My Tridentine Conversion

I am writing this short letter on the 17th of February, 1997, exactly one year after having attended my first traditional Latin Mass. I am currently the assistant diocesan representative for the Latin Mass Society in my diocese of Arundel & Brighton, and I endeavour to exclusively attend Latin Masses. This entails quite a pilgrimage every week, normally travelling 50 miles to London from Brighton to frequent the Little Oratory, which provides a weekly low Mass for the faithful. Three or four years ago, I often did not bother attending weekly Mass in the local Novus Ordo church two miles away; a little rain was all that was needed to keep me away. Last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), I travelled to Maiden Lane in the centre of London to attend the "most beautiful thing this side of heaven". There seems no turning back. I have been "radicalised" into fighting for the Church Militant.

So, why this incredible change? From lazy Catholic to zealous advocate for the Catholic Truth and its expression in the traditional Mass. This "conversion" can be conveniently split into two parts: a discovery of the truthfulness of Catholicism and the realisation of the current malaise in the Church.

The first part can be easily explained by the intervention of my then girlfriend, Marion, now my beloved wife. She grew up in Luxembourg, officially a Catholic country, but having a rather anti-Catholic family, the claims of the Church were smothered beneath a covering of accusation exhibiting a face of oppression rather than the Church of Christ. However, having to spend nine months in Russia as part of her University degree, she soon realised that the claims of Christianity needed further investigation. She asked me questions, real simple ones. But in return I offered nothing. Brought up in a liberal Catholic family, I had no zeal for the Catholic faith, it was just part of my life (now it is my life). We attended a local R.C.I.A. group for over fifteen months; I was officially Marion's "sponsor", but as time passed I learnt as much as she did. Last Easter, Marion was baptised, confirmed and received first communion at our local parish church. I was thrilled, and the questioning that I received drove me to consult books on the faith outside the instruction group, informing and educating myself on what soon became the most important issue of my life. Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics and Thomas Howard soon became familiar names, as did Catholic Answers and other apologetics groups. I enlisted on a computer "mailing-list" called the "Catholic-Doctrine Mailing List" which distributed batches of posts on the faith, some of which you could answer and thus enter into a discussion. This became a fascination, an education in itself and built up many friendships, many of whom are in America and Canada.

This leads onto the second part of my conversion: into the traditionalist movement. The key point was that the moderator of the mailing list was a "Lefebvrist sympathiser" with an impeccable record of orthodoxy in his writings+. He constantly quoted from papal encyclicals, previous Ecumenical Councils, curtailed any liberal mutterings that may arise and often mentioned the disaster that is currently enveloping the Western Church. He moderated other traditionalists of varying degrees, and also "conservatives" who take a much more positive approach, especially regarding the Second Vatican Council. Arguments continued, and I often stood in the background, afraid of making a fool of myself in front of such "clever-types". An incident at Mass jerked me somewhat in the process to take sides. I was basically backed into a corner regarding the issue of Communion in the hand. The pieces of the Sacred Host being distributed were so large that the priest pressured me to take the Host in my hands and then consume it myself. This distressed me a great deal, and I met the priest afterwards and expressed my concerns over the incident. Never again, I promised the Lord, would I back down on such an issue. Swilling the arguments of traditionalists versus conservatives back and forth in my mind soon came to rest firmly in the traditionalist camp. I made friends with other traditionally minded folk, this time firmly committed to the Latin Mass Indult and full communion with the Holy Father. In May, 1995, I began saying the rosary - five decades per day - and for the first time I was praying each and everyday. I joined the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales in December.

In February, I at last attended my first traditional Latin Mass at St. Wilfrid's Chapel, in the Brompton Oratory, London. My reaction? One of disappointment. I was completely lost, caught by surprise by the quietness of the whole proceedings, especially during the canon of the Mass. I came out agreeing with all that puts down the Latin Mass, especially in respect to the lack of congregational involvement and the priest "mumbling" through the liturgy. However, I was delighted with the distribution of Holy Communion; I knelt on the hard stone before the altar, my kneels were screaming in pain, my soul was rejoicing in delight. But the 10th of March I had made a complete U-turn regarding the rest of the Mass for I had on that day attended a Missa Cantata in a neighbouring parish. The Gregorian Chant swept me off my feet, the whole Catholic ethos of the Mass was simply divine: I was humbled and God was worshipped. For once, I had found somewhere where I could pray in a way that reflected what I believed. I knew it all along, it was just the practice that was missing until that glorious day.

Having then obtained a traditional Missal, I became engrossed in the sacred liturgy. I ploughed through a score of booklets by the liturgical scholar, Michael Davies. I found that the more I fell in love with my Lord, Jesus Christ, and the faith He embodies and the Church He left for us, the more I turned to the traditional Mass. In March, 1996, I started wearing a brown scapular; a sign of my increased devotion to the Mother of God. It is to her that I credit being able to pray everyday, attending Mass with zeal and living out my faith. Eventually, by the middle of the year, I was attending traditional Masses almost every Sunday. In November, Marion and I had a traditional Latin nuptial Mass. The conversion was complete: I was burning with love for the Catholic faith as expressed most profoundly in its traditional liturgy.

Presently, I take part in many computer mailing lists, defending the case for the glorious liturgy of our saints and martyrs, and now having been enlisted by the Latin Mass Society, I await orders from my diocesan representative. The modernism of the present Church can be stopped; all it takes is ordinary folk like us to stand up and be counted with Christ, our Lord. Armed with the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the Word of God in our hand and clothed in the unimpeachable orthodoxy of the Mass about our person, how can we lose?

+ (footnote) Although I have great respect for the moderator's orthodoxy, and share his concern over the current devastation of the Lord's vineyard, I do not share his views regarding the late Mgr. Lefebvre's excommunication and the current status of the Society of St. Pius the X, which I consider - if not in formal schism - does exhibit schismatic tendencies and a less than obedient attitude towards the office of the Papacy at present.

Back to Lex orandi, lex credendi page

Last modified 6th March, 1997, by David Joyce.