From Protestantism to Catholicism, From the Novus Ordo Mass to the Tridentine Latin Mass
May 2007By Michael Larson
Michael Larson teaches English at Minnesota State College -- Southeast Technical. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1995 and has recently published a book of poems, What We Wish We Knew (Ex Machina Press, 2005)
A conversion story, like any story, is something of a reconstruction, limited by the clues available to one presently and by the gulf of time. Just as one cannot step into the same river twice, neither can one see with the same eyes one had at some previous point in life. What follows then is my reconstruction of the path by which I have become a traditional Roman Catholic. When I look back now, even with the illumination of hindsight, I cannot apprehend in one glance -- or even in many glances -- the whole of it. I see in the distance where the trail begins and bits of sunlit footpath between here and there, but much of it remains in obscurity. These are the limitations of human memory and understanding. Nevertheless, I find myself here now -- and for poignant reasons, which I will try to explain.
Leaving ProtestantismIt seems logical that any convert might have two internal forces at work: the movement away from one thing and the movement toward something else. This was certainly the case for me in 1989 when I converted to the Catholic Church. For two years prior I had been moving toward Catholicism, and for several years before that I had been moving away from Protestantism. To understand more precisely the nature of this movement away, I must make clear what it was not: It was not a movement away from belief.
I was born into a Lutheran home and baptized as an infant. My parents taught me at a very young age to believe in the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. My parents also made clear to me that Christ died for my sins and that if I would accept Him as my Lord and Savior, He would live in my heart in this life and take me to Heaven in the next. I have never stopped believing any of these things. Then again, these things cannot rightly be attributed to Protestantism, at least not in their ultimate origin. These beliefs, understood generally, are truths the Protestant Reformers took with them when they broke away from the Church and started their own versions of Christianity.
Even today, most serious Catholics and Protestants would agree on these basic tenets of the faith. The disagreement would come in defining what is meant by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, and what is involved in such a proposition. What is involved for the Protestant is primarily the maintenance of belief, the perpetual mental acknowledgment, so to speak, of Christ's mastery over us and His saving love for us. In its most extreme form, this emphasis among Protestants on mental assent is essentially the principle of sola fide (i.e., by faith alone we are saved). Here the Protestant uses the term "faith," not as the Catholic uses it to refer to all the Articles of Faith held inviolable by the Church and to which all Catholics by definition must assent, but rather as the singular belief in Christ as Lord. The natural consequence of sola fide is the invisible church. To most, if not all, of the Protestants I have known, the denominations of Christianity (of which they perceive Catholicism to be merely one of many) are each a construct of man. The thinking goes like this: God alone knows which individuals from among all the denominations have belief in Jesus, the Christ. It is this group of individuals who make up the invisible church -- invisible in the sense that it does not conform to any particular set of human-defined doctrines and obligations but is rather a society of like-minded believers who cross sectarian lines.
In short, these believers are one in their acceptance of Christ as Lord; the denominational disagreements about other areas of doctrine and spiritual life are considered peripheral: after all, no one denomination has all the correct answers, so one must choose a church based on one's personal preferences regarding a particular style of worship or a particular doctrinal emphasis. Many of the Protestants I know will readily acknowledge that their version of Christianity may in fact have some errors, yet they feel that there is no way to know for certain what those errors are. They reference St. Paul and say that in this life, we are left to see through the glass darkly; in the next life, God will show us where we were wrong, and only then will we all see the truths of Heaven. The implication, of course, in this kind of thinking is that the Kingdom of Heaven has not yet been revealed. Yes, we know that Christ is Lord, but universal revelation, in effect, ends there. All the rest -- all other matters of doctrine, worship, and spiritual life -- are up for grabs, and people, being as they are, will find endlessly different ways to adapt their religion to themselves.
In this invisible church, one's spiritual journey is, almost by necessity, a private and individualistic affair. There are many thousands of Protestant denominations, no two of them holding all matters of doctrine and religious practice in common. An individual might not even agree with certain of the doctrinal teachings or the moral obligations within his own denomination, let alone with those of another denomination. One's spiritual life, then, is one's own. Transformation, or sanctification, occurs largely in isolation. And the specific nature of what must be accomplished in this journey is rarely, if ever, articulated among Protestant thinkers. (Luther even denies the notion entirely. For him, there is no journey, no transformation. As he once put it, one remains a "dung heap" underneath, clothed with the snow-white mantle of Christ.)
