This is the unpublished, hidden chapter in my book, Lionheart Catholic, with the twenty-first ingredient in the secret recipe of the saints.
“Hearken to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”
-- Proverbs 23:22
One of my greatest joys in being Catholic is receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist at Mass.
But when I first became Catholic from Protestantism, I found the Mass somewhat of a letdown.
Part of that was because most of the Protestant pastors I had heard were very gifted in public speaking. Their words moved me and convinced me of whatever they were teaching.
Granted, much of what they said I now know was in error, but nonetheless they had a very good delivery and really packaged up the entire Sunday service in a way that was enjoyable, almost entertaining.
As a Catholic, I came to appreciate that the Sunday liturgy was not intended to be entertainment, and even enjoyment per se was not the goal.
Rather, the Holy Mass was the divinely ordained way in which God designed for us to worship Him.
So in a very real sense, it doesn't matter how good the priest’s homily is, what the lectors or cantors or altar servers are wearing, or how they are acting.
What matters is the fact that the Mass is Heaven on earth, the one sacrifice of Christ re-presented, made present again, for us, such that we are kneeling at the foot of the Cross of our Lord.
During my seventeen years as a Catholic leading up to this point, I had endured some strange Masses.
One time the priest invited a female Methodist preacher to give the homily at our parish.
Sometimes the priest invited young people to come up all around the altar during the consecration.
Often times, the music that we sang at Mass was campy, goofy, and even heretical in terms of the lyrics to the songs.
I noticed that many priests liked to ad-lib, inserting remarks that they thought were witty, making jokes, changing the wording and language, and generally making themselves the center of attention, as if this were some type of theatrical performance.
In fact, one of the priests in our diocese was a former thespian, an actor, and he would act out the liturgy in a dramatic (you might say, melodramatic) way.
Honestly, I can endure all this. I'm an adult, and you could subject me to just about any strangeness in the liturgy, and it would roll off me like water off a duck's back.
Perhaps, with a wonderful homily, and sacred music, and altar servers showing reverence, I might benefit from the Mass that much more, but even as-is the silliness did not do much damage to my faith.
But now that my children were growing older--one had received first Holy Communion already, and the other was soon going to be--I had to be concerned about their spiritual formation.
I wanted them to realize that the Catholic Faith in the Holy Mass is not a pop music concert, not something earthly that we have to fill up with words and talking, but rather something heavenly, powerful, something quite different than anything else in this world.
I wanted to worship like the saints did, and I wanted my children to as well. While I was not affected much by the awful music, nonsense homilies, and all that went along with novelties at Mass, my children were very much affected by them.
One Sunday after Mass, my children came home singing the songs we had heard at Mass, heretical lyrics and all.
It got even worse though. At our parish, there would be multiple rounds of applause during Mass, for this person, or that group, or congratulating the choir, or thanking the priest, or after some announcement of human achievement.
Soon our children were looking forward to all the times they got the clap at Mass. It struck me as inappropriate, though I couldn’t be sure why.
Then I read this quote from Pope Benedict:
“Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”
My children were also seeing immodestly dressed people at Mass all the time, primarily women, but also many of the men dressed in ways that did not show proper respect for where they were.
Further, lots of the children were just goofing off during Mass. The parents seemed to not know or not care.
Now, I'm the last person who gets annoyed when there are children at Mass, quite the opposite, and there's always going to be a certain amount of boisterousness with young children at Mass.
My wife and I have even gotten looks from the priest before, and one time the priest stopped his homily and called us out and told us to take our children to the cry room.
We were embarrassed, of course, but the point is that I understand children will make noise.
Making some noise, however, is a far cry from letting them be on smart phones during Mass or goof off as if they are at a carnival.
But, what options were there?
This was the Mass, the only one we had known as a family.
It was at this time that we met a couple who had just recently moved to the area.
We invited them over for dinner, and got to know them more. They told us that they went to the Traditional Latin Mass, which met at the Cathedral.
We asked them questions about the Latin Mass, and their answers were quite illuminating.
But I had an objection to going. Two times in my years of being Catholic, I had gone to the Latin Mass. One time was with my wife, Catherine, and one time was by myself when I was single.
Both times, my experience was the same.
I could not understand much of anything that was going on, the priest mumbled a bunch of stuff at the front, and even during his homily I could barely understand him even though it was in English.
No one greeted me, and it just seemed very strange.
Whenever I left the Latin Mass those two times, my takeaway was: no wonder that after Vatican II they changed the Mass!
Nonetheless, our new friends encouraged us to give the Latin Mass another try.
They pointed out that the Latin Mass was the Mass that almost all the saints had experienced, and became saints through. They also recommended a book to us, by a man named Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.
We put the book on our list to buy and read, and that Sunday decided to go to the Latin Mass.
I was already annoyed before we even arrived at the Cathedral, because the only place where the Latin Mass was offered in our area was a long drive away to the city's downtown, and it met at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon, which as many families with young children will know, is not a great time.
