Tuesday, June 11, 2024

“Harrison Butker Is Right on the Latin Mass“

Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker talks to the media during Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev., February 5, 2024. (Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports)

Just wanted to drop in and say that Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker is taking too much abuse for articulating straightforward and militantly expressed Catholic values in a commencement speech at a peculiarly conservative Catholic college. Would I have said the exact same things in the same way? No, because I’m a middle-aged man and consequently a little more relaxed. Butker’s tone was basically fitting for a young, zealous athlete fighting the big fight.

What struck me was his comments in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass, which is out of favor with the current pope but very much a banner cause for certain young Catholics — and has been for me since I discovered it for myself in 2002. Butker said:

Things are changing. Society is shifting. And people, young and old, are embracing tradition. Not only has it been my vocation that has helped me and those closest to me, but not surprising to many of you, should be my outspoken embrace of the traditional Latin Mass. I’ve been very vocal in my love and devotion to the TLM and its necessity for our lives. But what I think gets misunderstood is that people who attend the TLM do so out of pride or preference. I can speak to my own experience, but for most people I have come across within these communities this simply is not true. I do not attend the TLM because I think I am better than others, or for the smells and bells, or even for the love of Latin. I attend the TLM because I believe, just as the God of the Old Testament was pretty particular in how he wanted to be worshipped, the same holds true for us today. It is through the TLM that I encountered order, and began to pursue it in my own life. Aside from the TLM itself, too many of our sacred traditions have been relegated to things of the past, when in my parish, things such as ember days, days when we fast and pray for vocations and for our priests, are still adhered to. The TLM is so essential that I would challenge each of you to pick a place to move where it is readily available.

I couldn’t agree more that one reason to attend the Traditional Latin Mass is that the God of the Bible is revealed to be especially interested in right-worship. The creation narrative is about building a space where God can be worshipped. The histories of the Old Testament are tales of kings who adulterate Israel’s worship with idols, and the nation suffers for it, or kings who purify and restore Israel to its traditions. The Book of Revelation is a glimpse into the heavenly liturgy in which, as the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us, Christ serves as victim and priest. Butker is alluding to a common conviction among Catholic traditionalists that by abandoning and revising our traditions, we also invited the moral decay of the clergy and laity. He also points out that the Latin Mass isn’t just about aesthetics (although these should never be discounted), but about the substance of the faith communicated through this ritual. I raise my kids in this liturgy because I believe the prayers, gestures, vestments, and other parts of the Traditional Latin Mass communicate the truths of the Mass, that it makes us present at the one true sacrifice made by Christ at Calvary, and the truth of the Gospel itself: that Christ died for our sins because he loves us. 

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