Devotion to the Latin Mass isn’t Fad or “Fashion”

Devotion to the Latin Mass isn’t Fad or “Fashion”

In an all too frequent perusal of my Facebook “Newsfeed”, I came across a link to a traditionally focused Catholic blog, Rorate Caeli. It contains a statement made by the pope to Archbishop Jan Graubner, of Olomouc. The original of the excerpt is in Czech, but was translated by a reader of Rorate Caeli called MC:

[Abp. Jan Graubner speaks:] When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, it was evident that the Pope speaks with great affection, attention, and sensitivity for all in order not to hurt anyone. However, he made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it.

When I search more thoroughly – the Pope said – I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: ‘móda‘, Italian ‘moda‘]. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us.

Photo credit: Cristina Ryzyi. Used with permission of Juventutem Michigan.

Photo credit: Cristina Ryzyi. Used with permission of Juventutem Michigan.

Many young traditionalists are taking offense to this statement, seeing it as a dismissal of a vital part of Church tradition, but I wonder if Pope Francis really just does not “understand the younger generation wishing to return to it.” As one of the younger generation who deeply appreciates and prefers the Extraordinary Form or Traditional Latin Mass (EF for the rest of this article) and the traditional rite of the Sacraments, it is clear that the pope does not understand. For my purposes, I think maybe a better word to explain it in English, might be “trend” (which happens to be a synonym of “fashion”). It seems that younger Catholics devotion to the EF is a trend, but many devotions start as “trends.” Someone starts doing something, and they share it with a friend, and then all of a sudden many people are praying a certain prayer. That is the way tradition works in the Church. Something becomes popularized and then sometimes it becomes universal.

However, I would not describe my own love of  and devotion to the EF as a whim of my youth or an “addiction.” I would describe what happened in me as more of a revelation. Through my theological studies, I became aware of the depth of liturgical tradition that had been neglected in my cradle Catholicism. It seemed to be something so important, so a part of the Church, and no one had ever told me. I am reminded of the book of Nehemiah when the Israelites, having returned from exile, rebuild the city, and then are read the law for the first time in their lives:

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; and when he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God; and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Also Jesh’ua, Bani, Sherebi’ah, Jamin, Akkub, Shab’bethai, Hodi’ah, Ma-asei’ah, Keli’ta, Azari’ah, Jo’zabad, Hanan, Pelai’ah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. And they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemi’ah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.

(Nehemiah 8: 5-9)

And I did mourn after the tradition had been explained to me through various writings and through my graduate professors.


Photo Credit: Holly K Photos. Used with permission of Juventutem Michigan.

I mourned for the loss of the richness of the traditional liturgy in my life and in the Church, and for a time I could not get enough of it. I wanted to only go to it, to soak in everything beautiful about it. I encountered God in an even deeper way than I did praying at charismatic prayer meetings. I entered into a deeper, even more personal relationship through the old structure of the old liturgy. I remember liturgies where I had the care of a young infant and all I could do was sit and watch and listen, but I was lifted in prayer by the beauty of the music sung at the liturgy, written somewhere in the Church’s ancient history. I felt led by the priest, the deacon, the subdeacon and the altar boys as they did the liturgical dance of the EF. I went from pacing with a child in the very back to kneeling at the sanctuary and having God placed in my mouth. The tradition drew me to itself. It was not about me at all; it was about it.

Then I became a hard-hearted critic of everything not traditional. We attended Ordinary Form (OF, Novus Ordo, New Mass) daily masses, and I became scandalized at every liturgy that did not follow perfect rubrics or used extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or other things that seemed to be absolutely contrary to tradition. I was wrong to think and feel this way. It was hurtful to myself and to my fellow Catholics. I now apologize to the Church, and all my fellow Catholics for passing these judgments. I ask your forgiveness and understanding.

It took five years for me to get past the shock of my introduction to the EF; five years to see beauty in the Ordinary Form. I found a way to understand others and to remember that there is much more to a relationship with God than the liturgy we attend. That we attend Sunday Mass is very crucial to our relationship with God and the Church; which Mass we attend is as universal as the Church.

