The United States of America, like France and Britain, is a microcosm of this worldwide trend. Everywhere we look in the Catholic Church today, the news coming out about the Vernacular Mass (Novus Ordo or "Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite") is becoming downright depressing. Parish attendance is down. The number of people who believe what the Catholic Church teaches is at an all time low. Many Catholic laypeople (particularly politicians) are in open rebellion against Church teaching. The number of new priestly vocations remain at an all time low, and of those few young men who do want to be priests, fewer still want anything to do with the Vernacular Mass (Novus Ordo). Most of them openly prefer the Traditional Latin Mass (Vetus Ordo), and would prefer to celebrate mass that way. The trend holds true in religious orders as well. A few traditional orders are flourishing, while the greater number of modernised orders are fading away.
There is some good news though. Of those priests who prefer the Vetus Ordo, their number is growing at an exponential rate. Likewise, the number of Vetus Ordo masses has more than doubled over the last decade. Even more remarkable, is the disproportionate number of young people attending the Vetus Ordo mass over the Novus Ordo mass. Yes, something is definitely happening in the Catholic Church. It is a big movement, and it is undeniably led by youth! The trend is clear now. It is slow and gradual, but a definite trend nonetheless. Young people are abandoning the Novus Ordo mass, and turning in increasingly large numbers to the Vetus Ordo mass.
Along with this trend has come an increase in fidelity to Catholic teaching. Make no mistake about it, any survey of a Latin Mass parish, will reveal a much larger degree of fidelity to Church teaching than the typical Vernacular Mass parish. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong on this. Per capita, the Latin Mass people beat Vernacular Mass people in fidelity to Church teaching -- hands down!
Now that's not to say one can't find faithful Catholics in the Novus Ordo mass. One most certainly can! That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that Vetus Ordo Catholics have a much higher degree of fidelity to Church teaching per capita. To illustrate, let's hypothetically line up 200 Catholics in two equal columns. The first column will be 100 Novus Ordo (Vernacular Mass) Catholics. The second column will be 100 Vetus Ordo (Traditional Latin Mass) Catholics. Now I have no idea what the percentages would be, but I am certain, that if you surveyed those people in both columns, you would find that the Vetus Ordo column would have a much higher number of people who are faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I am certain of it. I'm saying it here without reservation. That's my assertion. Now, I challenge anyone out there -- I dare you -- prove me wrong!
I doubt anyone will try, because deep down inside, almost everyone knows I'm right about this. Per capita, Traditional Latin Mass Catholics are more faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church than Regular Vernacular Mass Catholics. Most people know this is true, but very few could tell you why. I have a theory, but it is not original. In fact, it's been around for a very long time. My theory is not really my own. It was coined by somebody else long ago, and is shared by some of the highest ranking Vatican prelates -- including our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The theory can be summed up in four Latin words -- Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin: "the law of prayer is the law of belief"). That basically means how you pray effects how you believe. Again, you need not take my word for it, read it for yourself from these two top Vatican prelates...
(CNS) -- A weakening of faith in God, a rise in selfishness and a drop in the number of people going to Mass in many parts of the world can be traced to Masses that are not reverent and don't follow church rules, said two Vatican officials and a consultant. -- sourceThere is a reason why younger people are turning to the Traditional Latin Mass (Vetus Ordo) and abandoning the Regular Vernacular Mass (Novus Ordo). It is because seemingly everywhere, the Novus Ordo mass has become a magnet for trendy and irreverent celebrations that violate the rules for mass, either directly or indirectly. The Novus Ordo mass, has in many places become a place of entertainment and experimentation. It has lost a sense of awe, reverence and solemnity. There are many poisons killing the Catholic Church in today's world, but I assert with absolute certainty, that this is the biggest culprit. I say this because from this corruption, all other corruptions take root. A sloppy liturgy produces sloppy catechises, and that in turn produces sloppy disciples who keep the faith very -- well -- sloppily. Lex orandi, lex credendi.
Now anyone who has any knowledge of the liturgy knows it shouldn't be this way. There is no reason for the Novus Ordo mass to be this way. In fact, there is no reason why the Novus Ordo mass cannot be celebrated in a way that is virtually identical to the Vetus Ordo mass. Some parishes are doing this, and they are experiencing growth and renewal because of it. One example of this can be found by clicking here.
