Tuesday 14 April 2015

Are We Soljahs?

Benedict Ambrose, having been raised in Dundee, has no compunction about imitating accents for comedy routines during parties, and sometimes he even gets them right. My biggest complaint is that although he can correctly pronounce French, Italian, Polish and any other language with which I struggle, he never bothers to learn them. How annoying is that?

One of B.A.'s star turns is Cardinal Arinze, who was the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship under Benedict XVI, and therefore a big Traditional Latin Mass hero.

(It is Traddy Tuesday, my day for comforting would-be converts whose attitude towards Sunday Mass is utter disappointment, so we are talking about Trad Stuff today.)

Apparently someone asked Cardinal Arinze about this new thing in the USA and Canada where communicants are expected to all stand up together, march to communion together and remain standing in their pews together until the entire collective has received communion, whereupon they can kneel down together and make a thanksgiving.  Or maybe it was just the old "Does everyone have to stand and receive the sacrament in their unconsecrated hands even though this was originally an indult  granted to sinful, wicked post-war Dutch/Belgian/German/French Bishops, or can we kneel and receive on the tongue as was clearly the norm everywhere else in the Latin Church until 1976?" question. I am not sure. When you're married to a Liturgy Nerd you often hear only half the story before.....zzzzzz....

At any rate, Cardinal Arinze's eyes bugged out of his head--at least in B.A.'s recreation of the event--and demanded, "Are we SOL-diers?" or--as B.A. has it--SOL-jahs?

Blind conformity to the collective may be what neurotic spirit-of-Vatican-II liturgists are after, but this does not have anything to do with Traditional Catholicism, let me tell you. Traditional Catholicism is wonderfully relaxed about how the laity pray during the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as long as we are QUIET (and, 75% of the time, silent), don't disturb other people and physically restrain our offspring from running up and down the aisles. Traditional Catholicism even goes easy on women who do not want to go to Mass for they have just given birth and want to take care of their young 24/7.  "Great!" says Traditional Catholicism. "You do that little thing! Come back when you can!"

One thing that never happens to you during a Traditional Latin Mass--unless your noisy/peripatetic offspring annoy Mr or Mrs Cranky-- is being bossed around. Okay, in some parishes, possibly people force books and papers on you in the name of hospitality. However, in my church this very rarely happens. You walk in, you pick up books and papers, you select your seat, you genuflect, you sit. Or kneel. A bell rings eventually to tell you to stand up. But no person, least of all a lay person, tells you to stand up, Nobody tells you to introduce yourself to your neighbour. Nobody tells you to turn to the Asperges/Vidi Aquam in the book. Nobody gives you orders at all.

About five minutes after the bell a priest sprinkles water on you. You can either cross yourself, or you can do nothing. You can sing along with the rest of the congregation for their obvious part in the singing, or you can stay silent. If you stay silent, you are very likely to hear something that may be new to you in such ecclesiastical surroundings--lay men singing. Actual men, actually singing, in actual Latin. As they think it is worth doing, they think it worth doing badly. However,maybe because they sing the same tune every week, they very rarely do sing it badly. And if they do, it doesn't matter. Unless they are in the schola, of course, in which case the smoke of Satan has entered the choir stalls.

Next the priest disappears into the sanctuary or into the sacristy to swap his Asperges cope for the Mass chasuble, and you can keep standing or sit or kneel and pray or read or think until Mass begins and all around you the congregation crunches to its knees. That's when you should crunch to your knees, too, or else you will draw attention to yourself, which is THE no-no at the Traditional Latin Mass. No-one, not even the priest, is supposed to draw attention to himself. All the attention is supposed to be where the priest is looking, which is either going to be the altar, the Blessed Sacrament or the Scriptures. If your eyes get tired, you can rest them on the back of the priest's pretty chasuble, which should have holy symbols on it to edify your subconscious.