And it does not bother me to think of young people, like me, as part of a trend. All of the liturgical changes that happened in parishes before, during, and after Vatican II were trends. Priests facing the congregation instead of the tabernacle started as a trend. Women ceasing to cover their heads in the liturgy started as a trend. Lay people receiving communion in the hand and standing started as a trend, but that did not stop Pope Benedict XVI from giving an example of the older tradition to us by distributing on the tongue to people kneeling. I have great hope and excitement that many traditions will be renewed, be it God’s will. And that will only happen through trends. So, if the renewal of the liturgy is the will of God, then let it start as a trend or even a “fashion”, and maybe it will help us be drawn closer to God, so that it may save us.


    • Scott,

      Since it was on the Vatican Radio website, it would seem that it would be an accurate statement. I thought it would be good to address it since people are upset about it. My point, which I think I made clear, is that we should not be disheartened to think of young people flocking to the Latin Mass. Maybe it is a trend or fashion, but it does not have to be a negative thing. It is a sign of a grass roots change in the Church, which is about as traditional as Catholics can get.

  1. It was not a “third-hand” account, it was a first-hand account by one of the two people who actually was a part in the conversation, minutes after the audience itself.

    Now, one may believe it was embellished by the Czech bishop, but just he and the Pope (and perhaps some of the other Czech bishops who were present and may have witnessed the exchange) know what was said, and only he is on the record.

    Naturally, when one has a preconceived “narrative”, all things have to fit that narrative. We in Rorate try to report all things, good or bad, and we let readers interpret. Others act differently.


    • NC, Thank you for your clarification. I am not familiar with the way the Vatican Radio reports work, but am I correct to understand that Bishop Graubner made that statement directly after his conversation with Pope Francis?

      Thank you also for making the statement available. I have not found it to be a cause for concern, but one of hope that many young people are causing the pope to think. Sometimes part of understanding people is admitting that one does not understand.

      • Thank you, Susanne, for the post above.

        Yes, the audience took place on February 14. Shortly afterwards, on the same day, Vatican Radio Czech section reporter Johana Bronková heard the declarations of the Czech bishops, and Abp. Jan Graubner made that statement. I think we must assume the good faith of a bishop speaking to Vatican Radio at least in conveying the general meaning of the words used. In other words, though unfortunately we have a low opinion of many bishops these days, it would be strange for him to declare to Vatican radio something that could so easily be contradicted, including by his fellow Czech bishops, if not by the Vatican spokesman.

        We vouch for the translation of the first-hand account of Abp. Graubner. We really think our readers (as you proved well here) are wise enough to reach at least a basic level of conclusions regarding the statement.

        Kind regards,


        P.S. I got here by way of Juventutem Michigan’s tweet! :-)

  2. I am not an adherent of the EF, but I admire it from my little post-Conciliar vantage point. With that, I find it hard to say that the old form is a “fad” when the TLM was the “Ordinary Form” of the Mass for hundreds and hundreds of years. Don’t take umbrage; it seems like most a throwaway line.

  3. My feelings about the traditional liturgy have paralleled yours, except that I only came to the TLM at age 50. Although I was born just before the start of Vatican II, the de-sacralization of the Mass was well under way before I was old enough to appreciate what had been taken away from me.

    If I sound bitter, it’s entirely probable that I have not progressed in charity toward the Novus Ordo as you have, for which I can only beg forgiveness and grace.

    • My progress in charity has been largely due attending a new parish after I moved to St. Paul, MN. This parish preserved many of the traditional practices of the liturgy even when the new Mass was implemented: communion rail, ad orientem, all male servers, communion distributed only by ordinary ministers, announcements at the homily, and the richness of chant, polyphany, and even orchestral music. Having all that with the new translation, makes the OF feel much more in line with the traditional liturgy. If it were not for the Church of St. Agnes, I would probably be still where you are.

