Well, I have to give this priest some credit, he does not just recite the party line. This is some innovative opposition.

What the Tridentine Mass requires by Father Eugene Hemrick

It seems like only yesterday that I was celebrating Mass in Latin with my back to the people. [Can we please find another cliché ?] Perhaps it was my Italian background or having inherited the musical side of my family, but I really enjoyed singing Mass in Latin. The vowel sounds in Romantic languages add a certain beauty to singing that is ever so melodious.

In preparation for celebrating Mass in Latin, we studied latin for five years and then read and spoke it for seven years in the major seminary. Those 12 years of study truly Latinized us. [Uh oh! I think I see where this is going.]

The Tridentine Mass is more than reciting Mass in Latin; it also contains a long list of traditions. Its rubrics were much more numerous than those for today’s Mass. [Yes. Is that bad?]

For example, when a priest ascended the altar he was to start with his right foot. Even his most minute gesture was measured for correctness. [For a pitcher throwing in the big leagues, every minute gesture is measured for correctness. Which is more important?]

Many of the Masses during the week were requiem Masses (for the dead) in which the priest wore black vestments. [Black is slimming]

Women weren’t allowed to serve Mass. Only a priest could touch the chalice and ciborium. Altar rails were common, and everyone received the Eucharist on the tongue. The Communion fast began at midnight. [This is what the dark ages were like, do you really want to go back to this? DO YOU?!]

With Pope Benedict XVI promoting the Tridentine Mass, many priests and laypersons are concerned about further divisions this may cause in parish communities. [The mass that there is no call for will cause division. Do teen / folk masses cause division? Do Spanish masses?] What concerns me more, however, is the manner in which the Tridentine Mass will be celebrated. [OK. Get ready for the innovative part.]

Most of today’s priests are well-versed in languages, especially Spanish. Most, however, are not schooled in Latin. In fact, most don’t know Latin nor have they been properly trained in the rubrics of the Tridentine Mass. [Whose fault is that?]

In studies of the priesthood, priests have told us that the celebration of Mass is at the heart of their life. As true as this is, celebrating Mass or, as is often the case today, several Masses in a day taxes a priest’s ability to be reverent, one in thought with the words he is reciting. Even when you are speaking in your mother tongue, it is easy to just mouth the words and go through the motions.

What concerns me is a younger generation that is not Latinized enough to make the Tridentine Mass truly reverent and meaningful. Most have not endured the rigors of learning Latin, speaking and studying in it. The language and culture of Cicero and the early church are foreign to them.[You gotta give it to him. He loves the ‘Tridentine’ mass soooo much, respects it soooo much, we shouldn’t do it. Unless you are a Latin scholar, you cannot possibly do it reverently. I think it was Chesterton who said “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly”]

The word “hypocrite” [playing hardball] means to playact, to take on the character of someone other than oneself. My prayer is that when priests new to Latin celebrate the Tridentine Mass today, they not playact – that the Latin spoken becomes a true part of them. [My prayer is the priests do not playact their love for the ‘Tridentine’ Mass as veiled opposition. I guess we may both be disappointed.]

This article appeared in the August 15th issue of the Catholic Commentator of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

photo of Fr. Eugene Hemrick
Fr. Hemrick

Fr. Eugene Hemrick, who writes “The Human Side” column, is a research associate with the Life Cycle Research Institute at The Catholic University of America, and coordinator of institutional research at Washington Theological Union. He writes weekly on issues pertinent to the church and the human spirit. He may be reached at: Fr. Eugene Hemrick, c/o Catholic News Service, 3211 Fourth St. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017.