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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
At dotCommonweal, a post by Peter Nixon on a NY Times op-ed re the Pope prompts an interesting give-and-take in the comment box.
My take on the motu proprio, of course, is that BXVI may fire when ready, Gridley. How could it hurt to reclaim for the wider Church the Mass of the Ages that formed so many saints and inspired so much great art in God's name over so many centuries? Couldn't your neighborhood parish offer it once a month, or at least a few times a year?
I seem to recall Chesterton's remarking that the most important thing about the "Missing Link" was that it was missing... Which seems to be the case with the motu proprio that would restore wider use of the Tridentine Mass. It's still missing.
But while it's missing, is it worth a thought or two about the wisdom of Paul VI's having virtually forbidden its use? I remember at the time thinking that this was a mistake. You had priests saying Mass in clown face, making up their own eucharistic prayers (some of them with more about babbling brooks and beautiful butterflies than a certain Jesus Christ), using all kinds of breads ("This, except for the raisins, is my Body," one uncertain priest is said to have intoned over what was offered for his use at a home liturgy.) So all that could go on, but the former rite couldn't be continued?
So a first question, apart from whether it should now, almost forty years later, be permitted again: Was it wise to prohibit it back then?
I will say that the indult Latin Masses I have attended have tended to draw a certain element, who remind me of this painting of John Brown. (I think of the young woman in the knit watch cap this past Sunday who spent much of the Canon of the Mass on her stomach on the floor at the back of the church, in a pose of apparent supplication that made her look like a Mohammedan praying to Mecca. At first I thought she was a psychiatric case, but later, when I saw her seated in the empty church with several mantilla-wearing companions, I got the impression she was a member of some sort of sect.) It seems to me that making the Old Mass more widely available would, by opening it to the average church-goer, dilute the swamp fever element.
I really love the old liturgy. What creeps me out is what often comes along with it: impatience with children (incl. the "dope slap"), preoccupation with dress codes (esp. ladies in trousers), culture warrior stuff (diogenes in the bulletin), homilies on why the new mass is inferior, etc. Not to mention the goofy literature distributed and sold on the premises.
I've been to just one tridentine mass that was devoid of the nutty stuff, and was attended by "just folks" and it was glorious. I wish it could have been stretched out a few more hours. A shame that all too often the nutty gets thrown in, too.
Meantime, as to the "crisis in the Church" lamented in the op-ed Peter Nixon links: Certainly, as an institution the Church has any number of well-documented problems. And yet the people keep coming! At the parish where my daughter is making her First Communion next month, four Masses spread out over two different days are needed to accommodate all the First Communicants. The Chancery may indeed be a mess; but at the neighborhood level, in the pews, the Church, at least out our way, seems to be thriving.