From Fr. Z:

Will anyone come?
By Rev. Peter J. Daly

The parish just to the west of mine has been celebrating the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass for more than 15 years. The pastor has special permission granted years ago by the former Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal James Hickey. He is also one of the few priests around who remembers the pre-1962 ritual.

Almost nobody comes.

He gets about 30 people per Sunday, even though his is the only Latin Mass for at least 40 miles around in an area that encompasses more than 20 parishes.

Most of the people who come are elderly. They like this Mass because it is quiet and short. It reminds them of the olds days. A few young people come once in a while out of curiosity. They do not come back often.

My neighboring pastor is a bit exasperated with the whole thing. It means a lot of work for him. Under the old liturgy the priest did just about everything. The people who come to the Latin Mass like that part of the tradition just fine. They don’t think they should have to do anything but show up. After all, it is the priest who says Mass. They are just spectators.

Before Vatican II’s reforms, there were no lectors or eucharistic ministers. The servers said most of the responses. A lot of the prayers were said “sotto voce,” i.e., inaudibly.

For my neighbor, the extra liturgy means that he has had to move the altar used for the Mass facing the people. (He has recently stopped doing this because nobody showed up to help him.) Then he has to set out different books and change into different vestments.

Most inconvenient of all, he has to prepare and preach a different homily.

Why a different homily? Because there are different readings. In the pre-1962 liturgy there was a one-year cycle of readings. We read only an Epistle and a Gospel. There were no readings from the Old Testament. We didn’t hear much of the Bible and it was heard in Latin.

Since the reforms of Vatican II our book of readings for Sundays (Lectionary) has a three-year cycle, which includes readings from the Hebrew Scriptures. So my neighbor can’t even preach the same homily for the Latin and English Masses on most Sundays.

A few folks from my parish go over to my neighbor’s parish for the Latin Mass. Mostly they are quite elderly. They don’t like all the singing at my parish. They don’t like shaking hands. They don’t like Communion in both forms. They don’t like having three readings.

They tell me what they like most about the Latin Mass is that they can get in and get out in less than 45 minutes. They put a high premium on speed. A good liturgy is a short liturgy.

For them a good liturgy also is one where they don’t have to speak to anyone or do anything. Their whole attitude says “I want no commitment and I want no communication.” Hardly the “full and active participation” that Vatican II called for.

So now that Pope Benedict XVI has issued his “motu proprio” permitting the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, will there be big crowds at the Latin Mass? Will more parishes start to offer it? I doubt it.

Apart from the schismatic followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and a few young people who are nostalgic for a church they never knew, almost nobody is pressing for it. Nobody under the age of 55 even remembers the old Latin ritual.

I think my neighbor’s experience will be the experience of the church. We can offer it. But almost nobody will come.

I only have two things to say about this piece:

The parish to which Fr. Daly is referring is St. Francis DeSales in Benedict, Md., which is in the middle of nowhere and loves the Extraordinary Form.

The CNS website says that Fr. Daly was ordained in 1986, which explains the pedantic and insulting tone of the piece when referring to anything pre-Vatican II.  The reset mentality is typical of the spirit of the age that bore Fr. Daly.

WAC

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