24 June 2014

Not a Passing Fad: Young Catholics Want the Traditional Mass

This installment of a truth obvious to anyone surveying the demographics of the pews comes from the Catholic in the Ozarks blog. A very nice post, from which I excerpt much below.

When it comes to the faith and the liturgy, there is no difference in the essentials regardless of place of residence. Young people aren't stupid; they don't need a dumbed down liturgy anymore than they need a dumbed down faith. They want truth and beauty. They need truth and beauty.

Don't worry, I'll reserve a comment in the combox for the obligatory "but the new Mass can be celebrated reverently, too!" remark.

From the full post:

Tradition Draws Catholic Youth

On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a motu proprio addendum to canon law entitled Summorum Pontificum. The document clarified Church law in three ways. First, it stated that the traditional Latin mass, otherwise known as the Vetus Ordo or 'Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite' (the mass used before 1969), had never been abrogated, and that it has always existed as a legitimate liturgy alongside the newer vernacular mass, otherwise known as the Novus Ordo or 'Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.' At the time many within the Church dismissed this as a "mere concession to nostalgic traditionalists" and a not-so-veiled attempt to win back the affections of the ultra-traditionalist 'Society of Saint Pius X' (SSPX). It was assumed by many that this was merely a "passing fad" and would die out in time.

So here we are seven years later, as we approach July 7, 2014, and in the space of that time the number of publicly offered masses according to the Vetus Ordo (Extraordinary Form) has nearly doubled. More Catholics are requesting the traditional Latin mass, existing Latin masses are growing, and there is no end in sight. Clearly, this is more than just a "passing fad," and far more than a mere concession to nostalgic traditionalists. The way the youth goes, so does the future of the Catholic Church, and it is apparent the youth are going traditional. Throughout the United States we are seeing a growing number of young Catholics turning to the Vetus Ordo mass. When I say "young" I do mean young adults and teenagers. They are the future of the Church. Our bishops and priests need to listen to them.

Across North America and Europe, the leadership of the Catholic Church has been attempting to minister to young people as if they were from the 1970s. That generation is no longer "young," yet the leadership of the Church continues to minister as if they were. It's if they think the youth of 2014 were the same as the youth of 1970. As a result, youth ministries at many Catholic parishes are becoming irrelevant. Young Catholics are falling away from the sacraments, the faith, and finally the Church herself. As the Catholic Church seeks to imitate the music and worship styles of many popular Evangelical churches, it isn't long before many young Catholics simply dispense with the imitation and flock toward the original.[...]

As we scan the panorama of Catholic youth we really see only two kinds of Catholic young people; those who are falling away, and those who are drawing nearer to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, the former is much greater than the latter. This is not to say that one type of worship style produces one result, while a different worship style produces another. It is likely a bit more complex than that, but it would be foolish to assume there is no connection at all. [...]

Catholic youth today are simply more sophisticated than they were thirty years ago, and a lot of them are turning back to the tradition of their ancestors. As I've said on many occasions, there is nothing more "dated" than a contemporary mass, and such is the case in many parishes today. No sooner than the praise band learns all the songs in the latest praise book, the congregation is ready to move on to something more new and fresh. As I've written elsewhere on this blog, when a Catholic parish pursues Evangelical-style worship exclusively, it should be no surprise that the Catholic youth eventually lose their faith for a more Evangelical cafeteria-style of religion. As a former Evangelical I can attest that the two go hand-in-hand. Clearly, what is lacking in the Church today is a more traditional option for Catholic youth, to explore the depth of Catholicism that stretches centuries into the past. This is something the Catholic Church can give to youth that no other church can, and in doing so she affirms her solid belief in the sacraments and moral teachings of the Church in a way unique only to Catholicism. When youth have this option available to them, something amazing happens.

With this in mind, let us turn our attention to a rural missionary diocese in the centre of the United States. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau spans the entire southern half of the State of Missouri. The Catholic population is so sparse here that the bishop requires two cathedrals, one on the west side of the state (Springfield) and the other 270 miles away on the east side (Cape Girardeau), in order to minister to them all. In an attempt to restore an element of tradition to the diocese, His Excellency Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. has placed a traditional Catholic priest in his Springfield cathedral (Saint Agnes). There, The Reverend Jeffery Fasching offers the Traditional Latin Mass, according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, no less than five days a week, with a high mass on Sundays, and a low mass on weekdays. The sacrament of confession is also offered five days a week as well, just before mass. The Latin Mass schedule for Saint Agnes Cathedral can be viewed here. The schedule has been offered since 2008, with Father Jeffery Fasching taking over in 2010.

