The youth is the hope of the Church.
On Saturday, 7 July 2007, His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope emeritus, issued the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum. We know what it contains (although many people try to educate us otherwise, in the hopes that we might conduct ourselves contrary to its spirit), so we simply quote that
“it is lawful to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated.”We learn of the impetus of this Benedictine clarification where His Holiness pointed out that
“in some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms, which had so deeply marked their culture and their spirit.”What consisted these “small numbers of faithful” Pope Benedict XVI emeritus discloses in his accompanying letter to the bishops of the world:
“Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”
Almost two years after Summorum Pontificum, a choir was formed within the territory of the Diocese of Cubao with a singular charism: singing for “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated.” [This author is one of the pioneers of that choir.] The Mass was celebrated daily in the Parish of Our Lord of the Divine Mercy in Sikatuna Village in Quezon City, under the auspices of the then Ecclesia Dei Society of Saint Joseph (now the Societas Ecclesia Dei Sancti Ioseph – Una Voce Philippines). The mean age of the choir, which appointed itself as the Sikatuna Cantata, at its foundation on 14 February 2009 was roughly 19.
Five years later, a transfer to the Parish of the Holy Family, a papal abdication, and a change of name to Cappella Gregoriana Sanctae Caeciliae olim Xicatunensis, the choir still sings for the Traditional Latin Mass, stable in number on any given Sunday, proof that while the world was content with its motion, a seed planted has grown slowly but surely.
Growth is never measured alone by number or size. Steadfastness and devotion, those immeasurable manifestations of the virtue of faith, are themselves a benchmark of growth.
What do these photos teach us, youth and aged alike? First, it teaches us the truth of the Benedictine disclosure: that the former liturgical discipline also attracted and continue to attract young persons. Second, it must strike us that the perception of things sacred and holy, especially those whose provenance we can establish without doubt from antiquity, is never solely the business of the ancient, the shrivelled, the stooped, the crepuscular, and those kinds of people to whom the youth, according to the immemorial code of gallantry, must defer their seats in public transport. Third, a paradox: “Beauty ever ancient yet always new.”
This author presumes no formal knowledge of fashion, especially in the way it is used and abused in the world of grooming. It is a fickle discipline where its very foundation is no longer normative. (Skin is the new fur, perhaps?) It is momentary and transient, tickling the slightest proclivities of humankind, exploring ideas that are increasingly becoming their own unmaking, and regaling in materials that years of human history deemed more fit in the stomach than on the skin. Many find this spiritual and actually worship it, but we know that it is a hollow and empty structure, for it serves man. Homo gratia hominis.
Profound, perhaps? Yes, profoundly empty.
Amongst the youth that make up this present generation of Catholics are those that repudiate this very culture of emptiness, a culture that strains the mind by asking it to imagine that a prismatic mesh of metal can and ought to take the place and function of a solid block of marble. These are the young persons who struggle to anchor themselves in the perennial wisdom of the Church, a solace in this world of shifting paradigms. A house built upon a rock, after all, the Lord teaches us, when pummelled by tempest and flood falls not, for it was founded on rock.
[Imagine a school of thought collapsing at the same moment it is being erected owing to the mere capitulation of its founders to a contradictory whim.]
It is, therefore, hurtful and unjust to pitch these young persons into the very pit of vipers they have so faithfully avoided. In the past, they have charmingly described the attachment of our elders to their olden discipline as nostalgia, failing to understand that perhaps that nostalgia is the innermost scream of the soul for holiness not only for itself but also for the things that the body perceives. Those who hate deep words incomprehensible to the modern ear have no choice but to use the fancy term homesickness in place of nostalgia. And we contemplate here a bit of wisdom: Perhaps, our elders have been estranged and exiled from their spiritual home that they now suppliantly beg to be returned to it?
The youth can never be fully accused of nostalgia as, per definition of youth, they were born after the practical abrogation of the unabrogated discipline. So they have now made a new word to denote our addiction. Most have come to Tradition in their search for stability, for solemnity, for beauty beyond the ordinary, all leading ultimately to a deeper communion with God. We see here operating what once permeated the worship that sanctified many souls in the Church, a principle apposed to the notion of its common relative: the sense of the sacred. “What earlier generations,” therefore, wrote Pope Benedict, “held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”
To christen the attachment of the youth to the Old Mass as fashion is impaired on at least two levels. First, it seemingly places upon the youth the sin of blasphemy. If the youth attended the Old Mass simply because it carries the qualifier ‘Old,’ which would be consistent with the fad mentality, or simply because many are coming to it, which would be consistent with the trend mentality, then they would have overlooked the Sacrifice on the Cross bloodlessly re-enacted in the Mass. Is it not a terrible thing to suggest that most of the youth to whom the Church lavishes her attention have altogether given up the inalienable exercise of thinking? (Full knowledge is a criterion for mortal sin, right?) Is it not merciless then to weigh down the youth, in their journey to the perfection preached by the saints practically listed in the entire Roman Martyrology, by remarking along these lines: what the youth is doing with Tradition to the lex orandi is what imitation does to haute couture: establishing a trend inferior to the original, and therefore repugnant?