This is in sharp contrast to the Catholic act of accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, which, in addition to the maintenance of one's belief, involves a public submission to the very concrete teachings and precepts of the Church, an ancient and visible society. Transformation of the individual Catholic -- an absolute necessity for salvation -- is the normal work of the Church, through the graces received in the seven Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), through conformance to the teachings (both doctrinal and moral) of the Magisterium, through prayer (especially the Mass), and through penance. To be saved, the Catholic must, in the words of our Lord, "become perfect even as your father in Heaven is perfect" (Mt. 5:48). If transformation for one in a state of grace is not complete in this life, then Purgatory -- a final purifying fire -- follows until that soul is truly ready for Heaven. But I get ahead of myself. I mention these Catholic characteristics here only in an effort to more vividly render -- by way of contrast -- my understanding of the Protestantism with which I grew up.
My movement away, then, from my Protestant upbringing was not exactly a rejection of belief, at least not at the most elemental level. Rather, I was rejecting what I had come to see as a kind of impotency, an apparent powerlessness within the churches I attended, to transform practitioners -- that and a general ambiguity about what such transformation might involve, how it might be accomplished. Certainly I was powerless to change myself -- this was all too clear -- but even more alarming was the inability of the local church to help. In other words, I had come to perceive church-going as an exercise in futility: We, most of us, agreed that we needed Christ to save us, but all we could find at church was one another -- men and women and children doing their best, many of them kind and helpful, who say wise and sometimes meaningful things, who try together to figure out what this or that passage of Scripture might mean, to remind one another of our need for Christ, etc. And that was it. We shared belief (at least one main one), and we offered one another ourselves (to a limited degree), because that is all we had to offer.
Some might ask, "Well, what more do you want?" And indeed, in the realm of natural goodness, such an image of human fellowship does in fact seem touching, almost even as if it should be enough. But it is not enough. And by the age of 20, I had figured this out: In the best of Protestant churches, there is natural goodness -- sincere, well-meaning, supportive communities of those who share a belief in the need for Christ -- and in the worst of them, there is chaos. But in none of them could I see a supernatural reason to go to church on Sunday morning. And my exposure to various denominations had not exactly been narrow: Lutheran, as I have mentioned, but also Evangelical Free, Evangelical Covenant, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of Christ, some independent Bible-based fundamentalist churches, and a couple varieties of Pentecostalism.
Often there were pastors with charismatic personalities or good public speaking skills; sometimes there were exceptionally nice families or a good youth group; occasionally there was what people perceived to be good biblical teaching; and in the Pentecostal churches there were signs and wonders, people speaking in tongues, people making prophecies, and people seeking (and sometimes claiming) physical healing. What I could not find in any of these churches was anything other than a lateral orientation. By that I mean a human orientation, a method of choosing and attending a church based on human issues. If the pastor was charismatic or a good speaker, we were charmed -- by him! If there were nice families, we were charmed -- by them. If there was a good youth group, we kids were excited by the prospect of new friends. If there was what we believed to be good biblical teaching, then we were ultimately pleased with ourselves, for who else but we could determine what was good and what was errant? And if there were signs and wonders, we were either skeptical of or impressed by those claiming the sign or the wonder, and never to my recollection did such charged displays ever turn our orientation vertical. There was always too much of the individual and not enough of the individual's Maker.
During and after college (an evangelical school), I continued to attend various churches occasionally but always with dismay. Although I could not have articulated it then, I was quite weary. The Protestant churches I attended knew only how to serve me up something (or someone) slightly better or worse than myself. It became grimly clear to me that I could do just as well on my own. What need had I, a blind man, to be led around by those with a similar visual impairment?
So I moved away. By which I mean that I went to church less and less. I never stopped believing in those basic tenets I had learned early in life, but I had come to realize that those tenets and church attendance (at least the churches with which I was familiar) had almost nothing in common. The tenets -- Trinity, Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Salvation, Heaven -- all of them had to do with things beyond the human domain. It was the upward sweep of those realities, the vertical orientation they invited, that caused me to reject the notion of Protestant church-going long before I ever seriously considered the claims of the Catholic Church. In short, I wandered away from a lateral religion -- from such inordinate preoccupation with ourselves -- and into what is infinitely higher and grander than even the very best of what we have to offer one another.
