Why does the Latin Mass have to be so convoluted, beautiful, and mysterious?! And it made me think: the Mass is still more than I can handle. A priest may think he has gained complete mastery over the “Ordinary Form,” but the “Extraordinary Form keeps him guessing, keeps him wondering, keeps him unsure of himself. And unsure of ourselves is precisely where we want to be before God. The Mass, which is the Divine in human form, is always more than we can comprehend, but familiarity breeds contempt, or at least the illusion that we understand it. One never really becomes familiar with the Extraordinary Form. It maintains its distance, always one step ahead of us.
Having praised the Extraordinary Form for its transcenence, I must say that I understand why Vatican II made certain reforms to this form of the Latin Rite. Aspects of the “Tridentine Mass,” and the Liturgical Calendar, needed to be, and will always need to be, reformed. After all, it is only a human expression of a divine reality (divinely-guided, to be sure, but human in its form and in the manner each priest expresses it). But this aspect—the “difficult,” challenging, transcendent dimension of the Tridentine Mass—this needed no reform. Its banalization has greatly impoverished our perception of the Divine Liturgy, and the faith in general. The mundane, commonplace aspect of the Ordinary Form (or at least the manner in which it is commonly celebrated) desperately needs to be reformed. The “New” English translation of 2011 is one such reform, the first of hopefully many reforms to the Ordinary Form.
Thank God Thomas Aquinas College has the Extraordinary Form every day. It serves as a standard for priest and people by which the Ordinary Form is to be understood. If only every parish offered the Extraordinary Form every day, or at least once on Sundays, how much stronger our faith would be.
Report on the proposed San Francisco Oratory
Our work to establish an Oratory in San Francisco continues apace. Many thanks to all of you who have pledged financial support—we are at 80% of our goal. Many more thanks to those who have pledged “tons of prayers,” as one email put it. Pledges of financial backing and prayers have come in from all over the country, and even one from Birmingham, England (where the Oratory established by Blessed John Henry Newman thrives). Two seminarians from two different parts of the country have expressed interest in our proposed community, and a few priests have expressed their joy at the possibility of an Oratory in their city. Many pledges have come in from the City itself and surrounding Bay Area, where hopes are high for a new religious community to bring Jesus to the streets of San Francisco.
If you still want to pledge prayers and financial support, there are some days left of the pledge drive. We need lots of support—financial support has come and will come—but mostly we need your daily prayers as we prepare to enter the beautiful but savagely distorted cultural maelstrom that is the “Baghdad by the Bay.”