[Perhaps, they will be at ease if all the youth under their spiritual care live according to the parable of the prodigal son: abandon personal holiness and live a carefree life, ignore the precepts of the institution in order to avoid arresting the attention of its sentries, and then come back to it, bruised, dying, terminal. Deathbed conversions have been in vogue since the time of Constantine, they say. It is a dangerous thought, one that a serious Catholic must consign to oblivion. But to many Catholic teens, poorly educated in the discipline of the Church, who, having received an equally dismal instruction in the sound morals of the Faith, have no knowledge whatsoever of their passions and the sins they occasion, everything is a viable option. What would prevent them from rebelling against the universal Church if they had already rebelled against the domestic Church? No, we refuse this fate. Is it so much for us to pursue the harder course to sanctity, which course those whom we expect to should endorse as their predecessors have done, that we should be instead mocked by patience and tolerance, as if we have flouted an injunction?]
Second, it objectifies the Mass. It reduces the Sacrifice into that defining trinket which a fourteen-year-old strategically places amongst her bangles, something she dons as a manner of claiming her identity before that stage called the real world. It inserts the Mass into the spectrum of things that appeases the grandiose yet passing designs of mankind. The Mass was not instituted to appease mankind; it was instituted to render worship to the Blessed Trinity. We do not think of it as a trophy to brandish to the world, in order to remind a sorry generation of our gravitation towards the smells and the bells, no! In fact, we never call attention unto ourselves concerning our attachment to the Old Mass. Most of the time, we only notice (and are reminded) that our age cohort is the largest representative in each Sunday Mass, when an observant pewsitter begins to count, or when the priest expresses his joy during his sermon in seeing so many young faces in the congregation.
No! Adhering to the Old Mass in order to create around ourselves a cult of coolness to the envy of our peers is not even possible in a world that scorns the veil and glorifies the miniskirt! We are not flattered, for this is not a case akin to the stumbling block that became the cornerstone: the very nemesis of the fashion of today becoming its burnished trophy.
[Granted, there are those amongst us who, in their failure to penetrate into the treasury of Tradition, have ended up only with a slight knowledge of what lies beyond the coffer and more with what lacquers the coffer, and have since then become fixated with the externals, to the point of fashioning unto themselves every preposterous explanation imaginable in order to validate their vesting in the raiment reserved to the ordained. It is a pathological affliction on their part, which unfortunately seems to reverberate across the entire age classification. One must simply paraphrase the wise words of Venerable Fulton John Sheen: Judge us not by the actions of those who conduct themselves thus in defiance to existing canons and customs. Humility is amongst the many virtues that our attachment to the Old Mass has brought us, a cure to the pride that swings mightily in our unharnessed minds: humility in acknowledging that the Mass belongs not to this world or to any creature; humility in submitting ourselves to the ancient discipline of worship that shaped the society of today.]
Tradition is not an outlet for the desire to be different. It is the trusted armour we the youth wear as we march in the battle for perfection, fought by countless saints before us.
We, young minds that we are, sometimes find ourselves accusing the generation before us of failing to understand us (only to pine like them with respect to the generation after us). They do not exert themselves into listening to us, understanding our needs, we murmur to ourselves. Perhaps, this time we can once again summon what many people think as immaturity. Perhaps, they do not understand us after all? Perhaps, they have simply misjudged us? Perhaps, we are not that benign tumour they are waiting to metastasise before they begin chemotherapy? If we get carried away in our moping, we might end up appropriating for ourselves what Saint John said of the Lord: “And the world knew Him not.” And when the flush is over, and we have gathered ourselves together and reassured ourselves, we say: “Pray. Just pray.”
We must know that besides those passions residing in the loins, we are in great danger of the vice of pride. We understand that our elders may not be above accusing us of pride and narcissism. The Filipino youth has recently become increasingly addicted to this principle, having been raised on a threefold diet of rice and the Rizaline doctrine that the youth is the hope of the nation. To the Church, each new generation is a stride to eternity, the youth an emergent force, a new Pentecost even. We are not destined for greatness because the world has long altered its definition along the service of wicked principles repugnant to God and the Church. But we carry a mission transcending time and space: the transmission of Tradition that has gained for the Church triumphant greater glory in heaven, the Church militant assiduous warriors on earth, and the Church suffering spiritual respite in purgatory.
Pride aside, the youth is the hope of the Church, most especially of her immense patrimony. Let them throw manure at us, laugh at the futility of idealism in the secrecy of their rooms even, as long as we, ourselves, persist with hope, mindful, in the mind of that beautiful Christmas hymn Flos de Radice Jesse, that the Old Mass attracts the faithful, the hale and the unhale, the shriven and the unshriven, the young and the old, the moneyed and the needy, with its solemnity, with the edifying scent of its incense, in which Christ, Who Himself offers the Sacrifice, imbues the faithful with His divine love.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.
Photos © Maurice Joseph M. Almadrones, Gerald Emmanuel S. Ceñir, and others.
[This author, now 24 years old, first attended the Traditional Latin Mass on 19 October 2008, Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, at the Parish of Our Lord of the Divine Mercy, and has attended it ever since, joining the choir at its foundation.]