Stuff salvaged from posts I never published.
In the 21st century, we have reached the point where Pius X’s observation that modernism is the synthesis of all heresies is beyond dispute. We’ve got Arian’s denial of Christ’s divine nature (I’m spiritual, not religious); Pelegian’s salvation by human effort (CRT, taking the vaxx jab); gnosticism (trust the experts because they F*cking Love Science™); and a soupçon of Donatism (evil white cis-het men are evil just like those icky pedo priests). It’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
The TLM [Traditional Latin Mass] was not just a part of the efforts of typical Catholics to have a nice church. For 1,000 years, it was the reason we wanted a nice church.
The greatest work of art in history, the deepest, most moving, human creation, is a high mass celebrated in a great cathedral. Imagine: a long procession of gorgeously attired figures walks solemnly up the columned nave, candles and incense burning, choirs filling the air with the greatest music ever written. For the next hour and a half, a carefully choreographed ritual is performed, culminating in the dramatic proclamation: “this is My Body; this is My Blood” while bells ring a choirs sing. We respond in words inspired by the centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
Even considered only as human art, it is magnificent; considered as God’s ultimate sacrament, His ultimate Presence among us, the mass is ineffable.
The TLM is one with that experience, as the liturgy, buildings, art, and music developed together for more than 1,000 years! Certainly, a typical parish mass over the last 2,000 years has rarely approached this sublime level artistically, but has approached it spiritually more often than one might imagine. Many Catholics have been to an Easter Vigil or Christmas Midnight Mass that was profoundly, spiritually moving, that shared in the nature of a great high mass in a great building even if falling short in material magnificence.
Of course by the time I got there, and was sentient – the late 60’s and 70’s – things had changed.
I actually remember those Masses pretty vividly. They made a big impact on me, and the impact was all about the music. I’ve never forgotten that music accompanying those Masses in the mid-70’s.
A tape recording of Glory and Praise piped through the loudspeakers.
And not a soul singing along.
The remarkable thing, about the pope’s new Motu Proprio, strangely entitled Traditionis Custodes, is its degree of ignorance. Its entire argument is based on the fantasy that the liturgical changes of the 1960s were somehow made necessary by the commands of Vatican II, and that trying to resist them is the cause of divisions throughout the whole Church. This is obviously false, indeed laughable. The documents of Vatican II called for no such thing.
What these points together entail is suffering. And suffering, as the lives of the saints attest and as scripture teaches us from beginning to end, is the lot of the righteous man – suffering penitentially, suffering in solidarity with others, suffering in unity with Christ’s own agony. This suffering can result from our own sins, or from the effects of original sin on the world around us, or from persecution. And sometimes it can come even from within the Church itself. Christ promises only that she will not be destroyed or, in her decisive pronouncements, bind the faithful to error. Short of that, she can be and sometimes is afflicted with evil of every kind, even at the very top. This is permitted in part precisely to illustrate the truth of Christ’s promise. Even bad popes cannot destroy the Church.
Funny enough, when I started attending all those years ago, my parish was the only one in the entire region to offer the TLM on a regular basis. It was standing-room-only. The congregation has shrunk somewhat since then not due to lack of interest, but because so many other parishes have since started it.
The amazing thing about the “spirit of Vat II” is that it seems to translate in practice as “You can’t have nice things”. Like nice church architecture or Latin masses or good music or silence. My guess is that the reason for this is the Church wants greater equality with the world so the answer is to strip beauty so we’ll be more on par. Sort of like stripping the rich of money so there will be greater equality.
In his 2008 book On Eloquence, he notes the difference between eloquence, which aims to delight, and rhetoric, which aims to convince. “The main attribute of eloquence is gratuitousness; its place in the world is to be without place or function, its mode is to be intrinsic. Like beauty, it claims only the privilege of being a grace note in the culture that permits it,” he writes.
In this unusually personal book, Donoghue recalls his earliest experience of eloquence, in the “polysyllabic thrill” of the Latin Mass. As an altar boy, he didn’t understand the words of the service but preferred them to the English translation, which seemed “a feeble thing” by comparison. In this way Donoghue learned to take pleasure in language irrespective of its meaning, which is the main skill required to be a good reader of poetry.