The Latin mass is a thing of great beauty, timeless and awesome. From the beginnings of the church mass was celebrated, but at the Council of Trent in 1592 the mass was standardized across the known world and said in the common language of the people, Latin. Greek was the language of culture and education which is why the early gospels were transcribed into Greek while Latin was the vulgar or common language, hence the Latin Vulgate translation of the bible by St. Jerome. This meant that wherever the faithful gathered to celebrate mass, they had a common language to bind them together regardless of their local tongue. It also prevented misunderstandings and mistranslations from altering the message and meaning of the mass.
I would think it was just me, but I have personally witnessed all too often just what a huge emotional and spiritual impact the extraordinary form of the mass can have on people. It is during the latin mass that I feel closest to God, not as my friend but as my Father and Creator. I know that I am not the only person who finds the “Buddy Jesus” aspects often preached and ascribed in the Novus Ordo with the contemporary music and homilies carefully constructed not to make anyone uncomfortable. I need to be challenged spiritually. I also find great comfort in the ritual, in hearing the mass in the very language Peter himself would have used in Rome. I also had some Latin and brushed up a bit more because of the mass, and it is amazing how dramatically different the meaning of the Mass changes when I translate it for myself than listening to the modernized translations in the Novus Ordo. In addition my wife can veil herself without scowls from all the other women in the church, and snide comments about setting women back 100 years.
I realize that a great many people find comfort in the Novus Ordo, and there is no question about it being a valid form of the mass. However, it doesn’t touch my soul in the same way. It doesn’t bridge me to the timelessness of the church, and for whatever reason I wasn’t able to appreciate the majesty of God in the same way. I take great comfort in the ritual, unchanging for over a thousand years. I also admit that “traddies” as we are often called, a semi-derogatory term for those who follow the teachings of the church – all the teachings — seem to gravitate there. Yes that includes Birth control, fasting before mass, and accepting that once we have entered into a sacrament before God such as marriage that backing out is just as unthinkable as the though of Jesus changing his mind about the salvation of mankind.
I would encourage everyone, including non-Catholics to visit an extraordinary form mass (a Latin mass) if for nothing more than to see and hear living history in the music and unchanging ritual. Most groups have translations of the mass with instructions for participation available and they have veils available for those women who do not own a mantilla of their own. If nothing else you should see if it touches your heart the way it touched mine.
At this point you’re probably wondering what this has to do with marriage. For me, holding my wife’s hand during our first extraordinary form mass together at St. Patrick’s in North Little Rock, AR., where we had gone after hurricane Katrina had just unraveled or lives was an amazing experience. I felt as though I was one with her and close to God at the same time. The sermon was by a French priest in thickly accented English about the arrogance of Americans not only in the social issues of our world but in our failure to live our faith, as a group, by assuming that the Natural Law and Catholic Church teachings change to meet the current political philosophy of the day. He blasted “Cafeteria Catholics”, Divorce, and birth control in addition to our reticence to address social issues.
The congregation stayed respectfully put, unlike at my home parish where the one priest with the moral courage to speak unpopular truths was regularly disrespected by people making a show of putting away their check books or walking out of mass early. It was in that Latin Mass that my wife and I first tasted the joy of a supportive community who shared our dedication to living the faith in joy and acceptance instead of paying it lip service. To have an awe of The Lord restored in this life and to experience a sense of being completely at home was inspiring beyond words. Yet it would be years before such a community formed close enough to our home to allow for active participation, years during which I faithfully attended (and still do from time to time) the Novus Ordo while praying that I would be granted the blessing of such a community.
This is important because in order to have a happy stable marriage you must situate yourself with like minded couples who are equally dedicated to their vows. They, and later you, pay it forward by providing support to younger couples, assisting them with life’s ups and downs as well as constructive advice for those critical hurdles all marriages seem to face from time to time. If you as a husband choose divorced men, womanizers, adulterers and the like as friends you will be not only influenced by their bad example and bad advice, but you will also be tempted to think their behavior is acceptable and normal – that you were wrong about your marriage vows and that your wants should come first. This also applies to the wife as well. If your friends or the communities you currently participate in are hostile to monogamous lifetime marriages, or even just friendly to those touting alternative lifestyles then its time to find new friends or a new community. If you find this difficult, then keep in mind that in marriage you pledged yourself to the love, care, and welfare of your wife before everything else save God. If your “friends” are getting in the way of your sacramental obligations and you refuse to break with them then you are lost, and your marriage will suffer.
Surround yourself with a supportive environment and you will flourish, surround yourself with a hostile environment and you will wither and die. Jesus used this analogy in a parable about sowing seed – something along the line of seed sowed on barren ground will never grow, seed which falls among brambles will be choked out and die, but seed which falls on fertile ground will flourish. Though he was speaking about Faith rather directly, it also applies equally to your marriage. Just as in any garden fertile soil must be cultivated and weeded – apply those methodologies to your life and the results will be far more gratifying than any prize winning tomato or orchid could ever be.
**Please feel free to write or comment on this post, I’d really like to hear from those that are able to have this experience and how it is changing their marriage, their wives, and their lives.