. . . animam meam
We could call the First Sunday of Advent the “‘I have lifted up’ Mass”.
Today I lifted up my soul to the Lord in a community that is thriving around the Traditional Latin Mass. And I share the psalmist’s hope that we who are here through faith and grace will not be made ashamed of it. Non erubescamus.
Advent is doubly meaningful to me these days, when I can look forward not just to Christmas, but also to a personal anniversary. Two years ago this Epiphany, I had my first Mass here. It was the only church within a hundred miles that would let me celebrate the day’s feast on the traditional date of January 6. That was a big deal for me. I had never been happy with the decision to move it to the second Sunday after Christmas. But until two years ago, all I could do about it was wait for Christmas to fall on a Tuesday again. (When Christmas is on Tuesday, Epiphany is on Sunday!) In other words, I could do nothing.
On Epiphany 2016, however, I heard about a church all the way across the city, where it didn’t matter if the Twelfth Day of Christmas fell on a Wednesday. I worried about visiting a part of town where I had never been before, about going all alone, about getting really lost . . . But I didn’t worry at all that the church belonged to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
Deus meus, in te confido . . .
I still wonder why it was so easy for me to do that. Several years earlier, I fully believed that the SSPX priests were in schism. Although I liked to say, after some priests’ Masses, “It was enough to make me join the SSPX!” — I never really would have done that. I wouldn’t even have visited one of their churches out of curiosity.
Admittedly, at that time I also fully believed that the new Mass was just the old Mass with some aesthetic changes. Until my very first low Mass, I had no idea how deeply different they were.
By January 2016, I had heard over a hundred low Masses. At first, it was just the Saturday morning Mass in a church near my office. After a few months, I had found others in different parts of the city. Some of them were as far away as a shrine near the airport or a chapel on a military base. But no single church seemed to offer it regularly: Latin Mass was always some extraordinary event — pun intended. And all of them had schedules that shifted like sand. When one church was renovating its side chapel, its Latin Mass group was “homeless” for weeks.
In short, after one year, I had developed two new habits: Hearing the Traditional Latin Mass at least once a week, and going through great inconvenience to do so. By the time I had to think about the irregular status of the SSPX, it was just another inconvenience — and not even the greatest one.
. . . neque irrideant me inimici mei . . .
One year of the Traditional Latin Mass had clearly changed me. But some good friends, who were also good Catholics, did not see it as a good change. They cautioned me against going back to the SSPX church. And when I went back anyway, one of them even begged me to stop.
So in 2016, the frenzied activity of 2015 turned inward. I had spent a year chasing the old Mass all over the city — and not always catching it. Now I chased a reason to return to a place which had it every day of the year. I also chased my lost sense of peace. Before my friends shared their doubts, I had never thought that going to Mass could be a bad thing. After they did, I grew secretive and ashamed. In 2015, I had tried to invite as many fellow Catholics as possible to a Latin Mass; in 2016, I just hoped no one would ask me about it again. I didn’t want anyone else to fall in love with it, only to end up feeling confused and guilty.
If there had been a licit alternative, I would have chosen it in a heartbeat. I would have gone to any other church in my archdiocese that had its own regular Latin Mass. The SSPX church didn’t simplify my life; it complicated it. I asked myself why I had to go there . . . why I couldn’t be satisfied with Latin Mass once or twice a week . . . why I couldn’t be satisfied with the new Mass. This inner conflict, which raged for over a year, deserves a more complete discussion in another post.
. . . universi, qui te expectant, non confundentur
When I started going to the SSPX church, all I really wanted was a Latin Mass that didn’t run away from me. What I got along with it was a whole community. A real community, with roots in a place and ties to each other — not a loose network of people texting each other weekly Mass schedules. There is rich spiritual soil here, in which we can flourish and bloom. And although I care a lot about the status of the priests whose Masses bring us together, it’s a prayer intention, not a deal breaker.
I’ve been silent on my spiritual life for almost two years, but now I want to talk about it again. This new series “Mass and Memory” will be about my experiences as a Catholic who is now fed exclusively by the Traditional Latin Mass, thanks to the Society of St. Pius X.