Pope Benedict XVI said in 2007:
It has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form [of the Latin Mass], felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them (“Letter Accompanying Summorum Pontificum”).
Why is this so? Pope Francis, in his own comments on Traditionis Custodes in 2021, said on the contrary that the Latin Mass is “tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy People of God’” (Letter Accompanying Traditionis Custodes).
His Excellency, Bishop Barron of Word on Fire, has released his interview with actor Shia LaBeouf which speaks boldly to this very question. At the time of this writing, the interview, which was released less than 24 hours ago, stands at nearly 250,000 views on YouTube. Mr. LaBeouf tells of his acting role playing Padre Pio and how it converted him to the Faith, and how “the Latin Mass affects me deeply. Deeply.”
To his credit, His Excellency doesn’t change the subject, but rather asks the same question that the two popes quoted above attempted to answer in different ways: Why?
Listen to this exchange beginning at 9:39:
Mr. LaBeouf cuts to the heart of the Trad movement, which is the primacy of adoration in the liturgy (recently discussed on OnePeterFive by José Antonio Ureta). The ancient Roman Rite invites the faithful to Praise ye the Lord in his holy places: praise ye him in the firmament of his power (Ps. cl. 1). This is the heart and soul of its transformative power, and it is the heart and soul of the Trad movement.
Barron’s Indirect Comments on the Latin Mass
This brings to mind His Excellency’s own foreward to an important book about the Latin Mass: Liturgy and Personality, written in 1933 by godfather of the Trad movement, Dietrich von Hildebrand. In his foreward, Bishop Barron brings out this essence of the liturgy:
For Hildebrand, the indispensable and fundamental element in the formation of a true personality is ‘intentional contact with the world of values.’ This means a response of mind (‘It is true’), will (‘It is good’), and heart (‘I delight in it’) to the whole range of objective values[.] …Every aspect and dimension of the Church’s formal prayer serves to order the worshipper rightly to the supreme value [of Almighty God]. The reverential language of the liturgy, for instance, convinces us that ‘all easy familiarity’ is inappropriate in regard to God[.] …The radical theocentrism of the liturgy teases us sinners out of our native egocentrism and thereby prepares us to see even created values with fresh eyes.
By “personality” Hildebrand means the same thing as St. Irenaeus: Gloria Dei est vivens homo. Thus in his opening pages, Hildebrand elucidates this very thing:
The Liturgy is not primarily intended as a means of sanctification or an ascetic exercise. It is primary intention is to praise and glorify God, to respond fittingly to Him.
This is at the heart of its transformative power, to which Mr. LaBeouf so powerfully gives expression. As he puts it, the Latin Mass is transformative “because it feels like they’re not selling me a car.” It is not focused on man, but on God. It will only transform Man to the degree that it focuses on God. Were the Mass to be turned toward Man in order to transform him, the Mass would lose the very power by which it transforms, by focusing Man on God alone.
“One of the special reasons for the strength and depth of the transformation of personality brought about by the Liturgy,” write Hildebrand,
is that this transformation is not the end in view; and more than this, that the Liturgy is carried out with another intention entirely. For the deepest transformation of personality occurs, not when means for this transformation are deliberately sought, but when it is brought about in an entirely gratuitous manner through an attitude meaningful in itself. This attitude is like that of love which is entirely directed toward its object, a love which is in its very essence is a pure response-to-value, which comes into existence only as a response to the value of the beloved, and which would cease to exist as soon as it became a pedagogical means of one’s own improvement.
In other words, when we behold the Supreme Value – Almighty God – there is a proper response: and they fell down before the throne upon their faces, and adored God (Apoc. vii. 11). This is not intended as a means to transform Man, but as a means to respond to God. The worship of God is primary. “Active participation” is entirely secondary.
Then Hildebrand powerfully predicts the anthropocentric turn which would happen in the implementation of the New Mass:
Were this act of ‘beholding values’ to become a means of attaining such transformation, at that very moment it would cease to be genuine irradiation by values, and they no longer would be taken in their proper seriousness; there would no longer be a true communion with world of values, and the deep transformation would thus be halted.
