Monday, May 11, 2009
Everything Old is New Again
I grew up in a post-Vatican II world and could never quite understand the passion of so many people who vehemently resented the changes instilled in the Mass by Pope John XXIII and the Vatican II Council. On the other hand, I also failed to understand the passion of so many people who insisted that the church did not change enough, did not become modern enough for their liking. I’m sure that the fact that I never attended a Latin Mass would go a long way toward explaining my lack of understanding of either position. I always thought, “What’s all the fuss about? What’s wrong with the Mass the way it is?”
This past weekend, I went on my first-ever Pilgrimage. Usually when you hear the word Pilgrimage, don’t you think of traveling to some far-off destination like Fatima, Lourdes or the Holy Land? Unfortunately, I am not a world traveler. I’ve never been on an airplane and it is highly unlikely that I ever will. So my Pilgrimage was not in an exotic location, however, it was beautiful nonetheless. Some of my sisters, nieces, my daughter Mary and I traveled across our beautiful state of Wisconsin by mini-van to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse. We chose the occasion of Mother’s Day weekend to make our Pilgrimage because it happened to be the tenth anniversary of my own mother’s death and we thought this would be a lovely way to honor her memory-and it was.
The Shrine is quite new, built within the last year. It is run by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Although the building is new and everything was absolutely beautiful, the atmosphere was definitely traditional. During this lovely weekend retreat, I was finally able to lift a portion of the veil that for so long hid the historic traditions of the Catholic Church from my eyes, and a part of the ancient mystery was finally revealed to me.
On Saturday, we participated in a beautiful May Crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A father lifted his sweet little girl who was wearing a lace veil up so that she might reach high enough to place the floral wreath upon the head of our beautiful Lady. In fact, it was hard to miss the fact that most of the women and girls at the Shrine wore lace coverings on their heads. It was also hard to miss the fact that most of the families were quite large, with 5-8 children in most of them, and all of the family members were modestly dressed. The atmosphere was definitely reverent. Then everyone processed to the Shrine Church while praying the rosary.
The church itself was quite impressive! It was large with lots of marble. The sides of the church displayed portraits of many wonderful saints. The one which impressed me the most was a portrait of newly canonized St. Gianna Molla immortalized in a lab coat, holding a baby and surrounded by small children. I am so used to seeing Saints dressed in the habits of nuns or old-fashioned clothing, it was nice to see someone modern, and someone I could relate to. I think that St. Gianna and the glorious way that she witnessed to the pro-life cause by giving her own life for the sake of her daughter, makes her one of my favorite Saints!
When it was time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my seven year old daughter Mary expressed reservations for the first time since she received the Sacrament when she was in kindergarten. She receives the Sacrament regularly, at least every other month, but never behind a screen. My modern daughter has only received this Sacrament face to face. She bravely walked into the Confessional and came out beaming, happy to have had a new experience of the Sacrament that cleanses her soul.
During the Mass, we heard out first ever “Fire and Brimstone” homily. The message was strong and powerful, yet it was delivered in a very gentle manner in a quiet and humble voice. Quite impressive! The gist of the homily was that all families need to consecrate themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world. I was moved enough by this homily to agree to praying the consecration prayer daily. Here's the link if you would like to join me in this prayer. http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=438
Another first for most of our group was kneeling at the marble Altar rail and receiving the Body of Christ on our tongues. Mary later commented that it was weird and fun at the same time. My niece Jenny had a more beautiful way of expressing her experience. She said it was as if an angel came down from heaven to place the Heavenly Host directly on her tongue. I can almost hear beautiful opera voices singing "Panis Angelicus".
On Sunday morning, we returned to the Shrine to walk the outdoor Way of the Cross and pray the rosary. Then it was back to church for another new experience-Mass in Latin! While listening to the gorgeous Latin chants, I could feel the Holy Spirit moving in my heart. I loved the sound of the bells ringing during the Mass. Once again, I greatly enjoyed the reverence of kneeling to receive Holy Communion. But, I have to admit that the modern way of praying at Mass in English, where everyone can easily participate, and being able to see the priest and all of his actions as he faces the people has a definite advantage over the Latin Rite.
All in all, I am so grateful to have had this beautiful experience of Pilgrimage and Latin Mass. Although I didn’t travel to an exotic location, I did have an exotic experience of my faith. I absolutely love being Catholic, I love the Church and I love the Mass. I cannot imagine life without it! I am grateful for the Vatican II changes, but I love the history and tradition of being able to pray a Mass in Latin as well. In modern language, I would say that with or without disagreements, before or after change, the Catholic Church rocks! I thank God for this beautiful, meaningful religion. Now, if I could just find out what “The Secret Prayer” is and what is so secret about it, I would be very happy! It’s another veil for me to work at lifting aside! I look forward to learning the answer with great anticipation!