Out With the New

Letter From France

On March 12,  I was kneeling at the back of the vast 11th-century abbey church of Fontgombault, France, where I formed exactly one third of the congregation at a mid-week, mid-Lent, mid-morning Mass.  At the other end of the nave, the monastic community had processed in with identifiably Benedictine decorum, taken their places in the choir stalls, chanted the morning office of Terce, and begun the introit of the Mass of the day—the Mass and the day being those set down in the missal minimally reformed in 1965, before the liturgical revolution that followed the Second Vatican Council.  Fontgombault is anomalous, but not unique: It is one of a small number of religious communities that have managed to remain fully within the Roman discipline while staying loyal to the immemorial liturgical traditions so shamelessly abandoned by Rome.  God is worshiped at Fontgombault in Latin.  On high days and holidays, the church is packed.

So the Mass had not begun with a “good morning‚” the celebrant had not introduced himself by his Christian name, and the elderly woman who had arrived late and hovered behind me as I knelt at the very back of the building had not been exhorted to come on down to the front to “join in.”  There had been no warm-up wisecracks, no comments about the weather, no instruction as to when to stand or sit, and no announcement listing the various pages the...

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