We went to a high Mass, which meant that, although it only seemed like 1 1/2, Mass actually lasted 2 1/2 hours. For 2 1/2 hours, our girls were miraculously good. We only had to correct them a few times and, had I known it had been that long, I would have been more lenient than I was. Going to a Tridentine Mass with little ones can be a little more challenging than going to the ordinary form of the Mass. For one, it is generally quieter, so every noise seems to be magnified. There is also more standing, kneeling, sitting, standing, kneeling, sitting, etc. and when you are holding little ones, it takes on whole new dimensions. On the flip side, unlike the other Masses I've attended, when the girls made noise, not a soul seemed to care or take notice. And, when the movement became too much, we simply stayed seated. We did have to take Teresa out for a bit, but even outside the nave there were statues for her to gaze upon. Next time though, considering we have small children, we will definitely aim for a low Mass which should be at least an hour shorter.
As for myself, I found the Mass exceptionally beautiful. During the consecration, four altar servers knelt with lit candles. Before them were two altar servers kneeling holding the priest's chausible. And then, before them, was the priest holding above them all, almost like at the top of a pyramid, surrounded by a cloud of incense, the consecrated Host. It was so beautiful.
I was personally struck by how meditative the Mass was. At a Mass of the Ordinary Form, there is always something you are supposed to be doing whether it is opening a book, finding a song, singing, passing a basket, hearing commentary or meeting catechumens or what have you. At the Extraordinary Form, most everything is done for you. With the songs all in Latin, the Gloria in Latin, the readings in Latin, it is almost like the Mass in on autopilot as far as the layperson is concerned. (The priest did read the readings in English for us just before beginning his homily.)
Now, St. Alphonsus provides books for you to follow along and sing all the parts of the Mass in Latin as well as understand them with an English translation. But if you don't want to, you aren't a person suspiciously not singing or a non-conformist or someone who is anti-social or lazy. Because everything is in Latin, there is an automatic trump card excusing you from singing or following along. But it doesn't mean you aren't experiencing the music or the Mass. On the contrary, sitting in a beautiful church, smelling incense, hearing beautiful solemn music, it becomes a multi-sensory environment with everything helping to lift your mind, heart and soul to God. It becomes a precious opportunity to meditate and pray silently, reflectively, raising yourself to God. Everything tries to help you leave the world and your week at the door and draw you closer to God.
Now, certainly, you don't have to pray or meditate. You could sit there quietly irritated that everything isn't in English. But, personally, the rest of my week is in English and, as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to four young girls, the opportunity of prayerful meditation is worth far more than any song I could sing. For me, it was a golden opportunity, one I wish I had more often.
Now, I don't think the Ordinary Form is invalid or anything like that. Christ is Christ. But the Ordinary Form seems to focus much more on participation. It focuses on how much it can make you involved, leading you by the hand to sing this hymn, say this prayer, even instructing when you should and should not go to Communion. After going to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I kind of feel like the Ordinary Form IS the children's Mass, holding your hand and directing your thoughts through every step of the Mass contrary to the Extraordinary Form which provides the environment for you to meet God but lets you meet Him on your own terms, in your own words, at your own pace.
There is nothing wrong with participation - singing, lecturing, ushering, etc. - but it makes you focus more on physically doing something rather than on praying or meditating. It is like filling your day with work and not taking any time to quiet your soul. There is nothing wrong with work; it can be very good. But without that time to quiet the soul, it becomes much harder to really enter into prayer. And constant participation makes it easier to fall into the belief that doing something is the equivalent of drawing closer to God, even if you are doing it mindlessly. All "Martha" and no "Mary" makes possible the illusion that "Martha" is all that is needed, is enough, or is as good as it gets. My thoughts after such a prayerful, meditative Mass were simply that, "Participation is overrated."
The weekend we were there happened to be the Feast of Christ the King in the old calendar. They had a life-sized statue of Christ the King which they processed on a platform. It was so beautiful. My girls loved it! It was interesting seeing their reactions to aspects of the differences in the Mass. Cecilia was especially fascinated by the priest going up to the altar each time to speak. My favorite comment had to be by Felicity though. When it came time for the homily, the priest climbed the steps up to the pulpit. (You can see the ornate, elevated pulpit in the first picture.) Felicity looked up in awe and said, "He's going to his castle!" Now, when was the last time anyone in your church thought it was a castle? Does your parish look like the home of a King? I know our regular parish doesn't. Out of the mouths of babes.
Comparing this Mass to the Mass a few weeks ago at our regular parish where a screen was elevated above the tabernacle to tell everyone all the good things their donations had done in Haiti were like night and day.