Sunday, September 16, 2007

Extraordinary Form Mass at St. Patricks, Nashua NH

The family and I just got back from attending the Extraordinary Form Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Nashua, NH. The church is every bit as beautiful as I remember, although somewhat different from the pews than from the sanctuary - previously my only time there was as a server for a Mass including our three Bishops (then Bp. O'Neil, Bp. Christian and Ret. Bp. Gendron). Interesting that such high points should come at a church I have never called home.

Fr. Kelly came out shortly before Mass began to offer a brief editorial and point everyone to the kneel/sit/stand guide, the Propers and the Latin-English Sunday Missals they had provided. He admitted readily that when they set out on this endeavor they did not know whether there would be three people showing up or thirty or three hundred. By my estimation the surpassed even the latter. Father mentioned his great joy at being able to finally pray the Mass he had served at so many times as a youth, a sentiment shared in their own ways by many from the nodding heads I saw.

Before discussing the Mass itself, let me first remind you, gentle reader, once again that I have never seen a Extraordinary Form / Tridentine / Traditional Latin Mass. Even the Mass on EWTN this past Friday still sits on my DVR waiting for me. With that, let me say first that what struck me was the silence. I knew going in that there was much more silence in an Extraordinary Form Mass than in the Ordinary Form, but I was utterly unprepared for how much silence there was. In that silence I frequently found myself looking for clues from the priest's hands, a bow or the occasional word I could hear him speak. This is a regular occurrence for someone new to the EF, so I didn't find my stumbling too distressing. If you know me, that's a moment of grace in and of itself.

As Mass went on and I continued to find myself lost and then found in my Missal time and again, at one point I realized there was enough that I was gleaning from what I was witnessing even without knowing the words. Talk about a moment of calm. All of the sudden, keeping up with the priest in my Missal or not keeping up became less important and remembering to pray took precedence. When I knew what the priest was praying, I joined in his prayers and when I found myself out-of-sync I did whatever I could to pray in union with him. It was a form of actuosa participatio that was entirely ... other. I have long known that proper participation must start internally but to find such a deep participatio that was almost completely internal was, frankly, somewhat of a shock.

Father mentioned tentative plans to have Extraordinary Form Masses every other week, possibly the second and fourth Sundays of every month. As so many who first discovered the Church in this Ancient Rite have said, there is something entirely other present here, something which I must come to see again. If someone else was there and wants to nitpick at whether Father got everything right, that can be for them - for me, my cup overflows and I shall heap upon them who brought forth such a gift only praise. Deo gratias!