11 October 2006

Living as a Traditionalist in a Novus Ordo World

Coutresy of Lumen Gentleman

When all is said and done, however, Sunday still rolls around eventually, and Fr. Trash-it-All will still be waiting at the altar when the time for morning Mass arrives. What to do then? In this case, we would be hard-pressed to find a more traditional phrase than "offer it up." Assuming that Fr. Trash is not engaging in out-right blasphemy while executing the rubrics, preaching clear heresy from the pulpit, or presenting some obvious occasion of sin (like asking bikini-clad women to distribute Communion), annoying abuses in the liturgy can become a salvific opportunity to suffer in union with Christ, and to engage in self-examination. It is irritating when Fr. Trash starts ad-libbing the prayers, no doubt; but how irritating is it to God that I came here today with Hail Marys on my lips, but pride in my heart? It frustrates me when Fr. Trash insists on using 47 Eucharistic Ministers every Sunday, when the most people we've ever had at a single Mass was no more than 125; but how frustrating is it to God that I came here to receive Communion after having ignored Him all week?

Yes, liturgical abuses are objectively bad, and we should not adopt the false principle that we can say nothing about such abuses until we have reached perfection in our own lives. On the other hand, too often the tendency is to complain too much, and forget our own imperfections entirely; the distance between this attitude and hypocrisy is shorter than we might think. The trick is to maintain a healthy balance: deplore the abuses, but use them as an opportunity for self-examination, an opportunity for suffering with Christ - then take some kind of concrete action to get the problem solved.

St. John and Our Lady stood by while the greatest sacrilege of all time was committed: the murder of the Savior of the World by wicked men. This did not in any way imply that Our Lady or St. John approved of what was taking place; rather, precisely because they deplored the sacrilege, they suffered with Our Lord, because it certainly caused them much suffering to watch Him undergo the Passion. Some have said in the past that the rampant abuses in the New Mass are tantamount to crucifying Christ all over again; if that is so, then perhaps those who have no other alternative must say with St. Thomas the Apostle, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (Jn. 11:16)


This individual means well. He wants to preserve reverence. In the process, however, he has committed his own series of liturgical abuses by improvising his own prayers and rubrics; dissent is never cured by further dissent, and this individual has not yet realized this fact. He unwittingly becomes part of the problem.

What we are saying here goes a long way towards answering the question, "what should I do if I have to attend an abusive Novus Ordo Mass?" Indeed, what should we do? Bring our 1962 missals and pray the prayers quietly, while the New Mass is going on all around us? Bring our Rosaries and sit in the back, praying while ignoring the liturgy itself? Unfortunately, this leads us too much in the direction of becoming liturgical abusers ourselves. The Mass was meant for "active participation," which, while it does not mean "busy-ness," does mean an interior participation of the soul. It means reciting the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, and making the other responses that the New Mass calls for. It means making those prayers our own, absorbing their content with our own minds, appropriating them for our own worship. We cannot do this if we are busy celebrating our own little private liturgy in the back corner, segregated away from the rest of the congregation both in body and in spirit.

It is an entirely traditional thing to do to stick closely with the liturgical rubrics; if we want to be traditionally-minded Catholics living in a "Novus Ordo World," the thing to do is to be Catholic - and Catholics are attached to the liturgical rubrics and texts. It is not Catholic to go into a liturgy and immediately detach yourself from it, in order to disappear into your own liturgical world; in fact, that is a very Protestant thing to do. The Catholic submits to the texts and the rubrics, or he doesn't attend the liturgy at all.

But there are ways in which a Catholic can retain certain traditional customs in the New Mass, without becoming a liturgical abuser himself. Women, for example, can and should wear veils; the Vatican has never revoked this canonical law, and as late as 1969 even Msgr. Bugnini was admitting that fact. The liturgical rubrics can be followed exactly, which in itself is something most modern Catholics do not do in their own parishes; for example, the new rubrics call for the faithful to bow profoundly (deeply) during the Credo at the words "by the power of the Holy Spirit ... He became Man," but hardly anyone observes this rubric. However, it is called for by the missal, and observing this rubric obviously involves no disobedience or abuse of the liturgy.


Both within and without the context of the Mass, there are many ways in which a Catholic today can preserve the traditions of the Church, without disobeying anyone or acting contrary to Church Law. As mentioned, we can pray the Rosary daily; we can pray the Angelus daily; we can fast and abstain from meat on Fridays; we can observe the midnight fast before Sunday Mass; we can make an offering of ourselves and our sufferings at those Masses that are most irritating; we can stick with the rubrics of the Mass; we can dress appropriately for Mass and give a good example; we can be sure to make a good thanksgiving after Mass.

It is, of course, never easy to go against the grain, or to do those things that have become counter-cultural. But the fact is, these things are still encouraged by the Church, regardless of the fact that many American parishes insist on disobeying Rome. As Catholics who are loyal to the Pope, it seems that it would be in our best interests to make a public statement precisely by staying close to Rome. Dissent, as was said, is never cured by further dissent. Adam and Eve bequeathed a world cursed by sin to their descendents, precisely because of disobedience. It only stands to reason, then, that the very problem of sin in this world, brought on by original disobedience, will never be expiated by further acts of disobedience. On the contrary, the antidote to disobedience is obedience, and the problem today is that many have become ignorant of the fact that Rome still asks us to do things like abstain from meat on Fridays, fast before the Mass, etc.

We become victims of dissent if we let these things disappear from common practice, while the rest of the Catholic world absorbs the illusion that things like women wearing veils at Mass have been outlawed, or discontinued. The only way to raise awareness of these things and keep them "current" is to begin to live them out in our own lives, without wavering or making exceptions.

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