I love surprises. Over the past month I have read just about any article I could find about the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum while supporting this website and my other blog dedicated to the subject www.SummorumPontificum.net. What has been remarkable about most of the coverage of the motu proprio is the ‘sameness’ of it all. This applies the the reaction of bishops, articles in local diocesan papers, and the mainstream media as well. Most of it has been so darn predictable. I feel I could write almost any of it in my sleep.
The Episcopal reaction has been generally cookie cutter and can typically be summed up as “We thank the pope for what he has done for the ultra-traditionalists, however no one else really wants it here and we have done enough for those who do want it.” There have been notable exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions.
The mainstream media coverage has also been rather formulaic. Most of the coverage has not been openly hostile, but generally lackadaisical. They fail to define or understand the terms they use and fail to understand the real substance of what is at issue. As a result we see terms and phrases such as , “Latin Mass”, “tridentine”, “Done away with by Vatican II” “mass defined in the 16th century”, “Vatican II mandated the vernacular” and so on. They get a quote from some 72 yr. old Irish lady coming out of a local indult mass and then trot out the usual suspects stating why this is a terrible idea or why no one really wants it. Many of us are so used to this that we fail to take notice anymore when they do it. Several times I have read articles that did not seem particularly ‘bad’ to me only to be shocked at what I overlooked when the articles were subsequently fisked by Father Z.
So this brings me to my point (I know, alleluia!). I started reading an article in the Chico Enterprise Record thinking, same ol’…same ol’. Within the first few paragraphs they quote a disaffected churchgoer saying “She associates the Latin Mass with a history of the church she would rather forget.” Then they manage to quote two experts on the ‘Latin mass’, a Lutheran and a theologian in the United Church of Christ. “Oh boy here we go!”. But then came the surprise. In the same way the many movie goers must have felt they had seen two different movies for the price of one when they saw Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.” I felt the same way about this article. What started out as the predictable formula turned in an unexpected direction.
The author, Larry Mitchell, decided to tell a story, actually stories. Stories about why someone would be interested in the Latin Mass. He tells these stories through two different sets of eyes. In one instance, we see the ‘whys’ thought the eyes of Tom Jenkins. Born and raised with the Latin Mass, he could never ‘feel comfortable’ with the changes following 1970. He never left the church and is not opposed to the new mass on principle, he just missed what had been lost.
The author then shows us the attraction though the eyes of converts, people with no previous attachment to the old liturgy. Jeff and LeXuan Culbreath are converts who felt that the modern liturgy often made them feel that “It’s all about us and not about God. It was happy-clappy. It didn’t feel like worship.” They then found the Latin mass and it was “a different world.”
Mitchell then moves on to tell us about the Latin mass community in Sacramento. I thought that this was terrific. I bet that many people, even good catholics are unsure of why anyone would be attracted to the ‘extraordinary form’ of the roman rite. They might even be especially perplexed by younger folks who greet this return with enthusiasm. Telling stories is the best way to help them understand. How did they come to cherish this form of the rite? What led them here? This is what will really help people understand. This is how it will make sense to them. I am ever so pleased that I came across this article. I love surprises.