What’s Wrong with the World

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Catholicism Archives

December 28, 2014

Misunderstanding Tradition

‎Today I attended (the traditional term is "assisted at") a Traditional Latin Mass. As the leader of the congregation, the priest (and altar servers) stood as we did -- facing the altar -- to lead the congregation in adoration. 

I'm a post-Vatican II baby, born in the waning months of the sixties, and that isn't what I was taught about the ‎Latin Mass. I remember very clearly being told, as a boy in maybe the third or fourth grade, that the priest used to say mass with (my teacher's voice grew incredulous) his back to the people! I would hear the same thing repeatedly over the years. 

No footsoldier would describe his captain as "standing with his back to the troops".  ‎Nor would a member of a delegation say that his ambassador "stood with his back to me" during a parley. 

I have assisted at only five or six Latin Masses in my life, all as an adult. I might not have gone even once, if I didn't know people who held it in great reverence. Each time, I wonder how my teachers and I could have so badly misunderstood the tradition. I wonder what the bishops of Vatican II understood correctly or badly -- though the leaders of the Church, they are only men -- or whether they thought that they must capitulate to the misunderstanding that was so common among the people, as if we're incapable of learning the truth. 

What else have we lost, or come close to losing, not because it was wrong, but because we were wrong about it?