In other words, if the Mass loses its focus on worshipping God alone first and foremost, and turns to focus on Man’s sanctification – however laudable this intention may be – it will lose its own transformative power, which stems directly from the Liturgy’s intense and “radical theocentrism” that Bishop Barron himself describes.
Mr. LaBeouf says the New Mass seems to him to be “a yearning to activate the public in an artificial way.” This is incredibly similar to the words of Bishop Barron himself again reflecting on Hildebrand’s words about the Latin Mass:
Another motif that Hildebrand develops is that of discretio (discretion) in the liturgy. In both the natural and supernatural orders, Hildebrand contends, values often disclose themselves gradually, unfolding according to an inner rhythm. This is true of plants, friendships and the self-disclosure of God. One of the unhappy marks of the modern person is a tendency impatiently to ignore this process and hence to do violence to the ‘objective logos of things.’ In its solemn, gradual, and patient unfolding of the mystery of God, the liturgy of the Church beautifully inculcates discretio.
Remember this is 1933. The only “liturgy of the Church” that Hildebrand is reflecting on (and thus Bishop Barron) is the Latin Mass. Here’s Hildebrand, elucidating what Mr. LaBeouf is pointing out about “artificial activation”:
[W]hen our will ‘commands’ love instead of seeking only to remove the obstacles which lie in its way, when we command love instead of opening ourselves to the value of the beloved and seeking to approach the person from within in order to allow love to arise in us organically, then our attitude is inorganic… Whenever we violate discretio and refuse to obey the inner laws of development, and attempt to ‘make’ something from outside with the help of our will, our attitude is inorganic, artificial in the sense of an explicit disvalue [evil].
This of course calls to mind Cardinal Ratzinger’s harsh but honest judgment about the New Mass. In his defense of Msgr. Gamber, Ratzinger wrote that the liturgical reformers “no longer wanted to continue the organic development and maturation of something that had been alive down through the centuries, and instead they replaced it—according to the model of technical production—with a fabrication, the banal product of the moment.”
It is this intuition that seems to cause Mr. LaBeouf to feel something entirely different at the Ancient Roman Rite. It is the supreme response to the supreme value of Almighty God Himself. It’s not making a pretense to “sell” Man something. It is only focused on God, to “respond fittingly to Him.” By this response to God, Man forgets Himself and is lost in the Beatific Vision of which Man beholds a small glimpse at the Latin Mass.
This is the experience of countless Catholics throughout the world who have, as Benedict said in the first quote above, found in the ancient rite of our forefathers an “encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.” It is because of this primacy of adoration given to God in Christ. This organic element, which patiently unfolds the mystery of divine charity in the Holy Trinity.
To his credit again, Bishop Barron (mostly) concedes the points raised by Mr. LaBeouf, and he published this clear apologia for the Latin Mass on his YouTube channel, for which we should be grateful. Let us say a Hail Mary for our brother in Christ, Shia LaBeouf, in thanksgiving for the graces given him from the mercy of God. Let us also say an Ave for His Excellency Bishop Barron, that his own encounter with a soul transformed by the Latin Mass might cause him to reflect on these deeper truths which he saw in Hildebrand’s view of the same rite.
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 Dietrich von Hildebrand, op. cit., 2.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 4.
 Barron, op. cit., xviii.
 Hildebrand, op. cit., 105, 106.
 The original text is in Theologisches 20.2 (February 1990): 103–4, quoting Ratzinger’s work in the book Simandron—Der Wachklopfer. Gedenkschrift für Klaus Gamber (1919-1989). For a history of this quotation, see Sharon Kabel, “Catholic fact check: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the fabricated liturgy,” (June 19, 2021).
Timothy Flanders is the editor of OnePeterFive. He is the author of City of God versus City of Man: The Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present and Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. His writings have appeared at OnePeterFive and Crisis, as well as in Catholic Family News. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate dedicated to uniting Catholics against the enemies of Holy Church. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in Michigan with his wife and five children.