Trying to Find CatholicismIt is beauty that lured me at last into the Catholic Church. I am artistic by nature (poet, writer, musician), so I am particularly susceptible to beauty. Often this has been to my detriment. I have sought beauty in many of its natural forms -- in the drama and variety of earthen landscapes, in art and architecture, in music, in the bond of friendship, in the love of a woman and the loveliness of her form, even (I am amused to say) in some brilliant corner of myself. In myself I could not find it; in romantic love, it is pressed; in friendship, it is by necessity limited and often ends up fading; in music, at least in popular music, it disorients; in art, it is a rabbit hole; in landscapes, it is tantalizingly inaccessible. In Catholicism, too, I would see beauty. And this was cause for both enchantment and anxiety. Would I find behind her doors the answer to all my longings, or would the Church end up merely another of beauty's tricks?
In 1987, when I was in graduate school at St. Cloud State University, I made two friends who had been raised Protestant but who were in the process of becoming Catholic. I had never heard of such a thing; my parents were not what I would call anti-Catholic, but neither was it something to take seriously in our household. My converting friends and I talked long into many nights. We argued some, but not much. My wife and I read books such as Evangelical Is Not Enough, by Thomas Howard; Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail by Robert Webber; The New Catholics edited by Dan O'Neill, a collection of modern conversion stories; and two books by G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. I took interest also in the fact that some of my favorite novelists were Catholic: Walker Percy, Graham Greene, and Flannery O'Connor. I would like to say that my conversion was intellectual, that pure unadulterated reason led me to the Catholic Church. It was not. If I were to convert now, I venture to think that it would be for reasons of reason. But at that time, as a young man, I was almost entirely intuitive.
What my intuition told me in those days, even before I had attended a single Mass, was that the Church is "lovely, dark, and deep." Frost applied these words to a patch of woods, but there was something about Catholicism also that promised of regions hitherto unknown. It was the "further up and further in" described by C.S. Lewis, ironically a Protestant, in The Chronicles of Narnia. It was the mythopoeic rendering of Purgatory, namelessly portrayed by George MacDonald, another Protestant, in a book called Lilith, which had affected me deeply. It was the real-world equivalent of the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, a friend of Lewis's and the lone Catholic among my favorite fantasy authors.
From all that I had read, discussed, and intuited about Catholicism, I perceived something truly beautiful, something far beyond myself, some deep, majestic, elevated realm. There are actually many elements of the Church that fulfill these descriptors, but perhaps the easiest for new Catholics to grasp, and certainly the most important, is the Eucharist. If we are to be made perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect, we must be visited regularly by His Son, who is of the same essence. This happens in the Catholic Mass. The priest, standing in the stead of Christ, offers to the Father the perfect sacrifice of the Son, whereby at the Consecration, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord, who -- just as He did through the Incarnation -- enters our world, our very bodies, and sustains us with His supernatural life. To my knowledge, not a single Protestant church has ever made such a claim. Instead, they speak of such abstractions as commemoration (popular in the free churches) or consubstantiation (the Lutheran term), whereby Christ is described as vaguely present "in and around" the bread and wine (or grape juice). I suspect these Protestant ceremonies do have value, at least for those who care to concentrate, but only in the natural realm. And they are not Sacraments. They are not administered by a priest with apostolic lineage. They are not to be equated with the literal descent of Christ, who feeds His sheep with a supernatural food. Indeed, the Protestant mind is scandalized by such a notion, as were the Jews, as were His own disciples until much later, after the Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Ghost.
