Our Gestures at Mass Really Do Matter

Crisis Magazine | 6/13/2018 | Frank P. Trotta, Jr.
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When I lived in the northeast I had an embarrassment of riches in terms of the availability of Masses. There were 27 options for daily Mass within five miles of my northern home. At our new home on the border of the Carolinas there are only two or three options within 15 miles.

Visiting different churches to attend daily Mass is eye-opening. Often you can tell by the interior layout of the church (tabernacle in the middle behind the altar; Christ crucified not hovering, an altar rail) if it is a more traditional Catholic church or a more modern Catholic church (sometimes jokingly called a Church of the Fifth Joyful Mystery because it seems Jesus is lost in the house of worship) with a less traditional congregation and liturgy.

Beware - Generalization - Churches - South - Mass

Beware of generalization! I didn’t know what to make of one of the churches in the south that we found for daily Mass. The Basilica of Mary Help of Christians at Belmont Abbey is one of the oldest churches in the south, so judging the book by its nineteenth-century cover I assumed its interior would have the markings of an old-line Catholic church. The façade did not belie what was inside: a monstrous modern art cross above the altar and a tabernacle off in a transept hidden from the congregation. Yet, the non-traditional interior did not portend a non-traditional liturgy. Just the opposite: the monks and Belmont Abbey College students at Masses are models of classical Catholic practices. The Mass, the music, the homilies, the behavior of the communicants are all traditional. The only element lacking is the public prayer to St. Michael after Mass.

At more traditional Catholic churches, there is generally present a formality and reverence often missing from certain “Kumbaya Catholic” parishes. For instance at Belmont Abbey, students and other attendees...
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