Catholic youth discover vibrancy of Latin Mass

Lantana

Throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach, many Catholic youth and young adults seek out the traditional structure and reverence of the Latin Mass. Some might find it surprising that young people gravitate towards this form of the Mass since the Latin text of the Mass is printed according to the 1962 Typical Edition of the Missale Romanum (Roman Missal). This is the Mass that was offered in every Catholic Church around the world until after Vatican Council II.

For Aiden Chavez, a college student who is a regular altar server at the Latin Mass at Holy Spirit Parish in Lantana, interest in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass began at a young age with his learning of the Latin language in homeschool. “I started attending the Latin Mass to see if I could understand it. I was surprised that so much of the structure of the Traditional Latin Mass is the same as a regular English Mass. But since I knew the language a bit, I could really appreciate the words and specific language used in church before Vatican II,” said Chavez. 

According to the Latin-English Booklet Missal (Fourth Edition, 2013), Pope Benedict XVI explained that there are two forms of the Roman Rite of the Mass. The Roman Missal of 1970 (after Vatican Council II), issued by Pope Paul VI, is the Ordinary Form. The Missal of 1962 codified by Pope St. Pius V is the Extraordinary Form. When the Missal of Pope Paul VI took effect in 1970, it was widely and falsely believed that the Traditional Latin Mass (the 1962 Missal) had been abrogated and suspended. Despite this erroneous belief, interest in the old Form of the Mass persisted.

William McVeigh, a member of the Latin Mass Society of the Palm Beaches, emphasized that many young people are drawn to the Latin Mass because of the language’s poetic nature. “When you look at the translation in the Latin-English missal distributed at Mass, you’ll see that a lot is lost in translation between the original text to today’s English liturgy. I think that when young people read that for the first time, it is new and expressive and unknown. It is language reserved for the Almighty God, not casual language that you or I might use in everyday conversation. It’s special and young people crave to cling to something special,” said McVeigh.

Local youths’ desire to celebrate the Latin Mass stems from a larger world movement, Foederatio Internationalis Juventutem (International Juventutem Federation), which was born out of Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration in his 2007 Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, declaring that all priests of the Latin Rite are free to offer the Traditional Latin Mass. Few churches take advantage of this option and so teens and young adults in the Diocese of Palm Beach attend Mass in groups at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Lantana and St. John of the Cross in Vero Beach. A handful of other parishes are discussing the option as more young people show interest in the Traditional Latin Mass.

Maria José, a 26-year-old young adult leader at Saint Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach, first discovered the Latin Mass on a March for Life trip to Washington D.C. “There was this beautiful reverence expressed by not just the celebrants, but the congregation as well. I saw women wearing veils and thought that that was such a powerful way to show respect for God’s presence. It may seem old-fashioned, but it is a humbling act that reminds us of God’s omniscience,” said Olmos.

Some Vatican leaders and religious scholars debate the Latin Mass’s relevancy to the modern world and its nostalgic claim of a bygone era of Catholicism. Sentiments surrounding the practice of the Latin Mass are that it negates the efforts of the Church to modernize its aesthetic appeal, liturgical structure and approach to engaging younger generations previously set forth at Vatican Council II.

Numerous lay Catholic publications dig into the Millennial generation’s reasoning for attending the Latin Mass. In an online article published by Crisis Magazine in 2018 titled “Millennials, Authenticity, and the Latin Mass,” author Jake Neu, a Millennial himself, describes the influx of diverse young families and adults who attend the Latin Mass in his hometown. He observes that these people “share a particular priority: to raise children in twenty-first century America while remaining authentically Catholic.”

Authenticity, says Neu, becomes central to the mindset of Millennials attracted to the Latin Mass. “For Millennials, being authentic means that the external, public presentation corresponds to the internal, private reality. . .Millennials are loyal to brands that provide social value or utility, or which have a durable quality. Millennials also want the people producing the goods to feel invested in their products and society. . .That personal sacrifice vouches for the goods’ quality and value,” writes Neu.

Neu elaborates in his article that the external form of the liturgy is “lifted up into reality through chants, the Latin [language], the repetition, the silence, the incense, the bells—all find their place in glorifying that moment when the priest elevates the Body and Blood. Millennials drawn to the Latin Mass do not see these things as a pretense, but rather as a way to express most fully and consistently the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist.”

Antonio Lopez, a Millenial attendee of the Latin Mass at Holy Spirit, shares similar convictions. “The Mass is a sacrifice; a sacrifice is a giving up or taking on of something that is not easy. The Mass is also a celebration; a celebration calls for the displaying of the best things we have to offer. The Latin Mass embodies both. I see that young people are attracted to the challenge of the Latin Mass. They reject the superficial, they don’t want to show up for an easy lecture where they can zone out and live through another hour that is just like the rest of their lives. They want more, even if it’s difficult to achieve,” remarked Lopez.

In the Diocese of Palm Beach, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is celebrated at Holy Spirit Catholic Church on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and St. John of the Cross Catholic Church on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. For those who have not attended a Latin Mass before, visit pblatinmass.com to learn about the structure and what to expect at a Latin Mass. For more information on the Foederatio Internationalis Juventutem (International Juventutem Federation), visit juventutem.org.

To read Jake Neu’s article in full, visit crisismagazine.com/2018/millennials-authenticity-and-the-latin-mass. Crisis Magazine is edited by William Edmund Fahey (Ph.D.), president of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, a Catholic university located in Merrimack, New Hampshire.