We 21st-Century Catholics who love Catholic tradition in the liturgy have two choices: escape or endure. Either we must sacrifice lots of time and money to travel to a reverent, obedient parish, or we must grit our teeth and heroically endure what the local modern churches present to Almighty God in the name of Holy Mass.
My husband and I make sacrifices and travel a hundred miles each Sunday morning to find a reverent (Novus Ordo) Mass. But for those that must endure, rather than escape, I present some more suggestions to ease the pain that is all too keen when attending an unworthy celebration of the Mass. (If you’re interested, some initial thoughts from a year or two ago on what to do about this can be found here.) The keys are pray, immerse, and connect–see below.
- Choose a patron saint to be your intercessor for this difficult endeavor. You will need heavenly help and a role model for inspiration as you struggle for patience and cheerfulness on Sundays. Make your Mass preparations on Sunday mornings with a prayer to a saint who was specially devoted to the liturgy when times were very difficult, such as one of the North American martyrs (St. Isaac Jogues and his companions), St. Edmund Campion or one of the 40 martyrs of England and Wales from Tudor/Elizabethan times, or saints who composed prayers and music for the Mass or Divine Office, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, Bl. Hermanus Contractus, or St. Hildegard von Bingen.
- Buy a gorgeously detailed missal for either the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Be sure that it is profusely decorated with beautiful images, and that it includes the text of the Propers, the psalms that the Church instructs us to sing at the priest’s Entrance, at the Offertory, and at Communion. Buy lots of holy cards to stick inside of it. This way you can focus on the beauty of these words and images as you pray the Mass, and try to ignore what is ugly or profane around you. My mother uses an EF missal at Mass, although she attends an ultra-casual modern parish that has little-to-nothing in the way of a sense of the sacred evident during Mass. Like she does, you can immerse yourself in the pages of a missal to remain more serene in a disordered parish situation.
- You are right, but know why. Your love of the beautiful, reverent, and obedient is objectively good and proper–but even so, after a while of being surrounded by so many people who don’t think the same way, you can start believing that you must be the crazy one. Here are some links to articles that will restore your sense of sanity, and show how grounded your instincts and yearnings are.
- Worshipping with the priest facing God: Dr. Kwasniewski explains how the current Missale Romanum still speaks of this as the expected posture for priests, and shares some words from a current Benedictine monk (with links to other writers as well) on how important it is to worship this way.
- Using Sacred Music at Mass: Here are 24 FAQs on Sacred Music from the wonderful folks at CMAA; they also have dozens and dozens of books for free download explaining what happened to the musical tradition of the Church in modern times and what we can do about it.
- Know that there is hope, and this situation is turning itself around: Each issue of the online publication Regina Magazine is filled with good news, inspiration, and gorgeous photos from all over the world. I constantly visit the New Liturgical Movement blog for good news and to see what other Catholics are doing to restore tradition around the world. And lastly, my Pinterest boards Deo Gratias and The Sacred Liturgy feature items of hope for tradition-loving Catholics.
- Pray and fast for your priest. As our Lord let us know in the Gospels, this is what you do when you’re serious about helping to change a bad situation. Pray for your priest each day, by name. (3 beautiful prayers for priests are here.) Give up something in penance on his behalf, on a committed, consistent basis. Also, pray for your bishop–he will be appointing the next priest to your parish, after all. If you only do one thing from this list, make it this one.
- Make connections in your parish. Feeling isolated hurts the most, I think. Find someone else in the parish who is tradition-friendly, but be sure not to drag each other down with gossip and complaints! Instead, together, immerse yourself in the beauty of the Church and Her tradition, such as by forming a guild to make beautiful Catholic art and handicrafts, starting a liturgy/theology study group reading the works of Pope Emeritus Benedict, forming a schola, or beginning to pray the Divine Office together once a week. Do this even if there are only two of you! It will strengthen you and help you to show the truth, goodness, and beauty of tradition to even more Catholics, little by little.
I hope that readers will suggest their own ideas below. Those of you who must patiently endure this time in the desert are giving a great gift to the Church, and you will be rewarded. In meekness, peace, and charity continue to seek the Kingdom of God, and always, always, always–pray for our next generation of priests!