The past month I have been posting stories that teenagers have shared with me about the impact of the Traditional Latin Mass in their lives. If you missed the first two installments, they can be found here:Part IPart II
In this third and final installment, I present the story of a young man who found the TLM through various twists and turns of circumstance. I like this story because it highlights the overlap between TLM and NO communities. While we tend to think of traditional Catholics as entirely averse to attending the Novus Ordo—and Novus Ordo Catholics as hostile to the TLM—this story exemplifies how these two communities intersect. Often the choice to go to the TLM begins as a practical one, due to issues with scheduling conflicts or the need for orthodox sacramental instruction. A love of tradition for its own sake blossoms later after prolonged exposure to the traditional lex orandi.
I’ve been going to Mass ever since I was four. For the first nine years that I went to Mass, it was at my local suburban Novus Ordo parish. Pretty typical. Nothing traditional, but nothing too crazy. You had your Extraordinary Ministers, your lay lectors, and whatnot, but usually none of the guitar blessings or other such shenanigans. I was fine with it, really. I did my best to engage with it, following along with the readings and the breaking of the eucharistic bread. It was nice when Holy Week came around. Even with all that, though, I was never really impacted very deeply. If you could take it all away, and I’d be more-or-less the same person.
My first experience of the Latin Mass that I recall was receiving my First Communion at the FSSP parish we currently attend. They had catechism after one of the Saturday morning Masses, so we’d make our way up there for Low Mass and then class. If I am being honest, though, I didn’t really notice how different the traditional Mass was at first. At this point, I had experienced many other churches aside from the one I regularly attended on Sundays; I was used to the liturgy varying from church to church. The only thing I remember noticing and thinking was cool was the genuflection during the Last Gospel. It was because everyone would genuflect, and then just a couple of seconds later, everyone would kneel down for the Leonine prayers. Genuflecting outside of the context of entering the pew was pretty new to me, I suppose.
Anyways, I went on to receive my First Holy Communion in the TLM. Apparently, it was a Solemn High Mass, though I don’t really remember noticing any of that. I only remember Father saying in his sermon something along the lines of “just because you’re done now doesn’t mean you should forget everything you learned,” and also being very happy to have received Our Lord.
Well, after that I stopped regularly going to Latin Mass for quite some time. I guess I didn’t listen to Father, as I almost immediately stopped receiving on the tongue and went back to receiving on the hand. I mean, what can I say? I was just an impressionable kid. It was what everyone else did. I shudder thinking about it now.
About five years later, in 2019, it came time for me to do Confirmation. By this point, my Novus Ordo parish had shifted from doing catechesis on Saturdays to doing it on Sundays, which meant that it conflicted with the family going to the local church. My parents provided the music for the Sunday 10 AM Mass at our local parish, which meant that they had to be present for that particular liturgy. So, my brother and I (who did Confirmation) would carpool up with friends and go to the Latin High Mass, and then Confirmation class. That was when things started changing for me, though I didn’t realize it so much at the time. For one thing, I started going to confession more often. Prior, I only went twice a year, at the penance services my church held before Christmas and Easter. And in general, my Catholic Faith started becoming a lot more important to me. My parents had done a good job of planting lots of Catholic “seeds” in me, but I don’t think they really started developing much until this point.
At this point, I had already joined the parish Altar Guild (e.g., Mass servers). I had actually joined in late 2018, but would only go up to the monthly meetings and then not really be that involved. Eventually, I started going to Low Mass occasionally with friends and training a little bit more seriously, but not much. Despite being trained many times, it was a long time before I ended up serving Low Mass. I was just thrust into it by the guy. He was like “I think you’re ready.” And I was like, “okay.” I knew my responses but that was about it… it was a disaster. I learned a lot about making mistakes and how to move on from them and learn from them. And also I learned to take corrections; I took a liking to Proverbs 12:1
In 2020 everything halted due to COVID. My confirmation class was stopped. My parish stopped having public Mass (though the church doors were only locked for the live stream Masses and we never stopped having confessions). That wasn’t very shocking at first. I just figured it was normal for society to shut down and stop everything owing to disease; I didn’t question it. But after the two weeks started getting expanded, I started getting depressed.
Eventually, though, things happened and we started getting to Mass at my parish again, so I stopped being depressed. Ah, I said we. At this point, my whole family started going to Mass at the TLM, not just me and my brother. This was because my parents didn’t have to do music for the local parish anymore owing to Covid. Going to Mass again made me really thankful, and that’s when things REALLY took off. I got good at serving Mass—after all, we had five Low Masses on weekdays, and eight on Sundays, so I was doing it almost every day. I also joined the music program, even though my parish wasn’t having Sung Mass yet.
Parish life went through a lot of shifts, each one more and more pleasant, until we’ve now reached something that’s pretty normal. I’m pretty much a trad now. A nitty-gritty trad, having become acquainted with the inner workings of the liturgy. I’ve become an accomplished altar boy and an accomplished member of the choir. I’ve made lots and lots of friends. Indeed, my church is my social life. But yeah. I’ve got a LOT to be thankful for. No way I’m gonna be able to make it up to God, but I can sure as heck try.
That was a really long and meandering story, but it tells me trad journey at least in part. XD