Being a Novus Ordo Catholic put me in a tough spot in high school.
Up until about 10th grade I had generally been shielded from the really immoral things that existed. I was very innocent (I still think I am, though I’ve been exposed to more). I was inclined to good and wholesome things because my spirit was oriented that way and also because I had been formed that way. When I got to high school, I had no idea about some of things that were out there. Or else, I had vague ideas and didn’t want to know the intricacies.
The problem with the Novus Ordo, both Mass and culture, is that it refrains from confronting the wicked which exists in the world. It only focuses on love and goodness and happiness and community. These are good things, but when you leave out their counterparts which are very present in the world and very real, you are only halfway equipped to deal with reality.
Without the strong spiritual guidance of my father, who knows how strong my faith would be, and how much it could have withstood in high school. I personally think my faith is strong on its own, but that’s because I’ve been molded to be the way I am. I’m thinking with my current mind.
My point here is that the Novus Ordo way of life didn’t help as much as my dad. I learned more about the faith at home than at CCD. Maybe that’s not a terrible thing, but not every parent is a theologian or Bible scholar.
Anyway, I remember going to Mass when I was in high school. I went through the motions, said the prayers, and received Communion–in my hands and standing up. Then as soon as I got out I thought about everything under the sun except Jesus. I believed wholeheartedly, but it was a chore to commit myself to spiritual things.
It was a chore because I had come to understand the “spiritual” to literally mean feeling mushy about God and my neighbor all the time…to mean constantly having a positive disposition about things…
If, when in reality, I was sad or depressed, I thought I was wrong for feeling that way because it meant I wasn’t doing my part in my spiritual relationship with God. And beyond my personal condition, I was very confused about handling the big issues of society with a Catholic perspective.
When I first went to college, I indulged in a lot of bad things. The Novus Ordo didn’t compel me to resist them. Why not? It wasn’t BOLD enough. Also, I didn’t even realize, truly, the gravity of my sins. Really, I knew they were bad. But I allowed my sadness and loneliness and selfish desires to take precedence over doing the right thing. I didn’t fully realize it was against the bloody and beaten Jesus on the cross I was sinning.
I searched, above all things, for truth and understanding. I guess I didn’t think that God, in a specific way, understood what I was going through.
My thought was this:
God, I know I’m supposed to be a good Christian. I know I’m supposed to do the right thing. I know I’m not supposed to sin. But gosh, it’s so hard right now. Going through what I’m going through. Being alone, trying to adhere to my beliefs while everyone else is telling me they don’t matter, they’re uncool, and even that they’re wrong. No one understands…I’m truly alone. How can I go on firm in this spirituality pretending I’m happy when I’m completely distraught?
What I now realize, is that the Novus Ordo culture doesn’t acknowledge the disparaging reality of sin and evil which WILL confront you. You can’t ignore it. You must understand it.
And even more, I desired something STRONG; something real and compelling and magnificent. That’s why I drank so much. I didn’t think God was as strong as other things in life could be. He was only right. I wanted to be right, but I also wanted to live. What the heck was missing?
Then, the Latin Mass came.
Wow. Did I find something strong. When the Latin Mass starts you realize right away the presence of something strong. You realize something serious is going down. The air is transcendent–both the aura, the spirit, and the incense which literally rises to Heaven. You can feel the holiness. You feel like God is there, because He is. You understand the nobility of the Priest and the power of his actions. You realize you’re witnessing something far greater than anything you could ever behold outside of a Cathedral.
And finally, FINALLY, I understood what it was all about–what Mass was about, what Catholicism was about, and what LIFE was about. It was about the sacrifice. Jesus sacrificing his life on the cross. You see, THAT’S love. That’s love! His love was brutal and bloody and harsh and ridiculed…and selfless and pure and true. That’s the strength and the boldness I was looking for. It was the truth I was searching for.
I didn’t understand it in the Novus Ordo, so I used to leave Mass STILL SEARCHING for it. I should have left complete! But I was left unsatisfied.
It turns out love isn’t pretending everything’s okay and accepting everything that everyone does. It’s confronting evil and suffering. It’s understanding right and wrong and doing everything to to promulgate good, even in when it hurts you. It’s surrendering your will to God’s, giving up your life, your desires…
And while the Novus Ordo was all I had ever known before, I had no clue that that was what Mass was about. I had no idea…
During my first year of college, I couldn’t even describe the reason for my emptiness. I was being pulled in opposite directions by two different forces. One was my knowledge of the faith–even a vague knowledge that for some grand reason was the truth beyond what I was then able to feel and acknowledge. The other was my heart’s desire to be satisfied with the truth and to feel what was real.
I knew my faith was right…but I didn’t know why it didn’t feel right at that time. Now it feels so right I want everyone to feel it.
This is what I have learned.
