There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter lately about the differences between the Novus Ordo (NO), the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) mass. This began as a debate about whether it’s okay for a TLM attendee to go to a SSPX mass, just during the lockdown, in order to receive Communion, since TLM and NO Masses are not open to the public. I have my own opinions about that, but as a NO attendee I was looking at this debate through those eyes and I didn’t like what I saw.
Novus Ordo attendees — all of us — are the “stepchild” of the Twitter-verse. At least, we get treated like a stepchild. We hear all the arguments about the Novus Ordo being “less than” and sit timidly by the wayside, not quite knowing what to say. Well, I am sick of it. I’m tired of not saying anything in reply. I’m replying now, for the love of God and neighbor.
It seems that if the SSPX and the TLM goers agree on anything at all, it’s that the Novus Ordo is somehow “less than” holy. How can it be less than holy if the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus is there? I’ll tell you what’s going on here. The thing that’s unsaid is not that Jesus’ Sacrifice is less holy but that the people at the Mass are less holy because they don’t “reverence the Lord” the way the people at TLM and SSPX masses do. There’s a really big problem with this thinking. It’s the kind of judging that we’re not supposed to do. It’s judging where someone’s heart is. It’s judging whether or not this heart is more reverent than that heart — something only God can know. There is simply no way to tell if the congregation is lacking reverence based on whether the priest is acting like a child or based on the presence of liturgical dancers, or dancing puppets, or other abuses. As much as it may make us groan when these things happen, and as much as we may believe that they are manifestly irreverent, we cannot judge the hearts of the clown priest and the liturgical dancers and the hand receivers and so forth.
Look. Those who say the NO is “less than” — given that they judge the hearts of their brothers and sisters — are being manifestly judgmental (in the bad way) about people who attend the Novus Ordo. Where people are not kneeling for Communion, or not receiving on the tongue, etc., the congregation may be “manifestly irreverent”, but we have no right to say — or even imply — that those people are being “less reverent” in their hearts. Only God can judge that.
I give the sign of peace in a sober manner. I receive on the tongue but do not kneel because I am physically unable to. I do not use the orans posture. I bow when our Holy Mother is mentioned in the creed. Many people at the NO Mass I attend do not give the sign of peace in a sober manner. Many receive in the hand. Many use the orans posture. Many do not bow for Our Lady. But heaven forbid for me to say they are less reverent than I am! I can’t see into their hearts!
In order that you can get a better understanding of where I’m coming from, it’s important that I tell you something about my conversion story. I was an agnostic when I was dating my Catholic boyfriend. I believed in the God of the Old Testament, but I wasn’t sure about Jesus. That part where He says (in John 6) that we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood just didn’t add up to me. I wasn’t averse to the idea, as so many protestants are. I just couldn’t understand how this could be done. I promised God that if He could show me how this could happen, I would believe Jesus is the Son of God and follow Him always. To make a long story short, He showed me the first time I attended Mass as an adult — a Novus Ordo Mass — at the consecration. He showed me in those “horrible” hymns “One Bread, One Body” and “Gift of Finest Wheat” which were sung at Communion. He showed me in the people filing up toward the altar, as if they were people filing up to the gates of heaven. I saw these things and I believed. I wanted to be Catholic.
It so happened that this Mass was in a city far from my home, but as my boyfriend told me, it didn’t matter. He said, “The Mass is the same, no matter where you go, no matter even what country you’re in.” I was intrigued which is why I asked him if I could go to Mass with him in the first place. Given this, how could I not have the conviction of going to the Mass that is closest to my house? Indeed, it is my conviction to this day. The Mass is ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC just as the Church is. If the TLM is closest to my house, I will go to the TLM. As it stands, the NO Is closest to my house….so that is where I go. In my heart, I know that God would have it no other way.
It doesn’t bother me that people receive in the hand. God meets them where they are. It doesn’t bother me that people use the orans posture. God meets them where they are. It doesn’t bother me that the lady three pews in front of me gives me the sign of peace. God meets her where she is, and so must I, so I return the sign to her. I must meet people where they are because God does. Perhaps they are really not being reverent. God knows if they are. I do not. I can only pray for them. Futher, I don’t pray “God forgive them for being so irreverent.” I pray “God, please meet them where they are.” It is up to God whether He wants to forgive. It’s up to Jesus to intercede for them. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to teach them right from wrong. It’s up to the priest to give them instruction, and if he fails, it’s on him, or maybe it’s on them, but only God can decide that.
Stop treating us like a step-child. We are your brothers and sisters in the fullest extent. We love you. Please love us back.
NOTE: Sometimes, when a parent has children, or when an adult’s faith is weak, or when irreverence is a distraction, and when the irreverence is manifest, it’s not a matter of judging hearts. One must go to another parish where the reverence is manifest so that the children will learn reverence or where the adult will not get distracted. I get that. I’m not judging people who “church shop.” I’m just asking that you not judge whether those who attend the Novus Ordo, even where there are abuses, are less reverent than you are. You can’t know that.