Monday, June 11, 2012

Adventures in the Tridentine Rite

Yesterday, Henry and I attended Mass at a beautiful old church that still offers the liturgy in the old Tridentine Rite, more commonly known as the Latin Mass. My in-laws wanted to go, so we made a journey out of it. This particular church is maybe a 20 minute drive from our house. I have attended the Latin Mass there before, but not in quite some time.

I was excited about it. My previous impression was that as beautiful as the Tridentine Rite is, I still prefer the "New Mass," the post-Vatican II liturgy in the vernacular. But it's so nice to have options, so I was looking forward to something different. Plus, the Tridentine Rite is the place I feel most comfortable wearing head coverings at Mass, since I'm in good company there! *Most* of the women there cover, so I blend right in.

Anyway, I was all excited getting ready in the morning, rifling through my drawer of head coverings. Yes, they have their own drawer. I love head coverings. And I have many of them. Cotton, lace, velvet. All sorts of colors. I have a few that are headbands, and then the others are "convertible" (these are my favorite) meaning that they can be folded up as a headband or extended into a cute kerchief look. I was wearing a black pant outfit, so I picked my brown lace covering, since it matches my hair so well. I did contemplate wearing a skirt, since most women do there, but I don't have good shoes right now for skirts. I could remedy this with a $20 trip to Payless, but yet I somehow never do. So I wore my head covering with pants, which I hope doesn't look weird. Anyway, I digress.

My in-laws arrive to fetch Henry and I just as Anne was going down for her morning nap, so we waved goodbye to her and Mike and headed on our way. We found the church easily and actually got there early. This chagrined me only because we had Henry along, and I hoped he wouldn't get too impatient. He had his little Magnifikid! and he even asks for them each week, so they're working out very well, but I warned him ahead of time that he wouldn't be able to follow along in there this week. He contented himself with the holy word find for a time, but quickly started rubbing his eyes and complaining about his seasonal allergies. The more I told him that rubbing his eyes only made the itching worse, the more he rubbed them. I was worried we were going to have to leave early, but luckily, it abated. Then I just had to deal with his multitude of questions and a tad of whining about how long the Mass was, but overall he didn't do too bad.

Anyway, when we arrived, a group was praying the rosary before Mass. Love that! Naturally, Henry wanted to sit in the very first row. When Mass began, a bell rang. Also love that! And an absolute *flotilla* of adorable little altar boys scampered out, clad in the old style black and white cassock, followed by some older altar servers, and the priest. The altar was absolutely beautiful. Covered in gorgeous artwork and statuary. To my mind, the way an altar *should* look.I had brought along my Latin-English missal, and with the aid of my mother-in-law (who remembers the Latin Mass from her childhood) I was able to follow along better than in the past.

Ok, so the pros and cons to the Tridentine Rite *for me*, because of course, this is very much a personal Catholic preference. Cons:

(1) Even with my cute missal, I still got lost. I think the most confusing part is that there are a lot of prayers that the priest says inaudibly, especially at the consecration and generally surrounding communion. Then I lose my place.
(2) If you blink, you can miss the consecration. Granted, the altar boys ring the bell (love that!) but the priest offers the consecration while quietly saying the prayers to himself, and I just don't feel "a part" of the liturgy the way I do at an average Mass at my parish. I hope this isn't heretical. :) I'm just saying how I feel.

But the pros:

(1) The reverence. It's just unparalleled.  From the beautifully prepared altar and the obvious attention and devotion of the congregation, this Mass feels sacred.
(2) The altar rail. I adore receiving communion while kneeling. Oh, and the paten! This is a very natural fit to me with the Eucharist.
(3) The dress of the congregation. I mentioned this above. Everyone dressed nicely. No jeans or shorts in sight. And the head coverings! *swoons* I saw a beautiful (and large) pink hat on an older woman, followed by an army of gorgeous mantillas on both women and young girls. Yes, young girls! Wearing mantillas. Black, white, pink, blue. Mantillas were definitely the head covering style of choice. I was the only one wearing a shorter lace style that tied underneath my hair, which of course doesn't matter, but I'm obsessed with such details.
(4) The solemnity of the liturgy. Yes, I have a hard time following sometimes, but when I'd get lost I'd just read the English translation which was absolutely beautiful. Oh, and an aside. "And with your spirit" really *is* much, much closer to the Latin than "and also with you." :) Ah, and the lack of the Sign of Peace? I'm just being honest, but I don't miss it at all. I've always been uncomfortable having a set moment in the liturgy where I'm supposed to talk to people I don't know and shake their hands.

So, as you can see, the pros certainly outweigh the cons for me. I won't be leaving my parish for this one, but I like being able to attend there every once in a while. There are many people that do drive quite a long way to go to this church though, I know, because they prefer the Tridentine Rite. I think this is fine, but I do know there is a school of thought out there that one should always register at, and attend at their *local* parish, and not "parish hop." Thoughts? I wonder if there is anything in canon law about this? I will try and remember to check.

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