  4. I’ve been slowly reading Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, and while he doesn’t pull his punches when criticizing certain traditionalist mindsets, I keep thinking that it’s because he knows they/we should know better — if we’re going to be so steeped in the Church’s liturgy and history and beauty, we SHOULD be able to live in the balance you describe of appreciating the Church universal and realizing that the relationship we’re called to with God subsumes the liturgy…the latter serves the other, not the other way around. It reminds me of the Pharisees, who were so concerned with integrating the Law into every detail of their life that they should have been the first to recognize Christ. So anyways, as another young mom in the back of the church, head uncovered, who finds herself more at home at the OF, I really appreciate your honesty here.

    And finally, whenever Pope Francis makes statements about his take on the pulse of the Church or on certain trends, I wonder if he’s still speaking very much like a leader who’s spent his whole life in one region of the Church. I imagine the traditionalist/opposite-of-traditionalists dynamic is different in South America than in Europe, or the States, and so his experience of the young people drawn to the EF could also be different than what we’ve experienced here.

  5. This dovetails nicely with what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

    The way I see it, it is only a trend and a fad if we make it a trend and a fad. Do I think that remark is probably one of Francis’ lower points? Yes, I do. (And for reasons NC mentioned, there is every reason to believe the quote is accurate.)

    This is a generational problem. Traditionalism has more or less become a youth movement. When I started attending the EF back in 2002, in Michigan it was mostly older people. I was the exception at 19. The people I socialized with after Mass were in their 50’s and higher.

    Now at one of the monthly EF masses here in Michigan, my social group after Mass is one of 5 or 6 families, all under 40 with several children. The demographics of traditionalism have changed almost overnight since Summorum Pontificum.

    Unless you take a real effort to spend time amongst those groups, you are going to miss that change, and probably miss what all the excitement is about. I remember recently a bishop (one retired) celebrating an EF, and he loved how many youth were there, and he also listened to countless stories about how before SP, a lot of them were really sheep without a shepherd, completely unwelcome in their home parishes. I think it left an impact on him, and it helped put a face to this vague concept called traditionalism in the family whose yet unborn child he blessed.

    We trads gotta reach out to those Church leaders, but I think it behooves them to reach out to us as well. Traditionalism is a vocations juggernaut, and over the next few decades more and more priests will either be celebrators of the EF themselves, or understanding of why people are so attached to it, especially the young. Given the inertia such a trend portends (the chances of Francis reversing such a trend even if he were inclined to do so being nil, which I doubt he is so inclined), one might as well get in front of it. I don’t expect this pope or any pope in the future to celebrate a Solemn High Mass at St. Peter’s. But I think we’ve shown we are a part of the Church, and as a result should be understood.

  6. I came to tradition in the late 80’s as a teenager and since this time, have become an exclusive attendee of the TLM. Though I am all for being sincere, meek, gentle and personable when debating and discussing with fellow Catholics about the differences between the Novus Ordo and the TLM, I really can’t see how anyone cannot but (at times) be filled with a holy anger at the terrible devastation that the modernists have wrought on the Church, leaving millions and millions of souls damned to hell because of it.
    If the liturgy is worth attending it is worth arguing about, so that it is done the way that Our Lord wants it to be done.
    Anyone who has done a detailed study of the changes in the Church since V2 can see that it wasn’t done with good intentions, it was the agenda of heretics, condemned heretics, working behind the scenes to bring about a revolution that holy popes had already tried to suppress. St Pius X requested all seminary professors and priests take the anti-modernist oath, how many were subquently shown by their own words and actions to have lied before the altar of God?
    And if one is uncertain about this narrative, simply look to the fruits of this modernist revolution… they are as rotten as can be imagined. Abandoned vocations, sexual corruption, disregard and degrating of the things of God, not to mention His own body and blood on the altar, dished out like a cookie by lay people in mini-skirts and track pants…
    I cling to tradition, not because of any personal preference. Any traditonalist knows that being a traditional Catholic does not come with a comfortable pew, or a peaceful life in the world, nor is it trendy, but in these times of confusion St Paul counsels us all to cling to the traditions that have been given to us…
    How can we second guess St Paul?

