Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why We Speak Past Each Other

As I've been mulling over a bigger work on so called "radical traditionalism" (more on this over the next week!), there have been a few other things that have happened which I want to talk about.  In trying to reach out to traditionalist audiences, two different voices gave two different critiques, but both seemed to fall pretty flat.  While some partisans will say this is just proof that trads are obstinate and impossible to have a discussion with, I think a more honest reading gives a far more simpler answer.

The first event that occurred was Dr. Tracey Rowland conducted an interview with Catholic News Agency where she gave both sympathy and biting criticism to traditionalists.  She loves the liturgy, but feels there is far too much "aestheticism", and that people who "dress in funny clothes" tend to keep other people away from the Extraordinary Form.  Her critics pointed out that she really didn't have the ability to give an accurate opinion, given that she seldom if ever attended the Extraordinary Form. 

Others cried foul, but I think missed the point.  Since she really didn't have much interaction with traditionalists, she didn't know how to frame her words, and came across incredibly condescending, even though she clearly didn't mean to.  Do traditionalists sometimes have a curious way of dress?  I'm not sure if one can really answer that question, because that implies there is a distinct "traditionalist" style of dress.  Really, there isn't.  A lot of men wear a suit and tie, some wear sweaters.  I know an Englishman who comes to Mass dressed like he is still in the Queen's domain.  Sometimes people just wear a polo/button down and khakis.  Sometimes the girls wear dresses and skirts, sometimes they wear super frumpy clothes because they really don't care to get too dressed up when its 9am and they spent the last 3 hours getting 5 screaming kids under 7 ready.  Then let's be real, you even get the girls whose skirt is a bit too short, or their clothes a bit too form-fitting. 

Then when I go to the Latin Mass on Sunday I see......

Look, can ones appearance seem a bit "funny" to an outsider?  Yes.  Should we be aware of that when choosing our clothes?  Yes.  Should we dress with modesty not just in covering up, but not necessarily drawing attention to yourself in an unwarranted fashion?  Again, yes.  This may come as a shock to the outsider, but traditionalists know this, and at our super secret meetings, we even talk about this with each other.  There are a thousand ways to make this point without putting people down saying their personal choices are "funny looking."  Why not just call them "fatty" afterwards?

The same can be said with the charge of "aestheticism."  I went to Mass and during a social people talked at length about how hard it was to sing this or that hymn, how awesome or insipid this piece of music is, and how the cantor totally botched hitting that first note on the refrain.  Then I went to the Latin Mass on Sunday.

Wanna know a bigger problem than people putting on their liturgical scholarship hats?  Many people at the Latin Mass are so focused on burying their faces in a missal (even when they've been going long enough to know what is going on), they miss a lot of what is going on at the altar, to St. Pius X's shame.  In the Ordinary Form they just feign indifference.  In the Extraordinary Form they get an excuse to be indifferent to the Mass.  We have a selection of Catholics who do a horrible job of participating at the liturgy, whether it is in Latin or English.  All across the spectrum we become far too fixated on the human elements of the liturgy, and neglect the divine action that is going on. 

I don't think these criticisms are unwarranted.  I do find them so garden variety and, well, boring.  They are problems that every parish struggles with.  If anything, we can tell those attending the Ordinary Form "our problems are just like yours, so maybe we can work together and figure out how Catholics of all stripes can overcome this crap." 

The pedestrian nature of all of these criticisms came to mind again when I read Catholic Answers attempting to save face from a failed segment on "radical traditionalism."  They had to educate the traditionalist mouth-breathers to pay attention to something relevant:

But let's keep our eyes on the ball. The end is the life of glory with God in the beatific vision, not the Traditional Latin Mass, nor the Ordinary Form, no matter how reverently done. We need to love Jesus Christ and his Bride. On his terms, not ours.

So what you are saying is the most important thing in the world is getting to heaven.  Thanks for letting us know this.  Yet you seem to be forgetting something:  "Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows."  (Sacrosanctum Concillium 10)  So saying it is the beatific vision that matters, not the liturgy, is why we traditionalists get so incensed.

If the Church has lost anything in the wake of the liturgical reform, it is that statement from Vatican II.  The very reason Benedict took the shackles off the Latin Mass is he wanted all Catholics to rediscover that timeless truth, and the Latin Mass does a pretty good job emphasizing that aspect of the liturgy.  Why doesn't Catholic Answers instead spend an hour on the following segment:

How can the liturgy help us to the Beatific Vision, no matter which form we are attached to?

People on both sides of the aisle might want to think otherwise (there are very strong incentives to think otherwise, especially when you can raise money off of these radio segments!), but we traditionalists are just like every other Catholic.  We struggle with how to balance our appearnace in a post-christian culture, and we struggle to get the most out of every iota of grace during Mass.  Why not talk about that stuff instead?

1 comment:

  1. The Extraordinary form bears multiple ways of interacting and participating, and one of these is the Missal --- do you disagree? Therefore, in the Extraordinary form, even though it is to appearances the same, it allows a variety of different approaches on the part of the persons involved, and these can happen simultaneously. The Rosary can be a legitimate way of engaging the texts and action of the liturgy, for example.

    This is, by the way, in contrast to the Ordinary form which only allows one mode of participation at a time but does not have the appearance of regularity.

    In short, the Ordinary form, in order to feed different needs, has to adapt itself to the point where different Mass times at the same parish look different even as words are the same. In the Extraordinary form, the Solemn High Mass will pretty much look and sound the same one place as anywhere, but even then different modes of participation are fed.

    There is a need to feed different modes of participation. I believe the solution provided for within the Extraordinary form prevents --- rather than encourages --- sectarian worship.


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