Over the last six years something amazing has happened to Saint Agnes Cathedral. Young people are returning to the Catholic Church, and those raised in this Latin mass are maintaining an interest in the faith. Priests and bishops need to listen to these young people, because the future of the Catholic Church is contained in their words. Over the course of a few Sundays, some of these young people were interviewed by associates of this blogger. The following is their account for why they attend the traditional Latin mass, and what it means to them:

"I’m going to share with you some of the blessings that I received at Latin mass. I feel that for a shepherd to know how his sheep are doing is to communicate with them, especially when they fall. I feel that Father plays this role in confessions before mass. What people need in this world is direction, and I feel like Father Fasching is a big light for the community. The experience of the Latin mass is extraordinary. I like how traditional it is. I love the respect and the fear of the Lord the Church has. You can see the respect in the kids. One of my favourite parts is receiving communion on my knees. I really feel like I found myself a place with a group of people that I can express the love I have for the Lord. Those are only a few of the blessings I have received at Latin mass." --Mauro E., age 24

"It is the most fitting way to re-present the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the climax of all human history. Everything from the elegant composition of the prayers, the Sacred Music, the incense, the numerous images of Saints, the Sacred language, and the vertical orientation of all prayer helps to lift one's soul to a more intimate state of communion with God. It is truly the Mass of the Saints, and has been virtually unchanged since the third century. While protestant churches are based solely on Sacred Scripture, the Catholic Church is anchored on both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The mass exodus from Sacred Tradition after the Second Vatican Council was extremely contrary to Catholicism and a most protestant act indeed." --Spencer C., age 21

"When my family first started going to the Latin Mass, I didn't like it. It was longer than most masses, it had a lot of kneeling, and it was in a different language. But as I continued to go, (I was only twelve, I didn't have much choice in what Mass our family went to,) the reverence in the Mass really drew me in. As I got older, I began to better understand the beauty in the prayers of the Mass. (However, I don't think anyone fully understands the beauty of the prayers.) The whole Mass is a form of worship, and in the Latin Mass, it is very apparent that God is the centre of our worship. That is why I love the Latin Mass." --Lauren K., age 17

"Initially, it was some close friends who drew me to the Latin Mass. I hadn't heard much about it, but I thought that it sounded cool because all my friends were going to it. But when I finally went, I fell in love with it immediately, and I've loved it ever since. I've been going for a few years now and it's really strengthened my love for the mass. What I love most though is how reverent and how beautiful it is. Everyone and everything is so focused on God that there's no time to become distracted, because you're always focused on what's going on at the altar." --Katie F., age 16


"I love the Latin mass because it is so much more traditional, simple, and less distracting than the Novus Ordo. I always know what mass is going to be like when I go to the Extraordinary form of the mass. Nothing ever changes and I do not feel stressed. My dad and my brothers drew me to the Latin mass." --Greg K., age 15

"I have seen that the Traditional Latin Mass is the most reverent and prayerful form of worship that Catholics can show towards God. Having grown up attending the Latin Mass with my parents and family, I have had the privilege of serving as an altar boy for the past 10 years. The beautiful liturgy and reverence shown by both the priest and faithful towards this form of worship continues to be truly inspiring. The opportunity of going to the Latin Mass is awesome each and every time I go!" --Charles B.. age 18

"I appreciate the Latin Mass because the extreme reverence and respect shown to God through meditation silence and rich traditions of the liturgy draws me closer to my faith and helps me strengthen my relationship with Christ." --Susan J., age 19

"I was initially drawn to the Latin Mass by my family and a few friends who decided to attend when the Mass first came to Springfield. The Mass is one of the highest forms of prayer, and praying in Latin is extremely important for many reasons. Latin unifies all Catholics around the world in prayer, and having that unity also promotes consistency within the Church. One can travel anywhere in the world and attend a Latin Mass and know exactly what is going on and be able to pray efficaciously. Latin cannot be misinterpreted and helps one to focus and concentrate during prayer; not to mention, the devil hates Latin! The Latin Mass therefore is the highest and most efficacious form of prayer, and I have learned to love it over the years. The sacred music, the incense, the prayers, the movements and interactions of the priest and servers all direct ones attention to the altar and to God, and away from ourselves and our worldly cares." --Tanya D., age 22

As I said above, priests and bishops would be foolish to ignore these young people. This is the future of the Church, and if we don't listen to them, we risk losing them. The hardest part for many of our priests and bishops to accept is that the youth have indeed changed. This is not 1970 any more. Nor is it 1980 for that matter. This is 2014 and youth today have access to more than the previous generations could have ever imagined. Contemporary masses do not excite them like they used to. Watered down sermons, that are designed to not offend, are a bore to them. They're looking for something with depth, and something that has stood the test of time. Tradition is the answer, and this is what's bringing the youth back home. Imagine this small example at Saint Agnes Cathedral multiplied in every parish across America. What would happen then?



