A Letter to the Editor
by Bernard Brandt
I found a link in the World Wide Web to this page, suggesting that we make use of the Traditional Latin Mass, even though it is mostly a silent affair. Silence, after all, is golden. So they say. We should avoid flashy, noisy things. So they say.
I have a different perspective. Here it is.
I come from several perspectives, which may color my responses here.
The first perspective was from that of a mere babe in arms, who was born and bred in a Roman Catholic parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The parish in question, Ss. Peter and Paul, was a German Catholic parish where everything was sung, both beautifully and lustily. My fondest memories, including Christmas Midnight Mass, come from this time.
My second perspective comes from the times that I was transferred from my first home in Tulsa to my second home in a good suburb of Los Angeles. The first part of it was when I was an altar boy there, in the days when we did the old mass. I remember when I was told to repeat the words that were in the little plastic card that the altar boys were given: ‘Introibo ad altare Dei’. And our response was ‘Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutam meam.’ In retrospect, I rather think it a pity that neither the priests who were leading us, nor the Carmelite nuns who were allegedly teaching us, bothered to teach us what we were saying. I had to work that out on my own.
The second part of that perspective comes from the time that I was in a boy choir that was singing Gregorian chant. We were doing the simple versions of the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. God forbid that they should actually tell us what those things really said.
The third part came when I rejected the foolishness of a faith that was not taught, and became (at the proud age of 13) a sullen little atheist. But my parents asked me to come still to church, because they wanted to keep the family together. And because I loved my mother and my father, I obeyed them, and came with them to Church. I peeled off the labels of the little missalettes that the church provided, because the labels were for the local mortuary, and I knew from the personal experience of going to the (high priced) parochial school that the sons of those who ran the mortuaries were insufferable and decadent little gits.
Perhaps my change began when there was a Sunday morning when one of the priests who was at our church did not have an altar boy to help with the paten when he was serving the Eucharist. You see, there was once this thing called the Communion rail, where the people would kneel, and the priest would give the host to each of them, while the altar boy would hold the paten beneath their mouths, so that no crumb would fall to the ground. I was that boy.
And when I saw that there was no one to help that priest, I was indignant, even though I thought I knew (so I then thought) there was no God who could be served by him. So I got out of my seat in the pew, walked to the gate in the middle of the communion rail, opened and bolted it after me, went to the place where the patens were stored, got one out, went to the priest and helped to serve him, until each and every one who was there had received what I now know to be the blessed Body and Blood of our Lord.
And when the priest offered at the end of the service to give me the Host, I refused, shaking my head. Three times he offered it. And three times I refused. I did not believe in the God whom I had served. And I was taught well enough to know that it would be wrong to accept this gift when I did not believe in it. I just knew that it needed to be served. Finally, the priest shrugged, and returned to finish his service. I put back the paten where it belonged, went out of the gate that I entered, and returned to my seat. When I returned, my father quietly said to me: “The man behind me said, ‘that was the bravest thing that I have ever seen.’” I nodded, but was quiet. I simply knew that it needed to be.
The third part of my perspective came little by little. It began when I came to my senses, and returned to the Lord. I sought Him for a time in the Church of my youth, only to find that that Church had departed long ago. It had been replaced by a land of Kumbaya, It had been replaced by hirelings who thought it better to change the treasures of the past into a Hootenanny mass. I tried for more than ten years to go with the best that I could. It wasn’t enough.
So I went elsewhere. I went with the Orthodox, who were acknowledged to be sister Churches by the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I went with the Eastern Catholic Churches, whom the same Council has also recognized as sister Churches to the Roman Catholic Church. And I am waiting until you members of my sorry sister Church come to your collective senses, and begin to replace your (rather poor) entertainment with true worship. But I’m not holding my breath.