My apprehension of the shocking claim of the Catholic Sacrament of Holy Communion was a clear and tangible pull. Again, I could not have articulated it at the time, but in this Sacrament was the antithesis of all that had made me weary in the Protestant churches. Instead of a Protestant minister's private interpretation of Scripture, however astute, I was to receive Christ Himself. Instead of the well-meaning well-wishes of my fellow man, I was to receive Christ. Instead of a fine soloist, instead of the entertaining psychobabble of a good midweek speaker, instead of a sincere Bible study, instead of a friendly potluck dinner, I was to receive Christ. "Apart from Me, you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). He truly meant these words. We are spirit and matter. In the Eucharist, we receive spiritual food but in a material form. In the Mass, in every Mass, and especially in the Eucharist, the central tenets of the Faith are elevated once again for the faithful to see: the Second Person of the Trinity, in His great love for the Father, is offered as a sacrifice, through which the faithful are then fed and spiritual life is perpetually resurrected. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. The Church, if she is of supernatural origin, must be founded entirely, without any deviance, on these words of our Lord. I began to believe that I had found such a Church.
Of course, there were other attractions: Mary and the saints, those of my species, those who had passed through the same frailties into perfection and holiness, and were consequently far above me yet accessible through prayer; the nine choirs of Angels, those of a different species, again far above me yet again accessible through prayer; the religious -- priests and bishops, monks and nuns -- those in this life who give up everything for the sake of Christ; the magnificent depository of faith, the writings of the Fathers, the Popes, the Councils, etc. Basically, I found in Catholicism a whole hierarchical universe, most of which was well above me, and I was only too happy to take my modest place in such a grand reality. There was a kind of lifting of the Protestant ceiling, and what I beheld above me was nothing but Beauty, stretching away into eternity.
Beauty's TrickWhat I have described about Catholicism is true. Every bit of it truly exists. But it is a trick of beauty to be elusive, and when I actually came to embrace the Bride of Christ, I had trouble finding her. The Church I had read about, thought about, talked about, dreamed about for two years was not the one I found when I entered the doors. Imagine my surprise. I knew, for instance, the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist -- it had played a big part in my conversion -- but the liturgy I encountered seemed to downplay its significance. The priest, facing the people and speaking in the vernacular, often seemed compelled to impart his particular personality on the event -- nothing blatant usually, just the nuance of facial expressions, cadence, vocal inflection, gestures. I found myself naturally focusing on the individuality of that person, the priest, rather than on Christ, who was in reality the Victim being offered to His Father. Furthermore, there was a strong feeling of informality about what was going on, perhaps best encapsulated by the inevitable trooping up of laity, often strangely dressed, to help the priest distribute the Sacrament. This misery was topped off by the faithful, myself included, receiving our Lord in the palms of our hands, then popping Him into our mouths like a snack cracker.
I did not know, at the time, what this incomprehensible moment ought to look like, but I did know that the casual air with which we all received the Body of Christ was something of a disappointment. It took me right out of the hierarchical realm of majesty that I had long anticipated and left me once again focusing on my fellow man. Although I had become a Catholic, I found myself suffering a mysterious and demoralizing hangover from Protestant days: Yes, the Catholic Church taught that the Host was truly the Body and Blood of our Lord, but even to my freshly converted eyes, nothing about the way the Sacrament was handled seemed to align with that teaching.
The problem with such liturgical and rubrical informality is that doctrine is inevitably compromised as well. For priest and laity alike, the week-after-week (or day-after-day in the case of the priest) effect is to lose faith in what is actually happening. And to lose faith in the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord is to lose the entirety of the Catholic Faith. This is not an overstatement. Without a true, deep, reverent understanding of Christ's material presence in and among us, sustaining us, transforming us -- without that, we as Catholics have no faith. Christ said as much:
Amen, amen, I say to you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh, is meat indeed: and my blood, is drink indeed: He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and died. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. (Jn. 6:54-59, Douay-Rheims)Once this central truth is compromised in the Catholic mind, then every other Article of Faith is likewise undermined, because everything, every single thing that Catholics believe is predicated on the centrality of Christ in our midst. Take that away, and all we have left is a smorgasbord of beliefs, mere mental constructs sustained by our own human powers of concentration. This is no different from what Protestants have. Without the absolute, literal centrality of Christ, the Church is neither One nor Holy nor Catholic nor even Apostolic, for it was He, Christ, who instructed the first Apostles initially and then sent to them the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, who would guide them in the way of all truth.
