When the day comes where you bury your head in your hands and say, “This cannot be right,” start your search for the nearest Latin Mass.
I am talking here about Mass in the “extraordinary form,” the Tridentine Mass, the usus antiquior, the Mass according to the Roman Missal promulgated by St. John XXIII in 1962, the “traditional Latin Mass.”
You will find in the traditional Latin Mass a shelter from the storm, a place to rest from the turmoil. The traditional Latin Mass is a grotto of sanity, where the holy angel from Heaven guards, cherishes, protects, visits, and defends all who are assembled in that place.
The storm and turmoil of which I speak are the visible and accelerating disintegration of the institutional Catholic Church playing out in our time. Perhaps you are a Catholic who supports wholeheartedly what has been labeled a “paradigm shift” in Catholic faith and morals. You may love the idea that the Church is breaking away from hidebound and difficult principles of belief and behavior. I do not disparage you. You have been conditioned for fifty years to think this way. You have been cheated of your birthright.
Once you are sensitized to it, you see it everywhere. Can this be happening? You turn on EWTN and watch the “papal posse.” The trusted trio is deeply disturbed by the things they must report. You consult Catholic blogs like this one, where you can calibrate your own perceptions. You read modern books like To Change the Church by Ross Douthat or The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire and the scope and scale of the upheaval begins to sink in. You stumble upon YouTube channels like that of Dr. Taylor Marshall, and you are reintroduced to the Catholicism you have always known and that attracted converts to the faith. Slowly, you begin to understand that you have been betrayed by the Church you trusted.
Your own intellect and reason are confronting you with a narrative that reads like a Dan Brown novel. Eventually, the day comes when you read something that rocks you to your core, and you mutter, “This cannot be right.” That is when you need the comfort of the traditional Latin Mass. That is when you must go to the grotto and reconnect with God in the deepest way possible.
The traditional Latin Mass is your personal lifeline to the Truth. In this grotto, the questions of the day – Is the pope a heretic? Can the dogmas of the Church evolve? Is sodomy not gravely sinful? – are secondary. For the brief time that you are in the grotto, all that matters is your worship of the God Who created you from the beginning of time and Who gave you a Way to join Him in eternal life.
Don’t worry that you do not know Latin. The priest does all the work. The altar boys make answer to him on your behalf. There will probably be something like a “missalette” available for your use. It will have the English translation of the Latin that is being said and instructions for when to sit, stand, kneel, and genuflect. At first, all you have to do is follow along.
Don’t worry about “fitting in” with the congregation. You will be surprised at who’s in church with you. It will not be all aged, pre-Vatican II Catholics. There will be a surprising number of young families. There will be crying babies. There will be reverent teenagers. Many races and ethnicities will be represented. In fact, you may wonder why it took you so long to discover what these people already know.
The people in church with you will have some things in common. Most noticeably, they are not in a hurry. This is their day’s main event. They are not there simply to “get it over with.” They probably arrived well before the scheduled Mass time. They are quiet and lost in prayer before Mass begins. If the priest is late, they do not seem to notice. Most of the women have a mantilla or some other head covering. Many of the gentlemen are wearing suits or sport coats. The people stay through the recessional hymn, and then they stay even longer, offering prayers of thanksgiving. Eventually, they drift out, as if reluctant to return to the valley of tears.
After you have done this a couple of times, you will become more at ease with the Latin and the flow of the Mass. You will know that the power of the grotto has done its work when you finally unite your mind to that of the celebrant. Through the priest, you are offering to God his divine Son, in thanksgiving for all He has done for you and in reparation for all you have failed to do for Him.
This is the worship of the ages, the usus antiquior. Every word of the Mass, every gesture, every vestment of the celebrant, every position of the celebrant at or near the altar, every candle, every item used during Mass, has meaning rooted in antiquity.
The grotto has many chambers and passageways in which to take refuge from the storm. In addition to the Low Mass, there are High Masses, Solemn High Masses, Solemn Pontifical High Masses, and Requiem Masses. There are deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, and choirs who have roles to play in them. There is much richness to discover, much peace to be had.
Go to the grotto. Be refreshed; be strengthened. Stand watch at the entrance against the day when the wicked come to seal it off. Then you will rise up and say to them, “Thus far shall you come and no farther.”
Raymond Kowalski is from Rochester, New York. He is a product of parochial elementary schools and The Aquinas Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and a law degree from The George Washington University. After a forty-year career in communications law, he is retired and living with his wife in Gainesville, Virginia. They are the parents of three and grandparents of five.