Many of those who love the Novus Ordo can’t understand why anyone could go back to the bad old Latin Mass. Many of those who prefer the Latin Mass can’t understand why anyone was so eager to get rid of it.

Why Do Novus Ordo-Raised Catholics Migrate to the Traditional Latin Mass?

Jeff Dahlberg

November 26, 2018


Many of those who grew up in the pre-Vatican II era can’t understand why anyone born after, say, 1970 could possibly be attracted to the traditional Latin Mass. After all, they reason, who wants to go back to the days when the priest “turned his back to the people” and “mumbled in a dead language,” when only a “few old women” went up for Communion and most of the congregation “daydreamed” while these same old women said their Rosaries? I can still remember hearing these arguments, when I, as a 16-year-old, went to RCIA classes at St. Albert’s parish in North Tonawanda, N.Y. in the mid-1990s. “Ya like Latin, huh?” said Deacon Brick, my instructor, with an incomprehensive look on his face when I told him I preferred the TLM. Deacon Brick and others of his generation couldn’t fathom how any young Catholic would want to return to a past they thought they had buried for good.

My experience was unlike Deacon Brick’s. We used missalettes that weren’t easy to flip back and forth fast enough between the opening prayers and the readings for the day. The pastor would call out sarcastically, “I can’t hear you!” if the congregation didn’t make the responses loud enough. Some congregants talked all through Mass. People wandered in late continuously almost up until Communion time. Everyone received, no matter how late he came in or how little he paid attention to what was going on. The music was always either Peter, Paul, and Mary-style folk tunes or selections from Marty Haugen and Dan Schutte. Occasionally, we would sing the opening lines from Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” When it was time to say the Our Father, we ended with the Protestant doxology of “for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever, amen.” In those days, nobody held hands during the Our Father and raised them up toward the ceiling during the doxology, which came later on. I dreaded the Sign of Peace because, inevitably, a person with a cold or what sounded like tuberculosis would come to Mass halfway through, sit in front of me, and thrust his hand out.

My Mass experience was not spiritually uplifting, to say the least. I never felt as if I was in God’s presence. It just seemed like something bland and trite that Catholics had to suffer through one hour a week.

When I was 15, I found out through watching shows on PBS such as David Macaulay’s Cathedral and Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth that there was this thing called the Latin Mass that, until 30 years earlier, was the ordinary way most Catholics had worshiped for century after century, until Pope Paul VI got rid of it and replaced it with the watered down, Protestant-style service I was used to. I was determined to find one of these Latin Masses and see what it was like.

During those days, that was way easier said than done. In the mid-’90s, the traditional Mass was almost nonexistent. Summorum Pontificum wasn’t for another 13 years. Providentially, soon after I watched Cathedraland The Power of Myth, I noticed something strange in the Buffalo News religious advertising section. St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown Buffalo, N.Y. was celebrating a Latin Mass on Easter Sunday. I somehow convinced my family to attend.

If you’ve never been to a traditional Mass, find one at a cathedral on Easter Sunday if you can. The choir opened with Resurrexi, et Adhuc Tecum Sum. To this day, I’ve never heard any choir sing the propers quite as beautifully. Clouds of incense wafted from the high altar. Almost everyone there, from the celebrant down to the congregation, behaved with reverence and solemnity. The sense of the sacred was overwhelming. It made me imagine what it must have been like in old St. Paul’s in London or Notre Dame in Chartres before the Protestants and modernists took over. The Mass was night-and-day different from and superior to anything I’d ever attended before. Even all these years later, I’ve never found any TLM to equal it.

Six months later, I was taking RCIA classes with Deacon Brick. The reason I hadn’t had First Communion at a younger age was because I’d never been officially baptized. My parents couldn’t find anybody to be my godparents because everybody they knew had lapsed by the time I was born. My grandparents eventually agreed to become my godfather and mother, but that didn’t happen until high school. So a hospital chaplain had baptized me when I was 18 months old and in danger of death, but the Church didn’t recognize the baptism. I had to drop out of religious instruction classes, and I flirted with becoming a Protestant and didn’t fully return to the Faith until I was well into my teens, thanks to the traditional Mass. Yet the Mass that brought me back to Catholicism was almost anathema to the priest and deacon who finally received me into the Church. Many years later, the pastor, Father Fisher, retired around the same time Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum. In his last sermon, Fisher criticized the move, saying Latin is a barrier to participation because the people in the pews have to understand everything going on.

