By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
On a recent Sunday a new young man came into church and sat near the back for the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). After the Mass he departed by the side door so I chased him down before he got to his car. He told me that his name is P., he just moved to our area, and that he is Lutheran and considering taking RCIA to enter the Catholic Church.
The town where he lives is about an hour away. Why did he drive that distance, bypassing several churches, to worship with us? I think it is because the historic worship of the Church is seen as a more serious encounter with our ancient faith that he traveled the distance. Ours is the only advertised TLM in southern Maryland.
People from outside the Church expect our worship to look more like 2,000 years old than something dated 1968. The “old” things from our Catholic storehouse are necessary for the wisdom to accept the invitation to the Kingdom of God in these “new” times so full of challenge, doubt, and lack of faith.
Of course, I welcomed P., told him we’d love to have him join us and gave him a copy of the bulletin.
Another young man in my parish in his 20s who came back to the faith through RCIA and who attends the Traditional Mass recounted a conversation with a priest he encountered near his home. When he informed the priest that he attends the TLM at our parish and revealed his age, the priest responded, “You’re too young to remember that Mass.”
This common reaction is irrational and thus reveals itself as an ideological opposition by certain Catholics for their own tradition.
The age at which one discovers beauty and responds to it does not matter. What is important is that God has made Himself an experience, an event in Christ to be discovered and loved by the world for salvation. Pope Benedict said it well, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est 2006).
One cannot take something as central as the universal sacred worship offered by the Church through history and up to the 1960s out of the tradition and remain volitionally and spiritually Catholic in an honest way. Those who react as this priest did and who would be otherwise ashamed to be ruled by their emotions make an exception when it comes to discussion of the traditional liturgy.
A seminarian of my acquaintance responded to this phenomenon of the massive rejection within the Church of the tradition of the Church with the comment that it is a “generational” issue. His philosophical point of view, I would guess, is shared by many of those his age in the Church. The middle-aged and older proponents of rupture, and the other victims of the mishandling of the implementation of Vatican II, may be converted by prayer but must always be treated with love as we try to keep them in the Church.
A woman of my acquaintance remains unaware of the rupture in her understanding which leads her to say things like, “The only thing that keeps me in the Church is the Eucharist.” She has mentally ruptured the Eucharist from its living source in the Church and the priesthood of the Church. Christ Himself comes to us sacramentally through His living Body in the world in a continuing way only through the Holy Spirit and the Church together.
I heard back from P., the new man I described at the beginning of this column, shortly before sending it off to the editor. The following comes from his note:
“I was the man you rushed after to catch after the 11 a.m. Mass last Sunday; I tried calling the office but I couldn’t get anyone. There is probably no one there by the time I get off work. I wanted to thank you for your kindness and apologize for trying to sneak out.
“I never quite know what to say to a priest after the Mass. I came across your blog today and saw that you mentioned me. You are right, I wanted to experience the Latin Mass. I will admit I was kind of lost during it, but I was also amazed by its beauty. It really allowed me to focus on what the Mass is really about rather than being distracted by other things going on around me. I would love to sit down and talk if you ever have the time. Like I said, I am currently a Missouri Synod Lutheran but am planning on going through RCIA so I would love to sit down and talk about the faith.”
Please pray for P. and all of our young people who want and need the serious worship that speaks of the Church’s power in Christ to bring the serious work of God’s salvation to the world.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
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(Follow Fr. Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism. Father blogs at apriestlife.blogspot.com and you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)