Brian Holdsworth talks about his experience of attending his first Latin Mass.
If you’ve been following my channel for any length of time, you might be surprised to find out that I attended my first extraordinary form, or Latin mass this past weekend because I’ve spent some time talking about liturgy especially aesthetics in our worship in my videos, and if you’ve picked up on it, you might have noticed that I’ve been favoring a more traditional take on things.
My wife and I were both nervous going into it. It reminded me of what it was like attending my first Catholic Mass. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know if I’d embarrass myself or not. But those small anxieties were accompanied by a kind of excitement and anticipation. Like, we’re really trying something new and what is this going to mean for our lives.
The first thing I was struck by was how prayerful the atmosphere was when we arrived. There was no chatter. The people that were there were there to seek God in prayer and this attitude and disposition was really prevalent.
The Latin mass community felt like a real body of believers with a common vision and approach to God and I’ve only rarely felt that way at another mass. Typically, in a Catholic Church, you’ll get different levels of participation and piety. Some people are fully and prayerfully invested in what’s going on and a significant number of people will barely be participating.
Something I was anxiously anticipating was an unwelcoming atmosphere because newcomers and outsiders can be a disruption to the kind of harmony and unity that I’ve been describing and the Catholic Church has its fair share of grumpy and judgemental parishioners.
But to my surprise, I didn’t get that sense from anyone here. Nobody turned around to stare at my kids when one of them started to lose it. Nobody raised an eyebrow when I didn’t seem to know how to respond or participate properly. Everyone seemed so intently focused on God, that I don’t think they had the wherewithal to be distracted by my disruptive presence.
As the liturgy carried on, it felt long. There were moments where it seemed like we could expedite what was happening but there was absolutely no indication that anyone wanted to hurry along. Each moment was so deliberate it almost felt like life was slowing down. My wife, afterwards, said that she felt like she was in a bubble of peace and serenity while the outside world was composed of chaos, anxiety, and spectacle. But in here was like a piece of heaven where you could lose yourself in the stillness and prayer.
At the Latin mass, everyone was very intentionally participating and this was one of the first immediate ironies I noticed because the reforms that led to the new order of the mass were enforced with the promise that they would increase participation but I’d say participation in your typical Catholic parish is scattered at best.
I’m still digesting the experience and so I don’t even feel like I can fully articulate what the takeaways of it were for me and you’ll probably hear more from me on the topic in the future, but I wanted to close with this one last observation.
I was expecting it to be different, but not that different. Both my wife and I remarked about this in the drive home. We were wondering, out loud, how the most prominent expression of our faith could have changed so dramatically in such a short period of time. How did we go from that to what is commonplace today?
When Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum which made the extraordinary form of the mass available to communities that wanted it, there was actual resistance just to that permission. Keep in mind that this wasn’t an attempt to normalize it or promote it but just to allow it and no longer prohibit it.
It’s a startling thing for me to learn that there are currents in the church that are so fanatically committed to the new order of the mass, that they can’t even tolerate the use of the old form which had been instilled into generations of Catholics as the apex of their faith.
This wasn’t just the mass of our grandparents, but our great grandparents, and our great great grandparents, and our great great great grandparents and so on. It’s shocking to learn how hastily that was cast aside for what we have now which does not seem to be achieving any of the ends it promised.
When Pope Benedict simply allowed this to be available, there were hysterical responses from some bishops and that has to make you wonder what is really going on and how we got to where we are today.
For my part, I’m going to go back to see if it is something that will continue to instill the grace I need to function in this world and I’d invite you to check it out too.