Monday, April 30, 2007

Will We Ever Be Happy?

Various sources of diverse ideological inclination are reporting that a motu proprio from Pope Benedict XVI to derestrict the Latin Mass is possibly imminent.

As this news develops, my thoughts turn toward a troublesome aspect of the mindset of many traditionalists, that is, attitudes that seem to indicate that many will never be happy with the liturgical state of the Church, no matter how much progress is made.

Allow me to say a few important things before I get too far into this. 1) Anyone that has read my comments on this blog with any regularity knows that I am far from a middle of the roader, so you can't discount what I'm about to say from any such viewpoint. 2) No one who pays attention to what I say would think that I would defend any sort of Catholic mediocrity, either. 3) If you know me, you know that I am a lover of tradition and that I'd rather drive 22.5 miles whenever circumstances permit to attend the Traditional Mass rather than walk around the corner (literally) to the local Novus Ordo Mass. 4) Liturgical life is indeed tough these days, and many of you endure liturgies from week to week that I would simply walk out of rather than tolerate. (Certainly I'm blessed with a couple of good options that many people don't have.) Surely those who suffer with this kind of situation are offering up heroic sacrifice, and I admire your fortitude and understand from past experience exactly where much of the frustration comes from.

So what got me started on this rant? In an earlier post from tonight, one kindly reader recounts his difficulty in getting Gregorian chant sung at his wedding. That the parish officials gave him trouble should not surprise us, however regrettable and infuriating it might be. That the local cardinal-archbishop stepped in on behalf of the couple is encouraging. But do you know what absolutely disgusted me? It is this: the fact that several potential schola members refused to sing for the wedding on the grounds that it would be conducted according to the Pauline Rite.

Please, people, stop the insanity! For decades, trads have complained about the absence of good liturgical praxis in mainstream parishes, and along comes someone who wants to do something excellent and traditional (and take his case to the cardinal when needs dictate in order to accomplish this), and what do some people do? They walk away because it's a new Mass. (What do they do for family events such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals?)

This leads me to wonder: Do such Trads want to be an integral part of the Church, or do they want to have their own little special club in which they can pat themselves on the back for being better than all those lowly Novus Ordo Catholics? Do they want to help build up the Body of Christ or their own egos? How do they expect traditional ideas to gain acceptance in general if they, the ones with the knowlege and skill, refuse to share their talent? How could they possibly see their attitude toward the new Mass, disrespectful in the extreme, to be much different from the attitudes of those who presume to abuse the liturgy at will with their various innovations?

What will happen if the motu proprio is released? I suspect that, no matter what it says, it will not be enough for many. What would happen if the Traditional Mass were untouched but parts of the New Mass were revised to bring it in line with Tradition? Would the "fly-in-amber" traditionalists be happy? Would they at least acknowledge the progress? Would they then "deign" to attend a Novus Ordo Mass?

We are all familiar with the phrase, "Some people aren't happy unless they're complaining." It is only natural to have complaints in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. But how much complaining is useful? Unfortunately, I fear that some Trads will always find a reason to complain and to find excuses to stay on the fringes of the Church's life rather than immerse themselves in the heart of it. (I take well the point that many have been forced to the fringes--including me, but as circumstances change, please God, this is going to be much less of an issue.)

Is the ars celebrandi of the Novus Ordo in need of being addressed? Yes. Are there problems with the texts and rubrics of the Pauline rite? Absolutely. Are the translations pitiful? Well, only for a while longer.

Problems persist, but trads do no one--least of all themselves--any good by turning up their noses and walking away and always finding an excuse to complain.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: