It seems that every time I post on a topic even tangentially related to the Latin Mass, a parade of people from whom I have never heard before chime in to tell me that they were made to feel unwelcome by the TLM community.
In my previous post, I had a commenter accuse me of being one of those snobby TLM types that this blog repeatedly “makes him feel bad about himself” because he doesn’t know Latin.
Oh the horror. Only one little problem with this anecdote of incivility, I don’t speak Latin. Oh and I never use Latin on the blog.
I think that this is very common these days for people to ‘hear’ about the snobbishness of the TLM community and to project their own feelings on to anyone they suspect is in that camp.
I don’t speak Latin and certainly have never criticized anyone for being just like me. And while I have an affection for the traditional mass, I only attend the mass maybe 10% of the time. That means that 90% of the time I attend the same mass as all the non-snobbish people.
I suspect that such projection makes up a substantial amount of the anecdotes of how upon first attendance at a TLM, people were ‘made’ to feel unwelcome.
How do you make people feel unwelcome so quickly? Do they sneer and glare at the interloper? Do they tell them that they don’t want their kind round these parts? I highly doubt it.
Rather, I think that people show up to a mass in a language they do not know with customs they do not know, they see all these other people who seem to know what is going on, and they simply get intimidated. I suspect that some people project the source of their own feelings of inadequacy on to those who seem adequate. Maybe not all, but a lot.
Are there things that Latin Mass communities could do for these folks? Sure. Most have the free little red missals to borrow in the back to help out. But beyond that, I am unsure.
I am sure if smiling member of Latin Mass communities were to descend on to every unfamiliar face that walks through the door ‘to help them’ the horror stories would triple.
As for my own experience when first attending a Latin Mass some 13 years ago, I had no idea what was going on. None.
So after mass I hung around to introduce myself to a few folks. They were overjoyed that somebody was expressing an interest in the Mass. They told me about the little red missals and they told me to sit next to them next time and they would help me out. They were about as welcoming and helpful as could be, but I had to introduce myself first. That is human nature I suppose. I took the first step and they were delighted to help me take the rest.
Eventually, after attending more frequently, I bought my own missal and was able to learn many of the proper responses. I never learned Latin, but I learned enough to know what was going on. In short, I became adequate. To an outside eye, I suppose I seemed like I knew what I was doing.
As such, I was able to help a few other folks out over the years giving them a red missal and pointing out a page or what week of the year we were in.
This is something that I have never done or seen done at a ordinary form mass. Maybe it is easier because it is in the vernacular, but I never see anyone finding the newbies and helping them out. I have only seen and done this in the TLM community. And when I attend the TLM in a community where I am an unfamiliar face, I usually have a lot of old ladies smiling at me.
I regretfully only get to attend the TLM occasionally now because of our crazy weekend schedule with the kids, but I do when I can.
I know first hand that the TLM can be intimidating in its unfamiliarity, but to those who ask for help, help will always be given. If you think it won’t, that this ‘type’ of person will never help you, perhaps the snob you despise is in the mirror.