In the years prior to the Second Vatican Council, I also remember attending daily Mass before elementary school, which, because we had fasted for three hours, allowed us to eat breakfast in Mr. Sullivan’s math class. I remember bellowing out Tantum Ergo at Wednesday Evening Benediction, which I was in the habit of attending with my Mom, siblings and “Gramp,” (her Dad, John). I also remember looking forward to participating in the praying of that most sublime form of prayer, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with my St. Joseph’s Daily Missal.
With Pope Benedict’s having granted permission for priests to offer the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, we hear much ado in the form of reaction against this from Catholic “progressives,” and about how the Council placed a new emphasis on the laity’s participation at Mass, the implication being that Catholics did not actively participate at Mass prior to Vatican II, opting for such devotions as the praying of the Rosary or Holy Cards. To such persons I say: you should’ve seen me (and pal Bob, for that matter) at Mass in third grade! Not only did I pray along with the priest in the Latin Missal, but I was a better-than-average singer of Gregorian chant, thanks to convert Mrs. Crowley’s daily faithful rendering of the chanted antiphons and propers in Latin. I, who failed becoming an altar server by stumbling over one Latin syllable in my tryout test, (Sr. Isabelle must have had a bad habit day that day), also remember telling my younger brother John, who passed, how he forgot the proper order in covering the communion rails before Holy Communion.
St. Eugene’s eventually closed in the Year of Our Lord 1989 due to “white flight” and demographic changes after the 1967 riots in Detroit, and with this came to an end the place where I spent some of the holiest years of my life, years in which neither I nor my classmates were ashamed to publicly give witness to our faith in Christ (yes, I too dressed in sheets and played the priest in acting out the Mass with my siblings). My memories of participation at Mass are exalted ones. There was a sense of the sacred that has since, through misimplementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, long since evaporated at Mass (though Jesus is just as present as He always was and will be), which has manifested itself in the words of my Catholic high school students as “Why do we have to go to Mass?”