk too much about how the traditional Latin Mass in this beautiful setting was better than his hometown liturgy. When the end result in both is consuming the Blessed Body and Blood of Our Lord, it is easy to lose focus by concentrating on the externals.

The Bear declined to use the missal. The last time he had gone to such a Mass, he had spent the whole time with his nose buried in the thing, and wound up missing the Mass. This time he just placed himself in the moment: the sights, the sounds, the smells. He could follow along well enough. What he discovered was that this Mass was itself a prayer, or at least encouraged one, long, continuous prayer as the Bear's eyes never left the priest.

Every detail evoked a correspondence to the Old Testament or the New. The Bear will not list them. He would not know where to begin, and does not really have to.

(Perhaps that is the reason for the need for constant "participation" in the new liturgy: to distract us from the poverty.)

The Mass is the Mass. But there can be no question which one renders proper honor to God, engages the heart, and makes it easy to pray, rather than responding on cue like a performing seal. The Bear is glad there are still magnificent old churches, and Latin Mass parishes, and legitimate fraternities of priests to preserve the jewels of our Catholic heritage.

There is a story that Vladimir the Grand Prince of Kiev sent emissaries to Constantinople to see if Christianity might not be the best religion for his realm. When they came back they told him, "We did not know where we were, in heaven or on earth."

That is the way the Bear felt.

Next Sunday, he'll be back nailing his foot to the floor in front of his favorite pew. It will be enough for him. But a Bear knows when he's been robbed.

Comments

  1. You got it, Bear. It is best NOT to follow along, IMO. A contemplative prayer. That's it. A sweet, small foretaste of things to come.

    You said it best with this ancient quote: " We did not know where we were, in heaven or on earth."

    That is what our Lord gave us as a gift.

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  2. My mom has told me that the "active participation" came about because people used to get engrossed in their novenas and rosaries instead of the Mass. She said that in the 1930s in Mexico, when she was a little girl, she'd get pinched by her aunts if she wasn't praying a novena or a rosary while sitting at Mass, yet the nuns in her school were teaching the children to pay attention at Mass and let the liturgy bring them to deep, contemplative prayer.

    One of the main problems at most Masses in the Novus Ordo is the lack of quiet. The music is too loud (also, too modern to bring us to that stage of contemplation), the parts of the Mass march along as if we were running a race, and the moments of silent reflection are much too short.

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    1. The Bear has heard that, too, that people used to not pay attention to the Mass, but would be saying their rosaries or whatever. He wonders if that's such a bad thing, if it were, in fact, true. If the Mass has an objective reality -- which it does, or so we are taught -- it doesn't need our "participation" in some particular way. It isn't like we have to "pay attention" like it were a stage play, or a lecture, to "get something out of it." It's really gonna happen, right there, with or without us. In a way, perhaps it reflects a lack of faith or at least institutional loss of confidence to think that we've always got to be "doing," like in a Protestant service.

      And you're correct, of course -- we're never left alone. There's hardly a minute we're not singing, or shaking hands, or giving responses. At our church they've started reading the announcements a few minutes before the Mass begins. The Bear doesn't even need to say how dumb that is.

      There have always been easier and harder times to be Catholic. This is a hard one. Nobody gets to choose when he's born. We'll make it.

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    2. Nope, we don't get to choose. But I look at it this way, the Good Lord put us all here, in this space in time for a reason. I don't think that God does things just 'randomly'. Oh and besides that, the greatest saints are said to be those 'near the end' (how far near the end we are, is anyone's guess, but..) which is rather intimidating if you think about what 'saints' near the end will have to go through.

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    3. Not "doing" but *being* :)

      I've been to a few parishes where they read the announcements prior to the Mass, and I have to say that it always leaves me with the impression that people must hardly be able to wait to leave. I remember a co-worker saying sardonically, "They'll go to Mass but --" tapping her watch -- "it had better be done in an hour! That's enough for the Almighty!"

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  3. You need to bury your nose back in that missal.

    Once you learn the "schema" of the Mass, you will read the same text that the priest is praying at the altar. That is when you know, that you have arrived.