This time around, I was greeted by multiple people, but my wife and I were still quite fearful that we were going to be criticized and judged by what we assumed were rigid, legalistic traditionalists who were there at the Latin Mass.
We were given little blue books that had the Latin on one side and the English on the other, so we were able to follow along much better than we had before.
I still didn't understand some of it, and compared with the "regular" Mass, I felt that I had almost no participation.
The congregation made relatively few responses, and most all the action was done by the priest quietly or silently facing away from the people toward the altar.
My wife and I were on edge, fearful of any noise that are children made, and we were tense and extra strict on them.
The Mass also was about a half hour longer than the one at our parish, and that tested my children's patience beyond their limits.
Honestly, it tested my patience beyond my limits as well.
The kneelers at the Cathedral, which was quite an old church, were about as uncomfortable as can be, and I noticed that there was significantly more kneeling during the Latin Mass than there was at the regular Mass.
To top it all off, when we were driving home, they were putting the highway under construction and closing down lanes one-by-one for the nighttime work.
So instead of taking thirty minutes to get home like it should have, it took an hour.
Coupled with all the other inconveniences and discomforts from the Latin Mass, I was ready to blow my top, and I never wanted to go to the Latin Mass again.
I felt frustrated and angry, so Catherine told me to take some time to calm down.
After a few days we were able to discuss the experience. I told her that I was annoyed because she was so uptight during the Mass, fearful that our children were going to make too much noise, and that led to me being stressed out too.
She apologized for that, and she asked me if I noticed how much silence there was during the Mass. I told her that I did, and when I thought about it, I had found it quite refreshing and peaceful.
That made me think of the music that they had at the Latin Mass. It was reverent, sacred, and moving.
We have never heard such music at our parish.
So I agreed that there were several good aspects to the Latin Mass and that it intrigued me enough that I was willing to go again, but not right away, maybe in a month.
Around this time in 2017, the second sexual abuse scandal was starting to break. I had come into the Catholic Church in 2001, right when the first sexual abuse scandal hit the news.
It did not shake my faith then, because I knew that people would sin and do evil things, but like most Catholics, I also believed, wrongly, that the bishops and priests had cleaned house and had changed things to prevent such disgusting evils from happening again.
Now the scandal was breaking all over again, and I realized that the bishops and even the pope had really just papered over problems, doing things that covered their liabilities and made them look like they were doing something, but all the while the evil things were still going on.
Some of my friends, understandably angry, we're pulled toward the route of activism.
They were calling for their bishops to resign and planning to publicly protest outside chanceries.
On the other side, I saw several “Catholic superstars,” as I thought of them, high-profile Catholics who go on radio shows and talk shows, and I saw that they were waffling and wavering, trying to stay with the status quo and not offend anyone.
I wanted to do something. But I didn't want to become an activist protesting outside the bishop's house (though I sympathized with the righteous anger), nor did I want to act like nothing was wrong and go along with everything.
I remembered that the Latin Mass was the one that the saints experienced. All the saints I had read about who had paid homage and love for the Mass had been speaking of what we now call the Traditional Latin Mass.
Pope Benedict XVI called attention to this fact and pointed out that the Church could never simply ignore or do away with the Latin Mass, because it was so instrumental in forming countless saints in the Church.
“For this is the Mass that St. Gregory the Great inherited, developed, and solidified. This is the Mass that St. Thomas Aquinas celebrated, lovingly wrote about, and contributed to (he composed the Mass Propers and Office for the Feast of Corpus Christi).
"This is the Mass that St. Louis IX, the crusader king of France, attended three times a day. This is the Mass that St. Philip Neri had to distract himself from before he celebrated it because it so easily sent him into ecstasies that lasted for hours.
"This is the Mass that was first celebrated on the shores of America by Spanish and French missionaries, such as the North American Martyrs.
"This is the Mass that priests said secretly in England and Ireland during the dark days of persecution, and this is the Mass that Blessed Miguel Pro risked his life to celebrate before being captured and martyred by the Mexican government.”
I wanted to immerse myself in the Mass of the saints, to help me and my family become saints, and that meant attending the Traditional Latin Mass.
I had always heard the phrase “active participation in the Mass” numerous times over the years. I had thought active participation meant that we needed to be making hand gestures, and saying lots of responses, and doing things like being the lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and so on.
But as I learned about the Latin Mass, you could actively participate in the Mass without doing any of those things. Instead, you participated through silent adoration and worship, joining your heart and mind to that of the priest who was offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This was active participation.
In other words, you could participate with your whole being, without having to speak a bunch of words or make a bunch of hand gestures.
So we went to the Latin Mass again, and one of the key things we realized was that none of the Catholics there were rigid and legalistic, and none were judging or condemning us and our children.
In fact, there were scores of young families there with boisterous children, and they were all there in the silence of the Latin Mass, listening to the sacred music.
I came to relish the silence, the incense, the somewhat dim lighting of the cathedral, creating an atmosphere of holy somnolence. In reading about the Latin Mass, I was growing to appreciate the ancient roots of this liturgy.
