Editor’s note: how is your family saving the Latin Mass in your domestic church? Send us a submission: editor [at] OnePeterFive.com.
This June brought a great blessing, and a pitiable curse, to my family. The blessing, aptly named, came from welcoming little Benedict to our clan. The curse, predictably, was yet another run-in with a bishop.
It’s our fault, really. We did a terrible, selfish deed. The crime being we tried to convince our pastor of seven years to administer a traditional Baptism. He agreed. It was, as they say, a brick-by-brick success. The problem was that, mere days before Benedict’s due date, our bishop found out. A quick notice was issued. Mumbles about Traditionis Custodes followed, and that Pope Francis must be obeyed. In short, we were informed, very late in the game, to drive to the next diocese over if we wanted such a Baptism for our child.
I imagine that bishops, or at least those of the non-Protestant variety, have little experience in making lengthy road trips immediately following giving birth. Otherwise they would know that such a trip will make a momma more than a little cranky. It will also make a papa gnash his teeth with anger. That a bishop would put my wife through such travel following a birth still makes me rage. And yet, this spiritual abuse is so predictable, isn’t it?
In the new merciful Catholic Church, the traditional Latin Mass (TLM), and everything relating to it, must die. I will spare you a personal rant. I do not believe the TLM will die. However, I also do not believe traditional Catholics are to sit around tweeting their fury while waiting for Christ to do all the work. The question remains: What are traditional Catholics to do? How shall this Mass, and the traditional way of life that goes with it, be saved?
Now I have nothing new to offer traditional Catholic communities facing the closure of their parishes. Resist? Go underground? Trample down the flowers outside the bishop’s mansion? I leave such issues to more capable minds. However, I do have thoughts on how an isolated family can still preserve the traditional Latin Mass at home. My family has been in this situation for years now. Our personal details do not matter. The fact is, regrettably, our situation will only become more common in the immediate future.
In short, I believe the battle to save the TLM begins at home with the family. What follows are some considerations on how to make it so.
In his essential book, Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski makes a keen observation about the TLM. “Those who begin attending the traditional Latin Mass are often struck by how much extra effort it costs” (p. 87). To which I add, you should see how much effort it costs when you do not have a TLM to attend. To preserve the traditional Latin Mass, without access to said Mass, one must prepare for suffering and sacrifice.
What does this suffering and sacrifice look like? It can be time-consuming, expensive, and both physically and mentally draining. Sometimes one may have to undertake a lengthy, inconvenient drive for the sake of a Baptism, or a needed TLM-fix. Fuel, food, and hotel costs add up quickly. So too the cost of filling the home with traditional books and beautiful artwork. Meanwhile, the effort required to, say, teach children Latin when there is little chance to experience the Latin consistently at Mass can be discouraging. There have been times I have wondered: “Why bother? If this Mass is so important, why doesn’t God do something about it? Why would He leave my family like this?” And yet, I know there is no personal peace unless we strive to live out the traditional faith. For our souls are pulled to what is profound, blessed, and lifegiving. To paraphrase Tolkien, there is some good in this Church, and it is worth fighting for.
It is possible to live the traditional liturgical year within a Novus Ordo world. Of course, it can get a little awkward at times.
“Happy feast of the Queenship of Mary!” comes the well-intentioned text from a friend or family member. In August.
“Uh, yeah. Thanks,” we reply, trying not to add, “it was great, back in May when we did Our Lady’s May crowning. Cause that makes way more sense. But let me tell you about this Bugnini guy…”
Yes, the old and new calendars don’t always align. Yet, aside from a few awkward moments, this does not matter. Living the traditional liturgical calendar is a great treasure within our family. Each cycle, feast, and fast gives us something to look forward to, something to be challenged with, something to be nourished by. Even our children look forward to the challenges. Take Advent as an example. The penitence of a traditional Advent makes perfect sense to them. So too how the penance receives little breaks, be it candy in their shoes from St. Nicholas, or cinnamon buns and a sparkle tour on St. Lucy’s day. They give it their best as December-Ember days provide one last push towards Christmas. When Christmas finally does arrive, they are ready, eager, and joyful. It is a perfect balance.
The traditional calendar is rich, balanced, and worthy of following regardless of one’s liturgical circumstances.
Editor’s note: see also this beautiful traditional calendar for families from Liturgy of the Home:
Thank you Covid. When Masses were canceled in March 2020, we turned to Sunday morning dry Masses. Chanting the asperges, kyrie, etc., reading the prayers and Gospel, making a spiritual communion, and praying a Rosary… it was the anchor to our week. The thing is, it still is the foundation to our week. When Masses returned, we continued with these dry Masses. Our situation is strange. In our small town, the more reverent Novus Ordo Mass is on Saturday night. This means we’ve been able to continue the tradition of the Sunday morning dry Mass.