Why do so many of us who were born after Vatican II prefer the traditional Mass and devotions that those in charge of the Church then, and who still run the Church now, disparage and oppose? I’ll mention a few reasons from my own experience. The first one is that everything about the Mass – the Latin language, the vestments, the rubrics, the celebrant’s orientation – points to God. The Mass is not about you; it’s about God. Eastern Catholics call Mass the Divine Liturgy because it has divine origins. Every prayer, gesture, and ritual action comes from Our Lord himself, the apostles, or other saints throughout the centuries. Each addition deepened our understanding of the Mass’s purpose and ends. All of the subtractions and changes that Annibale Bugnini and his committee made to the Mass eliminated its sacral character and supernatural effects. The vernacular language, stripped down vestments, reversed table, Protestant hymns, and Communion in the hand make the Mass look like less of what it is – Christ’s sacrifice on Cavalry – and more like an ordinary social event.

The second reason is related to the first. Because the traditional Mass emphasizes reverence, it attracts people who want reverence and take their faith very seriously. People who attend the Novus Ordo can still be devout and serious, and priests can celebrate the New Mass reverently, but it’s a lot harder. A regular Novus Ordo Mass-goer who is serious about his faith is more likely to rub shoulders with those who are not and encounter people who are casual about what they believe and how they act, and the New Mass encourages rather than discourages those tendencies. Simply put, a more reverent liturgy helps the average pewsitter become a saint, and it’s easier to do this surrounded by like-minded people focused on their salvation instead of on the things of this world.

A third way the traditional Mass is superior is because it’s not your grandparents’ Latin Mass. Elderly people who tell us youngsters that in the old days, the priest rushed through the Mass, that it was almost always a Low Mass and nothing special, wouldn’t recognize how much care and effort most celebrants and choirs put into their Latin Masses now. A sung High Mass is the norm, and the choir more often than not knows how to sing Gregorian chant. The priest at the altar is usually devout, and he says the Mass slowly and with great reverence.

A fourth advantage the Mass of Ages has over the Novus Ordo is in the cycle of readings. The Vatican II revolutionaries scrapped the old cycle of readings because they thought there wasn’t enough Scripture. Instead of a one-year cycle that emphasizes our falleness and need of God’s grace, the new cycle is a three-year run designed to get through the whole Bible. The new lectionary also took out, incredibly, a lot of passages that point to the Four Last Things and our need for a savior. The old Mass readings are quality over quantity. Someone who attends the TLM regularly will get weekly reminders that make it more likely he’ll examine his conscience, repent of his sins, and work on his weaknesses.

These are just a few of the reasons younger people have returned to the liturgy their forbears rejected. Many of those who love the Novus Ordo can’t understand why anyone could go back to the bad old Latin Mass. Many of those who prefer the Latin Mass can’t understand why anyone was so eager to get rid of it.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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2 Responses to Many of those who love the Novus Ordo can’t understand why anyone could go back to the bad old Latin Mass. Many of those who prefer the Latin Mass can’t understand why anyone was so eager to get rid of it.

  1. hellenback7 says:

    “Jesus did not follow the social laws of his time against treating Women badly.”

    Pretty sure the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well might disagree.

    This not to imply that I’m for women priests.
    But it’s a far different thing to assist in the distribution than to receive Holy Orders. I agree there are abuses in this area (eg using ministers when it’s not necessary or in acid with the canon) but I don’t think a woman bringing communion to the sick is one of them.

    Also, regarding women touching Christ? Jesus worked a miracle for the woman who reached out to touch His garment while she was considered unclean due to a hemorrhage.

