I am very involved with a group of lay faithful who are re-introducing the Traditional Roman Liturgy (the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite) in the local parish. We have had the good fortune recently of having a young priest in the diocese (he’s 28) offer to stop in and offer a Traditional Mass in the evening on the first Friday of each month. The first of these Masses was this past Friday. I am planning on writing about the first Friday devotion itself in the near future.
What I experienced this past Friday in one sense, brings full circle something begun 22 or so years ago. Most of my writing here consists of ideas, thoughts and opinions or just little nuggets of Christianity (such as my ‘It’s Friday’ postings) this is something a little more personal.
My becoming Catholic, generally speaking, began at around the age of 12 or 13 when I found an old “St Joseph’s Daily Missal” in my grandparents attic. It was a book for following the Mass in the days when it was still always celebrated in the Latin language. The small Black book was Latin on one page and English translation on the facing page, with copious illustrations. Now being a boy anything having to do with the middle ages fascinated me; you know adventure, knights, Robin Hood, King Arthur, battles, swords, armor, dragons, quests and such; young boys love this sort of thing. This book with priests and Latin was the neatest thing ever. My grandmother let me keep it.
I was a devout evangelical Protestant boy, specifically Assembly of God Pentecostal. I had never heard my parents say anything anti-Catholic. In spite of this I had acquired an anti-Catholic bias from preachers and Sunday school teachers. As I read through the missal I was thinking in my ignorance “Wow…I never knew… this is so very Christian. They should put this into English so the Protestants know they don’t need to protest anything”.
Being a boy of about 13 years old I naturally identified with the altar server in the pictures and his role at Mass. The beauty of the prayers at the foot of the altar impressed me. “Introibo ad altare Dei.” “I will go to the altar of God.” “Ad Deum qui Laetificat Juventutem meam.” “To God who gives joy to my youth.” This seems to have etched itself deeply into my consciousness. There’s much more I could say about the influence of this little hand missal on my future life but it’s this one aspect that relates to what happened Friday.
Because the boys who had been trained to serve this form of the Mass were unavailable Friday, the only person left who could do it was me. While I have served Mass in the ordinary form several times. I had never served the old Mass.
Father bowed to the cross and said “Procedamus in pace” (let us proceed in peace) “In nomine Christi” (in the name of Christ) I responded. I rang a small bell and led the priest to the altar. Kneeling beside him as he stood facing the altar he began “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen
Introibo ad altare Dei.” I answered “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.” At one point, as I crossed in front of the altar and turned to face the priest as he read the gospel, I thought ‘what I am seeing, hearing, saying is exactly what I would have seen, heard and said while doing this anytime in the last 500 years… 1000 years if it weren’t for the style of vestments!
This was an emotional experience for me, but one which was serious and sober, and in one sense brought full circle something which began the first time I opened that book at age 13.