Wednesday 7 January 2015

Traddy Tuesdays

Gold, frankincense, myrrh
It is actually Wednesday, but on Monday I was on a train and I spent Tuesday doing Monday's chores, plus grocery shopping, so I spent today doing Tuesday's chores, and now I shall write a Traddy Tuesday piece.

Traddy, in this context, means the Traditional Latin Mass, the Traditional Calendar, Traditional Devotions, Traditional Catechesis, Traditional Food and any other Traditional Stuff that comes to mind. Just so you know, I go to an Fraternity of the Priests of Saint Peter (FSSP) mission, so I am all very obedient to the local Catholic ordinary. In fact, as faithful readers know, he invited me to his Christmas party.

That was on the strength of "Seraphic Singles", which his secretary assured him was world-famous, which it sort of was. My favourite moment of fame happened when I was in Toronto, hobnobbing with other Canadian Lonerganians, and after I introduced myself to a handsome foreigner, as one does, the Oratorian beside him blurted out "Seraphic Single!"

It turned out that my first Scotland blog "Seraphic Goes to Edinburgh" had helped in the conversion to Catholicism of one of his spiritual directees. Having been horrified by her local parish's Mass, she had looked online for information about the Traditional Latin Mass and found my description of it very appealing. So off she went to find it--and did.

At least one other convert has told me that he was converted by my blog--a great joy to me as hitherto I had not known I could convert my way out of a paper bag. For his Confirmation our priest asked if I would prepare something. I said, "You mean like a reflection?" And he said, "No, I mean like sandwiches."

Ah ha ha! I love that story. I have to tell it at least once every three months. Five years banging theology into my head, and at the end of the day, sandwiches. Still, I have to admit that everyone there enjoyed my sandwiches more than they would have enjoyed my reflection. And of course I can put my M.Div. to good use by scattering seeds onto my blog and hoping they bear more good fruit.

I wonder what the other journalists wrote about the Archbishop of Edinburgh's party. I wrote about an important priest saying that he liked the Traditional Latin Mass unless it bred exclusivity, and I was highly indignant later when I considered the diversity of Edinburgh's TLM community. We have babies, boys, girls, teens, university students, university grads, blue collar working men and women, people with developmental disabilities, people who are severely visually impaired (or blind), never-marrieds, at least one widower, married couples, married men whose wives won't attend, married women whose husbands won't attend, converts, cradles, Scots with Irish names, Scots with Scottish names, Englishmen and blinking foreigners including me. The grandchildren of earls pray beside the grandchildren of farmers and fishermen. Exclusivity, indeed!

In hindsight, I realize that he may have meant that he thought the TLM was okay unless people who love the TLM stop going to Mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form. That is, they go exclusively to the Extraordinary Form.  But if that is what he meant, I still do not see his logic. Pastorally, of course, he might advise university students who have no hope of going to a TLM  in their own home diocese not to start going to the TLM now: it will be just too terribly painful for them to go back to the OF and they might be tempted to go to the illicit Society of Saint Pius X instead.

But, to be frank, I was so fed up with the way the Ordinary Form was celebrated in my diocese that long before I met a Fraternity of the Priests of Saint Peter priest I was going to Sunday Mass in German. The congregation was mostly elderly and entirely reverent, and if the priest strayed from the liturgical path or uttered heresies or ancient snippets from Reader's Digest, I was left blissfully unaware. My German was good enough for the readings and the prayers, but not much else. Thus I could pray aloud (in German) with a happy heart and a satisfied head.

I once went to an indult TLM when I was a teenager, and I found it mystifying and deeply boring. I suspect it was a Low Mass, and I know there were no missals for anyone who didn't have his own. I didn't go to another TLM until I first came to Edinburgh to visit B.A. and other British readers. Again I found the TLM mystifying but, thanks to the plethora of missals, pieces of paper, handbooks, etc., I didn't find it boring. And what struck me most of all was the reverent silence.

Of course there was music, too, and very good music it was and is. The music serves to enhance the reverent silence, which--like the music--is deep, meditative and holy. And this is where I realize why musicians, at any rate, should not exclusively go to the EF. Most Catholics have to go to the OF, and good music can go far to turn an lip-bitingly irreverent Mass into something resembling the EF. By bringing other Catholics the liturgical--and therefore catechetical--treasures of the Church, musicians could become missionaries to the badly catechized.

