“I would give my life for a ceremony of the Church.” ~St. Teresa of Avila, Life, ch. 33.
“For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time … of its very nature requires a language that is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.” ~Pope Pius XI, Officiorum Omnium, 1922.
“The day the Church abandons her universal tongue [Latin] is the day before she returns to the catacombs.” ~Pope Pius XII
“If the Church is to remain truly the Catholic Church, it is essential to keep a universal tongue.” ~Cardinal Heenan (1967).
“It [the Old Latin Mass] came forth out of the grand mind of the Church, and lifted us out of earth and out of self, and wrapped us round in a cloud of mystical sweetness and the sublimities of a more than angelic liturgy, and purified us almost without ourselves, and charmed us with the celestial charming, so that our very senses seemed to find vision, hearing, fragrance, taste, and touch beyond what earth can give.” ~Fr. Frederick William Faber
“If there is anything divine among man's possessions which might excite the envy of the citizens of heaven (could they ever be swayed by such a passion), this is undoubtedly the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by means of which men, having before their eyes, and taking into their hands the very Creator of heaven and earth, experience, while still on earth, a certain anticipation of heaven.” ~Pope Urban VII
“I declare, to me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses forever and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words; it is a great ACTION - the greatest action that can be on earth. It is not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal.” ~Cardinal Newman in Loss and Gain
“The Roman Rite, in important parts, goes back at least to the fourth century, more exactly to the time of Pope Damasus (366-384). The Canon of the Mass had attained by the time of Gelasius I (492-496) the form it has kept until now, apart from some modifications made under Gregory I (590 -604). The only thing which the popes have unceasingly insisted upon since the fifth century is that the Roman Canon must be adopted; their argument being that it went back to the Apostle St. Peter.” ~Monsignor Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background (Una Voce Press, 1987/1993)
“Liturgical Reform, having as one of its basic principles the abolition of all mystical acts and formulations, insists upon the usage of modern languages for the divine service…. Hatred for the Latin language is inborn in the heart of all enemies of Rome. They recognize it as the bond that unites Catholics throughout the world, as the arsenal of orthodoxy against all the subtleties of the sectarian spirit. They consider it the most powerful arm of the Papacy.” ~Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., Liturgical Institutions, vol. 1, chapter IV "The Antiliturgical Heresy" (1840)
“We must admit that it is a master blow of Protestantism to have declared war on the sacred language. If it should ever succeed in ever destroying it, it would be well on the way to victory. Exposed to a profane gaze, like a virgin who has been violated, from that moment on the liturgy has lost much of its sacred character, and very soon people find that it is not worthwhile putting aside one's work or pleasure in order to go and listen to what is being said in the way one speaks in the marketplace. How long do you think the faithful will go to hear these self-styled liturgists cry ‘The Lord be with you’ and how long will they continue to respond ‘and with your spirit’?” ~Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., Liturgical Institutions, vol. 1, chapter IV "The Antiliturgical Heresy" (1840)
“Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.” ~Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum
The kids are old riteWritten by Matthew Schmitz
Young Catholics feel they have been denied their inheritance. Where do they go from here?
Last week, in a speech to Italian liturgists, Pope Francis appeared to set in stone the liturgical changes that came at the time of Vatican II. “After this magisterium, after this long journey,” he said, “we can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” Liberal commentators celebrated his comments as a blow to the “the re-emergence of a certain neo-clericalism with its formalism” and rejoiced that the “restorationist movement in liturgy is being reversed”.
Liberals have reason to be glad: Francis has shown that he is sympathetic to their desire for a liturgy that feels more like a communal meal than an ancient sacrifice. But does Francis’s declaration mean that after millennia of development liturgical evolution has arrived at a final state and now must stop? In a word, no. One might as well magisterially declare that spilt milk can’t be put back in the carton, or dogmatically define that Humpty Dumpty can’t be reassembled, as proclaim that liturgical reform cannot be reversed. It is like a son proudly declaring that he cannot undo a grave mistake. The observation is incontestable, even if shame would be preferable to boasts. The question is not whether we can undo past blunders, but rather how to clean up the mess.
Francis’ remarks are yet another sign of his anxiety over the traditional direction in which young Catholics are carrying the Church. We have seen this before, in the stories he tells about young priests who shout at strangers and play dress-up, unlike the wise, old, compassionate (and liberal) monsignori. Francis has played variations of John Lennon’s Imagine: “We are grandparents called to dream and give our dream to today’s youth: they need it.” Maybe so, but the youth do not seem to want it.
