Venite Missa Est! will be featuring those individuals and families that make up our Latin Mass (EFLR) Community at St. Anthony in future articles. It is our hope that in doing so we can better know our neighbors in the pews and share stories, pictures, memories and camaraderie. Look for articles on Father Lies, our choir and director, those who hand out bulletins, take money, clean, attend, worship and serve...who knows...you may be next!
from The Tablet, Ringing in the Old, June 21, 2008
by Elena Curti http://www.thetablet.co.uk
A Pontifical High Mass in the Tridentine Rite was said in Westminster Cathedral last weekend for the first time in four decades. Its celebrant, a close ally of the Pope and an ambassador for the old liturgy, promised that further changes will be afoot.
Imagine for a moment a vibrant and confident Catholic church, the pews filled every Sunday with parishioners of all ages, eager to celebrate a distinctive liturgy that will impart a sense of reverence and awe and the mystery of Christ's redeeming sacrifice.
That is the vision of the Church presented last weekend by a senior member of the Curia, Dario
Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos. And the means of achieving it, he claims, is the revival of the Tridentine Rite.
Priests Vestments from The Baltimore Catechism
Is that a maniple or a chasuble?
A few years back while browsing through a used bookstore I found a most wonderful book entitled My Catholic Faith by Luis LaRaviore Morrow, dated 1961. It is based on A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Revised Edition of the Baltimore Catechism, the Holy Bible and the Collectio Rituum. It is still in print, though the illustrations are not as clear, but remains otherwise intact and faithful to this older edition.
Follow the link and get schooled on your chasubles and cassocks..............................here.
Personal reflection:The Promise
The smell was the first thing I noticed, then the darkness. Both stopped me in my tracks and I waited while my eyes adjusted and I breathed in the smell of the building. I knew that smell from long ago…it was the smell of wood, plaster, brick and mildew. It was the smell of decades old varnish and chalk dust…of spilt milk and rubber balls....of dirty sneakers and teacher's sweet perfume...It was the smell of St. Mary's Catholic school and I found it not unpleasant.
On this particularly glorious June day it was my job, as a part time janitor, to varnish the 100 year old wood floors of St. Mary's school and it was very early morning. The sun was already reflecting on the cross atop the steeple, but as I stepped into the hallway of the school it was silent and dark with shadows of dark brown and faded white…like an old photo on your grandmother’s dresser.
Immediately out of instinct, or a childhood of forged manners, I quieted myself...softened my stride, turned off my iPod and closed my phone and the text message I was sending.
I had not been in the school in 41 years. I hadn't attended class here, but I spent time here in catechism and in preparation for my first communion in the church next door. Hello old school.
I set my equipment down, my mops and handles, and the backbreaking bucket of goo I was to spread on the old tattered floor, and looked around curiously. The dark wainscoting rose to nearly my height as it stretched upward towards the 12 foot ceilings...high ceilings to displace the summer heat. I flipped the old light switch and it made that old mechanical click that one never hears anymore. It echoed down the quiet hallway into the four big classrooms divided by the central hall and a smaller perpendicular hall that led to the restrooms. Above the doors the old vent windows were open, or more accurately, stuck open by time and stubbornness and the single bulbs glowed dim in the hall above original glass domes...the kind of light fixtures you see on antique shows.
I entered each classroom, turning the metal knobs above the skeleton key holes, two creaky doors to each room, pulled the long chains to the ceiling fans and was generally not interested in starting work.
I sat on the bucket of goo in the hall (gee a cup of coffee would be nice) and thought of the long day ahead...moving entire classrooms contents to one side of the room to varnish, then moving it all back to the other side to varnish, was a daunting task. So I dawdled some more and thought I heard the sound of children laughing ("nah, that had to be outside"), then I imagined I heard the rustling of skirts and soft shoes ("no way, that's just the ceiling fans") and I strained to hear what I really only imagined...but only heard car doors slamming at the courthouse across the street, rolling trains, and the occasional conversation of passersby.
But as I sat, somewhere in the soft breeze of the ceiling fans and the floating dust in the soft light, the old school seemed to whisper to me, somehow beckoning me.
Childhood memories of sweet innocence, scraped knees, Schwinn bicycles and white undershirts (t-shirts nowadays) flooded my brain, neurotransmitters dancing crazily with memories of 13 oz. Levis, Romper Room and baseball caps. In my imagination the old school had recognized me ("I remember you...do you remember me?...why don't you see if that sweater you left here in 1966 is still hanging on the hook?...boy your Mom was mad, it was a brand new sweater, the second one you lost that year!...remember when you made your first confession and had to makeup sins because you couldn't think of any? Do you still have that dog..?").
As I sat on the bucket I realized that the school and I were getting re-acquainted...or rather, I was being re-acquainted with my childhood self…and it was good.
I thought of myself as a boy, a little Catholic in training, full of exuberance for life and love and Mom and Dad and Jesus and the Saints. I thought of those lessons from the catechism we learned, or rather was drilled into us.....on life and God's grace, Jesus' sacrifice and Mary Our Mother. We learned scary things such as consequence and hell, sin and virtue (yes it was scary to think of the work it took to be good!).
Most notably I remember the original promise...the original promise of eternal love of Holy Catholic Church and her bridegroom, our Savior Jesus Christ. It was a promise of always being there in protection and salvation, of judgment and punishment...being there when the lights were turned off at night...when the peacocks down the street would let loose their mournful cries in the evening (I always thought they were crying in their drawn out way "help, help"). "The promise" would be there in my mothers loving arms when I would wake in the morning and in the French toast I got for breakfast. That promise of love and guardianship would accompany us when we walked the brick streets downtown for vanilla phosphates and returned with us as we walked the Santa Fe tracks home. And it would be there when I stole the neighbor girl’s ice cream and got whipped for it.
