Speaker and blogger Meg Hunter-Kilmer came to visit my mission parish in Mobile for her first Anglican Use mass. Check out her thoughts on the mass, and of course, check out the rest of her wonderful blog!
I was invited to daily Mass at the parish of St. Gregory the Great in Mobile. Since there are so few members of the Ordinariate in Mobile, Fr. Venuti is the pastor of St. Gregory, a community that meets at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, as well as being in residence at St. Mary’s, saying the Novus Ordo Mass for the rest of us. This is often the case with Ordinariate priests, especially as the Ordinariate is so new.
When I say “so few members,” I’m not kidding. At daily Mass, there was one person outside of Father’s wife and son and the friends I brought with me. From what I hear, Sunday Mass isn’t much bigger, providing you with an intimate community, if not the ability to sit back and observe. Fortunately, Mrs. Venuti was in the front, so we all just followed her lead. If you want to read exactly what we did, check out the order of the Mass here.The first thing you notice, of course, are Father’s old school vestments and the fact that he’s facing ad orientem (or “with the people,” as opposed to towards the people). The language is different but familiar somehow–a more beautiful version of the usual, I guess. It really made me grateful for our new translation but hungry for the language I was hearing here: “that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name,” for example–it just feels more glorious to me.
The first moment my jaw dropped was right at the beginning: before the Kyrie, Father read the greatest commandment:
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
The rubrics said, though, that he could have chosen to read all 10 Commandments. A real examination of conscience, not just a second to think about our day. It made begging for mercy feel much more real.
When the Liturgy of the Word began,2 the different translation of Scripture (the Revised Standard Version or RSV) had that same foreign-yet-familiar feel. I can’t say that I prefer one or the other, but it certainly made me listen when the cadence was so different from the norm. The Mass had the standard form–first reading, psalm, Gospel acclamation, Gospel, homily–so familiar, I kept slipping and forgetting to say thou.
Father recited the petitions, filled with strong and poetic language like:
And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace, and especially to this congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear and receive thy holy Word, truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
And we most humbly beseech thee, of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succor all those who, in this transitory life, are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.
Now those are prayers! None of this “for Mary Sue on her birthday, that she would have a really fun day” nonsense that seems to creep into the Novus Ordo. The petitions seem to come only in four forms with no option to add specific intentions; they covered so much, though, that one wouldn’t really need to.
After the petitions, there was another penitential rite. I’m beginning to see why people talk about Catholic guilt–and yet I’m convinced that those who really humble themselves before God don’t drown in shame the way seculars often do. In any event, I found the placement beautiful; we’ve asked for blessings and we beg again for mercy before we approach the table:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remebrance of them is greivous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It’s hardcore, but it was followed by Father saying, “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” (Other consoling verses were possible there as well.) In case that wasn’t sensitive enough for you, it was followed by the sign of peace.
The placement of the kiss of peace was once of my favorite things about this liturgy. It followed an act of contrition, so the act of offering peace to our neighbor stemmed directly from expressing our sorrow to God. It made the handshakes feel more like an effort at reconciliation than a coffee break, the way they often do in the Novus Ordo. And this reconciliation is just as tied to approaching the altar when placed right before the consecration as it is right before communion. I think moving it earlier also helps me stay focused from the Sanctus all the way through communion, rather than taking a break from prayer to chat before the Agnus Dei.
The Offertory seemed (to my untrained eye) to be almost identical to the Novus Ordo. The Eucharistic prayer was very similar as well, albeit with that high sacral language that I love. It wasn’t until the Our Father that I saw another significant difference–we kept going! We didn’t stop after evil. You know that awkward moment that you always forget to warn your Protestant friends about and they say “for thine” loudly while everybody else is silent? It didn’t happen. No “deliver us, Lord,” just straight through to the end and moved on. If that’s not a concession to Protestant prayer, I don’t know what is.
“Lord I am not worthy” took on greater depth and humility when preceded by this prayer, recited by all the people:
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
We received communion kneeling at the altar rail–love it. And then prayer and blessing and dismissal. Like in the Extraordinary Form, the prologue to John’s Gospel is read at the end of Sunday Mass, a little throwback to the Tridentine Mass.
For most of the Mass, I pretty much knew what I was supposed to do and say, even if I didn’t know what was coming next. I had to remember to say “thee” and “thou” and keep my eyes on my missal for sudden divergences from the Novus Ordo, but it was much more familiar than the Eastern rite liturgies I’ve been to, much more accessible than the Extraordinary Form, and much more profound than the Novus Ordo.
Yup–I liked it better. Now, a lifelong Catholic can’t be a member of the Ordinariate–the purpose is to serve converts. I can, however, attend Anglican use Masses whenever I want to, and believe me, I will. The Latin of the Extraordinary Form is off-putting to me, but I’m beginning to understand when people lament the vernacular of the Novus Ordo. Maybe what we need, though, is a less vernacular vernacular–language that’s comprehensible but clearly sacred. That’s what the Anglican use Mass offers us, and that’s what I’ll be back for.