Punk Catholic Thought of the (Holy) Week
Here we go again. If we're counting, this is Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XIX, though of course I've had two Punk Catholic Thoughts of the Year (and at least one sequel . . . or was it a postscript?) since then, and the order has been completely thrown. This new thought is the fruit of nearly a dozen Saturdays of Latin Mass attendance, in which "active participation" is exposed as the deformed golden calf it is.
Of course it's okay to pray the rosary during Mass!
Chances are that you, dear reader, don't regularly attend the Tridentine rite, so the Palm Sunday Mass that you heard a few days ago would have had the spoken parts of the Gospel divided up among the priest, two lectors, and the congregation. Just curious: how did your congregation do?
My congregation kind of fell on its face. Less than half of us had copies of the missalette and so couldn't follow along, even with one frustrated lector trying to cue us from the front of the church, and those who did have copies didn't want to stand out from their neighbours by reading too audibly. If I had remembered what to expect, I would have stolen one before the Mass began and read "my" lines with all the liturgical indignation I felt. (I've had theatre training, by the way.)
Why is "active participation" the ideal again? It's like jumping through hoops. Why can't we just show up?
Long before I became familiar with the Latin Mass, I came across the idea of "assisting" at Mass that I read in books by and about the saints, and assumed that my "active participation" at Mass was the same thing. I was responding promptly and correctly, wasn't I? And hadn't I studied up on what all the celebrant's actions mean, all the better to follow the movements and meanings with my eyes? What I didn't really understand was why some saints who already went to daily Mass seemed to make a distinction between just being there and assisting. Doesn't everyone already "assist" at Mass by virtue of standing, sitting, kneeling, and saying the responses? Perhaps they meant being fully conscious of those actions and words, rather than just going through the motions.
As expected, it wasn't until I found a Mass where I could just show up and not have to say anything that the mental tumblers started clicking into place.
That's because the Tridentine Mass is, as Bill Biersach and Charles Coulombe have explained, the priest's Mass. It is a prayer that he can say all alone, without a single other person around to say the responses for him. In fairness, this is also true for Masses in the Ordinary Form. (Several years ago, I was late for one of those Masses and walked in on Father going through the Liturgy of the Word all by himself. He was so pleased to see me that he asked me to do the First Reading.) But we don't get that sense of them, do we? Mass in the vernacular seems like a community effort, when what it is, is an action by the Head (as represented by the priest) for the whole Body. The rest of the members don't actually have to do anything; the Mass "works" the way Jesus's Sacrifice on the Cross "worked." Our faith, understanding, and assistance are neither necessary nor required . . . but we may offer them as a sacrifice, joined to the priest and Jesus's sacrifice, to make a very powerful prayer of our own.
Somehow, "active participation" distracts from this . . . (Starcrunch, would you happen to remember to which cardinal Biersach and Coloumbe attribute the quotation, "Participation is distraction"?) . . . while the rosary doesn't.
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Several years ago, on my old blog, I stepped on a bigger landmine than I realised was underfoot when I said that "cradles" get things better than converts do. One
In fact, I almost did it last Saturday, when Father announced before beginning that we would be using the propers for the memorial of St. Pedro Calungsod rather than those on the regular calendar. So would we all please turn our missals to a certain section I can't even tell you about because I don't have a missal? Since I started hearing the Tridentine Mass each week, I've been relying on the printouts of the day's propers, generously provided by someone else, in order to follow along. My copy having become useless (and this priest being a whisperer), I might as well have been deaf during certain parts. Which was fine: the altar boy is the only one who really needs to say the responses, and even then, his presence isn't absolutely necessary. Again, it's the priest's Mass . . . though anyone who can assist him is welcome to.
In the end, I again decided not to pray the rosary--but not because I still care about "active participation"! While I remain unfamiliar with the Extraordinary Form, I want every Mass to be another step toward memorising it. When I am able to recite it to myself, the way I've long been able to recite the Ordinary Form, I will feel okay with letting it overlap with the rosary--a prayer I love so much because I already know it by heart. Of course, the catch is that by then I won't want to. =P
(By the way, the original Punk Catholic Thought that I thought to use was: "The life of participation is memorisation." But then I realised that I was talking about assistance.)