All In Favor of Latin Mass, Say Ita

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So here goes another Sunday in which I did not attend Mass. What I attended instead was a rigorous total-body workout at the gym, before which my husband let me sleep in and after which I came home and made lunch. In other words, no extenuating circumstances prevented my going, which, according to longstanding family rules, means I have accrued yet another Hail Mary at confession.

It is not for lack of family inculcation and inbred habit that I do not attend Mass. My father was a Catholic priest until he was in his mid-30s, at which time he wrote to the Vatican and asked if perhaps he might remove the collar in order to marry a pretty Japanese girl. My mom converted from Buddhism, which isn’t a big deal for most nominally Buddhist Japanese but was for my mother’s family, members of whom belongs to a sect that actually practices (mainly by giving buttloads of money to the temple monks). Being raised by a former priest and a convert pretty much ensured that the four of us kids spent every Sunday, rain, shine or earthquake, at church. Not to mention whole Saturdays, which is when our church held Sunday school, oblivious to the existence of birthday parties and soccer championships.

I grew up in Japan, so Mass was said in (duh) Japanese. I am so thoroughly steeped in the cadence that I can still mumble along the entire hour. But the language was archaic and the vocabulary obscure, so while I got the gist, I understood maybe less than half.

There’s something to be said for that. Japanese Mass is like meditation hour for me, and I’m not so sure that isn’t what the Apostles intended. When I moved to the States for college and began attending Mass in English, suddenly I began to think about what the words meant. Did I really believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic church? Do I really believe in an afterlife? And when it came to the sermon, I often found myself cringing, waiting for the presiding priest to say something I found completely appalling. As he did–so often that I finally decided to stop the cringing and the going.

The Latin Mass is even more inscrutable to me than Mass in Japanese. My Pop-pop used to say the Mass in Latin during long drives down to the Jersey shore, where my parents took us to learn English in the summers. Granny would say the part of the parishioners. My sister and I would dose in the backseat to the rise and fall of their voices and dream of caramel popcorn and boardwalk rides.

Obviously, my crisis of faith needs deep examination. I would like to find the time to do it between deadlines and evaluations and blog postings, not to mention potty training and nephew’s birthday parties. Working parents don’t have time to reevaluate their beliefs; they only have time to practice them by rote. That’s a problem.

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