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The Presence Of God And The Latin Mass

June 20, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By DEACON MIKE MANNO

Those of you who have followed this column know that about seven months ago I had a stroke. Fortunately, through the mercy of God, I quickly recovered with little or no problems. However, it has affected my sight; I can no longer read well, struggling to make out each word like a first grader following his fingers across the page, and my peripheral vision has been compromised to the point that I still cannot drive.
Thus when I am at the altar assisting at Mass, I can no longer proclaim the Gospel, nor can I read the Prayers of the Faithful. The priest will read the Gospel for me and the lector will read the prayers. I still cannot preach since I write out all my homilies and, not being a gifted speaker, would simply read them.
So one of my drawbacks from the stroke was that I was no longer able to assist at a cross-town Latin Mass that I would attend every Sunday evening. I had been doing so for several years at the invitation of that parish’s pastor, an old friend, and his associate with whom I had gotten to know very well.
Not being a Latin scholar, I could do little more than sit in choir, read the Epistle and Gospel in English, preach occasionally, and help with the distribution of Communion — the Latin Mass protocols only allow for an ordained minister, deacon or priest, to do so. Unfortunately, the partial loss of my vision was enough to keep me from driving to the Latin Mass and I was unable to participate.
With the pastor and assistant there were only about three other priests in our geographic area who could say the Latin Mass, so when the pastor retired due to health issues, and the associate was sent for additional schooling out of state, it sounded trouble for the Latin Mass.
However, our bishop, William Joensen, asked my pastor if he and our parish could continue the Latin Mass, and he agreed. Last night was our first Latin Mass and I was there, in choir, for the first time since October 24, and I couldn’t have been happier! It brought a newness and a fresh perspective and appreciation for the Latin Mass that was renewed yesterday.
My first observation is one I have really taken to heart, because it is now something I use. When we distribute Communion at the Novus Ordo Mass we say to them, “The Body of Christ,” as most receive standing and in the hand. That always seemed to me to show a lack of reverence, almost as if I was handing out cookies to children as an after lunch treat.
I was always more impressed by the Latin formula. As communicants are kneeling at an altar rail, they receive on the tongue as they say, “Corpus Domini nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.” Translated, “May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.”
In my mind, that is more reverent and expresses an important theological truth. Thus I use the English translation when taking Communion to the homebound and hospitalized, then I say “the Body of Christ.”
But there is something that I apparently am not the only one to notice. It is the growing number of young people who attend.
I noticed that when I first started assisting at the Latin Mass. I saw the volume of young families with small children who were present, and many of them were the parents of the many youngsters who were taking part as servers and acolytes, and they showed up last night.
Just to give you an example, we had two deacons — one on the cusp of priestly Ordination, and a seminarian sitting in choir, two MCs, two altar servers and six acolytes, most under nine. And the reaction of our regular parishioners was amazement.
Several mentioned to me how they were surprised to see so many young girls dressed as if it were First Communion, and the number of men who wore ties, not to mention the veils on so many of the women and girls. They commented on the beauty of the Traditional Latin chants and hymns as well as the use of incense during certain parts of the Mass.
It all underscored what I saw from a friend of mine, an ex-con who started RCIA with me a few years ago. I had taken him to my parish church and later to the Latin Mass. Now here was a man of no faith background who was actively looking forward to his Baptism and reception into the Church.
When I asked him why he was making such a transition, he said it was very simple: In the church, especially at the Latin Mass, he could feel the presence of God and that is where he wanted to be. Unfortunately for my friend, one stupid mistake caused him to be arrested and sent back to prison on a probation violation. What is worse is the correctional system was largely closed by COVID and he was confined for several years.
I continued to keep in touch with him, answering his questions about Catholicism, and sending him copies of lessons from our RCIA syllabus. I found out later he began to share those lessons with fellow inmates. After several indicated that they were Catholic, they formed a group of Catholic inmates who would meet regularly to discuss religion.
I was a bit surprised to note that his prison counselor, when writing about him to the state parole board, noted that he was the leader of the Catholic inmates group. His parole was granted and by the time this is published he should be released and his first priority is to attend the Latin Mass at his “home” parish and to finally become a baptized Catholic, a ceremony I intend to perform myself.
So why was an agnostic so attracted to the Latin Mass that his deepest desire is to become Catholic? I think it is for the same reason men showed up with ties, little girls in dresses, and the little boys are clamoring to serve as acolytes, and young families making the Latin parish its parish of choice.
It is that for 2,000 years the Church has brought people to God by using all their senses. Everything that is done is clearly done for the glory of the Almighty, from the architecture to the music, stained glass, Gregorian chant, and incense. It is not that a lot of folks understand Latin, it is that the whole package combines to bring, as my friend noted, the presence of God to any with an open heart.
I know there are those who pooh-pooh the “old” Mass, and many consider it divisive. It is not. It is a unifying point that has been bringing the presence of God to the people for two centuries. I’m very proud of the part my parish is now playing in carrying out that mission, and proud of my very small part in it.
(You can reach Mike at: DeaconMike@q.com and listen to him every Thursday morning at 9:30 CT on Faith On Trial on IowaCatholicRadio.com.)

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