On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All I Can Say Is WOW!

Last night my son and I traveled to Burlington for Mass. The bishop was celebrating at the co-cathedral using the John XXIII missal from 1962. There was a choir singing the responses in Gregorian chant. This was the first time this extraordinary form of the Mass has been celebrated in Vermont for over 30 years. My reaction was simply WOW.

It was all incredibly beautiful, despite the difficulty I had following along in my missal. My son said that it would have been easier if it had been a low Mass, but that with a high Mass the celebrant and the choir were sometimes not on the same place on the page at the same time. When I was able to catch up with my place I was simply blown away by the beauty of the language. I'm sorry, but the ICEL translations simply haven't been able to do justice to the Latin.

The homily was the best I've ever heard and that includes my previous all time favorite homily by Cardinal Ratzinger before the conclave. Our bishop was simply flat out on fire. His delivery had all the fire of a Pentecostal preacher (and having been raised Pentecostal I should know!) He used the homily as a time to explain how this rite worked differently from the Novus Ordo and to explain the significance of these differences. He talked about the doctrine of the Assumption in unapologetically Catholic words. If it hadn't been Mass, his words: "If this is what it takes to fill churches" would have brought a standing ovation from the near capacity congregation. His plea for people to come home nearly brought tears to my eyes.

For the first time in my Catholic life I was able to kneel for communion and receive it from the bishop himself. It was almost like starting all over as a Catholic. I'd waited so long for this particular privilege (the kneeling part especially).

Now, much of the time I felt like am awkward little kid. I wasn't always sure when to stand, sit, kneel. I kept worrying that my chapel veil was going to fall off (since I hadn't pinned it on). However, on balance I think it's good every now and then to feel like an awkward little kid. When I did get lost in the missal I took the time to read some of the side notes that gave some insight into the what the worshipper should be meditating on at that point in the Mass. Then when an obvious landmark came into place (like the Kyrie, or the Agnus Dei) I could get back on the proper page again.

This will take awhile getting used to, but so did the new rite. Maybe there's the advantage to being a convert, you assume that there are things that will be somewhat foreign so you don't simply reject them out of hand. I simply know that I've never heard any priest before describe the mystery of the sacrifice of the Mass in quite so clear terms, nor with such passion as our bishop did last night.

I hope Bishop Matano was as encouraged by the attendance at Mass as we were with his beautiful celebration of it. Oh, and you might go over to Owl of the Remove and congratulate Father Ben on the beautiful job he and the rest of the choir did as well.


At 6:54 PM, Blogger the owl of the remove said...

Thanks, Liz! I wasn't actually part of the choir - being "in Choir" as a priest means being vested in cassock and cotta, as one cannot concelebrate the Old Rite - but it was a magnificent occassion, wasn't it? By the way - you can always kneel to receive Holy Communion in the New Rite, if you want to - no-one can stop you. I have a number of parishioners who always receive kneeling - you have to be able to get up!

At 4:44 AM, Blogger Liz said...

Actually, my son always receives kneeling (although I'll admit he gets some scowls from both priests and EME's). I'm just uncoordinated enough that kneeling without the step to assist me back up again isn't a graceful option. I'll blame that on age, I guess, although perhaps with practice...

I didn't realize you weren't actually singing in the choir. We were seated about two thirds of the way back and I really wasn't able to see a whole lot. Even so it was magnificent. We're waiting with baited breath to see how often and when the old rite is going to be celebrated regularly in the diocese.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Fr John Boyle said...

I had the privilege of meeting your bishop today - and of being invited by him to spend some time in the diocese. He is full of admiration for Pope Benedict. His celebration of the extraordinary form on 8/15 was a wonderful sign of leadership, collegiality and communion. You are blessed to have such a bishop.


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