Bringing up a child in the TLM: a challenge worth accepting

The following is an excerpt from an essay by Professor Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College entitled “Helping Children Enter the Traditional Latin Mass.” As with all of Professor Kwasniewski’s writings, we recommend it without reservation.

I think it’s fair to say that it will always be a challenge to initiate children into the richness and intricacy of traditional Catholic worship. It can never be taken for granted in any age that the next generation will be liturgically initiated, as if it were an automatic process.

It is a worthwhile challenge to embrace, because the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is your children’s point of contact with the greatest, longest, and deepest religious tradition in the entire world. As the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, the Sacrifice of the New Covenant supersedes Jewish worship and therefore most fully embodies all that God gave to Israel. The Mass is an act of sacrifice that, as the Roman Canon reminds us, circles all the way back to the prefiguring sacrifices of Abel, Abraham, and Melchisedech. Within the Christian tradition itself, the Rite of the Church of Rome is among the most ancient. Its single historic anaphora, the Roman Canon, is older than that of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Within the Western tradition, there is no loftier expression of the divine mysteries, no more nourishing access to them. The hard work it takes to enter into this liturgy is repaid a thousandfold in the never-depleted insights and consolations it affords. For this reason, the work of teaching another how to enter into it is a genuine spiritual work of mercy.

All of this presupposes the importance of entering into the liturgy. As Dom Gueranger and the original liturgical movement emphasized, we need to get to know and love the prayer of Holy Mother Church, and doing so requires an effort to become well acquainted with it.

On liturgy and nostalgia

Observations by Catholic scholar Peter Kwasniewski:

Though Our Lord first appeared on earth in a humble manger, hidden and poor, the sacred liturgy is not time-travel to Bethlehem circa 4 bc. The Mass is a living image or efficacious likeness of the perfect worship offered by Jesus Christ as Head of the Church — the sinless Lamb slain on Calvary, now reigning in the heavenly Jerusalem — and so it makes present in our midst the glorified Savior whose second coming will not be in quiet poverty but in earth-shattering splendor. For this reason the instinct of our faith has always been to maximize the beauty of the liturgy and its diverse furnishings and surroundings, yearning for what is to come rather than indulging in backward glances. From that point of view, the liturgists who clamor for a return to evangelical or apostolic “simplicity” are the ones guilty of nostalgia, not the faithful who desire the traditional Roman rite. They want to go back, we want to press forward. It is the difference between archaeology and eschatology. The irony, in fact, is greater: one of the most ancient liturgical customs of all, and one that survived all ages and cultures until it met its match in the hubris of the modern West, is that of facing eastwards when we pray to Christ, the true light that enlightens every man (cf. Jn 1:9). In having the priest turn his back to the Sun of Justice and “face the people” in a closed circle, as if he were the coming light, advocates of the new liturgical style disdained universal symbolism and banished one of the few customs we can be certain the church of the early centuries practiced. Once again, those who defend Tradition find that they are more capable than their adversaries of preserving what the latter claim to value most — in this instance, antiquity.

Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Angelico Press, 2014)

The winter of our unbelief

Catholic author and educator Peter Kwasniewski on the effects of the 1960s liturgical “reform” on ecumenism and evangelization:

What we need for a sane Christian life together is a truly noble simplicity, the silence of anonymity, clouds of beautiful song and incense, a healthy routine of life marked by feasts and processions, a life of worship spent in churches that foster an ecstatic praise of God, bearing witness to his transcendent beauty. This is what the Middle Ages had in abundance, for all that the poor peasants lacked; this is what we fundamentally lack, for all the cleverness and comfort we have. Every time an ugly church is built or the Mass is offered unworthily, faith is endangered, distorted, thinned out. In the Church on earth, half a century out from the great springtime that was supposed to follow the Second Vatican Council, we are in the midst of a darkening Age of Unbelief, a winter colder than the Enlightenment itself.

Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (2014)

Charity begins at home

From the Preface to Peter Kwasniewski’s Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis:

The Church is the family of God, and the pastors serve in loco parentis — so why are they absent? Are they truly taking care of their children, and of their children’s primary needs? Ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, efforts for social justice, even evangelization efforts are worthless if the faithful themselves are not first being well clothed, nourished, and taught — clothed by sacraments frequently and worthily received, nourished by a sacred liturgy offered with beauty and reverence, taught sound doctrine in catechesis, preaching, and schools.