Anonymous said...

I have little memory of the state of the liturgy during my childhood. I was born in '62 so I'm sure things were in flux, but basically I'm a lifelong NO attender. Out of curiosity, I went to one EF Mass about 20 years ago. I was stuck in the back and couldn't really tell what was going on and wound up wondering what all the fuss was about.

A few months ago I attended my first EF since then. I had two of my sons with me who jumped at the chance to go because it was a later mass time and it meant they could sleep late. I'd reasoned that if I was going I might as well go to a High Mass to make sure I got the full experience.

Well three hours later (I exaggerate a bit) they seemed like they would be fine with never attending an EF again. I'd done my best to prepare them but being a novice myself there was only so much I could do. If I'd known going in how long it would be, or been able to guide them through the liturgy beforehand, their reaction may have been different.

My point is that in promoting the EF, we should do our best to anticipate the negative reactions as well as the positive and try to get more information out before they first attend.


Cbalducc said...

My church used to have an occasional "Folk Mass" (usually on Saturday evenings), but they haven't had one in a couple of years. Even then it wasn't the caricature that some people make it out to be. For one thing, the singers were late middle-aged.
Not everyone lives in a city with a lot of parishes to choose from.

thetimman said...


As a person who found the TLM after decades of n.o. attendance, I can attest that it often happens that the Mass doesn't "take" the first time, or even for the first several times.

I have many friends who had a complete change of heart at the first Mass, and others like me who came to it over time. And I was hit, finally, at a quiet low Mass on a Wednesday. Changed my life. But I prefer high Mass today.


I get your point, but, again speaking as one who lived with the n.o. for decades, the very existence of the "Folk Mass" is itself the caricature.

Anonymous said...


My experience (so far) sounds similar to yours. I felt anxious throughout that first High Mass because I knew my boys were uncomfortable and I'd hoped that the Mass would make a good impression. My second one, also a High Mass, I attended alone. I got there very early, made a wonderful confession, got a chance to pray and take in the scenery, and used one of the guidebooks throughout Mass which was helpful, although I wished I could've had someone next to me pointing along saying "we're here right now" until I learned to recognize everything as it was happening. This past Sunday I attended the early Low Mass and was surprised to find I had an even more difficult time following along even with the booklet.

All of which is why I think prepping people who are curious about the EF before they attend is so crucial.


YoungCatholicSTL said...

(This is in multiple parts because of the character length - my apologies - I hope you publish the all of it.)

Timman - Thanks for a timely piece on something that I have been kicking around in my brain for the last couple of weeks. Let me explain.

For years, I would say I considered my Catholic leanings as that of a Neo-Con. While always a strong supporter of the TLM (probably stronger than many Neo-Cons), I was also very quick to look for a bright side of the questionable actions of any pope/bishop/etc and the NO Mass. I have now become disillusioned with this approach and am determined that Tradition is the only way to go.

As a member of the Belleville Diocese, I am watching something unprecedented happen in the Diocese - parishes are being merged and considered for closure almost solely on the belief and knowledge that the Diocese has insufficient priests to serve so many parishes. This is not a closure of parishes that are at least in part brought about by a demographic shift (think closure of many North STL County parishes in 2005 or the closure of many East STL parishes for demographic shifts), but purely an acknowledgement that the Diocese cannot get enough seminarians to fill the parishes. Each time parish closure is discussed here, the Diocese is quick to point out that they hope to still have 50 priests serving the Diocese within 10 years, and if things go as planned, may be able to add one newly ordained priest within 6 years. Outside of the last 10+ years, I cannot think of one instance where a Diocese in the past has closed parishes solely for lack of priests rather than a demographic shift, insufficient funds, or other reason.

Obviously something is wrong here. And the article you posted begins to touch on that problem - the NO Mass and many of the post VII innovations. Let me clarify, the NO Mass and the VII changes in and of themselves (and let me sound like a Neo-Con here for a moment) are not the problem, it is the innovations brought about by them. It is like a shiny new laptop or Iphone. The gadgets are great and new and sparkly for awhile, but they quickly become outdated, and we long for something new and shiny and sparkly.