To know God isn’t to be enamored with a false perception of the world, or to be promised unending contentment or constant satisfaction. It’s not constantly feeling joy and fluffy feelings. It’s not to kid yourself into thinking everything’s okay all the time and the world is really a good place.
To know God is to know the truth: That the world sucks. It’s hard, cold, and sinful and wants to devour you. It’s infected by Satan who wants to deceive you and bring you down to the depths of suffering with him in Hell.
But it’s also to know that God is the refuge in this dark world, and that there is purpose and glory in suffering for Christ; there is purpose and glory in striving for Heaven. There’s purpose and glory in the Mass, which is so, so beautiful.
To know God is to know what’s real. You don’t have to pretend to be happy when you’re not, you deal with things as they are. When things suck, you turn to God. And when things are glorious, you turn to God. In my experience, in order to want to turn to God, you have to understand why He’s worth turning to. I was skeptical to turn to God (and didn’t really know how to turn to God) because I desired mostly to be understood. I thought He didn’t know exactly what I was feeling. But the truth is He does understand. Of course he understands, He made us.
People are the ones who need convincing though. I was hard to be convinced of God’s real power. The way I became convinced was through the Latin Mass. Everything about the Mass–the reverence, the music, the Latin, the mystifying quiet, the peace, and the humbling knowledge that there’s no other place more important to be present–all these things drew me in to understand my faith the way I do now.
Each Mass, I learn more and more. I learn how to pray, what to pray for…and I learn that I must be a Christian every where and always. More importantly, I’m encouraged to actually do so.
The things of the Mass, they all make sense. They all culminate in the sacrifice–both the unbloody re-presentation and the historical event which was Christ’s. I finally understand why I go to Mass, what it means. That we are joining the choirs in Heaven! We are participating in Heaven’s affairs. What could be more glorious?
At this point in my life, especially because I feel a bit stuck in a rut, going to Mass is my favorite thing to do. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I wish I could go to the Latin Mass everyday. I love looking up at the beautiful stained glass paintings upon the walls and windows of St. John the Baptist Cathedral. I love resting my eyes upon the architectural beauty of the altar, the statues, the candles and flowers…enriching my senses, enchanting my soul. I love smelling the incense. I love when the sunlight shines through the windows. I love wearing my Sunday best. I love speaking in Latin. I love kneeling down, and in this way expressing humility, because it is in these real and physical actions that we actually express our spirits’ desires.
Because of the Latin Mass, I understand more fully that we were designed to obey God, to respond to our creator and master. That it is in our real nature to worship God and respond to Him. It’s no longer a distant myth–the faith–but the truest reality…the sincerest of inclinations to seek God and Christ.
I know that the Mass has caused me to seek more deeply the faith, and to discover reality and purpose. I’m still confused as to what my specific vocation is, but I know, finally, why my faith is my life, on the deepest level. And I am ready to go forward holding tightly the truths I now understand, and to implement them in my life. I am so eager to live out the truth, so hungry for endless Sundays, so excited to do something great in the name of God.
I think it is possible that without the Latin Mass, I would still be lost, still be looking for something that didn’t exist. I think I might still be drinking my sadness, still trying to reconcile with a hostile world..I might still be stumbling, wondering what the missing piece of my heart is. This might very well have been the case had I not encountered the Latin Mass.
But thankfully, I don’t have to wonder. I have been enlightened, and I am not looking back. I can’t if I wanted to. I know too much..I know the truth.
The Latin Mass changed my life. It doesn’t matter to me anymore where I’m going tomorrow; the details will unravel when they will. All that matters is where I’m going when I die.
My aim here is not to describe every epiphany I’ve had or illustrate the complete process of my still ongoing conversion, because they have developed as a result of my first encounter with the Latin Mass. My growing faith is a reaction to the catalyst of the Mass. Much of the wonderful progress I have made has been outside the walls of the Cathedral, but they only happened because of what happened within them.
The point I’d like to make is that I am very changed, very new. Like a born-again Christian. The Latin Mass has renewed my faith, strength, and understanding. It has changed me, it’s changed my life. It’s given me the comfort I’ve been searching for all the years of my life…the comfort of understanding. So even if I never get married or acquire the friendships I’ve always dreamed of, I will be able to carry on, and more than that, to truly live out my purpose, because the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God the Father understand me. They’re with me. They get me. They know the arguments I try to make to people who don’t understand. And they know that I should stop trying to make arguments and start living out the love of Christ. They know that I feel terribly alone and want me to call out to them instead of trying to find my own ways to repair my heart and soul. They have what I’m looking for…so I can stop searching everywhere else and fully seek them.
They’ve given us the Mass among other things to know them. And it is so, so important. I hope that every Catholic gets the chance to experience the Latin Mass. It is through this gift of the Mass, that I finally understand reality.