‘The Mass is not a flag’

Our good friend Tom Hoopes of the National Catholic Register enjoyed John Zmirak’s column on the Traditional Latin Mass from a couple of weeks back, calling it “hilarious, copiously linked to supporting material, clever”…and also wrong.

John argued that, while the form of the Mass itself may be composed of changeable externals, “Inessential things have power, which is why we bother with them in the first place” — much like a nation’s flag. But Tom doesn’t like the analogy, and what it signifies:

Um, not to put too fine a point on it, but the form of the Mass is not at all a flag.

Furthermore, it seems to me that to think of the form of the Mass as a flag points to a, er, major problem. It in fact forces us, the Novus Ordo friends of John, to restate our question. “Okay, forget my question about why you care about externals. Let me ask you this: Why do you wave your Mass around and wear it like a badge?”

Tom proposes a different analogy, comparing our communion at Mass with the spousal union of husband and wife:

As important as sex is as the “source and summit” of their marital relationship, their behavior and relationship will start to look warped if they make sex the “center and preoccupation” of their relationship. Their marital relationship will start to be tense and unhappy and the very unity the act is supposed to affirm will become tenuous and fragile.

It’s the same with the Mass. . . .

Mass is public; sex is private. But just as I wouldn’t wave my Mass like a flag, I wouldn’t go winking at my wife and pointing to the bed too much, either. Doing either, it seems, would tend to alienate and irritate.

Read the rest of Tom’s argument here. What do people think?


Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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