When the NO came about, it was the shiny new Iphone. At the time, many of the innovations seemed like great ideas, and could certainly function that way. Lets have lay people do the readings! Lets have Extraordinary Ministers so everyone can receive under both kinds! Lets have the children leave during the readings for a children's liturgy! And on and on and on it went. And these ideas "worked" for 20 years or so - there were still plenty of priests left over from the 50's and 60's, most teenagers through adults had been trained in the pre-VII era and knew the workings of their faith, and it seemed like a great way to get lay people more involved.

YoungCatholicSTL said...

But by the 90's, a new generation began to emerge (sadly, my generation) that had not been trained pre-VII, that believed the only way for lay-people to participate was to assist in the sanctuary at Mass, and began to witness a priesthood devoid of youth and parishes devoid of sodalities and men's clubs and other great fraternal camaraderie that ensured a thriving parish. But there were still sufficient gray-haired priests to avoid forcing the issue and enough gray-haired parishioners to support the parish financially, and the issue was again pushed aside. But the youth became bored with the changes, with old people trying to relate to them through "youth masses" and watered down theology, and left en masse for other groups or no groups at all. The Church began to lose an entire generation. The shiny new Iphone of the 70's and 80's had lost its luster, but the Church did not seem to care. It was the beginning of an avalanche, and even though the pending results were obvious, the Church did not have the foresight to heed the pending implosion.

Now, here we are another 20 years later. Two generations have been lost. Dioceses are closing parishes are starting to be closed 40-50% at a time, and instead of sending missionaries to other countries, we are importing them from one of the few areas where the Church is still growing - Africa. The Jesuits are a great example of this failing. The MO Province, on July 1, will join the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province to form a new combined province (often, jokingly referred to as the NOMO province) because of a lack of priests and brothers. A total of 6 priests were ordained for the combined province this year! SLU just named its first lay president, and the Jesuit White House Retreat center did likewise. The NO church is one that has entirely lost its luster. Yet, we continue to use lay ministers, allow female altar servers, and send our children (the few that remain) out of the most important hour (IT IS ONE HOUR!!) of the week because they are too dumb to understand the English readings. My God! How did children ever understand anything for the last 500 years when it was all in Latin?!

So we are left with 3 options: (1) We soldier on with the NO Church of today and watch the whole thing continue to collapse around us for another generation or two until the NO Church has completely disappeared; (2) The Church continues to innovate - Female priests, lay priests, internet masses, yoga mat adoration. At least we would have something sparkly to draw people in for a few years. Maybe we could be like the former Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, CA (recently purchased by the Catholic Diocese there) and draw people in huge groups for a few years until something else sparkly and new comes along. And if we're really smart, we'll innovate again in 15-20 years to keep everything new and sparkly!!; or (3) We can retreat to what has always worked for the Church, take shelter in her timeless beauty, and embrace the TLM/Extraordinary Form and all of its wonderful and cohesive traditions. It worked for 500+ years, why shouldn't it still serve as a perfect model the Church?

YoungCatholicSTL said...

For me, I've finally reached the conclusion that #3 is the only option. #1 has been tried, and in the long run, is clearly a model for failure. Why should I compromise #1 as a Neo-Con might in hopes that it will get better when almost 50 years has proven it doesn't? #2 is merely an Evangelical model that has been proven to work in the short term over and over again for hundreds of years with no continuing success for any one method and certainly a recipe for continued rupture and disagreement on doctrine at each generation gap. And then there is option #3, the only one that has been proven to work over and over again without fail from generation to generation for centuries. Why would we abandon something so powerful and perfect for an unproven innovation? I will take a classic that has been tested time and time again over an unknown innovation nearly every time.

The answer is simple: The future of a thriving Catholic Church can only rest in the traditions that has propelled it to success for so many years, the traditions present in the TLM.

P.S. Lest anyone box my opinions into some type of conservative corner here, take note that I am an anti-gun, anti-death penalty, stay-at-home dad. Certainly not the general prototype of a Conservative/Traditional Catholic.

thetimman said...


Thanks for the comment. More instruction may indeed be helpful, especially for a person coming from the immediacy--in one sense of the word-- of the novus ordo. I would have felt the same way when I approached the TLM. But not everyone reacts to that; some just need to soak it in awhile. The red missals in the church can help, but some get frustrated if they aren't in the same place as the priest at the same time.

