Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Two things that I have made a great focus over this past year and a half here at Notre Dame have been Holy Hours and Latin Masses, and I know this has left many parishioners scratching their heads. As I’m sure many of you have noticed, this month we have both. We have another Latin Mass in honor of our patroness, Our Lady of Lourdes, and we are beginning a monthly Holy Hour series at the end of February, with an outstanding preacher, Fr Brian Barr, as well as a reflection by one of our youth leaders. Why?
It is very interesting that these two forms of worship have become incredibly popular in our contemporary Church, particularly among the youth, especially because they are almost diametrically different. The sort of Holy Hour we’ll be having, the sort that is increasingly popular, takes place in the darkness with spotlights and candles, and is powerful in the praise and worship music that lifts the heart to God. The Latin Mass, on the other hand, is profoundly contemplative; it is an encounter with something mystical and steeped in a tradition which stretches back centuries and draws the person outside of himself.
Each, though, captures an essential aspect of the spiritual life. The praise and worship Holy Hour has become a profound moment of encounter with Christ on the emotional level. It attracts those who are on the fringes of the faith with music that is similar to popular music, but spiritual, and sparks in them a desire for Christ and a realization that the Eucharist is at the heart of who we are. I know countless young people who have entered the faith more deeply because in adoration they have felt God’s love for them, they have understood the power of his death and resurrection, and they have responded by seeking him out.
The Latin Mass is where we find something very different though. For a society that has popular music pumped into their ears all day, we hear something surprisingly unfamiliar, something sacred (which means “set apart”) that evokes contemplation; for a society that sees only ugliness, we encounter an otherworldly and mystical beauty; for a society that thinks only of utility, we encounter a complex ritual that serves no other purpose than to give glory to God; for a wandering and aimless society that idolizes what is new, we are given something timeless that draws us into the substantial and anchoring 2,000 year history of our faith.
To put it simply, during adoration, many, especially young people, are falling in love with Christ. While the Mass bears the burden of obligation which can deter us, adoration is a free encounter with Christ where we can first discover the true nature of the most beautiful relationship possible – the relationship with God. It is then the Mass which becomes the lived commitment to that relationship, where Christ is encountered most intimately in reception of the Eucharist. And while Mass is Mass, there is a growing appreciation for the richness of our history and the fact that the Mass, unlike the Holy Hour, should not be familiar in the same way. As I’ve said plenty of times, the goal isn’t to have the Latin Mass in place of the new, but to grow in that appreciation of the Mass as a mystical and transcendent moment of encounter with God that is oriented toward Him, rather than toward ourselves. Each can work powerfully in the spiritual life, but in very different ways.
I encourage everyone in the parish then to first consider attending this week’s Latin Mass. If nothing else, allow the beauty to draw you in, and see it as an opportunity to reconnect with the past to understand better how we can deal with the challenges of the present. And second, please consider attending our monthly Holy Hours. As many married people know, a relationship can grow stale and needs a spark now and again. Our relationship with Christ is no different. So I ask you to please join us on the 27th, (maybe bring a friend too!) and allow these Holy Hours to help you fall in love with Christ once again.
Yours in Christ,