I have a short article in the current issue of a magazine called 'Networking: Catholic Education Today'. This is supplied to members of the Catholic Association of Teachers, Schools and College, and various other Catholic educational bodies. It isn't online so here's my article.
Young people and the Traditional Mass
In issuing the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which liberated the ‘older form’ of the Mass – the Mass as it was said up to and during the Second Vatican Council – Pope Benedict remarked (in the Letter to Bishops which accompanied it) that ‘it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.’ The evidence for this which the Holy Father might have had in mind would include the many young people attached to the Traditional Mass who attend the Papal ‘World Youth Day’ events with ‘Juventutem’ groups, the 10,000 mainly young people who walk the 70 miles from Paris to Chartres each Pentecost, and the many young people who seek to join the newly established religious orders, of both men and women, which have adopted the Traditional Mass as their own.
That is the evidence; what is the explanation? The Holy Father gives us a clue in the same document, referring to ‘the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage’. The ‘New’ Mass, published in 1970, was intended to attract people to the Faith by increasing its ‘accessibility’: prayers were to be easily understood, ritual actions simplified and easily viewed. The flip side of this process is a loss of sacrality: the mysterious Latin words and partly hidden complex actions of the earlier form of the Mass manifest the fact that something sacred is taking place, something awe-inspiring.
This fact is communicated not only through the meaning of the prayers and rituals, but by the overall effect of ordered and symbolic movement, the use of Latin, periods of silence, and sacred music. Through these things the Traditional liturgy tells us in a way which transcends words that we are in the presence of God, and that we are worshipping Him. This is not a failure of accessibility, but accessibility of a different kind.
Sometimes the older generation finds it incomprehensible that young people should find order, dignity, and mystery attractive. But these things are perennially attractive to young men and women who instinctively want to leave behind what is childish, embarrassing, and banal. Today these things have a special attraction because they are so lacking in secular culture. In the Mass they convey the most profound truths of the Catholic Faith, which are too often obscured in ordinary parish and school liturgies by free-wheeling liturgical abuses, as the Vatican instruction Redemptoris Sacramentum has argued: this kind of informality actually makes it harder to recognise Christ in the liturgy (RS 4-6). The Traditional Mass provides an escape to the inexhaustible riches of the Church’s wisdom and spirituality.
Most Catholics today under 50 have never experienced the Traditional Mass. It is the Holy Father’s wish that all should have access to it, and benefit from ‘the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer’ (Summorum Pontificum, Letter to Bishops).
The Latin Mass Society: www.latin-mass-society.org
The British affiliate of Juventutem is Young Catholic Adults: www.youngcatholicadults.co.uk