    A good site you might want to check out is sanctamissa.org of the Canons of St. John Cantius. I made my sons learn all the responces before I let them become altar boys. They loved it. There is something about a 5 1/2 year old reciting the Confiteor that is "not of this world".

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    1. That is awesome!! Good on you for being such a father! If only all men were such with their sons.

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    2. As we were walking out, I asked one of my sons if he wanted to go get coffee, donuts and a wife.

      Without cracking a smile, he said "only if I get sprinkles."

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    3. Ha! Sounds like he has his father's sense of humor : )

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    4. Ha! Sounds like he has his father's sense of humor : )

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    5. @ Karen: Once we started, they "drove the process".

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    6. I find following along now much easier than when we started. Although I still have not figured out "where the priest goes" during the Collect and the Gospels, we are honing in. The red and white Latin Missals allow for 70% of the Latin Mass to be followed in a fairly direct "reading line", and we now know there are a few skips. It helps if one is a rapid reader, because the priest moves along and if one wants to, one can follow the Latin and English side by side. I read the English and use the priet's words in Latin to tell us where we are. The missals also give the priests postures so it is possible to know where we are and why the priest is doing that posture. It's an experience not to be missed, and there is just not much of a comparison to the NO mass. We are creatures of the senses, and these things matter to us by God's own design. My husband and I prefer the Latin Mass by far, and it has been a most welcome refuge in this time of great upheaval in our church. Most welcome.

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  4. Now don't you wish all could somehow experience the same foretaste of heaven?! I am so happy you were refreshed with such a beautiful Mass, prayed in such a way that, as you relayed that you did not know where you were, "in heaven or on earth"?
    If your Bear travels take you through Wake Forest NC (the town, not the university) I invite you (and everyone else) to Saint Catherine of Siena on a Wednesday night for TLM.

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  5. Yes indeed we have been robbed...of the Mass of the Ages, of the sacred music, of catechesis, of beauty...to be the age I am as a life long Catholic and not know these things is very sad. The faithful have been robbed of their patrimony. One can attend Mass every Sunday and never know the truths of the faith. Oh, but just be nice and a 'good person'...

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  6. Bear, please come back soon and often. Before you know it, you'll be a regular. There are those that travel many miles every week. Bless you.

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  7. Still trying to get the hang of it. Am ordering a breviary (pre-1955). Mostly just sit at the organ waiting for someone to punch me when it's time for a proper, ordinary or hymn. I had the Novus Ordo down to a tee. It's hard to learn new stuff in middle age.

    Seattle Kim

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    1. I made the mistake early on of sitting in the first row because I wanted to be nearer to Jesus. Then I realized everyone behind me was either "waiting for my cue" or blithely watching me miss my cues alone.

      Never sit in the front row. Second row and back. Then just do what everybody else is doing.

      And just let the Mass take you away. Follow along if it helps, or not. To me it's all about taking your place with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross.

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    2. Exactly. But not too far back. Made that mistake, too, and had no clue what was going on. At this Mass, they had what sounded like a slapstick that they would crack every time we were supposed to kneel, or stand, which was helpful.

      If I were to make it regular, I would study up on my missal and use it, probably. But I'm not sure.

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    3. Studying the Missal is more helpful after becoming acclimated to the liturgy itself. Following along is not a simple matter, like in the New Rite Missal. It's better, in my experience, to get a feeling for the ebb and flow of the Mass (High and Low) before trying to follow along in detail in the Missal.

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    4. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. There is a very spiritual and physical ebb and flow. The music builds louder and louder up to the consecration and then all is silent, like everyone is holding their breath. Sometimes I find that I really am. Isn't it wonderful!! Heaven on earth.

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    5. "It's hard to learn new stuff in middle age."

      Is that what it is? hehehe ... when the Church went to the current English translation a few years ago, I kept accidentally replying, "And with thy spirit." My husband finally turned to look at me, and all I could say was, "I keep thinking of Shakespeare!" LOL

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  8. I hope you can make this a regular excursion!

    Elizabeth R

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  9. BTW, the picture is of the actual church. It's like an Orthodox church in that your eye finds something to remind you of God anyplace it lights.

