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Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
August 12, 2007
What Exactly Was the Tridentine Mass?

    About a month ago, Pope Benedict XVI made a long awaited overture to the disaffected Catholic traditionalists who had by and large “left the church” because they wanted to celebrate the Mass in the traditional way.  This meant they wanted to stay with the Latin Mass that was used before the Vatican Council.  The main reason for this overture was to reconcile the people who had “left” the church.  Many people read this overture as an intent to bring the entire church back several decades.  This was not the point.  However, it is impossible to say something is Okay for one group but not Okay for another.  If the pope was to allow the old form of the liturgy he had to allow it for everyone.

    For Catholics under the age of 45, the memory of the Latin or Tridentine Mass is non-existent.  Those between the ages of 45 and 55, the memory is feint.  For the rest of us the
memory is quite vivid.  What exactly do some people want to return to, exactly?  If we ask people who are in their 60's or 70's what they most liked about the Latin Mass they will rarely mention the Latin language.  Rather they will say that the Mass was more prayerful.  They will speak about the reverence people had during the Mass.  This reverence includes paying more attention to what is going on especially during the Eucharistic Prayer and specifically during the Consecration.  (No one would have thought of getting up and walking around even if they were in great need of going to the rest room, during the time frame).  The reverence also included the way people dressed for Mass, hence the expression wearing your Sunday best. 

    Unfortunately for many churches, change of liturgy seemed to translate into an acceptable code of irreverence.  The change from the Tridentine Mass to the Present Mass was
never intended to espouse a lack of reverence.  This is something that people began doing under the false assumption that the church was not as strict anymore so almost anything goes.  People can come to church dressed for the beach, they can walk in and out at any time during the Mass irregardless of the fact that they are distracting many others in the church.  People allow their children (with not reference to infants or toddlers) to do almost anything including eating, drinking and playing with their friends, again resulting in much distraction to others around them.

    The Tridentine Mass was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  I have a very vivid memory of the experience.  All prayers were in Latin leaving the people to pray on their own in any way they wanted be it the Rosary, personal intercession or reading prayers from their prayer book.  There was little unity with the Eucharistic celebration being done by the priest.   All singing was done in Latin thus little was understood although much of the music was well done by beautiful choirs.  The priest was the only person who had a role in the Mass, save the altar boys.  There was no lay involvement.  Women were not allowed in the sanctuary. 

    This being said, it is not difficult to understand why many people missed the Latin Mass.  When we sit back and reflect for a moment we see that there is no reason for us to have irreverence in our churches.  This is not automatically connected to the Latin language.  It is possible to have the best of both worlds.  Are we up to the challenge?
                            Lorette P. Nault