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Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Tuesday, May 20, 2003 A fad for young fogeys, or the authentic spirit of Catholicism?
Forty years after the reforms of Vatican II, the old-rite Latin Mass is enjoying a renaissance in the Catholic Church, reports the Times of London.
INCENSE swirls through the sanctuary, enveloping the neat row of altar servers kneeling on the marble altar steps. A bishop towering above them raises a gold chalice, proclaiming in Latin that it holds the blood of Christ. He is reaching the climax of the Tridentine liturgy, the Mass once standard in the Catholic Church. It includes lengthy Latin prayers, lacunae of silence, an extra Gospel after communion. The priests pray with their backs to the congregation, occasionally breaking into complex bows to the left and right of the altar.
To the modern Catholic, it's a bit of a mystery. Most under 40 grew up with the new rite, which replaced the Tridentine Mass in 1969, dropping Latin for the vernacular and obliging the priest to face his congregation, rather than east -- the direction in which Christ is thought to have ascended to Heaven. To the average Catholic, today's Mass at St James's, Spanish Place, in Central London seems a scene from another age.
Yet a startling proportion of the priests at the altar look younger than 40. A quick survey of the congregation reveals an equally mixed age group: middle-aged matrons in hats and headscarves sitting next to tiny girls in lace mantillas, elderly men in tweed or blazers wedged between earnest boys, pressing their straightened hands in prayer. All seem plunged into intense, reverent concentration, disturbed only by the odd squeal from a recalcitrant toddler.
Meantime, re the Times headline, I would note I have long considered myself a Young Fogey, but now, acknowledging the relentless march of Father Time, I must ask: When does one officially become an Old Fogey?