Thursday, September 02, 2021

A Traditional Faith Camp in Hungary

We are grateful to the members of a Premonstratensian abbey in Hungary for sending us this account of a summer camp which they held in July, introducing young people to the richness of the Catholic Faith via the traditional liturgy.

For a week in the middle of July 2021, the pupils of Hungary’s St Norbert High School, aged 9-16, visited the community of the Abbey’s dependent house and the Norbertine Sisters in the village of Zsámbék to spend time learning about traditional liturgy with their friends in a lovely natural environment. We are proud to share a few snapshots of our camp here.
We began with the Mass of the second day within the octave of St Norbert. No better week could have been chosen for the pupils of the Praemonstratensian Abbey School, and, by the end, everybody knew the Gloria and Credo really well, since they were sung at every Mass by reason of the octave. There is a growing appreciation even among the youngest of the riches and additional possibilities of the Norbertine Rite.
Incensation of the high altar.
Since there were so many young men present for the daily morning Masses, we were able to bring in a few lesser-appreciated traditional practices that we do not normally have the ability to include in our ceremonies. The youngest server was our boat-bearer, aged 9, the eldest, the master of ceremonies, 15, with the rest in between. A Norbertine candidate organized the ceremonies and led the rehearsals.
Ascendat in conspectu tuo, Domine...
Only July 15th, we celebrated a Mass from the proper supplement for Hungary, the feast known as the Division of the Apostles, probably an 11th-century import from the Scottish Benedictines, which was very popular as a harvest feast in Hungary. After the Council of Trent, it was mainly preserved as a matter of folk custom, and curiously, as a Protestant thanksgiving service for the first grains, still kept by many Protestant churches on the same day.
Tradition will always be for the young!
Before, the Mass, we blessed bread with an elaborate ritual – the blessing had its own Gospel of the feeding of the five thousand, antiphons and many versicles – which we all shared as a type of Western antidoron after Holy Mass. In Hungary, certain villages and regions will offer the flour from the first sheaves harvested for the baking of altar bread, for distribution to the poor, for a ritualized family meal of thanksgiving, or for young wives to bake their first loaves of bread. The children ran around distributing the bread to bystanders, and experiencing a part of Sacred Tradition that was nearly forgotten for five hundred years.

The short, spiritual exhortations were preached from the pulpit. (Note the distinctive blue pom of the solemnly professed Hungarian Norbertine Canon’s birretta – along with the blue fascia and buttons, this Marian element was probably a concession of Empress Maria Theresia, still worn all around the former Empire.)
Vespers in the old ruined church
As the school has a strong musical element, some of the boys and most of the girls in attendance formed an impromptu schola under the direction of an organist and the school’s music teacher, a student and colleague of the late liturgist and musicologist László Dobszay. Lauds, Vespers, a Little Hour and pre-1911 Compline were sung every day, and at Mass, apart from Gregorian propers, there was sacred polyphony and renaissance pieces on organ and recorder.

Following the custom of the Norbertine Missal, on a ferial Tuesday, we celebrated a Votive Mass of Saint John the Baptist, one of the great patrons of the Order, since the first little chapel in the marsh of Prémontré where it began was titled to him; the Order’s founder himself stepped up in 11th-century Germany and France like the Baptist, preaching penance and conversion by word and example.
We visited the ruins of the 13th century Norbertine church directly above the village, dedicated to the Precursor just like our current baroque church in the valley below, and after dinner – albeit a few weeks late – we held a little fire-leap customary on Saint John’s day. On this day, the fire is made with four corners to symbolize the course of the Sun with its equinoxes and solstices. Our teachers are well-versed in folk songs and dances, and we were taught several mediaeval songs in honour of the Precursor that we sang around the fire.
The faith camp ended with the Mass of the Virgin of Carmel, on which day, hearing the beautiful Gregorian propers and the Missa de Beata, a polyphonic Salve Regina, seeing the servers move in unison duty- and prayerfully accomplishing their tasks, we were once more reassured that Sacred Tradition is the way forward.
The vestments for the camp all came from the Abbey’s treasury, and, to complement the church and the liturgies, were all 18th century originals in the distinctively curved and gently sloping Austro-Roman cut.
This unassuming camp, not specially advertised for its traditional side, but rather for its engaging possibilities of paraliturgies, of serving and of singing and learning about something so deep and beautiful, engaged our pupils, gave us an opportunity to engage in liturgical catechesis and apologia, to play, rest, enjoy each other’s company, to be around nature, and, most importantly, to come together in the praise of the Most High. Please pray that these camps continue and immerse many more in Holy Mother Church’s sacred observances.

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