Some years ago (2009) I published on this blog a recollection of my youth in those critical years of the changeover from the “old Mass” to the “new” Mass. And, while I recall some puzzlement in those years about the changes and how they violated my training, I do not recall big protests from adults to the changes.
And while many people today who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass speak of the changes forced on us after the Council, I do not recall big protests, or objections as the changes came in swiftly in those years from about 1965 -1975. Granted, I was a pre-teen kid. But I do not recall protestors outside with signs, any even any vocal objections, that reached me at the time.
It is my recollection that the objections to the new Mass came largely about ten years later (mid to late 70s). By that time radical priests and nuns had abandoned all show and were either leaving in droves or were staying and causing all sorts of trouble with dissent and rebellion.
At any rate, I am interested in your experiences if you are a bit older, say 55+ and recall the changeover. My thesis is that the true reaction did not happen on “Sunday 1″ when the altar was changed to face the people etc. Rather the negative reactions came later. For those were times when “Father says…” was enough to quell most concerns or protests. Only later when, for many “Father” had left with “Sister” to get married or, if he stayed he was misbehaving and commanded little respect, only then did the protests from some mount.
Anyway, tell me your experiences. It is also helpful if you can point to anything written at the time (65-75) that documents concerns.
What follows are my own recollections and a cool (strange) video from the era.
I received my First Holy Communion in 1968 on my knees at the altar rail in our parish church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a suburb North of Chicago called Glenview. I received from a very elderly pastor, Fr. Dussman, whose hands shook from Parkinson’s. It was an awesome and fearsome event. I was more nervous since Father’s hands shook and receiving communion from him could be a challenge, especially for the first time.
I remember well how seriously we took Church in those days. We had special Church clothes (always a coat and tie), special Sunday shoes and approaching the altar rail was something quite wonderful but very formal: hands folded before the chest, fingers straight, right thumb crossed over left. Kneeling and waiting for the priest and altar boy to pass by was a time of anticipation, a kind of distracted prayer, alert and ready, don’t make the priest wait! Suddenly a altar boy slid a Paten under your chin. Head back, tongue out (not too far!) just over the lower lip! The priest spoke in an ancient language (Latin). Only years later did I learn exactly what he said. I am sure the Sisters taught me but I couldn’t remember(I was only 7 going on 8): Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam (May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ guard your soul unto life eternal). And suddenly there he was, Jesus in Holy Communion. Pretty awesome, very special, beyond my comprehension but no doubt this was holy, this was serious and sacred.
But little did I know I was at the end of an era. Within a year strange things began to occur that I did not understand, things that did not comport with my training. I remember my mother telling me that we were going to a special youth mass. I had heard of a school mass, but not a youth Mass. We got there early and I noticed something that confused me. “Mom!” I whispered, (you always whispered in Church in those days), “What are those drums doing there? Right in front of the Mary Altar, behind the rail too, were electric guitars, a drum set and chairs. Then out came these guys I had never seen before, a couple of them were wearing jeans too (a major no-no in the old days).
After Church my mother asked me if I liked it. I said no and she was surprised. “But Mom, I don’t know those songs and they were so loud.” I was confused. The sisters said we should dress well, be very quiet in Church so others could pray and only talk or sing when it was time to do that. It all seemed “a violation of my training.”
But little did we know (I would argue) that it was the end of an era. Something was taking the place of what came to be call the “old Mass.” But none of us call it that then. And if some one were to mention in those days the Missal of 1962, blank stares would have resulted. These were all later terms and distinctions. We certainly talke about Mass in the vernacular etc. But it was Mass. And yet little by little the familiar gave way to the new. The transition was at times startling, at times exciting. But I don’t remember a lot of protests at first. That came later when for some “a bridge too far” had been reached. Anyway I am interested in your remembrances and experiences from that time if you’re old enough to remember.
I do not write this post to “bash” the liturgical changes. Just to document an experience. I have become quite accustomed to the “new” Mass. I am also privileged to say the Traditional Latin Mass. I guess I am blessed to enjoy the best of both worlds. I am proud of the of how the new Mass is celebrated in my parish. We have a wonderful gospel choir which also does classical very well. There is great joy at every Mass. I am also so happy to be able to celebrate ancient Latin Mass that reminds me of the joy of my youth (qui laetificat juventutem meam). I merely document here, I leave the judgements to you my faithful readers.
The following video depicts a Mass in the year 1969. It is from an Elvis movie entitled “Change of Habit.” What an amazing little video for me! It’s just as I remember it as the changes set it. Notice the still strong presence of traditions: people all dressed up for Church, nuns in traditional habits, the priest at the high altar facing east. But notice too the guitars and “informality” of the musicians. The music is up front not back in the choir loft. And many struggle to understand the new lay of the land. It was 1969. It was the end of an era. But I wonder if we knew that?