When we were vacationing in Aberdeenshire, B.A. and I knew we would have to go to an OF that Sunday. Scotland is not what you would call a Catholic country, and finding any Catholic church in the Scottish countryside is a feat. But to his great satisfaction, B.A. discovered that he knew the nearest Catholic organist/choir director, a professional musician. Thus he announced that, despite the total lack of Sunday bus service, we would be going to a Sunday Mass, not the Vigil, at that village's Catholic church. And we were rewarded for our (Mum's) £15 cab fare, for this choir director announced to all before Mass that we would be singing the Missa de Angelis.

We also sang Christmas and Epiphany carols, which was a nice treat for me, as I was raised on the Novus Ordo, and rather liked the Three Hymn Sandwich when the hymns were old and good and not about dancing a New Church into being.

Because of the carols and the Missa de Angelis, it didn't really matter about the homily. (All I will say about the homily is that I spent it thinking about how this elderly priest had remained faithful to his priesthood while others had run away; how much he seemed to love his people; how Scotland now has so few priests, men who should rest now cannot; and how I once heard a Jesuit scholastic give a very good homily on the Epiphany.) There was no communion rail, so I didn't receive communion. B.A. boldly plunked himself on his knees and stuck out his tongue, but I was not as brave as he. I decided to wait until the real, traditional, January 6 Epiphany.

When Mass had ended, the priest referred to the customs of the liturgical year--in this case not singing Christmas carols after Epiphany--as "all that rubbish." His thoughts were wandering, and he seemed slightly confused, and although I wished very much priests would stop calling our traditions rubbish, I thought again that he was still there and, despite everything, the congregation was still there in that rare village Catholic church. But for how much longer?

Last night, January 6, I met B.A. in a train station and we walked the rest of the way to Mass together. Edinburgh was cold and dark but fine, thanks be. B.A. took his place in the choir pews at the back, and I took my place in the fifth row to the left. Behind me the pillars of the parish assembled. The man who always sits in front of me sat in front of me. The organist played a stately melody. A bell rang; we stood. Our priest appeared in gold vestments behind two acolytes. The schola--B.A.'s baritone, the Master's tenor, and the Bass's bass doubled by that of a visitor from London--began to sing:

"Ecce advénit Dominátor Dóminus: et regnum in manu ejus et potéstas et imperium..."

The two readings were two of the three read on Sunday in Scotland in English and that day in Poland in Polish. Our priest sang them in Latin as we read and/or listened along, the English (or Polish) before the eyes of those who wished it.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Afterwards we greeted each other with "Happy New Year" and "Happy Epiphany." We said, "See you Sunday!"


  1. I've been going to TLM exclusively for about a year now; and there was a previous year or two that way a couple years ago with some mixed years in between. And just recently I've started itching to attend the NO again because it's starting to feel a bit airless in the TLM community. For the first nine months or so it was fine; it's a big famous parish in Chicago that does both NO in Latin and TLM. It's not like the TLM community up north I used to attend where all the women dressed exactly the same in button-down shirts and maxi skirts; there's some movement in and out among the attendees. But I don't know. After about a year I start to notice that while you see the people you know from other parish's youth groups at various Catholic Young Adult events around the city you never see the people from the TLM anywhere but at their own parish. And when I say NO, I mean a very straight-arrow parish run by Opus Dei with confession hours and lines to rival the Latin parish etc. Those young adults are doing volunteering in an immigrant neighborhood, they have lectures from a variety of Catholic speakers; it seems like the TLM young adult groups are only ever having talks from the priests about Sacred Music. When we go for breakfast after mass the conversation always, always ends up being about liturgy or modesty or masons or all of the above. No one's ever reading a book that was published after 1962; the same old truisms get spouted in every discussion. It just gets so repetitive, in a way I don't experience among other groups of faithful young Catholics.

    I guess how I'm feeling is, I like the old mass, and I am certainly not well able to tolerate nonsense in my liturgy. I am grateful for living in a city where I have the opportunity to attend nice TLMs and that's why I go. Absolutely I think we'd all be better off if more people were introduced to it, and if there were less hostility and emotion surrounding it. But I'm not a Traditionalist. Many of the great spiritual moments of my life didn't come through the TLM; it's not my big cause; I don't think it cures all ills; I don't have a witness story about how the TLM saved me from modernism. I don't grind my teeth at having to go to an NO mass before I even see what the church looks like, much less the style of liturgy. And after a year, although I have made some great friends and I'm grateful for them, I'm just getting tired of this atmosphere of traditionalISM at every social gathering and event. It's amazing how even just having dinner with non-traditionalist young adults, even though they have most if not all of the same views on culture, devotion, etc, you get more of a sense of the outside world. It's not just Fr Z's blog and Rorate! There's a whole bunch of stuff happening in our city! I think at this point I'd rather be the slightly traddy chick in the "orthodox" pond than the Evil Feminist in the trad pond.