Decades before the Deluge the Second Vatican Council threw parish liturgies into disarray, reformers got interested in helping Catholics pay more attention to the official prayers at Mass by way of missals. In the old days, you were expected to pray your own prayers during Mass, and there was apparently an interesting and fruitful method of praying the rosary in such a way that it "went along" with the different parts of the Mass. But not all Catholics were good at that and were easily distracted into thinking about grocery lists and sneezing livestock and the Sunday roast. Therefore, it was decided that they ought to have missals, so they could pray along with the priest, seeing what he was praying on one side in Latin and following the vernacular translation on the other. Most trads use these although I, personally, have heard an exasperated homily about how you can use them too much. All the sounds of flipping pages were apparently driving the homilist insane.

Interestingly, there was no one official missal. You could use any old missal, as long as it had a Nihil Obstat on it and you found it helpful and it wasn't too enormously out-of-date for practical use. (The 1962 Easter Triduum is rather different from the 1945, which is when my favourite missal was published.)  And thus there are a wide variety of missals at my church, and people only take an interest if someone shows their new one off at After-Mass Tea. Naturally in Edinburgh, an old onion-skinned beauty one picked up for 50 p ("Can you believe it?!") at a used bookshop is WAY more impressive than a gilt-edged newbie from Baronius Press, not that the Baronius Press one isn't very nice. It is.

Meanwhile, you get to personalize your missal by stuffing mass cards into it as your Trad friends die or have anniversaries. It is considered very mean to die or get ordained without giving all your friend mass cards to stuff into their missals. And they are worth the price, too. Every time one falls out of my missal, I remember to pray for the person before stuffing it back in.

Where was I? Your public responsibilities at Mass, such as they are, are carefully delineated in the missal, and are memorized by almost everyone around you too, so you can follow them (if not the missal) quite easily. They are mostly saying "Et cum spirituo" when the priest turns around and kindly asks that "Dominus vobiscum. If it is the practise of your community, e.g. trads in France, to stand, not kneel, during the Lord's Prayer, the priest will not get annoyed if you stand. He can't see you anyway. He's not talking to you. Really, the only way you can annoy the priest is to make a noise you should not be making. Coughing is okay, but saying "Amen" loudly at the end of the Lord's Prayer is a capital offense, and you really should know better if absolutely nobody else in the entire congregation says it with you, you stupid attention-seeking eccentric from hell.

Meanwhile you can follow in the Missal, or you can pray the rosary, or you can read along with the hymns and propers the Schola is singing. Whatever brings you most fully into communion with God and the Bride of Christ, the Church (Militant, Suffering and Triumphant). This is, after all, the point. To feel like a part of a great big tribe family you can go to a football game in the afternoon although in Scotland one is no longer allowed to scream sectarian abuse.*

Naturally you go to communion only if you are in a state of Grace and in a proper frame of mind to receive and you kneel along the altar rail (or in our church, on a designated kneeler) and you receive on the tongue. If you have a dicky knee, or some other ailment or condition that prevents you from kneeling, you stand in the aisle and look pathetically hopeful at the priest while keeping your hands clenched together, so he doesn't think you are some I-Have-The-Right-To-Take-The-Blessed-Sacrament-Into-My-Unconsecrated-Hands-and-Consume-It-Where-and-When-I-Want-You-Clericalist-Monster activist. (This gaze of exaggerated and dog-like humility is particularly important if you are over 55 but under 80 because everyone knows eucharistic rebels tend to be boring old hippies of a certain age.) When the priest approaches, open your mouth, slide your tongue out and glue the tip to just under your bottom lip. Freeze your tongue until the Host is on it, and then pull it back in, around the Host, and shut your mouth. Swallow.

When you return to your seat, you may sit, or you may kneel, or I suppose you may even stand, if that's how you pray silently best. Nobody wants to pay attention to you except the naughtiest of the altar servers. Everyone else is speaking to God and doing their best to pay attention to Him and giving Him the best homage of which they are capable. Some may be singing with the choir, inwardly or outwardly. Some may be reading one of the many great prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, or of Saint Bonaventure. Some may be taken up until the Seventh Heaven, but will never tell anyone else. It's really not any of our business, as long as they aren't disturbing anyone else and have prevented their children from doing so.