    If He was concerned about her “touching” Him, I doubt power would have left Him due to her Faith that she would be healed.
    Just my two cents.

  2. Sheepdog says:

    The biggest problem I see is the overuse of so called “Eucharistic Ministers”.

    At the Novus Ordo Masses, one may be so used to “Lay Eucharistic Ministers” distributing Communion. Let’s take a look at what really should be happening during Communion, and how to overcome some common “excuses” for why we need “Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers”.

    Some errors that are common in many parishes need to be corrected. Redemptionis-Sacramentum says many key things that all Catholics should read. I should note that I will not highlight the other things which are related to Lay Participation on the alter. That is another discussion that; although related, is separate when it comes to the Holy Eucharist and the handling of our Lord. We know the dispositions, and we know the substances and fruits of the Mass and why we do it. We educate newcomers on it.

    Key Points of Redemptionis-Sacrementum:

    [88.] The faithful should normally receive sacramental Communion of the Eucharist during Mass itself, at the moment laid down by the rite of celebration, that is to say, just after the Priest celebrant’s Communion.[172] It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.[173]

    1. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

    [154.] As has already been recalled, “the only minister who can confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest”.[254] Hence the name “minister of the Eucharist” belongs properly to the Priest alone. Moreover, also by reason of their sacred Ordination, the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon,[255] to whom it belongs therefore to administer Holy Communion to the lay members of Christ’s faithful during the celebration of Mass. In this way their ministerial office in the Church is fully and accurately brought to light, and the sign value of the Sacrament is made complete.

    [155.] In addition to the ordinary ministers there is the formally instituted acolyte, who by virtue of his institution is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion even outside the celebration of Mass. If, moreover, reasons of real necessity prompt it, another lay member of Christ’s faithful may also be delegated by the diocesan Bishop, in accordance with the norm of law,[256] for one occasion or for a specified time, and an appropriate formula of blessing may be used for the occasion. This act of appointment, however, does not necessarily take a liturgical form, nor, if it does take a liturgical form, should it resemble sacred Ordination in any way. Finally, in special cases of an unforeseen nature, permission can be given for a single occasion by the Priest who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist.[257]

    [156.] This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

    [157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.[258]

    [158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259]This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

    [159.] It is never allowed for the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to delegate anyone else to administer the Eucharist, as for example a parent or spouse or child of the sick person who is the communicant.

    [160.] Let the diocesan Bishop give renewed consideration to the practice in recent years regarding this matter, and if circumstances call for it, let him correct it or define it more precisely. Where such extraordinary ministers are appointed in a widespread manner out of true necessity, the diocesan Bishop should issue special norms by which he determines the manner in which this function is to be carried out in accordance with the law, bearing in mind the tradition of the Church.

    (1) Each Diocese MUST carry out the Mass in accordance with these guidelines.
    (2) Can. 230 §1. Lay men who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte.

    All of that is what the Vatican says above. Therefore, With those important instructions of EMHC’s, it is important to make sure they are used the proper way in accordance with Sacred Tradition.
    In Most cases, EMHC’s may not be needed, or the number of them may be excessive.

    Therefore, if there is a need for Extraordinary Ministers to be used at Mass, then it suffices it to say that Instituted Acolytes should serve as EMHC’s. While Acolytes are lay people, by fact of their institution gives them the privilege to assist as EMHC. Only men can be Insitutited Acolyte. The reason for this is because it fits with Church tradition. Lay people who are not Acolyte normally do not have “privilages” to distribute Holy communion. One could safely say that Lay people who are not Acolytes should rarely Distribute Communion if at all. This must be limited to Emergencies or unusually special circumstances.Acolytes are usually Seminarians. They can also be any Lay Man.

    Finally, for those saying that using Men for the Holy Eucharist is “disrespectful” to Women; Jesus did not follow the social laws of his time against treating Women badly. Only a Priest can consecrate the Eucharist, and the only Eucharistic Ministers are Priests and Deacons, possibly assisted by Acolytes.

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