I don’t often attend the high Mass at my parish. And yet I am truly blessed that my parish offers not one but two of them every Sunday in addition to multiple low Masses. My daughter sings in the girls schola, though, and that means at least twice a month now I’m at a sung (high) Mass.
A year ago I took up the delightful task of reading Adrian Fortescue’s The Roman Mass. Delightful because, well, it’s a great read to a liturgy nerd like me. Task because, well, it’s 500 pages long and replete with footnotes in koine Greek. To me, however, the delight outweighed the task many times over and, not being able to put it down, I was done in a few days. If you have the time and even a slight interest, I highly recommend the book. One of the key takeaways for me while reading about the development of the Roman Mass was the understanding that the low Mass must be viewed in light of the high Mass, and not the other way around. The low Mass only really makes sense this way. In fact, it all makes perfect sense when viewed in light of a papal Mass in Rome in the fourth century; but that’s another story.
The reason I bring this up is because I am enamored of what takes place on the other side of the rail and inspired by the men who carry out the sacred work. This morning, that beauty, ever ancient and ever new, inspired a thread of a thought about good liturgy and authentic manliness that I want to share with you.
I once told a friend that the servers at Latin Mass, in particular, evoke a great sense of both pride and humility in me. Here we have – in some cases – boys as young as seven or eight serving a Latin Mass with the absolute greatest of integrity. They have diligently studied and memorized another language and intricate movements out of love for Our Lord. I well up when I see this. It is plain to me that the moment these lads pull the cassock over their heads and step into the sanctuary, they have at that moment become men. It doesn’t matter what youthful scraps they may find themselves in on the field, what emotional outbursts erupt as they develop physically and for which their hormones have not yet caught up. It doesn’t even matter their stage of physical development. Lacking the muscle mass, voice change, and facial hair that will one day belie their sex to the world; no, these boys could fight battles with the strength of soldiers once they ring the bell and Father hands off his biretta. There’s just something about that role and how seriously they take it. I think we know the reason. It is indeed a grace.
The older among them, too – the teenaged or young men – these guys are ten times more solid than their peers and certainly than I was at that age. The whole company – for we are blessed with many servers at our high Mass – move as a well-trained unit. With military precision, they move in straight lines and turn corners at perfect right angles. They handle sacred vessels with the aplomb of a Marine silent drill corps. I love watching this. I feel drawn into Our Lord’s Calvary. It captivates my attention.
But it is our priests who shine as men among men. There has been a lot of talk in recent decades about manhood and manliness. More so than in other days when men simply lived as men insofar as being a man required one to – as my father always did – shut up and be a man. No boasting, no bravado. No sir, just embrace your existence for it is as plain as the nose on your face. The rise of feminism surely affected the “need” for men to prove their value as men in ways never before imagined. Even still, to me, being a man was what dad did. He got up early every morning, went to Mass, took care of his family, came home, went to bed, and did it all again the next day for 60 years. And he never made a deal of it.
Our priests, my priests, do this in spades. Stepping into the sanctuary in ancient vestments, they do what must be done and they seek no fame or glory for it. They modulate their voices as appropriate. From a rich baritone when chanting the Gospel to an inaudible whisper at the Canon, they do what must be done. They posture themselves as the rubrics command and they seek no fame or glory for it. From the dozens of genuflections to the magnificent bows at every mention of the Sacred Name, they do what must be done. And at the consecration, they give their bodies over to Christ who speaks through them to offer the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood to the Father. They elevate Him in their hands – a far better weight than I ever lift in my garage gym. They adore Him – with greater love and devotion than I ever gazed upon my newborns with. They stoop low before Him in greater and more humble submission than I could have mustered in proposing to my wife and they do it because it must be done.
These are the true men among us. These are the men I want my son to emulate. These are the men who have given all, which is the hallmark of manliness. And I see this clearly at the High Mass in my parish church every Sunday. Is it a wonder that so many of the young boys in the parish want to serve and so many more want to be priests? Boys want to be men. It’s hardwired into our DNA. It is how Gos made us. Men want to be more manly. We see other guys who do it better than us and we instinctively and subconsciously imitate them. It’s how God made us.
On the flip side, and here’s the hard truth, is it any wonder why so few young boys or young men really wants to be priests of the New Order these days? I’m serious. There are good priests in that rite, don’t get me wrong. They may even have had a good example to look up to. But consider the absolute dearth of total straight clerics in the rite of Bugnini. For every manly priest in that rite, there are hundreds who insist we hold hands and rock out with the band and who downplay our sins in confession because they don’t want to be fatherly with us. I don’t want my son to be like that. My son doesn’t want to be like that. It’s the rite that feeds the effeminate men seeking to staff it and those men perpetuate the rite. Call it a fag cycle if you will. Again, this isn’t all of them but the exceptions, to me, prove the rule.
Boys want to be men.
Tradition – doing what Our Lord commanded – breeds manliness. If you haven’t ever been to a TLM and you are Catholic and have young sons, bring them one day. Check it out. Sit in silence and watch what a man does. And see if your son isn’t drawn to that like a moth to a flame. And don’t let Satan, the father of lies who tells the world that boys can be girls and girls can be dykes, influence your children.
Mary, Mother of Priest, pray for us!