Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The renewed appeal of the Latin Mass

(A slightly modified version of a bulletin article dated 18 August)

I am often asked the question, “What is it that attracts so many young people to the Latin Mass?” Here are three attempts at an answer to that question:

Silence is sacred

We are constantly surrounded by noise. While we’re not busy binge-watching shows on Netflix or watching viral videos on YouTube we’re being inundated with emails, calls, texts, Instagrams, tweets, Vines … it never stops! When we go to Mass and hear the Eucharistic Prayer ringing in our ears, it’s easy for even “This is my Body” to become just one more piece of noise. But to go to a Mass where the prayers are silent, spoken softly by the priest to God alone, provides an experience totally opposite to every other moment of life. In this silence we are free. Free to pray along with those silent prayers if we wish, or to add prayers of our own, or simply to rest in quiet solitude with God.

Everything old is new again

Since almost everyone born after 1988 grew up reading Harry Potter, the under-thirty crowd has always known that cool kids wander around Gothic buildings wearing long black robes while muttering Latin incantations. If it’s true that in a time not long past anything medieval was bound to be the butt of a joke, like in the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s equally true that the same quasi-medieval setting is now extremely popular: witness HBO’s Game of Thrones. It was captured best in an exchange I recently overheard between two young boys: said one to the other as he examined the antediluvian relic of a typewriter, “Old stuff is so much better than new stuff!”

Wounded by beauty

A generation ago, many felt a need for an experience of Church that was more down-to-earth; but in our own day, two billion viewers gleefully watched the extreme pomp of the Royal Wedding. The ceremonies, the chants, and the trappings of the ancient liturgical rites of Western culture are beautiful. And in a generation unsure if there really are such things as “right” and “wrong,” it is not the truth of the Church’s teachings but the beauty of her worship that will stir their hearts. The converts of the next decade will not say “You have convinced us,” but rather they will say—breathlessly and with tears in their eyes—“We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth!”


  1. Surely God will bless your willingness to open your Monday Latin Mass to the faithful who long to worship God in silent reverence, spirit, truth and beauty. Thanking God for you and praying that His Holy Spirit will guide many more Priests and Christians into this sacred form of the sacrifice of the Mass which is permeated with His gentle presence. Peace in Christ

  2. I too cry for less noise and distraction. For someone who grew up in the 1950's I find I now am part of a world full of multitasking and distracting actions. At the same time I have found in the renewed Liturgy a great sense of focus that calls my mind to attend and invites my Spirit to rest in reflection on the words and actions that I am engaged with by full active conscious participation. In my younger days the quiet of the Tridentine Liturgy invited a mind to wander. In the call to become a conscious participant I have found the true silence I sought. So it seems we come to a similar place where seeking the sacred space into which a gentle Jesus invited us. I am fully aware that Jesus called me to embrace the world and to embrace the gift of faith and to stand in awe of both. I would hope we all keep the emphasis on seeking to follow the call of Jesus and not some tug of war over one or another form of Liturgical worship. May the call of discipleship be for all of us be the unity in the Holy Spirit that we all seek.

  3. While perhaps the prayer of the priest at the Lavabo could have been somewhat shortened in the post-Vatican II period, it appears that we lost a great deal when we went from what we had to what we (eventually) got.

    Thus: Latin text -
    I wash my hands among the innocent, and I go around Your altar, O Lord, that I may hear the voice of praise, and tell of all Thy wondrous works. O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. Take not away my soul, O God with the wicked: nor my life with men of blood. On their hands are crimes, and their right hands are full of bribes. But as for me I have walked in my innocence; redeem me, and have mercy on me. My foot has stood in the right way; in the churches I will bless Thee, O Lord. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

    Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.

    Yes, Father, add me to the grateful for what you are doing & extending to the community faithful. I am in the Albany Diocese but get to Rochester area now & then. I'll make a note to myself about your Latin Mass. Thanks, John Bergin, Schenectady NY

    1. Great example to reveal the sometimes extreme variance. I worship in and pray the Sunday Latin Mass and though I attend weekday Masses in the ordinary form, I'm grateful for the possibilty of an additional weekly Latin Mass, especially in the evening; a blessed close to a day. I'll also keep watch and when able, will travel from Syracuse.