Thursday, 11 May 2017

Trads Squabble Over Numbers

England's Dr. Shaw appears incensed here over America's Monsignor Pope's article there. For the life of me, I don't understand why Dr. Shaw sounds so thunderous. Clearly Monsignor is just feeling a bit down.

I think the old belief that if all Catholics saw how beautiful the Traditional Rite was, they would flock in their thousands, was utterly naive.

First of all, most Catholics don't go to Mass at all. If they go, they go for C&E and are out the door before the last notes of the final hymn have faded away. Duty done (or so they think)--toodle-oo!

Second, those who do go to Mass are stuck in their ways and really do enjoy the rhythm of the three hymn sandwich. They enjoy seeing the same faces in the parking lot and in the hall afterwards for coffee (if applicable). A number of  White Anglo-Saxon Catholics in my native Toronto are post-1969 converts from Protestantism, and so the Novus Ordo may remind them comfortably of the male-led Protestant services of their youth. If they're like my mother, they enjoy belting out the hymns, many of which they belted back in their Protestant days.


DA DA DA DA  DA diddee DA-AH DA DA !!!!

After twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years in ye olde parish church, these Catholics are not budging. It would take a catastrophe of pastor-going-to-jail-for-you-know-what proportions to inspire them to leave, and sadly when Catholics are utterly fed up, they don't usually make the switch to the TLM: they stop going to Mass at all.  For fifty years, they've been told the SSPX are a dangerous pack of weirdos, and so anyone who also loves the Mass of Ages must also be a weirdo. Never mind that the priests who told them that were later discovered to be (A) homosexual (B) robbing the till (C) living in a mobile home with a skinny divorcée  or (D) now celebrating the Mass of Ages themselves.

However, there are thousands of  people who get curious about religion, so there are all kinds of ways to promote the TLM, if you feel called. I do it myself in my own little way by subverting the Angry Trad stereotype. But, of course, there is:

1. The Appeal to the Real.  "If you want to know what Catholicism REALLY is," you can say to the curious out religion-shopping, "you should come to the Traditional Latin Mass because it does not water down the Catholicism unlike the priest at Saint Moping who gets his sermons out  of Chicken Soup for the Soul, " etc., etc.

Be careful how you phrase this argument, however, or you may come across as someone not imbued with the love of Christ. Perhaps it might be best to say that traditional Catholics have a very strong devotion to Christ Present on the Altar, and our liturgy reflects this. Our Mass is more about God than about community; the community part happens afterwards when we all get smashed on G &Ts.

2. The Appeal to the Snobbery. "If you like Evelyn Waugh, you'll LOVE the TLM," you could say, although I'd rather you didn't. There's quite enough  lower-middle-class-boys-feeling-bad-about-it hanging out at the TLM just to feel posh. What they think of the honest skilled tradesmen and horny-handed sons of toil also at the TLM is a question I don't want answered. What the honest skilled tradesmen and horny-handed sons of toil think of all the red corduroy trousers I shudder to think. On the other hand, they are probably too holy to notice the trousers at all.

3. The Appeal to the Senses.  Suddenly I remember an Anglican suitor who was tempted to cross the Tiber as as to win my then-fair hand. I warned him that he ought to come to my (ugly, modernist) parish church and hear the (ghastly) cantor first.

People who really care about music and art will prefer the TLM to the NO unless they have jobs providing the music and art at the NO.  BTW, I'd love to see some statistics on what percentage of church musicians go to the NO when they are not actually performing at it.

4. The Appeal to the Feminine. It may be tricky to win women away from all their fun activities at Saint Moping. Let's face it. Women run the NO, and men are happy to let them do it. The NO can be pretty boring, so NO-goers jazz it up for themselves by volunteering to DO stuff. I've sat in the important chair for lay-led worship, and let me tell you, the hour just whizzes by when you're the lady in charge. What can be done to overcome the temptations of busy-ness and lady priesting?

It may sound trivial, but I think ye olde lace mantilla is a step forward, especially now that we're being bombarded with propaganda for the hijab. I cannot get my mind around the role of the hair-hating hijab in modern life, but westerners associate lace veils with brides and widows, who are (or once were) semi-sacred. Imagine you could assert your feminine genius just by putting on a lace veil and looking restful. And imagine that just by doing this, you could inspire the men to do all the work they currently aren't doing, like going to the seminary and becoming priests.

Men (thinking): Goodness gracious, Mrs. McLean looks so beautiful and restful in her black lace mantilla that I am hopelessly in love with her. What can I do? I know: I shall sublimate this forbidden passion in my studies for the priesthood. Off to Wiegratzbad I go.

By the way, the TLM is the one place I can think of where young women can silently and modestly indicate that they are Single, and the married (or convent-bound) can subtly indicate that they aren't available. One of the quieter dynamics of the TLM is the bachelors checking out the white mantillas. Oh, the sweet! 

5. The Appeal to the Masculine: As girls becoming altar servers lead to an exodus of the boys, keep your ears sharp for stories of disappointed mothers at St Moping. No doubt the NO was less dull when they could watch their little sons going to and fro. "Maybe he would feel more comfortable at Sacred Trad," you could say. "Only boys serve there."

