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Archives YCV: Why I love the Traditional Latin Mass

Nov. 7, 2012

By Maeana Cragg
Parishioner, St. Mary’s, Potsdam

I am a Catholic wife and mother, with my eighth child due this coming April.  Every Sunday, I attend the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) at St. Mary’s in Potsdam.  I know that many of my fellow Catholics have never been to a Latin Mass, or have only faint memories of the Mass.  Some may not understand why I would chose to go to a Mass so different from the one I grew up with.  I would like to explain why I love the Traditional Latin Mass and how it has helped me to grow in my faith.

One of the very first times I attended a Latin Mass, it was out of desperation.  I was part of a parish where abuses were rampant (not in this diocese).  My husband and I learned that there was a TLM an hour and a half away. 

One Sunday, we packed up our three boys, three and under, and made a day of it.  We entered a beautiful church where a very elderly priest was saying a Low Mass.  The Low Mass is full of silence.  It was slightly disconcerting when we were used to moments of silence during a Mass being rare.  We couldn’t really follow what was going on, because with three little boys, and only two of us, we didn’t have any hands free to hold Latin/English translations.  Even the homily was barely understandable. 

I suppose, in some ways, we should have been turned off by the whole thing, but we weren’t.  The sweetest older couple came up to us after Mass, told us how happy they were to see us there, and invited us to come back the next Sunday when they would be having a High Mass.  We did want to go back and give it another try, but an hour and a half with three small boys every Sunday was overwhelming.

By the time we attended another TLM, it was a year later, we had our first daughter on the way, and I had now brought my family home to the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Since I’ve been home, the Diocesan TLM has moved from Brushton to Canton, and to my great happiness, to my home parish of St. Mary’s in Potsdam.  We have been going to that Mass every Sunday, for the past seven years.   

Why?  What is it that draws us to the Mass in the Extraordinary Form? One of the first things I loved was the way that Holy Communion is given and received.  Nothing helped my faith in the Eucharist grow more than seeing Our Lord treated as something so precious, so holy that only the priest could touch the Host.  Even more special, in the rubrics of the TLM, once the priest’s fingers have been purified, he holds his thumb and his forefinger together so they touch NOTHING but the sacred Body of Christ.  When Holy Communion is received, it is done in the same way you would receive from our Holy Father, kneeling and on the tongue.  I find it so beautiful in the humility it requires.  There is a paten held under the communicant’s chin, so that any precious crumb, the full Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, is brought back to the altar and treated with reverence.
Another aspect of the TLM that I fell in love with was the way the role of the priest was exemplified.  The priest’s role has always been as mediator between human and God.  In the TLM, there is no question as to the importance of that role.  He does not turn his back to the people, but turns with the people toward God, lifting up their prayers and offering the all-important sacrifice of the Mass to God. 

There is no one else at the altar but the altar boys, most often on their knees.  It was after we started attending the TLM that my oldest son mentioned possibly wanting to be a priest.  We had been to many parishes where the priests had more personality and were far more entertaining.  Who the priest was didn’t matter. There was something about the role of the priest in the TLM that drew him in.

Our Catholic Church is a universal church.  When you attend a TLM, it doesn’t matter whether you are in Potsdam, NY or Potsdam, Germany.  You could be in Brazil or the Philippines.  Every word, every movement of the priest is the same.   The universal language of the Church, Latin, unites us.

There are only two main parts to every Mass, the ordinary and the proper.  The ordinary stays the same, day after day, week after week, and contains most of the parts you are already completely familiar with.  My two oldest boys (10 and 11), are already serving the Mass and I am amazed at their understanding. The only things that change are the epistle, the gospel, and a few prayers throughout the Mass. 

In a Low Mass, the epistle and gospel are read in English, and the Homily is always in the vernacular.  If you don’t own a missal, there is a red book at the back of the church that will help you follow along.  Then again, it is sometimes better to set the books aside and take advantage of the quiet to pray, to offer your prayers to God along with the priest in the ultimate prayer of Holy Mass.

There is so much more I could share.  I would much rather that others experienced it for themselves.  For anyone interested, the TLM in our diocese is at 12:30 PM each Sunday at St. Mary’s in Potsdam.  I hope to see you there.

Maeana Cragg of Potsdam and her husband, Eric are shown with their children.

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