Although it was disheartening to behold, I had to admit that the modern Catholic Church has produced practitioners who closely resemble their Protestant counterparts. Kenneth Jones's book, Index of Leading Catholic Indicators, tells a dismal story of the Church since Vatican II: most modern Catholics, for instance, no longer believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Most do not understand the Mass as a sacrifice, but rather as a shared and symbolic meal; is it any wonder, then, that most no longer understand the voluntary missing of Mass to be a mortal sin? Indeed, most seem to have lost a sensitivity to sin in general, let alone to the distinction between mortal and venial sin; as a consequence, they have little use for the Sacrament of Confession. Many also seem to have forgotten Mary, the Mother of our Lord. Few pray to the saints and angels. And most simply do not bother to follow difficult Catholic teachings about such things as contraception. In short, many of the Catholic laity have become moral and theological relativists, adapting the Faith of the Ages to themselves, to what works for them in their own modern conception of reality, rather than conforming themselves to the reality of Heaven.
This is the Church I found when I converted. This is the Novus Ordo (the new order) springing forth from post-conciliar Catholicism. For 14 years I simply accepted the fact with a shrug. A disappointment? Certainly. But where else was I to go? In practice, I was no different from many of my fellow parishioners, and much worse than some heroic others: I fulfilled my weekly Mass obligation, often leaving early, as soon as I had received the Sacrament; I went only rarely to Confession; I never sought the aid of saints or angels; I never prayed the Rosary; I moseyed about mostly unaware that I had chosen the vocational state of marriage years ago and therefore without any conscious acceptance of my duties or of the sacrifices associated with such a state. Instead, I pursued my own artistic ends somewhat aimlessly and always with a certain sadness.
But I never thought about leaving the Church. I held on to the idea that, despite the malaise of her members (and, I fear, many clerics and religious), the Church still contained the truth, still offered us the Sacraments, the saints, the depository of faith, all the things I had pondered before converting. In my efforts to make sense of it all, I held these things -- these very Catholic things -- apart in my mind and resigned myself to the notion that they existed separately from actual human experience, something like Platonic ideals. Then in 2003 I attended for the first time the Tridentine Latin Mass, the Mass of Pope St. Pius V, the Mass of the Ages, virtually unchanged for nearly half a millennium.
Waking UpI will forever be grateful to the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, a Latin Mass order who were granted the indult by then-Bishop Raymond Burke of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisc. I had just moved my family to nearby Winona, Minn., accepting a teaching post there. With me, to my first traditional Mass, I took my 11-year-old daughter, Kate. We awoke together as if from a dream. There, before our eyes, in the movements and postures of the priest and his assistants, in the ancient sounds of the Latin words and in the appeal of that one voice, a single ecclesiastical tongue, in the meaning of those prayers, the extensive adoration of the three Persons of the Trinity, in the summoning of many saints and martyrs by name, in the hailing of our Lady, in the deeply reverent Consecration, the priest with his back to us, his head lifted to the crucifix in front of him, the breaking of our Lord in the perfect sacrifice He offers in love to the Father, in virtually every nuance of this Mass was the Church I had gone looking for so many years ago. At last there was alignment: between the idea of Catholicism and its practice, between the Church I thought I was converting to and the one that now stood before me, between the virtues of hope and faith. The long haze of disillusionment cleared, and I knew for certain that the Church had indeed survived, a tough but delicate lily pushing her way impossibly through this present layer of ice and snow.
If all traditional Catholicism had to offer was the Tridentine Mass, it would be enough, because the Mass, by its very nature, is catechetical. The liturgy teaches even as it orients; the emphasis is always vertical; the treasures of the Church are constantly reiterated in plain view of the faithful. The Mass, as the grounding point of contact among the members of the Church, contains all the marks of that Church: it is catholic in the sense that it is universal (the same everywhere, made even more so by the exclusive use of Latin); it is holy in the sense that it directs our attention perpetually to all that is above us in the heavenly hierarchy; it is apostolic in the way that it came into being, beginning with the canon -- the core words instituted by our Lord -- and developing within the apostolic tradition; and it makes us one in Holy Communion, which is, of course, the only way possible for true unity to occur. Any other claim to unity among Christians resides in the natural realm, is a group of humans holding beliefs more or less loosely in common as they would in a political party or an enthusiast's club. But the unity of Christ's Church is more akin to the blood that binds an extended human family. God gives of His incarnated Self to us, and by way of His Blood, which we take into our own bodies, we are quite literally of one family. In fact, because it is Christ and no other who unites us both materially and spiritually, we become more deeply bonded in this heavenly family than we could ever be in our earthly families, which are but an intimation of the other.
