The standard complaint against traditionalists, that we are demanding and obnoxious, has surfaced yet again in the Catholic blogosphere. This time it comes to us courtesy of the site Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam (a blog which I appreciate and enjoy reading on occasion).
In his most recent post, however, Boniface (the author’s pseudonym) addresses the perceived problem of rude & obnoxious Trads and the diocesan priests whose lives they apparently make a living hell. Two specific priests are (anonymously) profiled: one who was in seminary when Summorum Pontificum was issued by Pope Benedict, the other a pastor who was already learning the Traditional Latin Mass in 2007 when Benedict released his landmark motu proprio.
We are told in the article that the first priest has completely given up offering the traditional Mass and the other is on the verge of giving up because:
…the people who attended the traditional Latin Mass were so mean-spirited, so hyper-critical, just so obnoxious, that he eventually stopped offering the traditional Mass altogether…(he) wants nothing to do with the Latin Mass community.
In addition, the second anonymous priest states that the traditional Latin Mass attendees:
…were very loath to volunteer for any parish events or attend any other parish functions. He (the priest) made an interesting observation, and I’m paraphrasing, but he said, “It’s like the Latin Mass is a ‘fix’, something they travel around chasing. Looking for anywhere they can get ‘their’ Mass and then move on.” He felt like they refused to put down roots in his parish; they were takers, not givers. They have given him nothing but headaches.
I will address the lack of charity that (some) traditionalists can exhibit later but first permit me this brief rant.
This particular post at Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam (as well as many of these reoccurring digs against “obnoxious Trads” one finds on social media and on the Internet) always reveal a much larger and more prevailing problem in the Church today: the continued lack of support for the traditional Latin Mass.
The first priest profiled in the article states that he offered the Latin Mass “semi-regularly” before giving it up completely. I’m not sure about your catechism, but mine instructs that Holy Mass is a weekly obligation, not a “semi-regular” obligation. I know of very few Latin Mass communities that have ever flourished with a once a month (or semi-regular) traditional Mass.
Statistically we know that anywhere from 75-85 per cent of self identifying Catholics skip Mass on Sundays. In other words, the vast majority of Novus Ordo attending Catholics will not even drive ten minutes to their geographic parish for anyone of the three, four, or five times when Mass is offered each week.
Now, take those same Catholics and ask them to drive an hour, or two, for Mass and see how many even bother to show up. Traditionalists are regularly expected to load up their five, six, seven (or more!) children and commute 2-3 hours (round trip) for a once a month Mass. The expectation is unrealistic and uncharitable. And yet many make that drive, only to be criticized for not putting down roots and becoming more active in a parish that isn’t their own.
In all charity, I would ask those priests who offer the Latin Mass and are frustrated with traditionalists to understand that families who travel (in some cases) from other dioceses and past numerous parishes to attend the Latin Mass typically cannot make that same drive more than once a week. It simply is not possible.
Additionally, of course many are “chasing” after traditional Masses; this has to be done when TLM’s are only offered one Sunday a month at 4:00PM (or later) or on a “semi-regular” basis. Providing a stable location for the Mass will natural produce…stability!
As to the generalized characterization held by some priests that most of these traditionalists are rude, I would suggest this: open up availability to the Mass to your own geographic community. Quit creating the self-fulfilling prophecy of low attendance and fringe attendees by only scheduling infrequent Masses and at inconvenient times.
If you are a priest who understands the immense grace received from a Mass received from God and organically developed (with minimal change) over 2,000 years, then offer it right in the middle of your Sunday Masses as it is done at diocesan parishes like St. Mary’s in Norwalk, Connecticut or Holy Ghost parish in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
Please let us see if the Novus Ordo attending Catholics at your parish embrace the traditional Catholic Mass. Then what you will have is neither neo-Catholic nor Traditionalist, but simply Catholic, and those who are rude and obnoxious will be identified as such because of their personal character flaws and not because of the Mass they attend.
That being said, of course some traditionalists need to demonstrate greater charity toward their pastors. All of us, regardless of rite or form, must do so. Patience, reassurance, gratitude, and most of all prayers are owed to our priests.
Here let’s again note, however, that a priest who offers a traditional Mass one Sunday a month two hours away does not necessarily fulfill the role of pastor for these souls; their bishop has largely already failed them by not supporting wider availability of the Latin Mass.
Where the traditional Sunday Mass is offered weekly, there are several best practices that can be employed to help increase support and foster growth. They are, in no particular order:
- Form a small committee of faithful attendees who will brainstorm ways to further the traditional Mass without stepping on toes;
- Designate one or two leaders who will be (exclusively) responsible for respectfully making requests and offering suggestions to your pastor;
- With permission from the pastor, establish a presence within the parish for the tradional Mass. This can be done via an information table or booth to provide literature, offer pre-approved handouts, and capture email addresses for future updates.
- Work with Father to establish a schola, schedule educational sessions on the traditional liturgy, and to train servers for the Mass.
- Encourage Latin Mass attendees to pray for your pastor: rosary bouquets, novenas, and acts of penance can be offered for those priests who have taken on the (often unpopular) role of a tradition friendly priest.
All of the above suggestions presume that you are in an environment supportive of the traditional Mass.
Unfortunately, for traditionalists it seems that the insults will continue until morale improves. It is a cross to bear no doubt, but it can be done with grace and charity. It must be done with grace and charity.
And, in the meantime, maybe more of the clergy and laity can stop looking for stereotypes when they see traditional Catholics and begin to see a group of faithful desperate for community, stability, and a parish home.
[Photo credit: Rodrigo Guerra]