29 July 2007

A Trad Morning

The choir that I usually sing with is off for its summer break at the moment, so until September I am not obligated to be at a particular location at a particular time on Sunday morning. I decided to explore some places other than my own parish.

There is a Catholic high school half a mile from my house that has Sunday Mass at its chapel, at 9am and 11am. The 11am Mass I have been to before, and it is a run-of-the-mill, pretty quiet Mass in English, although the priest is a better preacher than many. The 9am Mass is in French for the first three Sundays a month, and on the 4th and 5th Sundays Mass is celebrated according to the 1962 Missal.

Today being the 5th Sunday, I put on an ankle-length skirt, 3/4 sleeve blouse, and comfortable sandals, tied a scarf around my head (I've talked about buying a mantilla for ages but never got around to it), grabbed Grandma's missal off the shelf and walked to the chapel. Unfortunately, the website said the Mass started at 9:30, and I arrived precisely at 9:30, only to see the sign in front of the chapel that clearly said 9:00. I started to turn around and go home, but then I thought perhaps I should stay. Even if I only saw half the Mass it might be worth it, and I could hang out at Trader Joe's until the 11am Mass if I needed to.

I am so glad I stayed.

When I first walked in and sat down, I wasn't sure what was going on, but there was a fellow standing in the last pew on the other side of the chapel chanting, and chanting quite well. After a bit I realized he was chanting the Alleluia and the priest was slowly getting into position to read the Gospel. Good sign #1, #2: Chant, and the fact that half an hour into the Mass, the Gospel hadn't been read yet.

The priest chanted the Gospel. It was loud enough for me to hear even though I was at the back of the chapel, although the acoustics meant most of the words were fuzzy by the time they got to me. I caught just enough to make sure that I had found the right page in my missal. After the Gospel, we sat and he read the Epistle in English from the ambo, then we all had to stand again as he read the Gospel in English. His homily was good, starting off with Jesus knowing about the future destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and somehow arriving at temptation, forgiveness, and an exhortation to go to confession. I missed the transition; a bird flew into the chapel through an open window, and I was saying prayers to St. Francis that it would find its way out soon.

The Mass proceeded. More chanting from the fellow in the back of the chapel, joined this time by three or four ladies seated near him. Good sign #3: nobody stared at me when I sang along on the Credo (they used Credo III, thankfully--it's the only one I can sing without music in front of me).

Good sign #4: everything the priest was supposed to say out loud, he sang, and the congregation responded in kind. There was no rosary-rattling.

I had a little trouble following along in my missal, usually having to skip ahead few pages every time he said something out loud because I had underestimated how fast his sotto voce voice was, but I managed to stay mostly on track. I sang along on the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, which were the traditional ones for the season rather than the ones from the Requiem.

The Mass took an hour and a half, if you include the singing of the Salve Regina and the praying of some prayers for the bishops and the singing of the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy after the reading of the Last Gospel. It felt relaxed and perfectly paced. I complimented the gentleman who had been doing most of the chanting afterwards, and told him I used to sing with a schola in Spokane, but I couldn't talk to him long because I felt like I was going to cry--it's been months and months since I heard the Propers chanted. Since last October, in fact.

This is the first genuinely good experience I have had with the 1962 Missal. It was a dialogue Mass, the priest sang well, his Latin pronunciation was clear and easy to understand, and he was obviously well-practiced and very comfortable with what he was doing. His vestments were bright and fit him well. The altar boys were trained and competent. The schola was tiny but they sang in tune and the chants didn't drag. Honestly, I am so happy. Until now I was unconvinced that the Tridentine Mass was, well, beautiful. I had never seen it. But now I have. I will admit that I still prefer a Novus Ordo chanted in Latin, but that is available almost nowhere (the two that I saw were in France).

So, to the trads out there, I get it now.

27 July 2007

Quote of the Day

"Is there any hope left of not being geeky when one has been exploring alternative keyboard layouts* and reading articles with titles like "Psychoacoustically Informed Spectography and Timbre"?

*The Dvorak (nothing to do with the composer) keyboard layout. Google it.

07 July 2007

Motu Proprio

Though Lizzy and I are not, ourselves, particularly partial to the Missal of 1962, the news of the release of the motu proprio liberalizing its use is greeted with joy, joy for our friends who are partial to that version of the Holy Mass. 07/07/07 is a happy day.

01 July 2007

Not Alone

I was chatting after choir rehearsal on Thursday night with B., one of the sopranos. I haven't gotten to know any of my choir mates particularly well even though I've been singing with them for almost a year now, so I've been making more of an effort to hang around after rehearsal and Mass to chat.

I told B. a bit about the marriage prep class I took with my fiancé, and about how startled I was that so many of the couples were already living together. I told her about my fiancé being accepted to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, meaning that he and I won't officially be living together until about 18 months after our wedding, a fact which had prompted one friend to joke, "You're so Catholic that not only are you not living together before marriage, you're not even living together after marriage!"

B. said, "Do you feel like the only ones?"

I said, "Huh?"

B. clarified, "Like you're the only ones not living together before marriage? My husband and I felt like that. We had been living together, but we both converted to Catholicism and realized then that we had to stop living together until we got married. Now we just feel like we're the only ones who don't use birth control."

I hugged her then. It has been feeling exactly like we're the only ones not living together, the only ones planning to use NFP to space our family rather than artificial birth control. For the first time in twelve years, I am not surrounded by a crowd of people who are faithful Catholics. I usually don't notice the effect this has had on me over the last year--slowly making my prayer life more difficult, eating away at my joy in being Christian, and tempting me to look for "loopholes"--B. noted that sometimes her husband scans Church documents looking for loopholes in the policy on condom use, even though he really knows that there are no loopholes and that he and his wife really are doing the right thing, but he is tempted to look anyway because NFP can be difficult.

I told B. that I am so, so glad she told me this, even though it's pretty personal. Living the Christian life is not easy, and it is much, much harder when you are surrounded by a culture and by individuals who don't support your quest for holiness, and who in fact often try to lead you astray. As much as I love the blogging world, there is just no substitute for sitting down with another woman face-to-face and having a talk like that. B. could be me five years down the road. They have two children so far, and their life together hasn't been all peaches and cream, but she says that she feels the presence of God in her relationship with her husband, she knows they are receiving graces because they try to follow God's laws. I was very comforted to hear her say that. It alleviates some of the fears I have; I am reminded to trust in Divine Providence and not be anxious.