I am becoming and Ockhamist! Simplicity, that surely must be the name of the game in the future, move away from baroque or rococo complexity to the essentials! The trouble with both is that there is just too much information. In a great baroque or rococo house or Church I am left with an overall impression, unless I latch on to a detail, like a winsome cherub or fecund cornucopia.
I was talking to some 8/9 year olds recently about Mass: what did we do at it? The answer, 'we listen to stories about Jesus', ';we gather together', 'we love one another'. After a bit of pressing, 'we pray', it took some digging, some pushing to get to, 'we receive Communion'. We never quite got to a clear understanding of the distinction between gathering for prayers in class, at school, or family prayers and Mass. In fact the dominant idea was that 'we listen to stories about Jesus'. So my next question: what if the readings were in a language you couldn't understand? Slowly we began to get to the idea that Mass was a meeting with God, through Jesus.
+++Some friends, good Catholic parents, with a good Catholic brood, five under 12s spoke to me a few weeks about their new discovery that makes Sunday less than hellish.
Mary, not her real name, had been a mum who took charge of 'Children's Liturgy' in her parish; taking children out at the beginning if Mass, telling them a Gospel story, then doing some 'colouring in' and bringing them back into Mass. Dad, Jim, not his real name, stayed in the Church with the older ones, trying to keep them quiet, bribing or threatening them, even giving them the occasional bag of crisps, or slightly quieter sweets. For both of them Sunday Mass was far from prayerful. Jim used to sneak off to Mass during the week. I don't think non-parents realise how difficult just bringing smaller children to Mass can be.
Well their new discovery, after a short period of Sunday Mass lapsation, was 'trad Mass'. A friend had a serious conversation with them, suggesting that taking children out during Mass might actually be suggesting to the children 'it was beyond them', in the same way bringing food or toys or 'additional colouring in' was suggesting that children shouldn't or can't participate.
Now, the children begin preparation for Mass during the week before, they make lists of people to pray for or about at the Sunday Mass, they either write or draw them, the older ones watch the news.
Mary and Jim say it is easier to explain to their children about the 'trad' Mass, 'I simply tell them that at Mass God comes down to us and we raise our minds, and everyone we know, to God in prayer. 'They seem to understand that.
+++I have been reflecting on this, and my experience here where at the Traditional Mass children seem to pray, even younger children, whereas at the Ordinary Form Mass parents seem to be at their wits end. I am sure that it is not as simple as TLM = good children, OF Mass = fraught parents. It could be something to do with preparation of children, diet even, the signs parents give, or even possibly that at the OF Mass congregations are larger and children less able to see, whereas at the TLM children can see, and at low Mass the prevailing mood is one of silence.
I think it is probably easier to explain to someone who has never been to Mass what to do at the TLM rather than Ordinary Form, one you can do in broad brush times, the other you have to do on detail. I wonder which form of Mass is easier to approach for someone who is almost completely un-Churched, or someone who comes from a culture where the written word is not the norm, or where the sound-bite, or the gesture, rather than the discourse is the norm.
The new -accurate- translations of the Mass have lead me to a new appreciate of the work of Abp Bugnini and his followers, the vernacularisers who wanted everyone, even a child or the un-Churched or the worker to have the same advantages as a Latin literate cleric or theologian. The problem is that today's readings, for example: why Solomon lost God's favour and Jesus' encounter with the Syro-Phoenecian woman, would go completely over their heads. There is too much detail to the point where even the basic message is lost.
I think this raises some questions about evangelisation, about the loss of faith and practice. Why have the great expectations of Vatican II come to naught? Why have so many given up on the practice of the faith?
Why do so many have so little knowledge of the faith? Why is it that families who have been faithful for a thousand years in this generation no longer practice?
Why do children after 10 years of Catholic formation invariably lapse? Why do the same children have little idea of Catholic practice or belief.