A Few Thoughts on the Traditional Latin Mass from a Non-Catholic

Last night Ben, who has somewhere to stay (for the time being - the Council are housing him for as long as the weather is 'very cold'. Presumably they'll kick him out of the hostel when it warms up) came along to St Mary Magdalen Church for the Latin Mass.

Long term readers will remember that this individual was once thrown out of Midnight Mass by a parishioner two years ago in a rather violent fashion and has never returned to the parish since...until yesterday. I think you'll concede that it takes a brave and courageous man to come back to a parish Church about which his only recollection is that someone hit his head against the wall of the building.

Thankfully, his experience this time was far more hospitable. Midnight Mass, with all the singing, the hymns, the active and vocal participation demanded by the Novus Ordo and the sheer volume of people attending was, looking back, not a very good time for an introduction to the Catholic Faith. In contrast, however, what a very much more pleasant introduction to the liturgy of the Church is a Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

I wasn't serving and so was able to sit by Ben. At first I showed him the red English-Latin translation Missal published by Ecclesia Dei. I started telling him the format of the Mass. Soon after Mass begun, however, I told him not to worry about the book. This is because a first-timer is going to find it hard to keep up with what stage of the Mass we are at anyway. I realised it is really best just to be at Mass. One gets this immense feeling at the Latin Mass that everything depends on God, rather than us, a sense that it is us who depend on God, rather than God, or the Mass, indeed, depending on us. We are allowing ourselves to be in the Presence of God who deigns to come to us out of His own pleasure. We are being fed. This is the liturgy in which God does the teaching.

Ben drifted in and out, not of the building, but in his being, dozed a bit at times, he told me. What he did say was that it is a "beautiful Church", that the Mass was "beautiful" and that it was very "peaceful". He said it gave him a special, "tingly" feeling that he remembers from his childhood. "Outside in the World," he said, "life is all about running around, its so hectic", whereas "this place is peaceful".

Well, they were Ben's thoughts and while Ben is not a Catholic they are really rather important. Whether Ben becomes a Catholic in the long term is a mixture of his choice and God's choice. That, however, is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to express the very positive experience of a man who came to St Mary Magdalen's Church who, though 'heavily burdened' found "rest". The question is, if it had been a Novus Ordo Mass, would he have found that same sense of "rest"? Well, he certainly didn't the last time and to be honest, while it was my fault that I left him unattended at the Midnight Mass (something which contributed to his being evicted, mea culpa), at this Mass I could have probably performed my Altar serving duties and not worried about him.

The Latin Mass is accessible to people who are not Catholic because people don't have to do anything but sit, or kneel if they choose, and simply be in the Presence of God. This is its timeless strength! As a newcomer to the Novus Ordo, one would naturally feel as if there was something one had to do, in order to participate. It is noisy and noisiness is just something one finds everywhere on the outside World. The World is full of noise and 'participation'. Ben said that during the Mass he forgot all about his worries, woes and cares. He felt lifted away from them for 40 minutes. He didn't feel like he needed a drink or a smoke or food or money or anything else but what was there. When he dozed, he said he wasn't sleeping, but "resting". The important thing is that, unlike at the Novus Ordo Midnight Mass, he did not feel like a 'fish out of water' but felt included. He felt included, yet he wasn't asked to do anything!

He came to the Presbytery for coffee and got along with other parishioners, though some of the conversations did perhaps leave him not knowing quite what was being talked about all the time. Ben gets evicted from everywhere, has been beaten all around town and is in some ways a 'man of sorrows'. Contrasting the two Masses that Ben attended, it really does make me wonder whether the Church may have lost many a poor man in the last 40 years who will have been put off by the noise of the Novus Ordo or who will have found the Mass in the modern rite difficult to comprehend, perhaps more difficult to comprehend than the Latin language itself...Say a prayer for him and say a prayer that more Priests will learn to say the Traditional Latin Mass, for its benefits to souls, Catholic and non-Catholic, are many and numerous.


Rusticus said…
An excellent and moving post, Laurence.

I think it was the splendid OTSOTA who said that what he liked about the EF Mass was that it allowed him to be a "human being" rather than compelling him to be a "human doing". I couldn't agree more.