Thursday, June 13, 2019

Extraordinary Youth

Our thanks to Mr Henry Walker, who has just participated in the annual Chartres pilgrimage, for sharing this reflection on youth and the traditional Mass with NLM.

I looked around the Church, a place which had happily become a second home of sorts… Over the years, many of the once unfamiliar faces had become regular features in my life; and I was grateful for them all. But this time, as I looked around the crowd, something struck me, something that has been a pleasant revelation since I had wandered into a Mass in the Extraordinary Form...

The Church was crammed full of young people like myself; it appeared vibrant, growing, new faces in the pews, young and old, each at different stages of their spiritual life, irrespective of age. The youngsters weren’t present to pay any empty lip service, or out of an inherited custom, and they weren’t young enough—or so inclined—to have been dragged along by their parents or spouses! They were present to worship God, in a form which they had taken on as their own; devotees of a tradition far too old and rare to have been embraced without a firm desire for it. They stand as a contradiction, an unpleasant disruption from the normal decline, the ones who bear witness that the Mass of Ages can be both universal and unique, simultaneously ancient and timeless!

English pilgrims on the way to Chartres.
These youthful souls are the result of a silent and under-reported evangelization, largely a fruit of Summorum Pontificum, and the relatively widespread availability of the Traditional Latin Mass which resulted from it. As well as penning the motu proprio just mentioned, the then Pope Benedict XVI spoke of a “silent apostasy”… A gradual falling away of monumental proportions. I now see evidence of a “silent evangelisation” emerging, admittedly small, but budding, with a long-overdue summer in sight!

These young people are passionate, dedicated, and inflamed with a new love for the Old Mass, a Mass which many of their forefathers had both lived and died for. They possess a certain zeal, which in this age is a phenomena that often seems unique to only “tradition-minded” parishes.

It cannot be argued—as it often is—that the usus antiquior is a relic of the past, only made available for elderly folk who can’t shake off the shackles of old. The Mass of Ages is a gem that has been seized upon by a multitude of previously lost Catholics, as well as many converts, and people from families that aren’t at all inclined towards piety. “I brought my parents along once, they didn’t understand...” Sentiments similar to this were expressed to me by a bright-eyed young man at a gathering for young Catholics, where the Latin Mass was the point of common focus. He told me of how his own conversion was encouraged by the Latin Mass, and now his heart had been swept away with it; he even unveiled that his parents did not at all consent to this change. He was a normal man, in his early twenties. There was nothing different or “extraordinary” about him, yet this version of the Mass had awakened in him a lively Faith, and a total conversion of life.

His story sounded familiar, it reminded me of my own, and many others which I have heard along the way…

The author outside Chartres cathedral during the recent pilgrimage.
“Your parents weren’t religious?” my confused friends often ask me. “No. They are now, but I was the first of the family to begin practising.” Upon hearing of this reversion, they are filled with curiosity and confusion; such a reality falls so far outside their frame of reference.

In the modern era, religion is viewed as an unfortunate custom that you carry forward like a burden, if you are unlucky enough to be brought into the world by parents not yet free from it’s shackles. This could not be further from the truth in the young hearts which make up the small yet growing movement dedicated to the Old Rite, the Mass of Ages, and, we are convinced, the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.

My own experience led me to write this article; finding the Extraordinary Form quickly changed my life and deepened the comparatively little Faith which I had already been graced with. I hope that this movement will continue to grow, and will mutually foster support and understanding within all sections of the Universal Church, which gave us this treasure, and especially in this troublesome time, to this Church we owe our deepest gratitude and singular allegiance!

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