If you are on your knees, you can stay on them for quite a long time, and it is handy for when the priest blesses you, for that is when everyone around you not already on their own, will get on their own. Being terrible romantics, we prefer to kneel for blessings, just like in historical movies, plays, books, King Arthur, 19th century Polish paintings, etc. But then we get up for the Last Gospel, if we haven't run off to set up the After-Mass Tea.

Because, guess what? Not being soldiers extends even to when we leave Mass. Personally, I stay right to the end of the Postlude because I love organ music and I think staying to listen is a mark of respect to the organist. And I do my best to arrive before the Asperges/Vidi Aquam because I like to begin things at the beginning. But B.A. told me about of a practice called "Chalice Veils" which means that  ONLY time you absolutely, utterly, totally must be in church to fulfill your Sunday/Holy Day of Obligation is between the moment the priest takes the chalice veils off the chalice and when he puts it back on again, i.e. the Offertory to the Post-Communion.

Naturally, intentionally arriving late and staying only then for no seriously good reason would be very stingy-mingy of you. However, even then the priest wouldn't seriously care because he can't see you. As long as you leave quietly and don't disturb anyone else or step on the seeing eye dog, we're not going to say anything. You could be a doctor rushing off to an emergency. You could have an angry Protestant spouse who wants to be driven to the mountains before lunch. We have no idea, and it's none of our business. Still, if you didn't rush off, you could come to the parish hall for a cookie and a cup of tea. Or coffee. Your choice.

*One of the annoyances of being a Catholic in Scotland is that the vast majority of Catholic Scots think "Catholic" is an ethnic group and you show "loyalty" to your "race" not only by going to Mass from time to time but by supporting Celtic, Hibernian or any other football club that was started 150 years ago by some well-meaning priest. "If you were a Catholic, you would have understood [my hopes that Cardinal O'Brien be helped in living a chaste life]", quoth I  over Facebook to a 20 year old homosexual activist. "I am a Catholic you're a bigot" wrote the homosexual activist. Happy face happy face happy face. Heart heart heart.


  1. This makes me miss the TLM so very much! There isn't one near where I currently live. I was fortunate to have been a member of an FSSP parish for years at a previous location.

    Also, I'm getting married this Saturday to a Good Catholic Man, and I wanted to thank you for all of your help - I don't comment often, but I've been reading your blogs since 2007! :-)

    1. Congratulations, Jen! That's great news!

  2. Hey! That's great! And Tobias my Seminarian Pretend Son is here and wishes you all the best!

    Wow! THIS Saturday! Seraphic Singles reader since 2007, and marrying in 2015, which reminds me a lot of--2022! Wheee!

  3. This is spot on! I've been going to the Latin Mass since 1990 (I think) and I do my own thing at certain parts of the Mass. I usually follow in my Missal for the propers and readings, and pray my prayers before/after Communion at other times. No one can see me in the choir loft anyway and I'm not bothering anyone. The NO makes me so confused with all the responses and getting up and getting down - and the people who are outraged when I kneel through the Sign of Peace. I'm sorry I'm here to pray; I'll shake your hand later!

  4. Yes, the EF is very good for people who want to FOCUS, and the OF is not very good for non-conformists. Some people do get really mad when you don't participate in the Sign of Peace. They take it personally. I've even been forced to shake hands with someone who crossed the church to force me to shake hands with him/her. I wasn't even "attending" Mass; I had just popped into church to pray a bit! Down with that kind of thing!

    1. At OF parishes where I know I will be expected to shake hands with, like, 50 000 people, I just shut my eyes even if I'm standing. It works.

    2. I just shake hands with whoever is around me, or nod, if they don't shake hands. (In germ-wracked Toronto, a large number of people have just given up on the whole innovation.) When the OF, do as the OF dictates, is my feeling until it comes to communion time, at which point I start perspiring and thinking out how best to receive communion without annoying anyone or scandalizing myself. Quite a lot of the time I take refuge in the old traddy knowledge that you only HAVE to receive communion twice a year.


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