I was in Amsterdam last week, conducting at the Concertgebouw. I found out that the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St Peter) have a thriving parish there, in the Sint-Agneskerk. I went along on Sunday for their beautiful Extraordinary Form liturgy. The Dutch church is a wasteland/joke/disaster area because of 30 years of liberalism. Basically there are no Catholics left here! Or so it seems sometimes, thanks to the usual rubbish. Thankfully there are some younger, faithful Catholics willing to swim against the tide.
I’m still a bit of a novice when it comes to the EF – Sunday’s was my third – but I am struck each time by just how devotional the atmosphere is, even on entering the church. Everything seems focused on the tabernacle. There is a palpable presence of God, which tends to be missing from a lot of churches now, which feel more like Glasgow Central station than a house of prayer....
“Ah, but we can’t go back to the past,” we hear the usual ageing handwringers cry. But the past is the past, and has no bearing any more on the new impetus to sort out the liturgy. Latin Mass can be in the EF and the Novus Ordo – that’s the beauty of Latin, and that’s why the Devil (let alone the Tabletistas) hates it!
“Oh but where is the active participation in the Latin Mass?” cry the liberal killjoys. But lay involvement is clearly possible to the fullest extent in the EF or Latin Novus Ordo. In the three EF liturgies I have attended in the last year, the assembly sang much, much more than one ever sees or hears in a Glasgow “Mass-for-Daily-Record-Man” or its depressing equivalent up and down the country. Everything from the Asperges Me, through the Kyrie, Sanctus and all the Dominus vobiscum/et cum spiritu tuos – sung by EVERYBODY. There is no point in using the past, pre-Vatican II practice as a weapon against the inevitable. None of the young Catholics now committed to good liturgy have any idea what the old curmudgeons are going on about when they moan about the bad old days. Their bad memories are irrelevant and have no bearing at all on the push for improvements. And these improvements will have a bearing on both forms the Mass, especially the English vernacular, I’m sure.