By Miles Chiotti
In the short 22 years of my life, I have come to find the Church to be an ever-evolving entity which seeks to balance the maintenance of tradition with the necessity of progress.
What becomes difficult, however, in a Church with over one billion members worldwide, is that the definition of a good balance between these two things varies greatly and, in some cases, forces the Church to make decisions we may or may not agree with in the end.
I, frankly, have come to love the history and tradition of the liturgy. The simple fact that the celebration of the Mass can vary so much from one church to another is something that excites me. One week, I may desire a more modern Mass and then maybe a more traditional one the next. During my four years at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, I greatly enjoyed volunteering with campus ministry at Christ the King Chapel, which was certainly a very modern, youthful experience that is perfect for a college campus. Additionally, I love going home each year to attend Easter Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Peoria, Ill., for a beautiful display of a more traditional Mass.
Certainly, Vatican II brought great reforms which allowed, among other things, for lay people to become a part of the Mass in ways that they had not before, and this must certainly be appreciated. I cannot help, however, to also appreciate some of the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Mass that were lost, such as chant and the use of the Latin language, indeed the language that St. Jerome used to bring the word of God to the “common people.” I find reason in the practice of the Eucharist being consecrated on an altar with the priest facing the back of the Church in the sense that the entire parish, including the priest, is praying together symbolically in the same direction. Certainly, there are other traditional practices that are no longer part of the liturgy which I and others sometimes find a “hunger” for.
The point I am trying to make is that in a Church as large and diverse as ours, we should not be afraid of diversity and differences in the Mass from parish to parish, diocese to diocese. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to two Masses at two different churches that were exactly alike, and I am glad for that. If parishes and parishioners prefer a more modern Mass, they should be allowed to carry out their desire to have it. If parishes and parishioners prefer a more traditional Mass, they should be allowed to have it.
The practice of a more traditional Mass is not, as some would say, just something that a bunch of Catholics from “older generations” are trying to bring back; it is a beautiful tradition which people of all ages have a desire for, with efforts to bring it back in many ways being driven most strongly by youth. Doing so is not a denial of the Holy Spirit. Doing so is not taking us “backwards” in the process of the evolution of the Church. It is recognizing the beautiful diversity of our Church and the people who are members of it, and it is something that should and must be embraced.
(Miles Chiotti is a 2011 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport who is pursuing a master of public administration degree from the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C.)