This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae

When I was young, Vatican II was a household subject. I don't remember ever not knowing what Vatican II was, and I don't remember ever asking. I came from a very old, very Catholic family.

People always talked about the Latin Mass. I didn't know what it was for a long time, I only knew it was outlawed, and I knew it was for good reason. 

Then, my church put on a Latin Mass. I remember the buzz and the crackle; the classical radio station came and brought their giant microphones and my parents telling me Latin Mass was OK this once. It was for special. A Big Deal. And boy was I excited. And then the service began, and then began the most abject boredom I'd ever experienced. What was the point of having a special Latin Mass if they were going to have the whole thing in another language? This was a big deal? This was forbidden?

The Catholic church didn't conduct Latin services because they believed Latin was the language of the enlightened. They didn't do it to be exclusive or intellectual. The word "catholic," with a lower-case "c," means "embracing all." The church wanted to have all masses said in Latin so that anyone could go to any church anywhere in the world and understand the language - so that everyone could be included.

Of course, that didn't go quite the direction it was supposed to go, and instead of everybody understanding, nobody did. And it only took the church a few centuries to figure it out and give up the ghost. Which is really quite quick, for Catholicism. 

Interesting note: Universalism is a faith that believes all souls are saved; everyone has a chance to reconcile with God. Universalism is new and open and ever-changing. Catholicism is staid and sturdy, rich with tradition. The faiths are as vastly different as country mouse and city mouse, yet the lowercase words "universal" and "catholic" are synonyms. Cool, huh?


Joshua said...

You should be around CUA to hear the discussions about the Latin Mass. I am sure you know that since Vat II the Tredentine Rite has been opened up as a valid rite. The history is striking.

My conviction is that liturgical standardization is a political move and for Vatican II to endorse "enculturation" and the importance of vernacular rites was a HUGE move. Now, the Church is trying to close some doors.

In terms of those American's calling for the Tredntine Rite, I am convinced it is an elitist move but primarily white and educated parishioners. Take the mass out of the hands of the people.


Brigid Daull Brockway said...

Joshua -
The church does tend to take one step forward and five steps back, doesn't it? It's sad to see the Catholicism I grew up with alongside the Catholicism that most people experience.