The same goes for mothers at the end of their rope with teenage sons who refuse to go to Mass at all. "Maybe he would feel more comfortable at Sacred Trad," you could say again. "Men outnumber women 2:1 there. And they don't feel pressured to sing."

6. The Appeal to the Non-Singers: Protestants and ex-Protestants love to sing, which is no doubt why we have so much congregational singing in the Novus Ordo. But many people simply to not like to sing, or would rather listen to good singing than to their own sad speaking-voice efforts.

 (It is not true, by the way, that everyone can sing. It has to be taught.  I realized this when I listened to the contrast between Scottish children of yore singing the old school song and their replacements singing the new school song, which includes the phrase "Assallaam-u-aleikum." The Scottish children of yore sang like soprano angels. The Scottish children of today sang with their speaking voices--as they no doubt do at the Novus Ordo, when they are at the Novus Ordo, which is but rarely, not only because only 16% of Scots are Catholics but because only 25% of Scottish Catholics go to church.)

Non-singers--which certainly must include most Cradle-Catholic men--are relieved of pressure to sing at the TLM, especially when there are paid professionals to do it for them.


  1. Evelyn Waugh's snobbery in embracing Catholicism (as opposed to his snobbery in being rude to the middle classes, and loving dukes beyond reason, which are separate issues) has been exaggerated. Didn't he say himself that most Catholics in England were working-class Irish, as were their priests? Even Brideshead Revisited, as some people manage to miss, is not about a 'recusant' family but one that became Catholic by conversion, brought about by the heir's marriage to the middle-class Catholic Lady Marchmain. The vulgar art nouveau chapel is the place where the flame of faith has been kept alive, not the beautiful old house.

    Sorry - a hobby-horse of mine! The fact is that most people are more impressed by Brideshead's glamour than its underlying themes, and if they are drawn to its Catholicism I suppose it is mostly because of glamour-by-association.


  2. Waugh didn't become a Catholic through snobbery, but he was a cracking snob all the same. The admission that he would have been barely human had he not been a (believing, practicing) Catholic suggests that he knew this. Also, it is all there in the hatred for "Hooper" and the jumped-up Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited. Interestingly, Charles is not so "jumped up" as his father (unlike Waugh's) does not have to work but is a "gentleman" living among his books, going to his club, etc.

    Are you sure that before her marriage Lady Marchmain was "middle-class"? I'm pretty sure she's supposed to be from as posh a recusant family as Laura Herbert's.

    The amusing/sad thing about Waugh's snobbery is that Laura's super-posh relations (at very least her brother) were horrified by Waugh.

    It is horrible when the real Catholicism in Brideshead is ignored for the Oxford, Venice, country-house, Oxford-aesthete, aristo glamour (and homosexuality), but as a book about Catholicism, it would totally fail. A much better book about What-Catholicism-Really-Is is Graham Greene's horrifying and truly great "Brighton Rock."

  3. I have never forgotten an eccentric English trad telling me that "Brideshead Revisited" was responsible for ruining thousands of lives. Alas,I think I know what he means. When I first went to university, I could not get over my disappointment that it was not at all like "Brideshead Revisited." Isn't that sad? But even sadder are the real stories and the real people who gave Waugh the material for BR.

    You and I have a good idea of what Waugh meant--I feel pretty confident in saying that. But does the average reader or viewer of the series? I HIGHLY doubt that.

    I was a very pious child when I first read BR, and what impressed me was not the flame of faith in the ugly chapel but the champagne-and-strawberry picnic. Moreover,since I was entirely brought up on the Novus Ordo, I hadn't the slightest idea what Waugh was talking about when he talked about the liturgy. It was just another puzzle in the GREAT MYSTERY of why my experiences at Mass did not reflect what I read in old Catholic books that mentioned Mass.

  4. I'm not certain about Lady Marchmain, but I *think* I might be right about this. Very cautiously I say that, though. I do know that Laura Herbert was not from a recusant family - she was his first wife's cousin and from the same kind of Anglican aristo background. She and her mother and siblings were converts.

    I didn't read Brideshead Revisited until I was 26 and was too old to have my life ruined by a book in the fashion your friend feared. When I went to university I was not expecting to enjoy it, having seen cousins bored and alienated at their commuter schools, so the fact that I very much enjoyed my commuter school was a pleasant surprise. I even enjoyed its strong element of Animal House antics; the movie had come out a couple of years before I started and while at first I disliked it and the effect it had, I came to love both. Then. I don't know about now.

    Mass in Ottawa, in spite of the near heresy of many priests, was never as casual about the mysteries of the faith as I have seen elsewhere in the country, including at your NO church in Toronto. Oh, I expect some are like that, but the 3 churches I've attended here most frequently, including the notorious St Joseph's (look it up!) near U of O, were extremely reverent towards the Eucharist.

    p.s. Being an aesthete myself, I was always having to remind myself of the lesson of the Brideshead chapel, so I found that passage profoundly moving and impressive.