    I know part of this is just my own restlessness, and I know there's a lot in this rambling comment to be picked apart and rejected, but it's how I'm feeling. I really believe that TLM communities don't have to be "exclusive" but unfortunately it seems like I haven't quite found the one where you can like the Latin mass but not have to slag off Pope Francis (not to mention JPII) at the brunch table to be accepted.

  2. *I think at this point I'd rather be the slightly traddy chick in the "orthodox" pond than the Evil Feminist in the trad pond.*

    Too funny! Oh boy, do I know where you are coming from. :) I wonder if this is a TLM thing, or an American TLM thing? I feel like Americans, at least, tend to get more stuck on things like the whole skirts v. pants debate.

  3. It's an American TLM thing, Leah. I'm an Australian living in Australia, and I sometimes go to TLM in my city. Women wear skirts, they wear trousers; some wear mantillas or hats, others have uncovered heads. As far as I can tell, no one cares.

    This is a good post and I have some comments to make.

    Look, yes, I'm the first to admit it -- the NO can be done badly. Really badly. But I blame that on priests, not on the NO itself. It's not bad if you, like, do it properly. The music doesn't suck if you don't play music that sucks and you don't play it badly. It's not a part of the NO to have crummy homilies and sucky music.

    So I wouldn't say to an idealistic uni student that he should avoid the TLM because he'll never be able to face the NO ever again. As Jam suggested, try an Opus Dei NO parish. That's where I go (when I can.) And the NO Mass as said at my city's cathedral is legit.

    As for musicians -- I hope I can be so bold as to offer an opinion here, because I'm a classical musician myself, teaching, performing and taking a Master of Music Performance.

    I did "music ministry" for three years in a fairly unremarkable NO parish as a teenager. Never again. Never, ever again. At least not with amateurs. It drove me nuts. Something that should take 20 minutes to rehearse will take 90 minutes if amateurs are running the show. Plus the music was not the best (although, boy, have I heard worse.)

    I do appreciate the music at TLM, but I'm not in raptures over it. Good music is part of my daily life, so perhaps I'm jaded. And look, if wanted to get critical over the Schola's performances at TLM, I could. The Schola is good, but I've heard them make intonation mistakes, entry mistakes. They're not perfect. Whatever. Life goes on. So I guess I'm just saying that while I fled to the TLM in order to avoid the appallingly bad music at my local NO parish (not the Opus Dei parish previously mentioned), I'm cautious to not get too uppity about church music myself. Some of the best Masses I've attended have been music-free. That works too. And another word on music -- "old" or "traditional" does not necessarily equal "good". There are some absolutely shockingly boring, four-square 19th-century Anglican hymns, for example. When I hear such hymns sung at Mass, I'm a little disappointed. There's better stuff out there. And most of it is, you know, actually Catholic. But again, whatever.

    Just on the reception of the Eucharist -- why did you not receive it just because there was no Communion rail? Honest question. I much prefer to kneel and receive the Eucharist on the tongue, but if I'm in a parish where that is not the practice, I decide not to make a scene and I just receive it in my hand. As far as I know, that's permitted. Should I...not receive the Eucharist at all in preference to receiving it in the hand? Again, honest question. I want to know if I need to go to Confession.

    And oh man, the TLM Missal. I've been shown how to use it, but...I don't get it. Call me stupid. I'd need to do a uni subject on how to use it.

    1. In my experience, it in its strongest form is an Eastern/Midwestern American thing (the informal dividing line attitudes wise might be the Rockies). Living in California, things are a LOT nore relaxed.

      And at least in the TLMs I've been to, people love Pope Francis, or at least don't grumble about him.

      The conversations I recall having are about the informal ultimate frisbee club (IIRC it started as a thing among Franciscan University types, and it's spread like a cancer), or how ridiculous Mr. X looks in his top hat in a Christmas picture, or trying to explain to a friend's ten year old brother why we can't just print more money to buy more water as a state. Of course, my circles tend to be late teens and twentysomethings, but I believe the only time I've discussed liturgy after a TLM is my funny story about how I almost accidentally hit the priest with the thurible serving at an OF Mass. As for Rorate, they usually do not get directly mentioned, and even then not... in the most approbative of terms. Rather like how one refers to an uncle in the lunatic asylum.