I digress with this consideration of unity because it gets at the heart of the difference between the Novus Ordo Masses I attended for 14 years and the Tridentine Latin Masses I have attended since. With the Novus Ordo Mass, the Church, like the Protestant churches, has attempted to build unity with human hands by trying to make the Mass more appealing, more "relevant" to modern man. The damage is done deftly by a few sleights of hand: change the language to the vernacular despite the inherent risk of disunity by way of inevitable translation discrepancies; reduce the number and elegant formality of prayers; reduce references to the saints and to Mary (almost as if these ancient lights are a kind of superstitious embarrassment to the "modern" Catholic mind); involve laity in the liturgy; involve laity in the distribution of the Sacrament; de-emphasize the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist by putting the priest on the other side of the altar and inviting the image of his presiding at the family table; de-emphasize the material presence of Christ in the Host by encouraging (and sometimes forcing) the faithful to receive Him in a standing position and in the palms of their hands; encourage popular, culturally relevant music that operates almost exclusively on a simplistic and emotional level; preach sermons that are invariably bland so as not to run the risk of offending anyone; stop speaking of the need for increased prayer and voluntary penance, of the need for frequent Confession, of the need to utterly amend one's life. Virtually every distinguishing characteristic of the Novus Ordo Mass is one of accommodation to the Spirit of the Age. Yes, Christ is still present in the Eucharist, but when every aspect of Catholic life and liturgy has been revised to emphasize and accommodate the whims of culture, then individual Catholic souls are at great risk. Through the fog of themselves and their fellow parishioners, the view of Christ is obscured. Our will, damaged already by the Fall, is further weakened and requires heroic exertion for priest and faithful alike to co-operate with the grace that is offered. And although there are notable exceptions, most are not heroic. Most are confused and floundering, lost sheep, united more to one another than to their Shepherd.
By contrast, the Tridentine Latin Mass seeks not to make the faithful more comfortable nor to involve them more in a false sense of spiritual egalitarianism. Rather, the traditional Mass, by its every word and rubric, strives to reveal and exalt the only possible means of true Christian unity: Christ Himself. This oneness is timeless, not in the least subject to the errors of Modernity -- basically, the elevation of the individuality of self -- or any other heresy for that matter. It is the visible manifestation of what Christ intimated when He said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18).
This solidity in the traditional Mass seems to carry over to its priests as well. In the four years since my family and I started attending, we have received more consistent and unequivocal Catholic instruction, grounded deeply in the depository of faith, than in all our previous Catholic years combined. I have now a clearer understanding of the last 500 years of ideas and how they have affected both the Church and modern man. In the depths of traditional Catholic faith, I am finding an articulation not just for what I have experienced in modern Christianity over the years, but also for the whole of my life. I perceive the context for my most important choices along the way, the errors in some of my most cherished philosophies, the tepidity in my religious life, the aimlessness of my artistic life. We cannot see how we are infused with the spirit of the world until we step outside the world we are in. We step outside the world we are in by way of something that stands apart from such a world. The Church, instituted by Christ and guided by the Holy Ghost for nearly 2,000 years, ought to be that timeless and lucid entity by which we can see. For me, it finally is.
For as long as I can remember, a part of me has been trying to wake up from the dream of myself and shake my head in the clear brisk air of the real world. Although I have slept late and my eyes are still adjusting to the light, I know now who it was that woke me up. At the moment of Consecration during every Mass, when the priest is holding up the Body of our dear Lord about to be broken, the sanctus bells ring out across the beautiful bluffs that rise above the Mississippi River. That they should sound at such a moment is an anomaly in the modern age. With clarity of tone and timeless beckoning, they send an urgent message into the sleeping valley of the world: Something is happening here, something of indescribable importance. It is an ancient melody that most of us have all but forgotten. These bells are full of yearning. They sing the most poignant song that has ever been sung.
DOSSIER: The Traditional Latin Mass & Renaissance