As any young progressive or old traditionalist will tell you, age does not dictate whether one prefers dogma or liberty, ritual or casualness. Yet across much of the Catholic world, young traditionalists are competing against old progressives. Ironies abound, as youths who revere the venerable face off against elders who chase the up-to-date, and progressives who fear the future battle with traditionalists who loathe their immediate forebears.
Anyone who doubts the reality of the conflict should visit a monastery or convent, where young monastics will almost invariably be more traditional than their elders. In France, in 20 years’ time a majority of priests will celebrate exclusively the traditional Latin mass. Wherever one looks, the kids are old rite.
Few have spoken as eloquently about the changes the Church is undergoing as Fr René Dinklo, provincial of the Dutch Dominicans, and the only member of his order from Generation X. One of Fr Dinklo’s earliest memories is of a confessional filled with the drums used by the youth choir. By the time he joined the order in the early 1990s, the Dutch Dominicans had discarded their traditional prayers and come to believe that the order would be transformed into an assembly of laymen. He had reason to think he would be the last priest in a province that had lasted for 500 years.
Then the province began to get vocations. The young Dutch Dominicans were eager to reconstitute the forms of life and prayer their elders had dismantled. “We are on the brink of far-reaching changes,” Fr Dinklo observed in an address last year. “In this situation tensions between generations may arise.” The younger men want to wear the habit and “re-discover a number of religious practices, rituals, forms of singing and prayer from the tradition which the older generation has set aside”. In order to avoid generational conflict, these young men are being established in a new house.
In a 2010 address, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia described the experiences of these young traditionalists. “My sense is that these twenty- and thirty-somethings have been radicalised by their experience … in a way that we were not.” After “God-knows-what kinds of personal and social experiences”, they have come to know “moral chaos, personally and socially, and they want no part of it”. A sense of narrow escape guides their vocations. “It is as if they had gone to the edge of an abyss and pulled back.”
DiNoia’s generation sought to unite the Church and the world, but the young priests believe the two are finally opposed. “It may be hard for us to comprehend, but these young people do not share the cultural optimism that many of us learned to take for granted in the post-conciliar period.” They lament the “Church’s own internal secularisation”, particularly “the disenchantment of the liturgy”. This explains their enthusiasm for the 1962 missal.
DiNoia is anxious for the priests of his generation. Despite their talk of being open to the future, “I am not certain that we … are entirely ready for the kind of radical rejection of the ambient culture on the one hand, and, on the other, the radical commitment to the Dominican-Catholic alternative way of life that we recognise in the young men.”
Many young Catholics feel that they have been denied an inheritance that was rightly theirs. They have had to reassemble piecemeal something that should have been handed to them intact. An English academic recently told me of his attempt to obtain a copy of the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, a reference book that went from impeccable authority to liber prohibitus at the time of the Council. He contacted a Belgian who helped declining religious houses dispose of their libraries. This Belgian found a Franciscan community that was willing to sell its set – but at the last moment took a different course. The monks decided to burn the books, “to prevent them getting into the hands of traditionalists”.
Who are these terrifying young traditionalists? Step into a quiet chapel in New York and you will find an answer. There, early each Saturday morning, young worshippers gather in secret. They are divided by sex: women on the left, men on the right. Dressed in denim and Birkenstocks, with the occasional nose piercing, they could be a group of loiterers on any downtown sidewalk. But they have come here with a purpose. As a bell rings, they rise in unison. A hooded priest approaches the altar and begins to say Mass in Latin. During Communion, they kneel on the bare floor where an altar rail should be.
In a city where discretion is mocked and vice goes on parade, the atmosphere of reverence is startling. These Masses began a year ago, when a young priest finally gave in to the young worshippers’ demands. They wanted the traditional Mass; he feared offending older colleagues who loathe it. This secret conventicle was the compromise. Advertised by word of mouth among students and young professionals, it has slowly grown.
After the Last Gospel, the worshippers break their fast nearby with coffee. I ask one how she started coming here. “I’ve been going to Mass for 24 years,” she says. “I still go to both forms, but when I encountered the Latin Mass it felt more reverent. I was taken out of this world.” Her manner is disarming, her dress contemporary and unassuming. As the conversation drifts into a discussion of why Pius IX was right in the Mortara case, I reflect that she is the kind of person image-conscious Catholics would like to hold up as the Church’s future – were she not so drawn to its past.
Matthew Schmitz is senior editor of First Things and a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. This article first appeared in the September 1 2017 issue of the Catholic Herald.