Almost all the people at the Latin Mass wore modest, respectful clothing. Many of the women even wore veils.
I had always wondered about veils, because as a Protestant I read very clearly in the Bible several passages that spoke of the need for women to wear veils.
Yet, I had rarely seen a woman with a veil at Mass.
And at the Protestant churches I went to, none of the women followed the Bible literally and wore veils.
To my surprise, I realized that veils were worn in church by Catholic women since time immemorial, and it was only a recent change to canon law that removed the requirement for women to wear veils.
My wife decided to start wearing a veil, and she asked me whether I was okay with that.
I told her that I had not given it much thought, and that if she thought it was helpful to her and her worship, it was fine with me. It was biblical after all and also practiced in the Church for almost two thousand years.
As the weeks went on, she shared with me how much she was growing to love veiling.
She said that it helped her to shut out distractions during Mass and focus on our Lord and the holy sacrifice being offered.
She said it also gave her a feeling of being under my authority and God’s, not in a subservient way, but rather in a rightly ordered way.
I had always believed that the Mass was Heaven on earth, and now the Latin Mass made that palpable and tangible.
It wasn't just something that I only intellectually understood, but also something that I was now experiencing. Over time, we got used to the uncomfortable pews and the difficulties that surrounded going to the Latin Mass, with its bad time and bad location.
The benefits outweighed the downsides by a landslide, and we made that our norm.
I had had many stereotypes of radical traditionalists.
These stemmed from the arguments I had gotten into with such people online over the years as a Catholic apologist, because these “rad trads,” who believed that there was no Pope and that the See of Rome was vacant, would argue with me and accuse me of not being a true Catholic.
So in my mind the people who went to the Latin Mass were these radical traditionalists.
Instead, I discovered that the people going to the Latin Mass were kind, warm, welcoming, and, like us, did not grow up with the Latin Mass at all but came to it as we did, desiring something deeper, thinking that there must be something more, and then discovering this hidden jewel.
We made great friends with several of these couples and continued to get together with them.
These families were not perfect, nor is ours, but we shared the same desire to worship like the saints, to become saints, and to want to have the Mass be as reverent as it should be.
I learned an old saying: “Lex orandi, lex credendi.”
Roughly translated, it means that “the way that we pray and worship informs the way that we believe.”
This was important especially for our children, but also for my own salvation and growth in holiness.
My hope Is that the Latin Mass will grow and spread in its practice around the world, and that it won't just be relegated to one bad location and bad time as it is in our diocese currently.
In the meantime, we still go quite often to Mass at the parish right by our house, as well as to the Latin Mass.
I had found my way to “do something” about the crisis in the Church.
My way was to become a saint, and a key aspect of that was going to the Latin Mass.
I began to connect all the different ingredients that our Lord had shown me, realizing that a saintly recipe was developing that I wanted to follow.
The Latin Mass! How differently I have felt about it in the course of my life as a Catholic.
When I became Catholic, I was what you would call a “JP2 Catholic,” one who came alive in his faith during the pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul II.
I devoured everything I could about the New Evangelization, the Church in the modern world, and read the Vatican II documents.
In fact, largely because of the New Evangelization, I discovered the Catholic Faith when I was a Protestant.
So I am about the farthest thing away from a cranky traditionalist who thinks that Vatican II was no good.
This stance puts me at odds with a large number of traditionalists that I have met, but what I've been surprised at is the fast-growing number of Catholics who go to the Traditional Latin Mass who have a similar background to me.
They also became Catholic during John Paul II’s reign, or that of Pope Benedict, and through one way or another came to darken the door of the Latin Mass, only to discover the beauty of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass: its silence, sacred Music, and reverence.
And so the old stereotypes of the rigid and legalistic traditionalist are beginning to erode away.
Sure, you will still find those Catholics, and they are entitled to their opinion about how things should have been done, but the mainstream adoption of the Latin Mass is beginning, and I'm confident we'll continue to grow over the next century.
So what should you do?
I recommend that you find a Latin Mass and try it out. Look for one in your area!
Sometimes, there's not one and you're out of luck.
But if there is one, just go and check it out a few times. It took me a while to get used to it, and as I wrote about in this chapter, the first few times that I went, I was confused and it was pretty off-putting.
But if you're prepared going in that it's going to be different and make an effort to be open to what it is, I believe our Lord will give you a grace for it.
Going to the Latin Mass is not about being a holier-than-thou Catholic, or being “more pure” than a Catholic who just goes to the regular Mass.
Not at all.
It is instead a haven, a sanctuary, a hospital where our tired, busy, frenetic modern souls can have an hour of silence, and beauty, and worship that transcends our natural human world.
This was the previously unpublished, hidden chapter in Lionheart Catholic, revealing an additional ingredient in the recipe of the saints.
To find out the other twenty ingredients in the recipe of the saints, get my book Lionheart Catholic for just the cost of shipping and handling here: https://www.lionheartcatholic.com/get-the-book