The high and low Masses have a different rhythm, that you get used to quickly enough once you take the plunge, but which can be confusing or off-putting at first. If you go to de Sales at all you can hit me up at the coffee hour and we can chat about it as much as you like. Most traditional Catholics are-- contrary to appearances-- quite happy to help. The seeming lack of warm-and-fuzziness is usually either a concentration in prayer in Church (and an unwillingness to talk in Church) combined with the strangeness of the experience for the visitor. Once you make conversation outside church after Mass, it is easy to engage.

Long-Skirts said...


Saint Joan,
Saint Tim,
Queen Mary
Of Scotts,

The true Mass,
So knew
Their true lots.

They could
Have said
"Oh, no,
I shant!"

But they
Were Saints,
No persons,

Not ones
To lord
Their innate
Good -

While being
Prepared like
On wood.

Or having
Their eye-lids
And nipped,

Even though
With kings
They sipped,

No, no -
With joy,
No fuss...

"For you, et
Pro multis."
Now, daily,
For us

thetimman said...


Thanks for your comments. I use the neo- term a lot these days, mostly as a counter to the radtrad thing, but though I think there is such a creature as a "neo-Catholic", I don't peg people as such merely because they go to the n.o. It is more the adherence to the thing that isn't Catholic about the Church, or the unawareness of the unchanging nature of the Church's teachings, or the purpose and history of her worship. Hard to define, really, but I guess what I want to say here is that there is no need to be defensive about your (to use a cringeworthy term) "faith journey". ;-)

It is human nature to be used to what you are used to. Major changes in the way we understand our history and our bringing up are of course hard to countenance.

Your comments are well-taken. To me, the biggest condemnations are found in the flip side of the same coin:

no vocations
empty pews

Now, you and I both know that there are many who will tell you this had nothing to do with Vatican II. And by that I do not mean a legitimate documents v. implementation debate, but rather that it had nothing to do with either. That somehow the massive loss of faith, vocations, numbers, influence and missionary activity was completely coincidental. These, sir, are the neo-Catholics or progressives.

Anyway, you know this already, but Belleville diocese has the traditional Mass every Sunday at the Log Church in Cahokia, and SFdS is not much further away.

The grandeur and beauty of Solemn High Mass at the Oratory is hard to match.

LMG said...

This is how I will prepare my family and friends who will be attending our daughters sacrament of marriage with the mass in the extraordinary form. We won’t say a thing! Ha! Otherwise no one will go to the ceremony, just the reception! Who knows? Some one may fall in love with TLM like my family and I did the first time we went.

Anonymous said...

Young StL Catholic:

I appreciate and understand your comments. I attend the Log CHurch in Cahokia when I am free to do so. My kids aren't capable of going there b/c of learning disabilities.

The diocese seems very lost I Know.

Yes, the thing about the OF "can be celebrated reverently" isn't good enough b/c it's not celebrated reverently often enough. There are too many innovations. I think it started in the 80s after I finished grade school. My family fell apart; we left the CHurch. When I came back we had altar girls, laity, including women distributing the eucharist, women lectoring too. I did experience the early guitar efforts of the mid 70s and "special masses" for individual classes to put on as if a pageant. School masses are where the worst abuses occur in my opinion.

The Log CHurch is low mass only. I think the bishop has restricted what can be done at the Log Church. It is silent and reverent...not just b/c it "can be" but b/c that's what it is.

Athelstane said...

"As a person who found the TLM after decades of n.o. attendance, I can attest that it often happens that the Mass doesn't "take" the first time, or even for the first several times."

I will second that observation.

...But when it finally hits you, it hits.

I also second the observation that we, as traditional communities, need to do more to educate. For one, the Orange County red Missalettes were not a bad start, but we can do better.

Part of the problem is that the TLM doesn't really interface with congregants in the same way as the NO. It's not didactic in the same way. It relies much more heavily on non-verbal communication.

One way to get boys into the TLM is obvious, by the way - get them trained to serve.

It's also easier for established traditional parishes like St Francis de Sales to undertake such efforts than for the borrowed-time-slot TLM.

Anonymous said...

@Athelstane -

'One way to get boys into the TLM is obvious, by the way - get them trained to serve. '

Spot on. Several years ago my two young sons learned at the feet of our then Pastor who established the 1:30pm Sunday afternoon Mass of the Ages at our liberal N.O. parish. Because of him did my boys grow later to serve both High and Low Mass proficiently. Serving at the Altar was a foundation for them, but a concerted effort is required on the part of both Pastor and Traditional Faithful.