I grew up in the early post-Vatican II era. I can remember the time before people held hands during the Our Father. I was a small girl when the Communion rails were removed from our church and the old ladies shook their heads and cried. I was 11 when girls were allowed to serve at Mass. The late 70s and early 80s were an interesting time to be a Catholic. Things were changing all the time, and most of the Catholics I knew were eager to embrace the changes.
I never saw a Latin Mass until a few years ago. I never knew how much I missed it. The folksy, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere of most “regular” parishes was exactly what I wanted. There was a familiarity there. I got to participate in everything which was going on in the church. I sang, followed along, gave the appropriate responses, and prayed with the rest of the congregation. Most Sundays that is enough for me. I love the Mass.
This Sunday by happy accident (no one could find the 3 year old’s shoes until past the time for us to leave) we ended up at the local TLM church instead of our regular Novus Ordo parish. This Mass was a different experience altogether. I’ve been before, but I don’t know how I missed the silence. I don’t know how I missed the calm and the peace. Before the Mass, there was no talking at all. No chatting at all, there were just respectful silence and a swiftly moving line of penitents at the Confessional. (There was Confession before Mass. Not at 3:30 on a Saturday and only for half an hour, but before Mass began)
Once the processional began, I realized that, to my delight, nothing was required of me but to pray. The squirmy baby in my arms usually distracts me as I try to follow along. Sunday I just prayed. The Mass washed over me in a soothing stream of Latin. The chanting of the priest was met by the soaring voices of the choir. The boys at the altar were serious about their duties and obviously joyful in the doing of them. The whole of the Celebration was as smooth and as beautiful as a well-rehearsed dance. I watched it all in appreciation, and then bowed my head and prayed.
All week long, I have to talk. My voice and direction are required every waking moment of my life. Silence is a rare commodity for me. I’d never realized how much I value the gift of silence until I went to the one place where my voice is neither required nor expected. How refreshing that was to me. How rejuvenated my spirit felt to spend just one hour at rest. I had never thought of speaking the responses and singing the songs as one more chore, but at the end of a long hard week, it was so welcome to not have to give them.
After Mass, there were no loud voices in the sanctuary. People knelt quietly in prayer and then left in silence. The chatting and greeting were left for the vestibule. The prayers of others were strictly respected within the walls of the church. I haven’t seen such respect since I was a young child at my grandmother’s church.
I don’t know when we will return to the TLM chapel. The Computer Guy was not as enamored as I was. He likes it just fine, but to him Mass is Mass. To me, it was a wonderful surprise, a welcome break. I was at the one place in the city where nothing is asked of me, nothing is required. I got to simply rest in the presence of God and allow Him to enter in and take my fatigue away. What a pleasure and a gift such peace is. How did we ever let it get taken away?