As a Protestant convert to Catholicism, I have a particular sensitivity to this issue. My liturgical formation happened in the Anglican Church, and there I was familiarised with both traditional and contemporary liturgical celebrations. Like the Catholic Church, Anglicans celebrate two forms of the liturgy, one old and the other new. Naturally, the older form (Rite One) is more traditional, and celebrated in a traditional way, using older hymns, regular chant, incense, bells, reverence and solemnity. The newer form (Rite Two) is more contemporary, often dispensing of bells, chant and incense, in favour of contemporary praise music, innovation and a generally more "modern feel" to it. As a former Evangelical I immediately found myself drawn to Rite One, the older form, over the more modern and contemporary Rite Two. Why is this? Because having been an Evangelical, I had already experienced the most modern and contemporary form of worship Christianity has to offer. There was literally nothing the Anglicans could do to impress me in this area. In fact, their attempt to be "hip" and "cool" with their contemporary celebrations of Rite Two seemed so dated to me. It was almost like a throwback to the 1970s and so completely "uncool" to my Evangelical sensibilities. I didn't go to the Anglican Church for a modern worship jam. If I wanted that, I would have gone to a nearby Evangelical church which are plentiful in my area. Rather, when given a choice, I was immediately and instinctively drawn to the more ancient form of worship. I think the reason for this is simple. I am a Gen X'er -- a member of that lost and forgotten generation between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Like the Millenniels, mine was a generation raised without rules or discipline. The modern world has given the youth everything -- except stability. We have no stability in beliefs, morals or standards. Everything is in fluctuation. Nothing is solid. So when some of us look to religion, because let's face it, most of us don't, we look for something that gives us the one thing we are missing in our lives -- stability.
This is where modern Christianity has really missed the boat. When the world began to radically change in the 1960s and 70s, the churches frantically tried to change with it, mistakenly believing that this was what was needed to stay relevant. In reality however, that was exactly the wrong thing to do, because given just a little time (a few decades is all it took) the youth raised in this brave new world discovered something very important was missing -- stability. So when we looked back to the one place we thought we would find it -- Christian religion -- we were disappointed to discover that it was no longer there either. Many of us turned to Evangelicalism, because we thought there we might be able to find doctrinal stability at the very least, or we did for a while anyway. In the end, however, some of us discovered that the only place we could find the real stability we sought was in the ancient rites and teachings of Christianity. That is why so many of us are turning to Traditional Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Latin Mass Catholicism.
The message I am conveying here is going to be a lasting one. You see my generation -- Generation X -- is just the tip of the iceberg. We are only the beginning of a trend that is going to get bigger and broader than you can possibly imagine. The Millennials are only just now staring to surface, and their numbers surpass ours by tenfold. The generation that follows them is going to be much bigger, and this trend will only increase exponentially. Given enough time, the traditionalist youth will outnumber the modernist elderly. It is inevitable. It will happen. Nothing can stop it now.
The World War II generation had a saying, and we Gen X'ers are old enough to remember them. They always used to say, "If you can't beat em, join em!" Surely you Baby Boomers can remember that one, right? The truth is, I always identified more with my grandparents' generation than with my own parents' generation, and I think the reason came back to the stability issue. With them there seemed to be some constants, some universal norms and expectations, some stability. I think it's time for you Baby Boomers to take a cue from your parents, and if you won't listen to them, then at least listen to your children, or maybe your grandchildren. "If you can't beat em, join em!" Let me tell you, this traditionalist trend isn't going to stop. It's only going to get bigger, and my generation is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm not telling you to go to a Traditional Latin Mass (Vetus Ordo) if you don't want to. No, what I'm telling you to do is get your priest to start celebrating the Regular Vernacular Mass (Novus Ordo) like a Traditional Latin Mass. Tell him to follow the rubrics of the Vetus Ordo as best as he can, and start using incense, bells and chant again. Tell him, to make the new mass look just as much like the old mass as possible, but keep it in our vernacular language. Ladies, start wearing veils to mass again. Gentlemen, dress up accordingly. If you do this, I have a prediction to make. Your parish will grow again. The percentage of young families will increase in the pews. Parish baptisms will increase, confirmations and first communions will increase. The number of Protestant converts to your parish will increase. (See why here and here.) Last but not least, the percentage of faithful Catholics in your parish will increase. How do I know this? I know this because it's already happening in a handful of parishes across the nation. It can happen in your parish too. It really is time to get with the times. Young people crave tradition and stability. For heaven's sake, if you're not giving that to them, what are you doing? Is it any wonder why your parish has stopped growing? Is it any wonder why your congregation is getting older? In any healthy parish, young people should outnumber the elderly by at least two to one. Next time you're at mass, start counting the grey heads in relation to young people and see for yourself. You'll find the writing is on the wall, as they say. The future of your parish can be determined by its lack of youth. Then you can follow up by asking: how much tradition and stability is my parish providing to young people?
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