Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Journey as a Catholic So Far, Pt. 8: Church-Hopping

After my baptism (April 7, 2012), I definitively entered what converts refer to sometimes as the "honeymoon phase."  For the first two months or so, I was living in a dream: in my excitement, I began to attend Mass as much as I feasibly could, going several times a week when time and work permitted.

Though I was annoyed that the parish nearest to my house (a mere 10-15 minutes or so away) was one of those parishes where one would be forgiven for thinking they had accidentally walked in to a non-denominational fellowship centre, I was still happy that my home parish in the city was a fairly traditional, beautiful church that boasted an amazing priest, and where the Ordinary Form of the Mass was celebrated with reverence.

But with the typical excitement and zeal of a convert, I wanted to "see" everything else that was around, to really immerse myself in my new spiritual home, as it were.  So I proceeded to check out other parishes.  Obviously, I avoided the ones that had been ruined in the wake of the chaos that occurred after Vatican II, but this was a rather hard thing to do - most had been so stripped down that aside from a statue of the Virgin Mary and a Tabernacle shoved off to the side somewhere, many seemed almost semi-protestant in look.  Nothing was like how I imagined Catholic parishes to look, but this was part-and-parcel with the "learning in a bubble" conversion years.  I knew that modernism and liberalism, for lack of better terms perhaps, had taken over in many places - but this much?  Why did very few Catholic parishes actually look Catholic?

Soon enough, I found myself craving the Latin Mass, otherwise called the "Extraordinary Form"; incidentally, I have never liked either term for the Mass - Ordinary or Extraordinary, that is - as it says to me that one is just "ho-hum Sunday", and the other is pushed to the side and just there to appease people who don't like the Ordinary Form.  So I went to the Latin Mass, and expected the greatest thing this side of heaven.  

What I got was a mixed bag.  A Franciscan friar was there, whom I overheard saying that it was also his "first Latin Mass" that he had ever been to, which I found so odd.  Certainly the Franciscans did not have to put up with all the strangeness that was often present at the normal Mass, right?  Regardless, the experience was interesting, but a bit of a letdown.  Unlike the high Latin Masses one sees in pictures and videos on Youtube, this one felt awkward.  The priest at the time preached about the state of decay and modernism in the Church, which I nodded to a lot during the homily, as if I were some kind of seasoned Catholic who had suffered through years of crises in the Church.  There were many young Catholics there, no altar-girls or "extraordinary ministers", the communion rail was still there, the music was straight out of what one might expect in the early 20th-century.  Holy Communion was received reverently, kneeling and on the tongue, as I understand it is still supposed to be.  Most startling was the line to the confessional before Mass, which was relatively lengthy!

The problem for me was that, despite all the rejection of the goofiness that I saw in so many parishes, it felt like being stuck in a time-capsule, as though I was suddenly living and praying in 1952.  I say this not as a criticism of the Latin Mass, which is assuredly beautiful (especially in its "high" form), but more a criticism of the "atmosphere" and "feel" - it simply felt not timeless, but stuck.  Again, this is NOT a criticism of the Latin Mass itself.

But, aside from my normal parish where the Ordinary Form was celebrated in a reverent manner (aside from the odd "Gather Us In" hymn and "Sisters and brothers, let us stand and begin", which annoyed me only because it seemed so overwhelmingly petty), I didn't know where else to go.  The parish nearest me was beyond ruined - the Tabernacle was hidden off in a side-room, the Mass was constantly delayed or interrupted by introductions, clapping, barely valid Consecrations and ad-libs, armies of extraordinary ministers despite it being a small parish, and all the rest.  From what I have gathered over the years, it's not uncommon. 

However, I remember my priest at my home parish mentioning something about taking catechumens to a Ukrainian Gree Catholic parish in town, and so I decided to go there.  I knew next-to-nothing about Eastern Catholicism, barely even knowing of their existence or history or anything else.  In fact, for most of my conversion years, the West was Roman Catholic, and the East was Eastern Orthodox, with the Protestants sort of all over the place.