It sounds absurd. Like an ancient foreign land where the Faith needed preservation without a priest available. How can Canada, or any place in the twenty-first century, be like this? Never mind. The prayers of the traditional Mass continue to feed our family each week.
My wife and I love praying the entire Divine Office daily, including waking in the middle of the night at the appropriate hours, kneeling on a cold hard floor, often with arms outstretched like a cross. We feel like we’re living a monastic life within a family vocation.
However, traditional Prime and Vespers (and sometimes Compline) are easy to pray, even for us. Prime, the hour Jesus stood before Pilate, is the daily preparation for the crosses we face. Vespers is the hour of thanksgiving for the graces bestowed throughout the day. These psalms are a daily anchor.
Maybe some blessed day in the future we will pray the entire Divine Office as monks might. But for now, that would involve leaving meals uncooked and clothes unwashed. Let’s just say that our record while saying Vespers is having to change three dirty diapers. Our monastic life will have to wait. But some small connection to the Divine Office does not.
Songs, Hymns and Spiritual Canticles
Children amaze me. I’ve tried to learn Jam Lucis, the opening chant for Prime. I can hardly get through the first line by memory. But the kids? It’s like they were born singing this hymn of supplication. I don’t get it.
I am not complaining. Listening to young voices sing traditional hymns is a profound joy. The Church’s musical tradition, pre-Dan Schutte, is of inestimable value. I especially love to listen to my children sing Adoro te Devote, Attende Domine, Salve Regina, and the Angelus. What a tremendous way to praise God all while passing on the traditional faith. If only they could remember to do their chores as easily as they can remember a hymn…
I must add in a curveball here. No, I am not a Trudeau-voting tree hugger. But I also cannot get over what happened to us this summer. Our young Benedict, blessing that he is, also suffers from colic. More precisely, we suffer from his colic. This past summer was a disaster.
We decided in August, as parents do when they are tired and having daily nervous breakdowns, to do something stupid. We took a weeklong camping trip to the mountains. The expectation was for an epic failure. The result was the opposite. A week of outdoor mountain air soothed Benedict completely–while he was there. It was miraculous. The beauty, freshness, and tranquility brought healing for his body, and peace for our souls.
Nature is like that. And finding refuge in nature becomes necessary when living without a consistent TLM. I frequently tell my wife that when going to a Novus Ordo Mass we don’t go there to pray. It is a harsh statement, I apologize. Yet, I stand by it. The unceasing dialogue, watered-down biblical translations, awkward flow, and buddy-buddy atmosphere makes prayer impossible. Moreover, it can drain the soul quickly. It is imperative to get out in nature as much as possible. To behold the workings of the Lord, take delight in them, and have one’s heart renewed. It is astounding how something as simple as fishing, snowshoeing, hiking, gardening, or even wandering aimlessly through the bush can reorientate one towards God.
There is much more to be said, but it is best to simply conclude with the why. Why strive to preserve a traditional Catholic lifestyle, even without the TLM?
I think again of our local bishop. The one who will not even permit a traditional Baptism. He is seeking, under orders of Pope Francis, to obliterate all remnants of the traditional faith in his diocese. He wishes to destroy the Faith of our fathers, in favor of a sterile Church sung into being by modern Jesuits, aged Susans, and a host of clerical dragons willing to die in an empty church rather than live rich in the Faith. Fools. For neither the modern Jesuit, nor Susan, nor company-bishop can penetrate the home. They cannot, and will not, get in. And so, though the traditional faith may not be preserved within the massive cathedrals, great shrines, nor especially World Youth Days and the legion of Synods, it can live within the four walls of a humble home.
But it is more than this. We do not live the traditional lifestyle simply to stick-it to our bishop. In fact, we do not live the traditional lifestyle simply to preserve it for the future either. For ultimately, we are weak and little. Sinners, poor and quick to betray. Who are we to preserve the Faith? We are nothing.
Yet, when all seems lost and hopeless, I look at my children. I can honestly say they love the Faith. The prayers, calendar, traditions. The songs, sufferings, spiritual writings. The road trips, rosaries, rogations. How can this be? We are so pitiable. They are so spirited. But then, as a needed reminder, it hits me. We are not saving the traditional Latin Mass. The traditional Latin Mass is saving us.
We will continue to live it, precisely because it is living.
Dan Millette is a husband and father of five. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.