Last week I published a testimonial from a teenage girl who discussed how her faith and spirituality were profoundly changed when she encountered the Traditional Latin Mass after converting from Protestantism (see "Teenager's TLM Testimony, Part 1"). Today I am presenting another testimony from another teenage girl who was raised with the Latin Mass from childhood, inaugurated into the love of the traditional Roman rite from her father.
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Late have I loved you!” These words of Saint Augustine perfectly describe my love for the Latin Mass. Of all the events I have experienced in my life, attending the Latin Mass every Sunday has been the one thing that constantly deepens my desire to know the truth. Every gesture and word of the Tridentine Rite, the beauty of the many churches I’ve attended, and the sacred music that often accompanies the Mass all raise one’s heart, mind, and soul to Truth Himself. The Latin Mass sparks an awe within me that has grown into a deep desire to draw closer to Our Lord, and through Him to know the truth.
I have been attending the Latin Mass for nearly my entire life. My father, a convert to Catholicism, has been deeply in love with the Tridentine Rite ever since he first discovered it, and he has always shared his love of the Mass with me. We moved to Detroit, Michigan in 2007, and shortly after joined the vibrant Latin Mass community that has been growing in the city since the indult of Pope John Paul II. As I grew and matured, I came to realize the differences between the Tridentine Rite and the Novus Ordo, and I noticed that the Latin Mass always raised my heart and mind closer to God than did the English Mass. When I attended the Latin Mass on Sundays, I could feel the True Presence of Christ in the church, and this feeling was assisted by the reverence of the priests, altar boys, and parishioners, as well as the majestic beauty of the Romanesque-style church that I attend. Every aspect of the Mass, from the incense and prayers to the music and church architecture, stirred something within my heart. I longed to love God more, and I desired to seek the truth about Him and the world He created. This longing has increased as I continue to mature in my Faith, and as I get older I continue to try to draw closer to Truth Himself every day.
One of the reasons why the Latin Mass makes me desire to seek the truth is the significance of every word and gesture of the liturgy. All of the prayers said by the priest during the Mass have a special meaning, as do all of the little gestures he makes; without these the liturgy would be incomplete. For example, during the Canon of the Mass, the priest makes several small signs of the Cross over the bread and wine. After the consecration, he makes five signs of the Cross over the newly consecrated Body and Blood of Christ, which represent the five wounds of Our Lord. Later, the priest makes five more signs of the Cross with the Body and Blood. The first three (“Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso…”) represent the three hours during which Jesus hung on the Cross; the last two (“est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti…”) represent the separation of Christ’s Body and Soul when He died. If so many small words and gestures are necessary in the worship of God, then surely He must really be Goodness, Beauty, and Truth Itself. This significance of every word and gesture is the reason why the structure of the liturgy leads me to desire to seek the truth every time I witness the Latin Mass.
Music also deepens my desire to know the truth, particularly sacred music and Gregorian chant. I have been singing in my parish choir for six years, and the experience of learning sacred polyphony and chant has shaped both my spiritual and secular life. In the Tridentine liturgy, a great emphasis is placed on polyphony and chant as having pride of place in the musical life of the Church. My parish choir is directed by our pastor, Fr. Eduard Perrone, who was one of the last to graduate from the nationally renowned Palestrina Institute before its closing in 1968. Under Fr. Perrone’s instruction, I have been privileged to learn a wide range of musical works from the broad repertoire of polyphony that has been handed down to us through the centuries. I have also been able to participate in the women’s chant schola, and have directed the schola on certain occasions.
Recently I joined a semi-professional choir that sings once a month for First Fridays, under the direction of another brilliant conductor, Wassim Sarweh. His choir focuses primarily on Renaissance polyphony, such as the works of Palestrina and Victoria. Singing with both of these choirs not only grants a wealth of experience, but it also contributes to a greater participation in the celebration of the Mass. I remember singing Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria at First Friday one month, with only eight other choir members. There is no other word to describe it other than heavenly. The harmonies blended together and wove around each other in such a way that you could feel the music, and we were all truly praying the Ave Maria as we sang. Music such as Biebl’s Ave Maria, Palestrina’s many works, and Gregorian chant all raise the heart, mind, and soul to God. Once we are raised to the contemplation of His glory, desire to seek Him more cannot be far away. Sacred music leads to a strong desire for truth, beauty, and goodness. We do not always recognize this longing, but it is there nevertheless. Music is so beautiful that it often transcends human comprehension, and when we cannot fully understand something, we desire to seek it out more and learn the full truth of it.
Each one of these factors of the Latin Mass contributes to a deepening of my desire to know the truth. My father’s love of the Tridentine Rite made me grow to love the Mass from a young age; the structure and significance of the liturgy as well as traditional church architecture both raise my mind and heart to a greater contemplation of God, Who is Truth; and the experience of singing and hearing sacred polyphony and chant has led me to a deeper love for the Mass, for Christ, and for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. The Latin Mass truly is a “Beauty ever ancient and ever new.” Being able to experience it at least once in a lifetime is a gift, but having the privilege of attending the Latin Mass every Sunday is a great blessing. Without the Latin Mass, I doubt that I would be where I am today, and I doubt that I would have a desire to continue seeking the truth in everything I do. To quote Saint Augustine once more, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Late have I loved you! And, behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you.”