Getting Back on Tract (and Track too!)

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a treasure from the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), so I think we’re due for another gem!

During a TLM, we sometimes have what’s known as a tract.  When I first saw this in the TLM Roman Missal, I wondered what it meant.  I was aware of tracts handed out by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants, Catholics and even myself when I was in High School with the Junior Legion of Mary.  But what is a tract as a prayer? 

Delighting in my old school ways, I refused to Google an online explanation of the tract.  So I looked through my good ol’ fashioned hard copy books. So far, I found only one book that has a commentary on it.  There may be other books about it, but what I found was perfect.  In The Mass and the Saints by Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P., there’s a quote from Saint Albert the Great (who taught St. Thomas Aquinas…so you have a 1. Dominican friar quoting the 2. Dominican friar who taught another 3. Dominican friar #OPLove #badGrammarWithNumbers) that states as follows:

“On days set aside for penance, the Gradual is followed by the Tract.  For so great is the weight of the iniquity that sin lays upon us, that we are scarce drawn toward goodness even by force.  Therefore, the spouse in the Canticle of Canticles cries in lamentation, Draw me after Thee.  And since this takes place with the help of penitential works, the Tract is sung with long drawn out notes that sound mournful and severe.  And it often has several verses, since a man must be drawn to penance in many ways before sin is finally destroyed.  He must desist from the act of sin, and pluck from his will the roots of sin, and blot out the remnants of a long habit of sin.  By all these verses, then, we must be drawn as along a rough way.”

I underlined my favorite sentence in that quote.  Here is it again.  “For so great is the weight of the iniquity that sin lays upon us, that we are scarce drawn toward goodness even by force.”  We all have witnessed not being able to help someone we care about to get better on the walk with our Lord.  I know that many days, most days, ok everyday, I need a kick in the behind.  I’m glad and refreshed to see this acknowledged in the TLM.  I was also glad to see St. Albert mention the need for penances as a good way to combat our sins that we haven’t conquered yet.

Finally, going back to my original question of what is a tract as a prayer?  Maybe it’s similar to those other tracts we’re familiar with.  The other tracts provide information arguing for the truth.  Maybe a TLM tract is the honest assessment about ourselves.  That we still have a long ways to go, and that we need God’s help and grace to continue on in our journey towards Him (or inwards as He’s within us).  #SaintAugustineSaidGodIsCloserToUsThanWeAreToOurselves #theConfessions.  Recently and providentially, I read a Carmelite commentary on the Psalms, and it mentioned that the Carmelite spirituality focuses on “God within us”.  When the book got to a Psalm on “heaven”, it commented on “heaven” being in our soul as He is there.

If you’d like to read my other blog about the Gradual in the TML, you can find it at the end of my following blog:

Going old school even liturgically,
Mike Panlilio

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