June 3, 2013

An Interview with Fr. Nicholas Milich - Part 1

The following is part 1 of an interview with our Chaplain, Rev. Nicholas Milich, done by the Latin Mass Network back in 2007:

  My Anchor, and My Constant Challenge- The Traditional Latin Mass: 

An Interview Fr. Nicholas A. Milich

Photo by Mr. Ron Placzek

 Fr. Nicholas A. Milich was the pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Ephrata, Washington and was gracious enough, and at a very busy time of year, to give us an interview about what the Traditional Latin Mass means to him as a priest and what it means for the Church. I think you will agree that his answers are eloquently expressed and show a beautiful insight and understanding.
The word "Ephrata" may sound familiar to you. It is another name by which the town of Bethlehem is known.  And I understand that the hymn "Veni Emmanuel" was traditionally known as "Ephratah".

Part I of the Interview:

1. Fr. Milich, what does the Traditional Latin Mass mean to you as a priest and how does it reaffirm your priesthood?

Fr. Milich responds:

"I have come to depend upon the traditional Mass.  It is my anchor, and it is my constant challenge--can I live up to what this Mass requires of a priest? Saying this Mass is like a daily examination of conscience.  Somewhat like the traditional breviary, I believe, the traditional Mass is a rampart against challenges to our vocation.  Beyond that, way beyond that, really, way beyond my own feelings, there is an objective quality to the older Mass. This is our RITE.  And the rite itself is holy.  When you enter into it, you leave yourself behind, you enlist in the work of the communion of saints. It may be that others have that experience with the Novus Ordo. For me, the Older Mass has been necessary."

2. What would you say is the most striking difference between the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass?

Fr. Milich responds:

"It may be that the most striking difference is that the Traditional Latin Mass is "prayable." Unless the Novus Ordo is offered privately, it is almost impossible to pray the Mass as I should. But even offered privately, the Novus Ordo simply does not seem to offer such a powerful contemplative plane, on which you can rest and commune with the Lord for a few moments. I am sure there are persons far holier than I am who can pray the Novus Ordo easily, but I need the older Mass. If that's a weakness, I accept it and give thanks to God for His gift of this Mass."
      3. What would most surprise the average Catholic layman about the Traditional Latin Mass?

 Fr. Milich responds:
"I think the biggest surprise for someone new to the Mass would be the silence, the profound, unremitting, but acutely focused silence is a bit of a shock.  We don't know what to do with silence in our culture. The Novus Ordo calls for certain moments of silence, but they seem like add-ons, which are neither necessary to nor adequate for the particular culture of the Novus Ordo. The Novus Ordo wants to speak--it seems that it was designed as a teaching tool. The older Mass does not apologize for being a sacrifice. And before a sacrifice there is only awe. And silence."

4. Can you give some biographical information about your childhood, family life, your vocation, seminary training and how you discovered the Latin Mass?

Fr. Milich responds:
I grew up with the older Mass, and my very saintly Croatian grandmother would take me by the hand and walk me to church almost daily for prayer. I fell in love with the Mass and with the Lord's dwelling place. Meanwhile, I wanted to be a priest, but my Croatian father would have nothing of it. Then, when I was a teenager, the New Mass arrived and I thought it was pedestrian, that the language was silly at best.  In time, I did come to accept it, but--and I don't think this is accidental--my desire for the priesthood had waned. Two decades later, I found that my vocation had never completely disappeared. My seminary training was very decent, but was thoroughly Novus Ordo in its format. I tried to find training in the older Mass but no one could help me. So after ordination, I began to study on my own--not just the Mass, but the older theology, the things that had been overlooked in the seminary.  I honestly feel that compared to some other fairly recently ordained priests, I did get a respectable theological education, and no one stopped me from doing independent study on my own. But there was a wholly beautiful theological landscape out there which I had only glimpsed from afar. It became apparent, over time, that it IS the theology of the Mass, that it is all of one piece, one seamless garment."

5. What do you think the future of the Latin Mass is in the U.S.?

Fr. Milich responds:
"Only God knows the answer to that. I rather suspect, though, that God is at work, answering the prayers of his faithful ones, and hearing the perhaps unarticulated cries of so many who long for the sacred. My hope is that within a generation, the Traditional Latin Mass becomes a somewhat normal and expected form that will help re-catholicize our people.  So much depends on our bishops.  Their role is crucial. My own bishop is a good man.  Although he is not himself involved with the older Mass, he has listened to me over the years. He also allowed me to offer the older Mass privately and to be part of a team which offered Mass at our bimonthly indult site.  For that I am grateful. And when the Motu Proprio came out, he, unlike some of his colleagues, did recognize that is the law of the Church. We desperately need bishops who will support priests with a love for the traditional forms. If they do that, they will find some surprising rewards--including a big upsurge in vocations."

Click here for part 2 of the interview.