If you asked me a year ago if I would ever willingly attend a Novus Ordo Mass again, the answer would have been a definitive and resounding NO. I mean, if I absolutely had to, if there was a funeral, or a wedding, or all the priests who knew how to say the Traditional Latin Mass mysteriously died, then, yeah, I guess, I guess I would have to condescend to attending the Catholic-light Novus Ordo Mass…But only if I really had to. Well, what a difference a year makes. And how sad that in my quest for a deeper relationship with God, I, like Peter walking on the water, took my eyes off Christ, and began to sink.
When I first began attending the Traditional Latin Mass, my motives for going were hardly pure and noble. The guy I liked attended that Mass, and so naturally I went where he went. Plain and simple. However, as the years went by, I developed an authentic love for the Latin Mass, its reverence, the music, the incense, the beautiful symbolism behind so many of the priest’s words and actions. I loved it all, and soon I stopped going to the Novus Ordo altogether. But as my love for the Traditional Latin Mass grew, so did my disdain for the Novus Ordo.
Now, let me be perfectly clear, lest someone accuse me of blaming others for my personal shortcomings. One can have a great love and appreciation for the Traditional Latin Mass without adopting the elitist, self-righteous, and arrogant attitude that seems so prevalent among many “Trads”, those diehard TLMers, who frequently view the Traditional Latin Mass as the only legitimate Mass. The fact that I became infected with this toxic mindset shows a weakness in my own character. I acknowledge that and am making efforts to correct my rigid ways of thinking, even if I still inwardly cringe when someone tries to hold my hand during the “Our Father”. However, I did not come to this sense of being morally superior on my own. I didn’t just wake up one day hating the Novus Ordo. And I certainly didn’t get rid of all my jeans because I thought skirts were more practical apparel. No, these ideas were fed to me, perhaps subconsciously, but fed to me nonetheless. We are all looking for acceptance; I was no different. I loved the Traditional Latin Mass and I longed for acceptance within their community. So I changed the way I dressed, the way I acted, even the way I thought. And I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when someone called me a “Trad” for the first time. Operation Overhaul Monica was complete.
For many months I had convinced myself that I was finally on the right path to holiness, that despite my family and friends’ liturgical blindness, God had granted me some special grace to see the light. And I basked in the “glory” of being one of His special chosen ones, able to understand the beauty and mystery of the Traditional Latin Mass when it was lost on so many others. Naturally such an attitude repulsed many, and I soon found myself alienated from my family and most of my friends, the cost of being a true follower of Christ, I told myself. Looking back, there seemed to be no end to my pride and vanity!
However, through a series of events too numerous and mundane to go into, I gradually began seeing a spade for a spade. Was it really that noble of me to throw away all my “short” skirts so that I could feel justified in judging those women I viewed as dressing immodestly? Was I right in dismissing those people who did not worship the way I thought they should worship? Was it my proper place to decide what was and was not pleasing to God? Of course not! Once I realized that this was precisely what I had been doing, I knew that it was me, and not everyone else, that needed a conversion of heart.
But it cannot be ignored, the debate between these two "camps" has only intensified over the years, as the TLM has made quite a comeback, attracting not just the "old timers" but many, many young people. So why the attraction? Well, for one, the abuses that began to take place in the wake of Vatican II (Note, I did not say BECAUSE of Vatican II) are numerous and obvious, and we will never be able to grasp the full scope of the damage they have caused many souls. I'll never forget the time I was standing in line for Communion, listening to the parish choir, complete with electric guitars and drums rock out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge"... during Communion! I walked away with the notion that, if this is the type of music they play, if this clapping and hollering was acceptable during Mass, then Mass in general, and Communion in particular, must not be THAT special. It must not be Christ truly present, because if it were, we wouldn't be behaving this way. No small wonder that I, and so many others, grew up and grew away from our faith. The Mass had become, in many parishes, about the people, and not God.
Furthermore, the beauty, reverence, peace, and mystery of the Traditional Latin Mass is undeniable. It is soul shaking, and, for me at least, it awakened an intense desire for more, for a deeper, more intimate union with God. And many will know what I mean when I say that to attend a High Latin Mass is to witness the kissing of heaven and earth. We are a Church built upon Tradition, as much as Scripture. It is natural and good that we have a love for this beautiful form of the Mass. To prefer on of the other, is fine. To love one at the expense of the other is unpardonable.
We run the risk of throwing away the baby with the bath water if we dismiss, out of hand, as many I have talked to do, the Traditional Latin Mass. No doubt the attitude and general demeanor of some "Trads" is a major turnoff to many who might otherwise be attracted to the Latin Mass. These "Trads" are a huge stumbling block to a more united Church, however we should not let the unreasonable attitudes of a few rob us from OUR history, OUR traditions, OUR Mass. Just as we cannot let the progressive thinkers in our Church make a mockery of the Novus Ordo by the implementation of so many silly, offensive and sometimes downright blasphemous abuses.
To reiterate, it is not the attitude of all people who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass that they are morally superior to others. And to their credit, I have never met a Traditional Latin Mass priest who behaved this way. However, stereotypes exist for a reason, and there are certainly many who have earned for themselves all the negative connotations that come with the name “Trad”. But similarly, electric guitars and liturgical dancers are hardly the norm at all Novus Ordo parishes. We’d do well to remember both these realities.
The fact of the matter is this, the Novus Ordo Mass is not going anywhere. And, thanks to Emeritus Pope Benedict’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, the Traditional Latin Mass is not going anywhere either. So we MUST find a way of coexisting peacefully. After all, we are on the SAME team! Surely it was not Benedict’s intention to cause further division within the Church when he allowed for greater access to the Latin Mass. We do him a great dishonor by allowing this to happen.
Ultimately, we can learn to love and appreciate both forms of the Mass for what they truly are, the re-presentation of Christ’s passion and death on the Cross, or we can allow our egos to divide our Church further. The choice is ours.
In conclusion, I am writing this not to criticize one side or the other, but because I am genuinely saddened by the visible divide that exists between those who attend the Novus Ordo, and those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass. It does not have to be this way, and in fact, it must not be this way. We may be the Church Militant, but it would behoove us to focus our energies on defeating the devil, not each other.