I had the opportunity to attend a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) this past Sunday at my parish. My decision to seek out the “Mass of the Ages” was partially based on curiosity and partially based on convenience. Let me explain. I had heard about the dramatic conversion of the wayward actor, Shia LaBeouf, who has been cast as Padre Pio in a new film. While researching the character of Padre Pio and immersing himself within Catholic culture, LaBeouf began attending the TLM. In a recent interview with Bishop Robert Baron which has already garnered 1.5 million views on YouTube, LaBeouf was quoted as saying, “Latin Mass affects me deeply. I feel that I am being let in on something that is very special.”
This certainly piqued my interest. I also attended the TLM this weekend as it was the mass right before our annual parish picnic and with the gas prices at an all-time high, I did not want to make two separate trips. So, the convergence of these two seemingly unrelated events put me in the presence of one the most reverent and beautiful masses I have ever experienced.
I was born in the 1960’s and although the Novos Ordo officially began in 1969 after Vatican II, I have very few memories of the old rite. With some dismay, I do vividly remember the gaudy felt banners, guitars and supposed modern music of the 1970’s that the Novus Ordo ushered in. By all standards, the Novus Order, which was originally intended to include, involve and embrace the laity has been an abject failure. Since 1970 there has been a marked decline in every Catholic demographic imaginable – from the number of overall vocations, Catholic parishes, Catholic schools, infant baptisms, weddings, etc. But the most shocking statistic is the number of Catholics that faithfully attend weekly Mass, down from 54.9% in 1970 to a paltry 17.3% in 2021.
The closure of our churches and the denial of sacraments during the pandemic will likely bring that number even lower in coming years as our current Church hierarchy agreed with progressive politicians that attending Mass was “nonessential.” Additionally, only one third of all Catholics now believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which correlates with the practice of Communion received standing upright and placed in the hand.
What I witnessed at the TLM was a reverence that I have not seen in recent memory. The priest’s vestments were dignified – ornate yet simple and did not look like a flowing muumuu with silly symbols as the Novus Ordo chasuble often does. The Gregorian chants were beautifully sung and uplifting. There was a lot more kneeling involved at this Mass as an outward sign of penitence and repentance. Women covered their heads with a chapel veil to demonstrate their humility which is in stark contrast to the vanity and immodesty of our modern era. The bells and incense touched the senses and although the Mass was in Latin (a language I do not fully understand) I knew exactly when the consecration had occurred. There was silence and an opportunity for deep meditation and pray. We all knelt to receive the Eucharist carefully placed on the tongue.
It is not only about what I saw, but what was absent that made a profound impact as well. There was no soft, lisping priest lecturing us all on social justice, inclusion and equity. There were no heavy-set menopausal feminist types in the sanctuary trying to desperately make the mass all about themselves and women’s rights. There was not the constant banter of programmed responses by the laity often said with little or no feeling. There was no awkward hand shake of peace, which since Covid-19 is more of a wave. There were no corny Marty Haugen songs like All Are Welcome or Gather Us In. There was no applause, no accolades for the musicians or celebrant. There were no loud conversations before or after the Mass. It was less of a shared meal and more of a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus crucified.
Just like Shia LaBeouf, I too was deeply affected by the Latin Mass as are many others that have begun to attend. From 2019 to 2021 this mass has grown exponentially while all others have declined. One has to wonder why Pope Francis issued his apostolic letter, Traditionis Custodes, which sharply limits the faithful’s access to the TLM. Why would the pope limit the one area of growth in the Catholic Church in America? This is truly baffling. The TLM may just be what is needed to save our Church from the heresy and apostasy currently afflicting Her. With the grace of God, the TLM will continue to grow and flourish bringing a rebirth of spirituality, morals, values and ethics to our Church and land.