One of the things I enjoy the most about my job here is interacting with priests. It’s really humbling to know that some of the guys who instruct the souls from the pulpit every Sunday work with me on publishing their next column, or even read my columns and take some of the advice. Lay faithful like myself are a dime a dozen. Once I inevitably get bored with this and hang it up, someone will replace me. Yet holy priests are truly rare, and that I might have the chance to influence you is an immense opportunity. I want to try to capitalize on that opportunity today.
Over the past several years, the Latin Mass has seen explosive growth in America. A big driver behind that growth is we faithful traditionalists were able to prove we weren’t crazy. For a long time, the majority of traditionalists were painted with the broad brush of an internet minority: we were all bitter, angry, close-minded Pharisees.
We proved otherwise, and priests like Fr. Dwight Longenecker have noticed. Before Summorum Pontificum, you wouldn’t see a prominent Catholic blogger write something like that. As grateful as I am seeing things like that, I also become discouraged when I read other things stated by the good priest, things I also hear in other circles. When asked if his love for traditionalists extended to ever celebrating the Extraordinary Form for them, Fr. Longenecker replied:
No need. Here in Greenville, SC we have the excellent Fr Chris Smith, the pastor of Prince of Peace parish who offers the EF not only every Sunday, but every day. Those who wish to worship in the Extraordinary Form are extraordinarily well provided for.
Our first thought when reading this should be to praise God that the Extraordinary Form is offered daily by Fr. Smith. If you are ever in the area, go to their parish and thank him. Or consider dropping a note to all of the pastors at this parish that you are praying for them. After we do that, I’d like to focus on the part I placed in italics. I think many priests take this attitude when it comes to the Extraordinary Form. They view traditionalists fondly, but don’t see a reason to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, since our spiritual needs are provided for.
I want to challenge these priests to something greater. The good Father is right, for those like myself, my spiritual needs are provided for. I have access to roughly 3 different Latin Masses each Sunday within an hour drive. If I don’t attend the Latin Mass, I can attend an Ordinary Form Mass ad orientem with a lot of Latin, or an Ordinary Form entirely in Latin and with nothing but Gregorian chant and reverence. I’m not asking you to accommodate my spiritual needs. I’m offering you a chance to grow in your own spiritual walk.
When you became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, you were called to a life of service. Like Christ the Good Shepherd, you tended not only to the sheep who stay within the confines of the modern pen we call a parish, but the sheep outside your walls as well. You don’t ask someone for their parish membership card before being as Christ to them. As a result, all Catholics (even all the world!) are your flock, in spirit if not juridically.
By celebrating (or even attending) the Extraordinary Form, you are exercising your priestly ministry. As a laymen, I cannot know how priests feel about their vocation. Yet as a husband, I can tell you that I find no greater fulfillment than when I am able to fulfill being a husband and loving my wife as Christ loved the Church. When we fulfill our vocations, when we act as we were called to act, we find fulfillment. This was the message Blessed (soon to be saint) John Paul II spent four years every Wednesday trying to hammer home in his Catechesis on Human Love. By offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form, you are serving fellow Catholics, and living out your vocation.
Another benefit is that celebration provides solidarity with those good traditionalists you claim to love. While we are growing in numbers, we are still a small group, and our voice is not as strong in the Catholic square as it could be. Even if you do not celebrate our form of Mass, come to our liturgies anyway, have coffee with us at our social. Learn who we are. What’s the worst that could happen? Pope Francis says we need shepherds who have “the smell of the sheep”, even if that smell is incense. By learning who we are, it helps put a face to the name of “traditionalist”, and can help provide you with greater pastoral experience.
There are those who say that when you celebrate the Latin Mass, you will have this great spiritual awakening. I’m not even going to try promising that. What I will say is that there is a chance to experience things just as John the Baptist did. He didn’t know the Messiah, even though he was his cousin! (John 1:30-34) Yet when he encountered Christ in a way different from the usual, he saw him for who he was. Maybe in celebrating this Mass or in your pastoral interactions with us, we can help you see Christ in a fresh way, as we know you will help us see Christ in such a way.
By the grace of God, our needs will always be provided for. By the grace of God, priests have an opportunity to have their needs provided for, if you will choose it.