Friday, August 26, 2011

Going Latin...

In the last year I've noticed that finding a parish where attending Mass isn't a weekly near occasion of sin can be rather tough. I don't feel that my standards are unreasonable. They can pretty much be summed up by:
I have other, lesser requests, like that the tabernacle be in plain sight, in the middle of the church, and that the altar servers not be so completely sulky that one wonders if they're assisting in Mass or assisting in a state execution. But since wishing for all of these things may be asking for too much I try to simply dream of a place that meets the top three requirements.

As a result of our past experiences, I've been a bit nervous about attending Mass lately. Mae's "I want to be down right now" attitude hasn't helped. She's at that difficult phase during Mass that parents everywhere hope just to survive. The words: "this too shall pass" come to mind frequently when I'm baby wrangling in the narthex.

I was especially nervous when we walked into the oratory at the new quasi-parish we were thinking of attending (and now are going to be attending!) and it was so quiet that you could, quite literally have heard a pin drop. Now even on their best days, my children are much louder than a pin. Sadie has the potential to be entirely silent, but as I held Mae Bae I did wonder how I would survive the next hour. There were hardly any children in the building and only five minutes left until Mass began. I took a deep breath and prepared to pace in the back to keep Mae quiet.

Then they began to flood in. Families. They'd been waiting until the last possible moment (I imagine) to bring the little ones inside the silent building. There were at least a dozen families, most with toddlers, many with babies.

I had to take Mae out after about ten minutes, but found that there are speakers in the narthex so that anything I can hear in the church itself (the readings and the homily) I can hear sitting outside. And before very long I was joined by other parents who were trying to keep their little ones quiet.

It was also at this point that I realized that Mae Bae is actually pretty good at sitting still for her age. While she was noisier than I felt comfortable with her being while we were in the church itself, she did sit in my lap for the entire hour. There were definitely parents that had a more challenging hour, and I began to realize that the range of "normal" for a one year old seems to go from much quieter than Mae to much more rowdy. My main goal in the narthex was that Mae understand that she needed to stay on my lap during Mass. And while that wasn't the easiest goal, it wasn't the most difficult either and we survived.

As we drove home, both agreeing that this was most certainly our new parish home, I mentioned that it wasn't the Latin part of the Mass that is actually the main attraction to attending the Latin Mass for me. It's the ad orientem part. Paul was rather surprised by this and asked for an explanation. And here is my explanation:

I've seen so many Masses over the years (kind of funny since I only converted four years ago...) where the purpose of the Mass seems to be less about the Eucharist and more about the mentality that We are Church and that the Mass is about Us. It drives me crazy. And, in my opinion, it's from this sort of mentality that the idea that we can "improve" upon the liturgy in some way or another, arises.

When the priest is facing the altar it's really, really hard, to imagine that the Mass is all about the people attending. The message is clear. We are here because Christ is present in the Eucharist. We are celebrating this great gift, as he told us to.

And as Fr. Z pointed out in a recent post, we should remember towards whom the prayers are addressed.

I love the NO Mass. I really do. When it's done correctly (i.e. it follows the missal) it's beautiful. But the abuses that seem so common at so many of the Masses we've attended drive me crazy. And in an attempt not to go crazy and spend the entire Mass trying not to write blog posts in my head (definite near occasion of sin...) about the fact that the priest made up his own eucharistic prayer, or the words to the Our Father were changed yet again, we're going to start going to the Latin Mass, at least on Sundays (I find there are less "elaborations" during the week). I'd like us to attend a daily NO Mass at least once a week (and ideally more often) once Mae is through the "down, right now!" phase.

And that, in one rather long post, is how we decided on our new parish, despite the half hour commute!


  1. That stage with one year olds in Mass can be very trying. I personally have found it better that my husband hold the one year old. By then our one year old always knows how to squirm out of my arms and I can't not put her down but she also learns very quickly that she simply is not able to squirm out of daddy's arms and is content to be held in the back of the church if necessary.

    I know what you mean about making the Mass about "we the church" rather than God. I think a lot of it comes down to this mentality that feelings are what matter most and if it isn't giving us warm fuzzies, then we need to do something to keep people getting those warm cosy feelings. My parents used to go to a parish where they would clap through the Gloria. My dad and I refused to clap. My mom summed it up well though: She said she thought it was nice if it made people feel good. Of course we should be mindful of others's feelings but never at the expense of what is right and true and there is the very real danger of making things solely about ourselves. The problem with such a Mass is that it then becomes an occasion to adore ourselves rather than God.

  2. That's awesome! :) I attend an FSSP parish exclusively (Latin Mass) and love it. I think you'll love the Latin Mass!

  3. Forgot to mention - the 1/2 hour commute will be SO worth it. :) Growing up, my family used to drive 80 miles one way to get to a Latin Mass. Long yes. But so worth it.

  4. I wish I had your option! I'm struggling with a two year old who does NOT like to sit still. This child hates being still so much that when in a car seat you can hear the rocking of the seat, and ditto a high chair-- you would think the kid was autistic-- but no, just cannot STAND to be still. Being that 2/3 of the family tree is ADHD-- well, it goes with the territory.

    I would love an EF mass. They are SO beautiful. And your list of top three wishes for a parish-- yeah, those are mine too.

    Your take on ad orientum is wonderful, it is so cool when the priest is part of the congregation and we are facing Christ together.

  5. You are so blessed to be down there!

    Glad you found your 'home'... our new 'home' is the opposite of that :)

  6. I am glad you were able to find a Parish that you felt comfortable in. That is one of my big fears when going into a new area is trying to find a new Parish where I can feel like I belong.

  7. I know exactly what you mean about the emphasis, these days, being placed squarely on the community and not on the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Sharing and loving communally and celebrating our connection is wonderful, yes, and it's so wonderful that it's what we should be doing at Mass by default, as well as all the other 167 hours of the week.

    Community shouldn't be something that we have to set aside sacred time for, or worship, because then we are worshipping ourselves and forgetting to worship what's holy, what binds us together and gives us the morality to live together meaningfully. Sacred time is for sacred ways and sacred things!

  8. I think whichever mass you go to, the little kids are always going to struggle to keep quiet or sit still. And yes every child is different. My 3 yr old finally clicked and knows to sit reading her church book quietly. 18month old has a long way to go.
    ANYWAY. I've attended the Latin mass my whole life. I feel so much more comfortable going there than the N.O but that is my personal preference. I find the atmosphere is more respectful compared to the NO masses I've been to where people are chatting inside church and you can't pray or concentrate on the mass. THAT is more annoying when ADULTS are chatting compared to little children making noise as they dont know any better.
    Rambling here. We make the effort to travel 1hr for Latin mass on Sundays... there are N.O masses less than 10mins from us too but it's the mass I want my children to learn. And yes it is a total struggle to get up at 530am each sunday morning to get myself and the kids ready by 7 to try and get to mass on time at 8 ... but it's what we do!
    Have a great weekend lovie xo


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