    2. So interesting! Yes, my experience has mainly been Eastern US, so that makes sense, Cojuanco.

  4. The Church allows people to receive standing and (I think) handing the Blessed Sacrament with their bare hands, so I wouldn't tell you to go to confession for that. I just prefer not to do so. The Church allows me not to receive communion more than twice a year, although it counsels frequent reception, so I practice frequent reception, frequent meaning "not EVERY time I go to Mass."

    The issues around the TLM and exclusivity, the TLM and becoming seriously boring and the TLM and music are fascinating. I could write about them all day!

    First, @ Jam, in the UK and France and very probably Poland, women's clothing at Mass is really not a big deal. Women go bareheaded, or wear mantillas, or wear silk scarves, or wear berets, or wear hats. Women also wear trousers if they want to do so. I've even seen jeans and the odd miniskirt here and there. I don't think maxi-skirts are that common in my community, but honestly clothes are not such a big deal except among the Young Fogeys, who care mostly about what they themselves are wearing.

    But I had to laugh about the rehashes of Father Z and Rorate because that part I recognize. We don't talk about the poor old masons or modesty, but what was on Rorate this week is often of note. If someone is annoyed at Pope Francis, well, they can vent safely, certainly, although not always. Saint John Paul is more or less officially ungrumbleable now that he has been declared a saint although we wish he hadn't done X, Y and Z. (I bet you know what they are!) We have our own obsessions, which include Anglicanism, Anglican bishops, Anglo-Catholic shrines, the Anglican Ordinariate, liturgies and processions in Spain, Germany and Italy, and who's-in-love-with-whom. In Rome, it is all Vatican politics and the rapid demise of Western Civilization, which is a nice change. In Toronto....hmm. Toronto means the Oratorians, and they have a lot of interesting activities going on.

    I think the way forward is to go where you are fed and where God calls you to be and try not be cross because so many men at the TLM are boring. Pray at the TLM and socialize with the fun and work alongside the zealous. That's my advice.

    Back to Julia. My dear Schola never rehearses. I mean, never. They just show up and sight read everything, including anything new, e.g. written by the Master. What they have behind them is 15 years or so of Anglican/Episcopalian choir training and the Master's doctorate in music. Various visitors from out of town who can sight read amble into the choir pews and join in. Occasionally a professional woman singer turns up and we are all impressed.

    But of course it is not about the music being performance quality but about fostering a reverent and meditative atmosphere. The Schola does that, and that's all we expect them to do! The FSSP in Rome, meanwhile, has a good schola, and the Oratorians in Toronto have two amazing choirs.

    Meanwhile, I feel your pain because my brother is a musician, and when the music at Mass is bad, he goes outside. He just cannot stand it. He really looks like he is in pain. And sometimes that's just me singing sharp. Alas!

  5. Yeah, the Schola at my TLM sounds similar. I've sung with them when they needed new singers to fill in for regulars who were on holidays, and the rehearsal process was efficient. Two and a half hours of speedily covering all the stuff we had to do. At that time, the director was a man with a PhD in music, which, might I add, was a massive relief because it's just nice to be directed by someone who actually knows more than you do, you know?

    My whole family is musicians. When we are at Mass and the music is particularly bad (and believe me, I've heard some baaaaad music) we all glance sideways at each other and suppress laughter. There have been times when I've literally just sat there with my head in my hands. There are just some Sundays I can't find it funny any longer.

    Hmmm. I don't think I'd call men at the TLM "boring". Eccentric maybe. Like the young guy I know who I've never seen wear anything other than a suit, but for some reason the suit is always dishevelled.

  6. Not actually Catholic, so working largely from other denominational experiences, but does any one else think it's a personality thing? Ala, all the TLM are more likely to be I on the Meyer-Briggs, (people drain you of energy) whereas the NO tend to be E (people give you energy)? That would explain why you would see more of the NO out and about around town, DOING, whereas the TLM crowd is already taxed with getting together all in one room once a week. :P This not to say one is bad or good, but rather allowing for deep personality differences (and a preference for 'noise' vs silence)?

    A bit out there, but something I have been speculating about for a while now.


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