  7. people need to stop attacking the ordinary form of the sacred liturgy. i do not mean opposing abuses. i mean this constant harping about how superior the extraordinary form is to the ordinary form. it is not. it is preferred by a small minority of catholics. it will never replace the ordinary form. i suspect this is the gist of what francis was trying to say.

    form over substance people are wrong.

    • Nobody attacked the ordinary form of the Mass, and actually If you go back 60 years, the Now-called Ordinary Form of the Mass replaced the TLM, or Extraordinary Form. It is far too soon to tell if the OF will stand the test of time as the generation which designed it still walks the earth and is in control of just about everything. The TLM, existed for over 1000 years, stood the test of time, and is making a resurgence. If large part, the resurgence is due to the fact that in a vast number of parishes, the OF is void of symbolism, tradition, and reverence, and is a far cry from what Vatican 2 and the GIRM proscribes. The OF is the replacement, and in a great many parishes it is found wanting.

  8. Very well written dear niece. As one who has grown recently in a deeper and deeper longing for reverence and an appreciation of the EF, I am inspired by your balance and charity. It’s not just the young who love reverence and timeless beauty, and find it to reflect the adoration and reverence that is due to the Majesty with whom we are privileged to also have intimacy.

  9. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the same fashion of the Sacrifice on the Holy Cross.

  10. Mrs. Spencer-

    thank you for this post! It is comforting to realize that others react similarly to the NO after discovering the EF (“hard-hearted critic of everything not traditional”). I am currently in that phase, and am trying to tolerate the NO while convincing my husband to switch our attendance to the local EF, and trying to be as charitable as I can. There is a chance that our family will relocate to the Twin Cities within the next 2 years, and hopefully either St. Agnes or Church of All Saints will be our parish if so. I look forward to your posts here and at your personal blog!

    yours in Christ,
    San Antonio TX

  11. My junior year in high school was totally consumed by the Vatican COuncil which, we modern Catholic girls, thought was going to change all the things about which we chafed: contraception, the role of women, divorce and a condescending male hierarchy. Many of us happily embraced the new liturgical movement as being a step in the right direction. But, when I married a fallen away Catholic (who’s still fallen away) and had no way to get to Mass for two years, I found myself with plenty of time to think. When I finally was able to get back to Mass with a misbehaved two-year old, even my 23 year old self recognized that there was something seriously wrong. No longer was the MAss simply the same but said in English; it had changed in every way as the society around us. Sunday clothes replaced by leisure jeans, gum chewing, every homily beginning with a joke, the baby thrown out with the bath water. Years later, teaching in a Catholic school in another city, I further realized that there were even more serious problems than I could have comprehended. The first time my city, Syracuse, had a EF Mass , the church was packed and people were crying as they fell to their knees to receive COmmunion. Not surprising;ly, the shocked clergy made sure that didn’t happen again. FInally, with a Polish pope as the hero of the local Polish church, a SUnday afternoon, EF low Mass was quietly instituted. In the past few years, after reading Malachi MArtin’s works, I’ve come to realize that we are fulfilling prophecy in many ways, that the devil is surely among us and we cannot rely on the clergy to lead where they should. Most interestingly, as I turn 68 years old, I realize that the best priests, the ones who are the way my generation thought they should be -before the hippy, peace-and justice guys came along-are the young ones who were raised by parents whose faith withstood the storm the Church encountered over the past 50 years. To all you young people, I say, stay the course. The modern Catholics who have grown up with little Catholic knowledge or upbringing will not be active Catholics as they find adulthood. They will go whichever way the wind of life blows. But you young people who have found the beauty and truth in our old traditions, you will be the ones who save the Church. Francis is surely a man of our time; probably lead by the Holy Spirit,probably effecting needed changes, hoping that the clergy will follow suit, but nonetheless, a man of our times. He who does not understand.


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