Thursday, February 01, 2007

Liturgy: Youth Masses, pros and cons

Katerina Marie over at Evangelical Catholicism wrote up a post on "Youth" Masses. Yes, I've just come back from a Young Adult retreat, and yes, the music sung at Mass was primarily CCM (with the exception of a few hymns sung during Exposition and Benediction), but I feel I should weigh in on the matter, lest my personal stance be mistaken or assumed away. What follows is an expansion of the comments I wrote in the aforementioned blog post.

First, as someone else stated, "one Mass for one people should suffice". Now, I grew up on the Novus Ordo Mass; I have never (yet) attended a Traditional Latin Mass, nor a Mass of any other Rite (such as the Byzantine Rite) although I am eager to do so. I have seen excerpts of TLMs, and I have read its Missal, and I can see things I appreciate in it, but there are also parts of it that confuse me (such as why so much of the Mass would be said silently by the priest) and parts that raise some theologically-deep questions (such as why the congregation does not partake of both Species, Body and Blood). One practice I have recently taken up after reading a commentary on the TLM is this: I no longer chew the Host, but let it dissolve on my tongue to the point where I can simply swallow it. There are multiple reasons I find this particular process superior to my previous one:
  1. it distinguishes the Eucharist, which is spiritual food, from bread, which is material food
  2. it keeps me from rushing, physically and mentally, through the Sacred Mystery
  3. it is more scrupulous (although I am not overly so) in its care of the Host
    1. I should add that I receive the Eucharist in my hand, a tradition which I hold to be supported by Church Fathers, and one that, if done reverently, does no disgrace or disservice to Christ
    2. I may one day (or many days) receive on the tongue, but I have never had my questions about the worthiness of the tongue over the hand to receive Christ answered, so while I admire the practice, I do not understand it to be "better"
  4. it instills the sense that Christ is permeating my body
To get back to the point, I have seen the Novus Ordo Mass carried out with varying levels of reverence, and I understand that the TLM makes it hard for such a variance, but I don't think the Novus Ordo is inferior (as some people do). But I do not think that, for all that is different between the two rites, that the Novus Ordo is a fundamentally different Mass from the TLM.

I've never been to a "rock Mass" or an equivalent, where I felt uncomfortable with the music, but I do feel weird singing CCM songs at Mass. I have a fondness for more traditional liturgical music, although my only exposure to chants is quite limited. I like the organ. I like the piano as well. I don't have a problem with guitars and drums, it's just that CCM songs seem foreign to me at Mass (perhaps because so little of it is overtly Catholic, although I would have to say all the songs sung at Mass this past weekend were in line with Catholic theology).

I was glad to see such devotion paid to the Eucharist; it had been some time since I'd participated in Adoration, and seeing such respect for and belief in the Real Presence rejuvenated me (although I met my breaking point at 3:00am). There was no doubt in my mind that my fellow Catholics on that retreat saw nothing less than the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ on the altar, in the hands of my brother Fr. Charlie, and encased in the Monstrance. I was glad to sing Tantum ergo and "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name". Call it "that old-time religion", but it moves me in a more profound way than most CCM does.

When it comes down to it, I'd rather hear and sing more traditional, liturgical music at Mass. There was nothing during the retreat that I took offense to -- let me make that clear. And let me also say the parish I grew up in had a "folk Mass" with guitars that I enjoyed. Then again, the songs were all songs I knew already (albeit with an organ or piano behind them). It's just that there's a weirdness I feel when singing CCM songs at Mass.

The heart of the matter is that I don't think we need to concoct a Mass (a "liturgy lite" as I refer to it in my comments at Katerina's site) to cater to younger Catholics. I think more time should be spent focusing on proper catechesis, on teaching the liturgy as it is and fostering respect for it. I don't deny that younger Catholics can feel out of place and un-attended-to, but Youth Ministry needn't avoid the liturgy in reaching the younger generations. It should embrace it and make it embraceable to a group that may need extra assistance in finding the beauty and grace in something that might seem "old".

G. K. Chesterton said that we don't need a church that moves with the world, we need a church that moves the world. I recognize the truth of that statement when I consider the various compromises and changes being found in other denominations these past several years (such as renaming the Persons of the Trinity to be politically correct). When the Church becomes just an expression of our temporal fancies and preferences, the Mass ceases to be the vehicle by which God invites us to share in the Holy Sacrifice of the Lord.

(If anyone is reading this and thinking I must be a hypocrite for admiring the Novus Ordo, I'm afraid you're mistaken.)


NotMyOpinion30 said...


Read "The Spirit of the Liturgy" by Cardinal Ratzinger.

That might help clear up some of the confusion that you have with the Traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo as it should be.

Andrew said...

such as why the congregation does not partake of both Species, Body and Blood

Every particle of the Eucharistic Host contains the Real and Substantial Presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. There really is no need to take the "wine".

japhy said...

Yes, Andrew, I know that. So why is it necessary (that is, why is it part of the Rite) that the priest partakes of both?

Kristin said...

I have not chewed the Host since I was about ten years old. Grandma told me it was disrespectful and I agreed with her.