I arrived early at the Liturgy, so early that not even the priest was there yet.  I didn't even know how to greet him, and was a bumbling mess.  The inside of the church itself was much better than it looked on the outside - instead of any statues, there were icons adorning the walls and front, where a beautiful iconostasis stood.  The priest wore vestments that didn't appear to be handmade with crayons and scissors, but actual vestments.  The Liturgy was sung, and I felt very excited to be there - could it really be possible to dive into the Eastern spirituality, prayer, practice, and everything else that I had begun to love so much back in 2011?

I could embrace the Orthodox spirituality I loved while still being Catholic - this was what enthralled me the most.  I was glad to see a parish that had not succumbed to liturgical gutting, that had confession before every Liturgy, and was for me, a brand new experience.

The world of Eastern Catholicism began to open up to me.  The problem was, however, that things were darkening - I was beginning to develop a worse twin to my intellectual arrogance during RCIA: what I call Over-Zealous Convert Syndrome. 

26 comments:

  1. I'm sorry your experience with the old roman rite was disappointing. Whenever I travel I always seek out an old mass parish, and I have experienced what you describe on a few occasions. It's actually a little grace from God because then one realizes why there was a liturgical movement, and why many of the older generation were happy for the change. I enjoyed remarkably transcendent and beautiful old masses for the first two years I was Catholic, and so I was exasperated that the new mass was ever introduced. God eventually disabused me of my ignorance.

    BTW, how many parts to your story? I thought part 7 was the end, and now I'm happy to see there is more...

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  2. All I can say is you are lucky you could get to all those different Masses. For me it was Novus Ordo (with liturgical dancing etc) or nothing. I ended up contemplating the Eastern Orthodox very soon after I was baptized. We had a parish that is about fifteen minutes away from me. I went to their Divine Liturgy for a while and even visited a Greek Orthodox convent and stayed there for a couple of days. Of course, that was a bust and I ended up going back to Novus Ordo. It has gotten a little better over the years (no more liturgical dancing etc) but it is still not great. If I could, I would go to the Latin Mass or an Eastern Catholic Liturgy.

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    1. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory to Him forever! Hang in there, Rebecca! If you are ever up near Morgantown, please visit St. Mary's Holy Protection Byzantine Catholic Church (Sabraton area of Morgantown). Divine Liturgy is Sunday at 10:30 a.m. God bless! ~ Patricia

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    2. Morgantown is 4 hours away from me unfortunately. But, if I ever can get up there I definitely will, thanks!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this your not alone. I am fortunate that our Parish offers the EF and the NO. And to that end the NO is very reverent nothing ad-hoc going on there. I attribute that to a very Holy very Orthodox Catholic Pastor....but what happens if he is moved away from that Parish? They have 24 hour 7 days a week Eucharistic Adoration, they have nuns with habits teaching at the school and loving in a convent next door. I do however have to drive 20-30 minutes to get there, which I don't mind. I use to belong to a very laid back....way left....almost Protestant like Catholic Church, it was really hard to take so I moved on and Thank GOD...found this real diamond with real attention,reverence, and devotion at the Mass. So I feel your pain...what to do? We need to continue to pray and ask for the Church to be strong and for good Holy priests. We are living in difficult times my friend. Keep the faith. I enjoy your blog very much.

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  4. My standard is much simpler: Are they offering the Precious Blood? If not, I'm disappointed.

    Lucky the parish I joined does still offer the Precious Blood.

    All other distractions in the Mass, I try very hard to ignore and focus on simply being there with and for the Lord.

    And when I see people disappointing my expectations, I 1) stifle my expectations and 2) pray the Lord to lift those people up - even to float in the air if possible! :)

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  5. I had a similar experience. Being a revert I couldn't wait to find and attend a Latin Mass. When I finally did it was kind of a let-down. I think I had set up certain expectations so that the reality was a bit disappointing.

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  6. One must get used to the Latin Mass because the silence is so unexpected and we are not used to it. Then we pray the beautiful prayers of the missal and learn to love the silence and reverence. The devil hates his liturgy especially and has worked hard to suppress it.