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  10. I do not know if anyone here saw Mother Angelica's funeral Mass, which, though using the NO faced liturgical East from the Offertory on, had no problem with concelebration, had an exquisite English Gregorian chant for the responsorial psalm, used the Roman Canon, with some Latin , communion on the tongue kneeling, and though there were some modern organ pieces that tended toward the bombastic and a modern Latin Agnus Dei that went on forever, I noticed that at the end of the Mass the In paradisum was chanted and the tone of the Apostolic Delegate's voice was recollected, even interior sounding, which the rite brought about with these changes. My thought immediately was "now if only each of the bishops there would go back to their cathedrals and do likewise, and also there was much more possible to retain more of the ceremonial of the Traditional rite in the future. Oh, and the Church itself is quite traditional with the best materials.

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  11. I do not know if anyone here saw Mother Angelica's funeral Mass, which, though using the NO faced liturgical East from the Offertory on, had no problem with concelebration, had an exquisite English Gregorian chant for the responsorial psalm, used the Roman Canon, with some Latin , communion on the tongue kneeling, and though there were some modern organ pieces that tended toward the bombastic and a modern Latin Agnus Dei that went on forever, I noticed that at the end of the Mass the In paradisum was chanted and the tone of the Apostolic Delegate's voice was recollected, even interior sounding, which the rite brought about with these changes. My thought immediately was "now if only each of the bishops there would go back to their cathedrals and do likewise, and also there was much more possible to retain more of the ceremonial of the Traditional rite in the future. Oh, and the Church itself is quite traditional with the best materials.

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  12. When initially reading the missal, one is blown away by the language. The rubrics only magnify the august beauty of prayer that evokes awe and reverence of God Almighty. I would agree that studying the missal outside of Mass is, in and of itself, deeply edifying.

    Our family came to TLM a little over 6 years ago. My daughter has learning disabilities, and, at the age of 10, the study of Latin lit a bonfire like nothing else (other than her love for Jesus) ever had. She asked to hear it and speak it. And so the haul to Mass in the city began. My son was then 6 and was inately drawn to the masculinity of it all. (And the incense! My boy plays with fire!) My little boy begged me to teach him the Mass. I knew no Latin, other than the Agnus Dei. I have never felt so ineptly unworthy of such a task as this. I purchased a missal and gave him the words of the Mass for copy work. In no time, my little man was chanting away. (I have to remind him to not say the priest's parts. LOL) That handwriting book remains my most treasured earthly possession next to the crucifix on which we spoke our wedding vows, and the spoon from which my mother weakly received Holy Viaticum.

    We all fell in love with the Mass in a most miraculous way. My husband fought it as it was so ridiculously inconvenient, but eventually he came to realize God was delivering us from the rubble. The music alone is worth the switch, though we were too ignorant to know that, too!

    I could ramble on for hours at the overwhelming changes in our lives from attending the TLM. We drive quite a distance, as do most, since it is sinfully limited in our diocese. There is significant sacrifice of time, money, and energy to have our children there 3 or more days each week, esp when TLM is only available on Sundays. But watching my children grow in piety and virtue, and a myriad of other ways, including discovering prodigious musical ability in them both, has been amazing to witness. Grace indeed abounds, and I am so very humbled to be given the opportunity, though exhausting some days, to partake in this journey. DEO GRATIAS!

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    1. Yours is the best idea: study the day's Liturgy before you go.

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    2. Usually by Thursday I experience a hunger for it, so on Friday or Saturday my kids & I read Sunday's propers together in preparation. This way my daughter can just absorb the Latin, and I can make certain my son "gets it" since he is usually serving at the altar & often distracted with a refuel of incense. ;-)

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  13. I congratulate you on your first (so called) EF mass...the way mass was meant to be! I had the same instinctive realization that I was robbed of my Catholic heritage after experiencing the EF. Usually missals are available to follow along; Log Church has them. We only get low mass, however. But it's just fine.

    I have antique prayer books, very very small, that my grandfather et als would use to follow the mass. THe booklets had a series of prayers that the faithful were to say (to themselves) as the priest prays the mass.

    You are right that the "active participation" movement had something to do with the fact that the faithful did their own things, rosary,etc, while mass was in progress. I see people attentively following along at EF masses today.

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