While the reform of Catholic liturgy that followed the Second Vatican Council by no means rejected Latin as a language of liturgical celebration, the Latin Mass quickly became the province of traditionalist groups that refused to accept the revised Order of Mass and offered the pre-conciliar Tridentine Mass in defiance of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Nevertheless, there have always been some Catholics who either obtained permission to celebrate the Tridentine Mass or found celebrations of the post-conciliar Mass in Latin that maintained certain practices associated with the pre-conciliar Mass. This dissertation focuses on this latter group of Latin Mass Catholics, who have remained within the bounds of the institutional church and who, since 2007, have had permission to celebrate the Tridentine Mass as an “extraordinary form” of the Mass of the Roman Rite.
In particular, this study seeks a better understanding of the motives of contemporary Latin Mass Catholics in America. Critics sometimes view attachment to the Latin Mass as an example of modern Catholicism’s still incomplete liberation from “dead ritual.” Supporters, on the other hand, often valorize the same attachment as a sign of resurgent interest in “the sacred” following Vatican II’s alleged desacralization of the liturgy. As an alternative to both of these positions, this study explains adherence to the Latin Mass as the embodiment of one particular approach to the formation of an “authentic” human subject of liturgical prayer. Personal sincerity and continuity with tradition are both essential to how Latin Mass Catholics evaluate authenticity in liturgical prayer and cultivate authenticity in their own selves. In practice, these modes of authentication are held together by an acquired habitus of “reverence.”
An ethnographic account of contemporary adherence to the Latin Mass fleshes out the particular practices associated with this inculcation of reverence. Fieldwork in four Latin Mass communities and interviews with Latin Mass adherents reveal the viability of this approach to liturgical formation. It is argued that the liturgical reform and adherence to the Latin Mass can provide complementary insights into the formation of an authentic human subject of liturgical prayer in the modern world.