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  7. While I loved the Mass when it was in Latin back in the pre-Vatican II days, I love it even more now that it is celebrated in my own language. It enables me to participate on a deeper level than before. I have to wonder why people think that the Latin is more reverent. Perhaps because it is foreign to them. Personally, I feel that Liturgy in the vernacular is preferable over than one celebrated in a language that I do not understand. Besides, reverence in in the heart of the participant, not in the language. I have no desire to return to the "Extraordinary Form." My love for the Mass, for the Eucharist has grown ever deeper with the passage time. I weary of those who blame the changes following Vatican II for the decrease in participation. I am certain that this is the result of the great cultural revolution which began in the late '60s and early '70s that brought about a decline in faithful practice of the Catholic faith. If it were true that the post-Vatican II changes were responsible, then all of us would have pulled back. On the contrary, the changes have increased my reverence and awe at the great mystery that takes place on our altars--bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Son of God. Yes, therein lies the mystery of the Mass, not in the Latin language.

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    1. I agree with Judy. I am a convert to the faith. When I was young I attended Latin mass with a friend, but now that I am Catholic I love understanding what is being said. Now and then I will go to a Latin mass, also very beautiful. The key is, the Lord is present and it is a privilege to attend daily mass. Thank you Jesus.

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    2. Judy,
      By your own admission, the Mass is a mystery. Why then, do you think that because you understand the words, you understand what is really being said and done?

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  8. The "Latin Mass" is a disappointment to many because of that "time capsule" which is why there was (and is still) a liturgical renewal happening. If the "new mass" had slowly evolved in continuation from the old and according to the actual documents of the council it would still contain some Latin, Gregorian chant, gestures, and sacredness. It would be basically the Latin mass with a few improvements to remove the time capsule. I attended such a mass once when traveling away from home. It captured everything I remembered from the late 1950's and also made me feel that I was advancing in a faith that continues to grow and improve. The "intended" mass after Vatican II is the most beautiful, which is why pope (emeritus) Benedict had the "Year of Faith", why there was a "Year for Priest's", and the great jubilee 2000, in all of these (and more) the popes call the church to "re-read Vatican II and interpret it with the hermeneutic of reform in continuity of previous councils. For decades they have been trying to put the renewal on the right track but out of the prevailing ignorance and an unwillingness to learn the truth concerning the council and especially the sacred liturgy by not only the majority of laity but also the clergy things are not improving as the church would like. It takes a ton of reading to be "self educated" in the reality of the council which is the only way the laity will discover the "mind of the church" in these matters. It takes real effort to be a "true" Catholic these days.

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  9. Why are we talking about finding the perfect parish? Are we attending Mass solely to receive? We belong to a neighborhood. Do parish boundaries no longer exist? Should we not be praying for and supporting the parish neighborhood in which we live for which, hopefully, the pastor is also praying? Regardless of the style of Mass do we really want to be old style passive Catholics?

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  10. I realized that the Eucharist makes the Church Catholic. Regardless of the shape and form, all those externals become petty compared to the Presence of Christ in His Church. As long as I see the Vigil Lamp lit, I'm fine, and my heart is at peace. But certainly, a 'more reverent Church, and a holy priest' tops the cake.

    Will there be Part 9?

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  11. There were probably a few folks who attended the first Eucharist, done by Christ .,who thought there should have been a better format followed,an organ playing and Gregorian chanting.They missed the main point; CHRIST is there in THE HOLY EUCHARIST . They were hoping for more externals and missed the essence of the TRUE PRESENCE....right in front of their eyes. I am 67 yrs. old and have been a Catholic since birth,the format has changed but there is far more GOOD than bad.

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  12. When we go to a parish and they have Our Divine Lord in ramson, then is our obligation to accompany Him more than ever particularly when He is marginalized and in solitary confinement. Those changes against the spirit of Vatican II will fade and the perennial and divine will prevail.Do not forget Paul II words "do not be afraid."

