What Someone Ought to See and Hear
I was at the parish church of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia yesterday afternoon. The pastor and I supervised a run-through for our first High Mass according to the classical Roman Rite, to be celebrated just two weeks from today. There were nearly thirty gentlemen with us to serve at the altar. They took time out from a perfectly lovely day, to learn the choreography of the Mass. As first master of ceremonies, I have a critical role in assisting the priest, and in directing movements within the sanctuary. Before the day arrives, I will meet with my second emcee (who basically oversees the others as I am assisting the priest), the sacristan, and the good Father, to go over a few details.
One of the rewards of this apostolate, is the opportunity to work with this great bunch of guys. They are much like boys their own age anywhere else. They like sports, video games -- you know, the usual hot-doggin' around. But they know the time for every purpose under heaven, and they appreciate the respect given to their intelligence when they aspire to an interest in the sacred. Such was the message to the editor of The Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The letter was published on the 20th of September, and has been making its rounds in the Catholic blogosphere. In case you missed it, here it is:
I am 16 years old, and for the past 11 months I have attended the traditional Latin Mass weekly, while still attending the Novus Ordo Mass during the week. Because of this, I decided to address certain points made by Carroll Sterne in the Sept 6 edition of The Georgia Bulletin. Mr Sterne speaks about the type of Mass that someone of a younger generation is drawn to, and I thought that a teenager’s point of view might be helpful.
Mr Sterne in his letter gives voice to the opinion of many of today’s liturgists when he says that no one from a younger generation would be drawn to the Latin Mass (many take this even further and assume that we would not like a reverent Novus Ordo Mass either). This opinion causes many of those who plan modern liturgies to do veritable back flips in an attempt to draw teenagers and young adults in. Sometimes this works, but it has a side effect: by doing these things, liturgists show that they have absolutely no faith in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to change the lives of those in my generation. My generation knows about this lack of faith, we are able to see it every time we go to a “teen Mass” and experience priests ad-libbing prayers in an attempt to make them more relevant to us.
This lack of faith backfires; it sends us the message that we also should distrust the power of the liturgy, and it also can turn the Mass into something of a joke.
After experiencing this for months, I attended a Traditional Latin Mass and experienced something that I’d never seen before: Here was a priest who expected my life to be changed without adding anything to the Mass in an attempt to bring this change about. This priest had perfect faith in the power of the liturgy, and it showed. It was beautiful. The traditional Mass did more to change my life then any “relevant” teen Mass ever did.
Ethan Milukas, Peachtree City
Most parish “teen Masses” I’d had to endure are predominated, not by the young people themselves, but by their parents. The elders jump around with guitars and tambourines in front of an indifferent assembly which includes their own children. This fashion-ridden approach may work with some kids for awhile, in no small part through the services of the temporarily-hip "youth minister" on staff. But kids don’t like being patronized by adults, and they eventually tire of it, as they do any other fad.
My son was raised in the Byzantine Rite of his mother. We knew that the iconoclasm pervading the East a millennium ago had yet to run its course in the West, thus we were determined to spare him that fate. Even as his parents began to live separately, his formation in the Eastern Rite continued. Sometimes when Paul and I were on the road, we had occasion to attend a Roman Mass in a contemporary setting. We would see or hear something completely absurd, and give each other that look and roll our eyes simultaneously, as if conversing through a secret language of our own. And even though as a young adult he has taken on a path of his own (and I'm still convinced it's just a phase), one look at this MySpace page will show, that among his favorite books are the Summa Theologica.
It may call to mind a quotation attributed to the baseball legend Babe Ruth, as excerpted in a 1996 Dispatches article written by Michelle Malkin:
"I strayed from the church, but don't think I forgot my religious training. I just overlooked it. I prayed often and hard, but, like many irrepressible young fellows, the swift tempo of my living shoved religion in the background... [but] once religion sinks in, it stays there -- deep down. The lads who get religious training, get it where it counts -- in the roots. They may fail, but it never fails them. When the score is against them, or they get a bum pitch, that unfailing Something inside will be there to draw on... The more I think of it, the more important I feel it is to give kids 'the works' as far is religion is concerned. They'll never want to be holy -- they'll act like tough monkeys in contrast, but somewhere inside will be a solid little chapel. It may get dusty from neglect, but the time will come when the door will be opened with much relief. But the kids can't take, if we don't give it to them." (As referenced in The Washington Times, 06.13.96)
In the meantime, the Archbishop of Atlanta is the Most Reverend Wilton D Gregory, who authors a regular column in the Bulletin entitled "What I Have Seen And Heard."
One can only hope.