Saturday, July 10, 2010

Exchange with The Tablet

Last week The Tablet (aka The Bitter Pill) tried to pin a negative story about the Traditional Mass onto a passage taken from my AGM speech. (Did they send a journalist to the LMS AGM? No, they picked it off this very blog. They'll be reading this. Cooee!)
Here's their little Notebook article from 3rd July:

IN JULY 2008, when Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos swept into Westminster Cathedral resplendent in cappa magna to celebrate an old-rite Mass, hopes were high for a Tridentine revival across England and Wales. Traditionalists boasted that some of their most enthusiastic followers were young people.

The reality, however, seems to be rather different. Last weekend, Dr Joseph Shaw, the chairman of the Latin Mass Society (LMS), told his society’s AGM that the situation in parishes was “a paradox”. The problem? In some places old-rite Masses are attended only by a few people yearning for the Mass of their youth.

He said: “The number of Masses has risen considerably, and we know scores of priests who are gearing up to do more in their parishes as they gain in confidence. But we also know that some of these Masses are very thinly attended, that some congregations appear to be ageing, and that the rightful aspirations of those attached to the Church’s earlier liturgical traditions are still not being fulfilled in many places.”
Notice how what they quote doesn't actually undermine the claim attributed to 'Traditionalists' 'some of their most enthusiastic followers were young people.' This is partly because, as they express it, it is a very weak claim. I'm pretty young, and so is my 6-year-old daughter, and we are among the most enthusiastic supporters of the TLM, so the claim is true. But of course the LMS would go a lot further, and say that the Traditionalist movement is increasingly typified by large numbers of young people - and even this claim isn't thrown into doubt by my observation that there are some Masses where there aren't very many of them, let alone my observation that people in some parts of the country can't get the Mass because it is not being provided for them as it should be - how does that fit in? (Was the last bit included by mistake?) And I didn't say anything about people yearning for 'the Mass of their youth' - some of the oldies I know who attend the Traditional Mass, as it happens, are post-conciliar converts.
Still, we don't read The Tablet for logic. We read it for self-mortification. In any case, they graciously published my reply (10th July):

Enthusiasm of young for old rite

Readers of The Tablet should take scant comfort from my admission (Notebook, 3 July) that congregations at some old-rite Masses are small and predominantly ageing, since this merely reflects the wider Church in depopulated cities and the countryside.

They would be better employed reflecting on the fact that the usus antiquior is attracting intelligent young people who are eager to recover what the older generation seemed so determined to discard. If they would like evidence of this, they need only look at events (not reported in The Tablet) such as the recent 70-mile walking pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres, where the traditional Mass was celebrated daily, which attracted more than 10,000 mostly young people.

I am sad when I recall the deeply patronising liturgical pap designed to cater for “yoof” – Pope Benedict refers to this kind of thing in his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum as “arbitrary deformations of the liturgy” – which drove most of my contemporaries away from the practice of the faith (I was born in 1971). I am reminded of Kipling’s lines on the generation lost to the Great War:
“What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?”

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, Latin Mass Society
Kipling's short poem, The Dead Statesman, deserves to be quoted in full (here are more of his Great War Epitaphs):

I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Kipling's anger and bitterness - he lost his only son Jack in the War - are appropriate for our situation. Far worse than to lose your child in a war, is to lose children and grandchildren, or contemporaries, to the faith, since in this case it is their immortal destiny which is at stake. If there are any people really taking satisfaction in the illusory idea that the Traditional Mass isn't attracting the young, they must be the most fossilised liberal fanatics who would rather see the Church disappear and her children be damned than that the Mass of Ages to return.
But what is this? The editorial of the very same issue - the current one - the Editrix appears to accept my point about bad liturgy being a major cause of lapsation, writing

A combination of
poor liturgies, uninspiring religious formation and the lure of new experiences, especially sexual ones, don’t encourage Mass attendance.

As Valle Adurni says, welcome to the real world! Glad to have you with us! So stop carping about the spread of the 'Tridentine Mass' (surely The Tablet is the only publication in the world using that terminology), and think about its benefits for the Church.

(The photos, by the way, are of the Chartres Pilgrimage.)


  1. Praxis1:22 pm

    Dr. Shaw you have it exactly.  My own little Gregory and Augustine is teeming with young families.  Young large families.  Not that we don't love our old people, but sometimes I suspect the older folks must feel overwhelmed by all the children!

  2. Dominica Roberts9:43 am

    We oldies love our large, and very well-behaved,  young families at St. William of York in Reading, and do not feel overwhelmed but on the contrary very encouraged by them.  They are the Church of the future. I strongly expect  the oldies in St. G and A feel the same.