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  13. I am devoted to the Mass - NO, or Latin. I have attended the Latin Mass only a few times in the last 10 years. I do wish we could have the altar rails back, and the Tabernacle right in the center, where it belongs. Thankfully, our parish was recently renovated and our Pastor insisted on putting the Tabernacle - a most beautiful one - right in the center. And, beautiful stained glass windows, and new statues. The response from the parishioners was overwhelmingly positive. Now, we must pray for the altar rails, and fewer Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. We have a beautiful Church - a gift from God - let us always keep Her in prayer, and lover Her. Yes, times are difficult in the Church, and in the word. Remember, 'the gates of hell shall not prevail... God is in charge. Nothing is impossible with God. Let us keep praying, and beg for the intercession of Our Lady who is our Mother and the Mother of the Church.

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  14. I find it interesting that one would call a Latin Tridentine Mass a 'time capsule' yet think that an Eastern Catholic Liturgy just fine (which is ever so ancient and which is under the Pope by the way). Seems a bit nutty to think that a beautiful Mass that has been around for centuries is not okay when an ancient one is. So, huh? And by the way, there are 22 Catholic Churches, not simplistically only an Eastern and a Western one. Do check out this information as a learning experience: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Catholic_Churches

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    1. Hi Maggie,
      If you read the blog carefully, you'll note that I did not say that the Latin Mass per se was the time capsule, but the atmosphere and culture I found there. I am also well aware of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches - what I was saying was that, at the time, I had a very simplistic view of East and West. So I am well ahead of you on this.

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  15. Too many of the comments are about "me". Follow the Missal prayers. Or be silent and pray. That is participation. Offer up the sacrifice with the priest. Only the priest can mystically "slay" the victim, but the faithful can offer Christ to the Father. Silence is reverence. The Latin language is extremely important for the West and even the East wherever the venerable Roman rite is used. If you prefer "He took the cup" to "And taking the most excellent chalice into His holy and venerable hands" and you prefer the stupid mystery of faith verses recited after the consecration instead of the sacrosanct "Mysterium Fidei" at the moment of sacrifice (where it belongs) then you are culpably ignorant of what the Holy Mass is. If you think that just being "valid" is OK, no matter the liturgy, then you lack appreciation for the sublimity of the Act of divine worship. The NOvus Ordo was a fabrication (Pope Benedict's words) not an organic developement. It was the production of a freemason Archbishop Annibal Bugnini (fact).

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  16. The new meaning of "Roman" Catholic, church hopping!

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  17. Thank you, Jason, very interesting to hear of your experiences. I enjoy attending all of the traditional liturgies, the Anglican Use, the Latin Mass and many Eastern and Oriental Catholic Divine Liturgies. Sadly, as much as we'd all like to just sit back and sacrifice. It's hard to do so when you have politics foisted on you. "Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to day; and the same for ever."

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  18. I'm ashamed to admit that l've walked out of several Masses due to horrid guitar music. How we pray is just as important as what we pray. Lex orandi, lex credendi. When we bang tambourines and worship like evangelical Protestants... there is a sad state of affairs in Western faith, and the modern worship style Masses won't stem the tide of the loss of Faith. *Not questioning the validity of the modern Masses*

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  19. There is nothing wrong with vernacular, it is the manner in which countless Masses are celebrated. I wish English parishes would follow the format of the Anglican Use. We in the West have to get away from these entertainment liturgies.

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  20. I agree that the Novus Ordo is a fabrication and artificial as Pope Benedict said. I also agree that just being valid is not the whole of the matter. I don't think there is anything wrong with Church hopping though, if you have the opportunity and esp if you are a new convert.

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  21. I agree that if the New English Mass was researched, at length, in the same manner as the Anglican Use, which was painstakingly put together to follow the authentic teachings of the Second Vatican Council. We would not have the type of "how can I make them love me" political psychoanalysis that seems to be prevalent in not just the Mass as a whole, but specifically in the sermon. Personally, I would never walk out of an unworthy sermon, or celebration, that proceeds the Lamb of God, who bought my freedom, being slain on the altar, but I do understand much of the discord. The church does need to relate to culture and changing times, but we also need to maintain an authentic Catholic presence in our churches, we need to be able to walk into our churches and see a continuum. Besides all that, the 70s style worship is now really dated. ;)

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