That original promise was with me as I knelt at the communion rail at seven years old and got sprinkled with the ice cream scooper (!), marveled at the priest in his vestments and received my first communion...and yes I did make up sins at my very first confession.
But oh how foolish we become when we grow up. Along the way I had forgotten the promise and more importantly I had abdicated my role in the promise....the responsibility of reciprocating in the covenant, the promise between God and his people in which God makes certain promises but requires certain behavior in return.
I thought of these things through the morning as I heaved and labored, grunting and sweating, mopping the finish on the old worn floors. The Blessed Virgin looked down in each classroom; eyes filled with eternal love...hands folded in supplication or open to her children. Her son hung in passion along her side...forever entreating the Father for mercy towards us...and forever awaiting next year’s class of first graders. The promise was always there...it was always here, and as I performed my humble work I was being reminded of that promise… in the quiet way God whispers to children.
I took several water breaks throughout the afternoon, the high ceilings and fans proving to be less and less effective against the heat. As I waited for floors to dry I thought of the thousands of children who had passed these halls...and how the saints who lined the corridors had been silent witness to all of them. Here was St. Francis holding a bird. There was St. Joseph with the Christ child... a curious shock of gray hair on his head. There...the infant of Prague all grown up (ok, so I got THAT one wrong). Here, an odd picture from 1942 of Christ as a child embracing the globe with his finger landing on Greenland. To his European side are Old World buildings, and on his North American side are modern skyscrapers....are those WWII bomber planes flying overhead? A gorgeous old lithograph of Mary our Mother, sitting upon a throne with her beloved son in one hand and a rose in the other. Above her cherubs fly…I note the one with the receding hairline.
Many times throughout life I was to reflect on these very Saints and on the lessons I had heard as a child, but for many, many years I chose to ignore them as I drifted further and further away. One gets a certain false sense of pride in manliness and intellectualisms, in money and its pursuit...in material desires and lust, in worldliness and vanity. I had committed much sin and had suffered greatly, yes I had found happiness but it always was temporal and the church never seemed to offer any answers. Funny enough, I would always tell people that I was Catholic even if I hadn’t stepped in a confessional in 30 years.
It was about seven years ago that I attended a confirmation mass for my girlfriend. About a month later, something sparked in my conscience…”Mass starts at noon…you should go”…so I did. I couldn't remember when to kneel, stand or spit…and it was nothing but curiosity…until a few days later when that little voice whispered to me again. And I went again, but it would be a long time until I fully gave in…it was a long time till I finally let go….I only fully re-entered the deep end with great trepidation.
The deep end for me took the form of the Traditional Latin Mass (EFLR). I don’t really remember the old liturgy …but I remember incense and silence, my father in his suit and my mother beating her breast. I remember communion rails and whispered prayers, scarves on women’s heads and mothers white gloves. Now as an adult had I found it or had it found me? Had it spoke to me in hushed tones like I imagined this old school had been?
The Latin Mass has proven to be my glorious falling…the kind of fall when you step off a diving board …so high up and so scary. But the entry is wonderful and joyful: when you swim you really are just letting go and giving yourself up to the power of the deep water…never really conquering it, just floating on top. You only surrender to the water, you don’t fight it, and in doing so the symbiotic relationship forms…is that not a sort of covenant? Isn’t this like that unspoken original promise?
Post supper and the day is waning; the shadows have crept from one side of the building to the other and now are merging silently…slowly…into twilight. I was backing down the main hallway so as not to paint myself in a corner. As I retreated I shut doors, turned off lights and fans and strained to see…the single bulbs in their fancy globes served only as transitional technology in 1908 over gaslight and lanterns. As I passed each statue they whispered goodbye in my imagination with their own special message:
St. Joseph; “Your father prays for and misses you…keep praying for him…take it easy on the kids…right now they’re acting dumb, but they’ll grow out of it…..
St. Francis; “I like your dogs and chickens!”
Mother Mary; “Say many prayers my child and pray the Rosary often, I am always with you as is my Son”.
Grown up Infant of Prauge; “Um, that’s not my name. Were you NOT paying attention in class?”
Christ on the Cross; “I love you”
The last statue on the way out is not a Saint but an ordinary boy, an altar boy. I can tell that he is the oldest and probably the only original statue left with glass eyes that seem to twinkle in the dim light. His attire is extremely old fashioned; his surplice has fancy lace adorning the bottom, his sleeves hang low with scalloped edges and his neck line is tied together in a bow. He stands reverently, holding a crucifix in his hands, his eyes gazing in adoration at the crucified Christ.
I like him the best because he is most like me…just an ordinary guy…and sometimes in my heart, especially before God, I am just a boy. I don’t imagine he would say much to me…except this; “do what you can, whatever your station in life to love, serve and adore…in this you hold up your end of the promise”. Smart kid that altar boy.
I finish my task and pack it all up. The stars are twinkling in the darkening sky and the town is settling in for the night. I wave to Father M. as I load up my equipment. His day is ending as well.
I re-enter the hallway to say goodnight. Again I notice the smell and the darkness and it makes me pause…in one day I have come full circle…a microcosm of the life cycle played out in hours, beginning to end with the promise of another day on the lips of the Almighty. My faith has come full circle as well, from the innocence of childhood, as this old school reminds me, to the “letting go” I have found in the old Latin Mass….I have let go and let the waters of my baptism take me once again…
…and as I lock the doors and walk away the 100 year old altar boy, from high atop his pedestal, reminds me that God’s promise has and always will stand.
Post Script: "The Promise" in no way reflects official Catholic doctrine but serves only as personal reflection.