According to google translate, “Non omnia Latini responsum” for those of you who think it is. How many times are you going to see an article/editorial/blogpost that says “The Church is fading with Millenials. How do we get them back?!” I’ve seen this about a bajillion times. Without fail, someone – or a few someones – jump into the comments and express that the Church would be saved if it would just offer the Tridentine Mass (or the TLM, or Latin Everything).
Sorry, folks. There isn’t a simple answer here. You love the Traditional Latin Mass? Cool! That’s a valid way to celebrate Mass and the Eucharist. We’re not all into that. The argument that “if you just try it, you’ll like it” isn’t realistic — for many, it’s out of reach, at an inconvenient time, or simply overwhelming. I find it incredibly presumptuous on the part of these folks to attempt to simplify a Big Problem into a simple answer. Latin isn’t going to save the world, or the Church, or the people who don’t want to be bothered with it. Here are a few big-idea solutions that could help the Church, but aren’t guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed, but we also know that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, so let’s stop with the “sky is falling” drama.
Solid liturgy. Yes, that’s a good and necessary thing. Do I believe there are a lot of people my age [I refuse to say ‘millenials’] seeking a structured liturgy? Yes. Some of these people are coming from a non-denominational background, and the consistency and structure of the Mass may be an answer.
Decent music. This doesn’t mean contemporary, this doesn’t mean pipe organ and chant, and this doesn’t mean the world’s best choir. Hymns that direct praise where it deserves to go – that’s to God, not ourselves – and fit the Scripture of that particular Mass. Music should not be the focal point. Some of the most beautiful experiences of music are when the faith community sings, unaccompanied, from the heart. It’s not about fancy – it’s about effective use.
A question-friendly community. Maybe I’m alone in this thinking, but there are a lot of us out here who don’t necessarily know everything there is to know and we are willing to admit it. But we want help. When we have questions, we want a place to discuss them, without being looked at as outsiders. We want to be among others who are seeking answers while in the Church. Adult faith formation: it needs to be a thing that’s offered, and supported, at all levels, by all involved, and is question friendly.
For goodness sakes, be child friendly. Young people might not have children, but if they do, they want them to be part of the community too. This means not relegating them to a cry room (if you have one), not giving dirty looks at loud squawking sounds, and having events where children AND adults can attend simultaneously. You know what I want? I want the adults who are willing to hold a squirmy baby to wear badges that say I’LL HOLD YOUR CHILD HAPPILY. (Okay, that would be really tacky, but we’ve got to communicate our willingness to help somehow. You figure it out, eh?)
A relevant, concise homily with a practical takeaway. This means under 10 minutes. Jokes allowed but not necessary especially if they’re irrelevant and simply an attempt to ‘engage the audience’. Project with the voice so that all can hear. Refer to the Scriptures of the day, and not just the one line among them that says something simple like “Jesus loves you”. We’re in the pew, we know that. End with a takeaway – a deep question to self-reflect upon, an action to undertake, a suggestion for the family to use for family faith formation on the days we’re not at Mass. If the homily fades out at the end, and there is nothing that spurs one’s mind to think “I need to think about that or discuss it with my family”, that time isn’t being used effectively. I think I speak for many – at least for myself and my husband – when I say I’d prefer a 5 minute, intense, “question all that you hold dear” homily over 15 minutes of generic platitudes. Yes, we’re a captive audience — captivate us!
The beauty in all of that? It can happen anywhere in any parish regardless of what language the Mass is offered in. We know the Mass isn’t about us, but communion is what brings us together. Be a community -a welcoming community – and the people of ALL ages will come. Fail to be that community, and they will leave, as many already have. Baby step your way to being that community, and be vocal about it, and your people will notice.