Photo by Josh Applegate
It’s almost two years since I first went to the Traditional Latin Mass. Some friends from Western University’s Newman Catholic Students Club invited me to go on a road trip to Holy Angels Parish in St. Thomas, Ontario. I had never attended the Tridentine liturgy, having grown up with the vernacular Mass, also known as the liturgy of Paul VI, the Novus Ordo or the Ordinary Form of the Mass, which was a product of the years following the Second Vatican Council. Despite never having attended the Traditional Latin Mass before this point, I was somewhat familiar with the language of the Church and Gregorian chant, as during my first year of university I sang at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa with the Adoremus Choir. Armed with this limited knowledge of Latin and chant, I thought I would give the Extraordinary Form a shot.
At that first Mass, I was somehow both perplexed and amazed. I understood very little of what was going on, and was struck by how different it was. Yet, just based on the reverence shown by all in attendance, as well as the beauty of the music, I felt transported, as if I was no longer sitting in a stiff church pew here on Earth. This was in spite of my inability to comprehend everything that was occurring, and in letting go of understanding the language, I was able to deeply enter into prayer.
Not long before the Consecration, I recall having a startling epiphany. I was worshipping God in the same way as countless saints from throughout Church history. My lack of understanding was suddenly transcended by this reality. As I received Holy Communion and returned to my pew, I couldn’t help but marvel at this beautiful connection to the saints. I had entered so deeply into a kind of prayerfulness that I’d rarely experienced, that by the end of the second Gospel, I didn’t want Mass to end.
As I mentioned, it has been almost two years since I first attended the Extraordinary Form. Since then, I have attended Mass in this setting more often that I have attended the Ordinary Form. I cannot thank the families enough who have driven me to St. Thomas from London (about a half hour drive) on numerous occasions, for without them, I would not have been able to attend so frequently. The Tridentine Mass has opened up a whole new world of devotion, and with it, a greater appreciation for Sacred Tradition and the Faith as a whole.
I have to admit, that in the summer between my first and second years of undergrad, I was at times beginning to question my faith. While the Real Presence has been something that I had appreciated and believed for a few years at this point in time, I was finding it harder and harder to find Christ in the Novus Ordo. This was difficult for me, as I had grown up in the Ordinary Form, and yet, it was slowly becoming an obstacle to my belief in the Real Presence. While the Novus Ordo is valid, I was often faced with banal and profane music, joke-filled homilies, and priests who would improvise different parts of the Mass. All of this hindered my ability to truly enter into the kind of prayerfulness that I was looking for. This, coupled with my own struggles with mental illness, created an unsettling tension within me. I needed something stable that was unlike anything of this world.
Upon discovering the Traditional Latin Mass, I had found all that I was seeking. In a way, the old Mass has helped to save my faith. There is no emotionalism for us to partake in, nor is there room in the liturgy for the priest to turn the Mass into an hour of entertainment. The Traditional Latin Mass transcends the toils of everyday life like nothing else, lifting us to heavenly heights, instead of trying to force God down to our level. Everything points to Christ in the Eucharist, from the wonderful Gregorian chant, to the incense, even to the priest facing away. There is something so profoundly set apart about the Extraordinary Form, almost otherworldly, and I cannot thank God enough for leading me to it. If you have not been to the old Mass, I encourage you to try to attend it, and to see what God can offer you with this sublime liturgy. I pray that it will be a fruitful experience, and that God may bless you abundantly by it.