Irrelevant Mass or Reverent Mass?

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The present crisis in the Catholic Church might be seen as the last hurrah of the spirit of Vatican II. If rumors are to be believed, Pope Francis is preparing new restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. This combined with the dissent being fomented by the German Catholics and widespread modernism and liturgical laxity in the rest of the Catholic Church in Western Europe and North America brings many Catholics of a conservative mindset close to despair. 

Not a few conservative Catholics are wringing their hands and asking what they can do in the face of a Church whose leadership seems hell-bent on following the lead of the mainstream Protestant churches into moral relativism, accommodation to the zeitgeist, pathetic irrelevance, and terminal decline.

The key to the Church’s evangelization, retention of the faithful, and cultural relevance is a reverent liturgy. If our architecture, music, and celebration of the liturgy is beautiful and traditional it makes a counter-cultural statement and aids in the proclamation of the fullness of the Christian faith in the Catholic Church. If the liturgy is merely “relevant” and accommodates the spirit of the age it is, paradoxically, irrelevant. Reverent Mass, on the other hand, is supremely relevant because with increased reverence for what is truly holy, all else falls into its correct priority.

Many Catholics wonder what they can do about the current crisis. Each of us must do what we can with what we have where we are. One Catholic who has done just that is a guy named Tony who has established a new website that provides a nationwide map to help Catholics locate parishes that celebrate Mass in a reverent manner.

I interviewed Tony to find out what prompted him to make this effort and to learn more about this new online apostolate.

Fr. DL: What is the aim and purpose of the Reverent Catholic Mass website?

Tony: The Reverent Catholic Mass Website assists Catholics to grow in their spiritual and community life by highlighting and encouraging reverent devotion to Jesus Christ. We do this by providing easy to find Mass locations where Mass is celebrated reverently, and we provide practical resources to help strengthen their faith.

Fr. DL:   What is your background church? Convert or cradle Catholic?

Tony: I am a cradle Catholic and went through the Catholic school system but, like many others, stopped practicing the Faith after high school. When I returned to the Church in my mid-twenties, I was shocked that the treasure of our intellectual tradition and the beauty of the Faith was right under my nose. I have been intensely interested ever since in learning everything I can about Jesus Christ, our Faith, Church history, and how these combined can better aid in the evangelization of the Gospel.

Fr. DL: Is your website only for traditionalist, Latin Mass Catholics?

Tony: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, my wife and I attend a parish that only offers Mass celebrated ad orientem in the ordinary form. As faithful Catholics, we love all the rites and forms that our Mother Church offers, but, in our travels, we found the reverence of the parishes we attended varied wildly. Our website was created in response to these observations so that Catholics who take their faith seriously, who want to be challenged, or simply want to worship God without distraction can do so in reverence and the beauty of holiness. While we include Traditional Latin Mass parishes, we do not exclude Novus Ordo, Anglican Ordinariate, and Eastern Rite celebrations.

Fr. DL: What kind of feedback have you had about the site? Any opposition?

Tony: We knew full well that we could be walking into a mine field because of the nature of this project and anticipated negative feedback. However, we have received none. As a matter of fact, the response has only been positive!

Fr. DL: How can a parish get listed on your site?

Tony: Simply follow the directions at the bottom of the Map page (link below), and we will review the Church against our site’s criteria. https://reverentcatholicmass.com/map

Fr. DL: What are the criteria?

Tony: We have developed a list of “indicator criteria” that we believe help to signal if a parish celebrates Mass with reverence. We review parish websites and bulletins to help determine if the parish meets those criteria (our full list can be viewed here). 

We acknowledge that without attending the Mass at any given parish, it is best for those interested to use our map as a starting point rather than as some kind of certified stamp of approval.

Fr. DL: What happens when a parish gets a new priest and scraps the reverent Mass?

Tony: If we learn that the reverent Mass is no longer offered at one of the parishes, we look into it and decide if the church no longer fits the “indicator criteria” we developed. If this proves true, then we remove that parish from our map.

Fr. DL: What would you say to those who contend that true reverence is in the heart not in the outward forms?

Tony: If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the representation of our Lord’s crucifixion and the Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324), then proper deference for this objective reality should be given regarding posture and orientation. If “every knee should bend” (Philippians 2:10) at the name of the Lord, then it is not subjective to assume that every knee should bend when we face the Lord receiving the Holy Eucharist. There is wisdom in the phrase, “As we pray, so we believe.” If our physical worship signals a lack of seriousness, then our internal disposition is most likely being manifested, or at least, our internal disposition is more likely to be drawn away from the true focus of our worship.  

Dress, posture, music, and silence are all tangible aspects that communicate the importance of what is taking place in the liturgy. Being present at Mass is to be at the re-presentation of the sacrifice of God our Savior. What is more important than that? We should be arrested by the power, drama, and beauty of the Mass and drawn into worship with the heavenly liturgy.

Fr. DL: How would you answer a person who says your work is divisive and promoting a self-righteous, holier than thou mentality among Catholics?

Tony: We did not create the division in the Church and we did not create the conditions for 70% of the faithful not believing in the Real Presence. We are simply trying to find creative ways to help those who want to worship our Savior with reverent love and devotion. It is sad to hear the horror stories of what people have to put up with when all they want is to pray and be close to our Lord. It is difficult for many people to grow in holiness if they are cut off at the source because of distractions, novelty, and apathy. Additionally, we go out of our way to never criticize anyone or any parish on the site.

This website exists because regular Catholics like me want to become holy, and we can’t do it without Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need priests who offer the Mass with the utmost care and recognize that the Mass is the only place we can go to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord. Our mission is to promote the good, true, and beautiful. We do this by helping and encouraging those who desire refuge in Christ to find Him in the mysteries of our Faith in a prayerful and reverent manner.

Visit Reverent Catholic Mass, and bookmark it for when you travel.

[Photo Credit: Reverent Mass website]

By

Father Dwight Longenecker is the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His upcoming book, Beheading Hydra: A Radical Plan for Christians in an Atheistic Age, will be published by Sophia Institute Press in the Spring. Read more at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

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