Everyone, including Catholics, wants to figure out millennials, the much-maligned generation to which I undeniably belong.
Last week, my fellow native Nebraskan Matthew Schmitz wrote a piece for the Catholic Herald entitled “The Kids Are Old Rite”. Schmitz argued that the younger generation today – us millennials – are trending increasingly traditional, much to the dismay of some older, more liberal generations of Catholics.
On that point, generally, I don’t disagree. I see in myself and among my fellow millennial Catholics a desire to return to more orthodox practices, teachings and ways of thinking. We saw what happened when our parents’ generation flung open Pandora’s box – sexually, religiously, morally – and we’re not loving the results. Divorce, abortion, and the breakdown of the family have had less than desirable effects on the society we’ve inherited.
In particular, the quotes from Archbishop Augustine DiNoia that Schmitz included on the subject were spot on:
My sense is that these twenty- and thirty-somethings have been radicalised by their experience … in a way that we were not.” After “God-knows-what kinds of personal and social experiences”, they have come to know “moral chaos, personally and socially, and they want no part of it”. A sense of narrow escape guides their vocations. “It is as if they had gone to the edge of an abyss and pulled back.
However, the piece implies that young people are increasingly preferring the Old Rite – the Traditional Latin Mass – over the Novus Ordo, and that the “liturgy wars” of old will now be divided along generational lines.
But based on my experience, and that of my peers, I don’t think it’s true that we’re clamouring for the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) in large numbers. I also don’t think we’re interested in reviving the so-called “liturgy wars” of old.
I have some friends who prefer the TLM, or the Byzantine rite. But they’re still the exception, rather than the norm, among my wide circle of Catholic friends that comes with living in a Catholic millennial hub like Denver.
My TLM friends think that the old rite is beautiful, but they aren’t going to go so far as to “shove it down the throats” of others, as one of my friends put it.
From what I have seen, the Traditional Latin Mass appeals to some Catholics, but I don’t think it will ever become the norm again. I personally prefer the Novus Ordo Mass, because it’s the form with which I grew up and with which I am most familiar. I’ve gone to public school my whole life and have never formally been taught Latin, and so I prefer a Mass I understand.
An unscientific poll of my young people friends tends to agree – we haven’t been taught Latin like the previous generations, and we don’t see what’s wrong with a prayerful and reverent Novus Ordo Mass.
Judging by the ever-growing crowd of young people at the Novus Ordo Mass I attend weekly, at which we chant the opening antiphons in English and have incense galore, we’re looking for reverence, but at a Mass we understand.
In true millennial fashion, however, I’d like to take a moment to check my privilege.
As a daughter of the notoriously traditional Lincoln Diocese in Nebraska, I never felt the need to seek out more reverent, prayerful forms of Mass, because the Novus Ordo Masses I grew up with were lacking in neither. Similarly, when I made the move to Denver three years ago, I had little trouble finding a Novus Ordo Mass that was celebrated beautifully and reverently.
I realise that the story might be different if I had lived in other dioceses. Given the choice between the Latin or a questionable liturgical dance Mass, I’d choose Latin any day.
At the end of the day, it’s hard enough to be a young Catholic today, that I think most of us recognise that can’t let “liturgy wars” bring us down.
Do you feel closest to God while wearing a veil and chanting Latin? Great. Is the Novus Order Mass in English, with the promise of coffee and donuts afterwards, the only way to get your butt into a pew on Sunday? More power to you.
We’re just happy you’re here, because we want you to meet Jesus.