Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
NY Times article re revival of Latin Mass

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]luxetumbra)

This might be OT, so feel free to delete. I thought it was germane to this community though (as well as being interesting), as it suggests that Pope Benedict's recent revival of the Latin mass might prompt a more overt split (and potential grounds for a schism depending on how things evolve) between liberal and conservative Catholics.

The Pope Reopens a Portal to Eternity, via the 1950s.

I also felt shaken and, irrationally, angry. Catholics are told that the church is the people of God, but from my silent pew, the people seemed irrelevant. This Mass belonged to Father and his altar boys, and it seemed that I could submit to that arrangement or leave. For the first time, I understood viscerally how some Catholics felt in the ’60s, when the Mass they loved went away.

I called Eugene Kennedy, professor, author and former priest, an old Chicagoan and eloquent critic of church matters. He is a scourge of the Catholic hierarchy, which he considers grasping and autocratic. But he spoke fondly of the old Mass, of the majesty to be unearthed by learning and praying it, like reading Proust in French. It contains a profound sense of mystery, he said, which is what religion is all about.

But he said he wouldn’t want it back. Priests aren’t ready; it takes years to learn. And forget about the laity, he said, which is accustomed to a half-century of liturgical participation and rudimentary parish democracy. He seemed certain that most Catholics would never go for it.

But St. John Cantius, once given up for dead, is thriving with an influx of new parishioners. In his homily, the pastor, the Rev. C. Frank Phillips, spoke proudly about the Latin Mass, which his parish was the first in Chicago to revive. He announced that it would soon be training priests in the old rite, which he vowed would restore the Catholic church to its place leading the world back to Christ.

Father Frank does not disparage the contemporary Mass, nor could he, lest he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the last 40 years of Catholic worship. But other traditionalists do not always share his tact. Their delight at the Latin revival can seem inseparable from their scorn for the Mass that eclipsed it, which they ridicule for its singing, handshaking and mushy modernity.

They’re right that Mass can be listless, with little solemnity and multiple sources of irritation: parents sedating children with Cheerios; priests preaching refrigerator-magnet truisms; amateur guitar strumming that was lame in 1973; teenagers slumping back after communion, hands in pockets, as if wishing they had been given gum instead.

Pope Benedict insists he is not taking the church on a nostalgia trip. He wants to re-energize it, and hopes that the Latin Mass, like an immense celestial object, will exert gravitational pull on the faithful.

Unless the church, which once had a problem with the law of gravity, can repeal inertia, too, then silent, submissive worship won’t go over well. Laypeople, women especially, have kept this battered institution going in a secular, distracted age. Reasserting the unchallenged authority of ordained men may fit the papal scheme for a purer church. But to hand its highest form of public worship entirely back to Father makes Latin illiterates like me irate.

It’s easy enough to see where this is going: same God, same church, but separate camps, each with an affinity for vernacular or Latin, John XXIII or Benedict XVI. Smart, devout, ambitious Catholics — ecclesial young Republicans, home-schoolers, seminarians and other shock troops of the faith — will have their Mass. The rest of us — a lumpy assortment of cafeteria Catholics, guilty parents, peace-’n’-justice lefties, stubborn Vatican II die-hards — will have ours. We’ll have to prod our snoozing pewmates when to sit and stand; they’ll have to rein in their zealots.

And we probably won’t see one another on Sunday mornings, if ever.