Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An open letter to all those who were forced to endure Catholicism Pre-Vatican II from a "conservative young person"

I smile and nod politely when you talk about how we need to appreciate priests, all priests, even if we don't agree with everything they say or do. We should be grateful to have a priest.

I nod and murmur my agreement because I do, in fact, agree. A priest is a gift to a congregation. A man who has given his life to Christ to serve Christ's flock. To give us the sacraments. To provide us opportunity for confession, to celebrate the Mass.

I am grateful for priests. I am grateful for their sacrifices. I am grateful for their fiat.

But then you start complaining about the "young conservative priests" who just don't understand what it was like for those who had to live through the time before Vatican II... all that Latin and stuff. 

And I get very confused why you don't seem grateful for them, why you instead insult their orthodoxy.

I'm not a priest. So I can't speak for the young priests who I pray for, who I am so very grateful for, who are rediscovering and upholding the traditions of the Church.

I can tell you that as a millennial Catholic, I was raised in the hey-day of "Vatican II" Catholicism.

I was raised with experimental liturgies outside in the woods. With changing the words for the distribution of communion... at the whim of the liturgical committee for that particular mass. With a sign of peace that took longer than the entire Eucharistic Prayer. 

I was raised to see that as the epitome of Catholicism.

And, I have to tell you, it left me feeling empty. It left me searching. It left my heart restless. And then slowly, I began to discover the riches of the Faith, the traditions of our Church. The hidden treasures that seem to have been cast aside years ago.

I was raised with no incense at Mass, no "smells and bells". My parish was "modernized" when I was a small child, the crucifix replaced with an organ. The tabernacle at some point moved off the altar.

I don't remember the time before those changes. I do remember people leaving our parish in frustration with the changes. I remember years afterwards of my dad coming home stressed after another contentious parish council meeting. I remember him and my mom talking about how another family had left our church to go to the other parish, or a different church entirely.

Yet, even though I prefer more traditional style churches, I include the driver of this change in my prayers. I thank God for his service. I remember the joyful look in his eyes during Mass, and I never question his devotion.

I similarly never question the joy and clear love of my fellow parishioners who like guitar mass, who like the folksy music. If that allows them to worship and draw closer to God, then I will sing with joy beside them. I will be glad that their faith is enriched. I will sing loudly to support a quiet cantor. I will do my very best to help you grow in your faith in any way I can. Because we're a parish family, and while we may have differences in preference, our goal is the same- to worship God and grow in our love of Him that we might better know, love and serve Him in this life that we may be with Him in the next.

Here's the thing though. That last sentence I typed was one I was never taught. I loved church for my entire childhood. I went to every religious ed class, and just generally liked all things church related. When I got my Bible in 7th grade, I read it cover to cover, because that seemed like the right thing to do. I could answer all the questions posed at religious ed. And so, somehow, I managed to think I was supposed to be able to find all the answers. But I couldn't. I couldn't even figure out that basic "know, love and serve God." If anything, I would have said that our purpose was to love our neighbor, and to radiate Christ to them. Well... yes... that's a part of it. But the first part of the Great Commandment? 

I didn't understand that, and nothing in the people centered liturgy pointed that out to me. 

Over the last few years, I've finally started learning. And I've gotten past most of my initial feelings of hurt that none of this was ever taught to me. Most. Because for the most part, I can see it as a wonderful blessing that the young, orthodox- seeking, Catholic-nerd people of my generation have to desire and want these things. We have to go out of our way to experience what your generation had the opportunity to pray daily. But your generation, for whatever reason, must not have understood the reasons that my generation can give for the older traditions.

I can understand your desire to have a close encounter with God. I desire that too. 

I can understand your desire to improve the world around you. I desire that too.

I can understand your desire to ease the suffering of the poor, the sick, the outcast. I desire that too.

I also desire a liturgy that will lift my heart, mind and soul above the present moment. Above this earth. I desire a liturgy that will be deafening loud in the quiet of my heart. I desire a liturgy that will challenge me not to stay as I am, but to push me to become a saint.

And I experience that most in the Extraordinary Form. In the ageless chant. In the whispered Aves and gentle clicking of my rosary beads against the pew before Mass. In those moments, I start to get a glimpse of what it means to have a communion of saints, worshipping God in the same Mass here on Earth that John sees in heaven. In those moments, I am challenged to grow, to love God better. To learn more about Him. To be in awe in His presence. To go out and serve Him in the world.

I don't remember what it was like then. From what you've told me, it must not be anything like what I experience.  From the anger in your voice, I think it must have left you feeling empty, as the experimental woods liturgies left me. It must have left you seeking more. I hope you found it.

If your preferred liturgical methods of worshipping inspire you to love God and serve Him in love through your service to your through your neighbors then I'm truly glad you have that experience. Please be glad for me too and support my faith journey. We're in this together, after all, seeking that same common goal of heaven.

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