My love story with Ethan is my favorite (read it here if you haven’t before!), but I have another great love I would like to tell you about today – the Latin Mass.
Even if you are Catholic you may not know about the Latin Mass. Or, perhaps you have heard of it, but only known it to be used by sedevecantist or schismatic groups, assuming anyone who goes rejects the pope’s authority. Please know, there are so many Catholics who love this form of the Mass who are also in complete and full union with Rome. I am one of them.
If you aren’t Catholic and are wondering what on earth I’m talking about, read on and you’ll learn about a whole beautiful Catholic subculture that exists (and is rapidly growing!).
What Is It?
The Latin Mass is the now officialy known as the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite that has been in existence for centuries. For hundreds of years before Vatican II, it simply was Mass. If you went to a Roman Rite Catholic parish, you would have gone to a Latin Mass.
Two differences you would notice immediately when going to a Latin Mass as opposed to a Novus Ordo (English) Mass are that the priest is facing the same direction as the people and that he uses Latin for everything but preaching his homily in whatever language is native to the area he is in. Also, at a Sunday Mass the Epistle and the Gospel will be read in the local language before the homily as well.
(Below is a beautiful 3 minute promo video for the Latin Mass that gives you a preview of what it is like)
The priest faces away not to ignore you, but because he is focusing his attention towards God, leading you. His job is to ascend the steps and go to Calvary for us, and him facing the crucifix and tabernacle make such sense since he is offering the Holy Sacrifice to God, for us.
As for the use of Latin, there are many reasons why it is a good thing, but a big one is that Latin is the official, universal language of the Church. It allows for anyone to come to Holy Mass from anywhere in the world and know exactly what is going on, because it is the same everywhere. I could go to a Latin Mass here in America, in Mexico, in Germany, or Timbuktu and it would be completely the same, and I could follow along in my missal.
For a full, comprehensive, easy to understand explanation of the Traditional Latin Mass, I highly recommend reading Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass, by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski found here on Amazon.
My Mother Loved It
My mother had a reversion experience in her faith in the 1980’s. She had never really known much about the Church, and was a lukewarm, cradle Catholic at best. She discovered Mother Angelica+ of EWTN, a Catholic t.v. channel. She started to read and really learn about the Church and it’s rich history. As time went on she and my dad made friends at their parish with a young man who went off to seminary for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. This is a society of apostolic life in full union with Rome – priests whose charism is offering and spreading the Traditional Latin Mass.
Through their friend who is a wonderful priest now, my mother discovered the Mass of the Ages, and her heart was captured.
I Hated It
For as much as my mother loved the Latin Mass, I hated it as a pre-teen. I was going through a very rebellious phase and was struggling with that whole in the world but not of it thing. I wanted to dress like the culture, behave like the culture, and do what I wanted.
When you go to the Latin Mass you will usually see that it kind of has it’s own culture. Usually the women wear dresses or skirts and veil at Mass. The men tend to dress nicely in suits or shirts and ties. There is a very very present love of the domestic church and a great emphasis placed on living out the liturgical year of the Church
All of the “traditionalist” subculture was so annoying to me. I didn’t want to be held to any standards that took me outside of my comfort zone or which would call me to live in a way that challenged my selfish desires. I dug my heels in and swore I’d never go to the Latin Mass.
The Little Book That Lead The Way
My mother’s best friend saw that I was starting to dress immodestly around fourteen years old, and asked me to please read this little book called Dressing With Dignity, by Colleen Hammond. (Find it here on Amazon). This wonderful, quick, easy, interesting read went through the history of changing fashions in the twentieth century, what the Blessed Mother had to say about it to the children of Fatima, how these changes have made a huge negative impact on society, and finally, what the saints and the Church has had to say on modesty in dress.
God spoke to me through that little book, and it moved me. It lead me on a quest for finding modesty, purity, and right order in my behavior, dress, and desires. Where before I was only looking at myself, my wants, and what I found beautiful, I started to look outside of myself.
Instead of this spirit of rebellion, I became open and started to see what my mother had seen in the Latin Mass.
There was such order. Such beauty. Such reverence. The Latin Mass leaves no room for improvisation, for jokes during the opening prayer, or for novelty. It was this steady rock that could be counted on. I knew when I was able to get to a Latin Mass that I was seeing the Sacrifice of Calvary just as so many saints for centuries before me did. I stopped fighting, and just like my mother a decade before me… my heart was captured.
I Left Home
My mother has worked for over thirty years to bring the Latin Mass to her diocese, to no avail. As my heart changed, I had a longing for this beautiful form of the Mass, and I was increasingly discontent at my liberal home parish.
The closest Latin Mass in full union with Rome to us was about five hours away. So, three weeks after my 18th birthday, I loaded all of my belongings up and pulled out of my parent’s driveway, moving to Coeur d’Alene Idaho for the FSSP parish there. My mom and I had visited a couple weeks before and found an apartment. I had a new home to go to, but I sobbed for the first hour of that drive. I felt crazy that I had just left home. For what?
It Was Worth It
I left it for a parish that became my new home. For priests so zealous for the Faith that gave every last ounce of themselves to their flock, and whose preaching taught me more about the Church, virtue, and striving for sanctity in a couple years than I had known my whole life. I had access to daily Confession, young adults groups, a choir that I got to sing the most beautiful polyphony and chant with, and daily Latin Mass.
I learned about all sorts of processions and special liturgical traditions that I didn’t know existed.
My life started to revolve around my parish and this Mass that fed my soul.
This form of the Mass resonated with my heart. The Latin Mass lead me with such beauty and reverence right to Calvary.
I was in love and always will be, with the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven.