by Beverly De Soto Stevens Father James Fryar of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) has been invited by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to found a parish there. Regina Magazine caught up with Fr. Fryar and his intrepid band of parishioners-without-a-parish recently. Here’s what they told us: Father James Fryar: The places where … Read more
Christmas in a SoCal Barrio It is a sweet parish, in the whitewashed Spanish California mission style, with a well-loved rose garden fronting the rectory. As you step outside, you’re likely to see a young Hispanic woman pushing a baby carriage; she makes the Sign of the Cross as she traverses the church’s threshold. Holy … Read more
By Michael Durnan Updated December 2020 The heart-breaking truth is that Saint Walburge’s was a church no longer able to sustain parish life; it was threatened with closure when Bishop Michael Campbell made a creative and forward-looking decision. Saint Walburge’s would become a “shrine”– giving a new lease on life to a church where generations … Read more
About 150 young people squeezed into the interfaith chapel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on February 9, some standing in the aisles and in the vestibules, for the Tech Catholic Community’s first-ever Traditional Latin Mass.
“This chapel does not exactly fit the profile of a traditional Catholic place of worship, to put it mildly,” said Jim Mc Glone, Harvard ’15, of JuvBos, which organized the TLM. “Nevertheless, with some advance scouting we judged that the chapel could accommodate a Solemn High Mass, and photographic evidence now shows that this space can indeed be transformed into a beautiful and fitting place for the Mass of the ages. In the end, 150 came to that Mass, mostly students who had never seen a TLM before.”
“As you can see from the pictures, the sanctuary is reminiscent of the Transporter on the Starship Enterprise,” blogged Gwyneth Holston, a Catholic artist who attended the Mass. “The very ugliness of the building made me ache with sadness for the poor engineering students who spend their days in grey classrooms and dismal labs. It is a milieu that considers aesthetics nice but superfluous and certainly inferior to ‘useful’ research and design.
“The sanctuary is reminiscent of the Transporter on the Starship Enterprise.”
“The positive result of having mass in such a depressing space is that every detail of the Mass exuded a soothing beauty. Candles, vestments, and incense are used because of the power of their symbolic value, not because they are the most efficient materials for lighting, clothing, and perfuming.”
The chapel was designed in the 1950’s by world-famous Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, one of the most successful practitioners of mid-20th Century Modernism. Fr. John Cassani celebrated this beautiful Solemn High Mass, and Fr. Kwang Lee delivered the homily. The Schola Amicorum led the music.
“150 came to that Mass, mostly students who had never seen a TLM before.”
The Mass was made possible by Fr. Richard Clancy, MIT’s chaplain. Those interested in following JuvBos Masses and events can like them on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get monthly email updates. More about Gwyneth here.
“Those therefore who after the manner of wicked heretics dare to set aside Ecclesiastical Traditions, and to invent any kind of novelty, or to reject any of those things entrusted to the Church, or who wrongfully and outrageously devise the destruction of any of those Traditions enshrined in the Catholic Church, are to be punished thus: if they are bishops, we order them to be deposed; but if they are monks or lay persons, we command them to be excluded from the community.”
——— Second Council of Nicaea 787 A.D.
by Harry Stevens
It was huge news in 1965: the Catholic Mass would finally be ‘modernized.’ By 1970 the Pope Paul VI Missal was in place, setting off a chain-reaction of liturgical innovation which shook the Catholic world to its core.
Today, almost 50 years later, many Catholics are beginning to ask why and indeed whether such drastic liturgical changes were ordered by the Council. These are serious questions. Now that the actual Council documents are available online for all to peruse, it is painfully clear that many of these liturgical changes — now in practice around the world – were never actually specified by the Council.
One thing is clear: those that were, were spearheaded by a group of liturgists and theologians from the Rhine Valley.
Catholic Mass Unchanged Since 600 AD
Up until the 1960s, the Roman Rite Mass had remained essentially unchanged –except for minor local variances — from the time of St Pope Gregory the Great (590-604). The Council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed that the Mass was to be celebrated uniformly and so St Pope Pius V in 1570 published a revised missal by the Bull Quo Primum.
The Missal of Pius V continued in use with very minor changes until the John XXIII Missal of 1962.
The Roots of Change
A torrent of questions remain basically unanswered. What led to the revolutionary changes in the Mass, post-Vatican II? Why have the priest face the people? Why term the priest no longer a ‘celebrant’ but a ‘president’? Why change all the ancient prayers to the vernacular? Why delete the prayers at the foot of the altar? Did all of this really start at Vatican II, as many believe? Or did it actually start earlier?
Some say these liturgical changes began with St Pope Pius X on November 22, 1903 with his motu proprio ‘Tra le sollecitudini’
“It being our ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit restored in every respect and preserved by all the faithful, we deem it necessary to provide before everything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for the object of acquiring this spirit from its indispensable fount, which is the active participation in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.”
Tra le sollecitudini, in short, helped reform liturgical music with active participation of the faithful. Pius X’s reform energized others to action.
Father Romano Guardini, an Italian by birth who was raised in southern Germany, may have been the genesis for what later became known as the ‘liturgical movement.’ This was an effort to enhance the appreciation and experience of worship with one goal: to enable the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy.
Guardini’s liturgical movement spread to the Rhine. Concentrated mostly in France and Germany, this pre-World War I liturgical movement was made up of academics, scholars, monks, priests and visionaries. There was little in the way of representation from the laity in the pews.
Even the century before, Dom Guéranger from Solesmes, France, was an early visionary with the reform of Gregorian chant. Later, Benedictines in France and Germany were pioneers in the liturgical movement: Abbott Anselm Schott (who edited a Latin-German Missal); Dom Odo Casel, Dom Beauduin, Dom Maurice Festugière, Dom Ildelfons Herwegen, Dom Virgil Michel, and Dom Pius Parsch.
Pius XII’s Post World War II Commission
Forward to 1948 and back to Italy, when the next phase of liturgical reform began. Pope Pius XII – expressly stating his wishes that the liturgy be kept within the spirit of Pius X – formed a liturgical commission. In November 1955, this commission, under Father Annibale Bugnini, was responsible for changes in some Holy Week rites.
Today, there are questions about whether Pius XII was really kept informed about the activities of Bugnini’s commission, which implemented the first major changes to the Pius V Missal since 1570. Some of these changes directly affected the rite of the Mass: the suppression of the prayers at the foot of the altar and last gospel on certain occasions and the celebrant not himself reading parts of the Mass.
The overall effect was to begin a watering-down of the Rite. Today, questions are still unanswered. Was this a trial run for the reforms that came later from the Council? Was there an overall Italian plan led by Bugnini for the Council? And what about the Rhine countries during this time?
Post War Along the Rhine
The Rhine Alliance, as it came to be known, included clerics from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In the wake of World War II, these were at the center of a push for modernization across European society. Both the secular and religious intelligentsia were keen to be rid of “tradition.”
In France, the alliance of most of the conservative bishops with the Vichy government resulted in their complete discredit and removal from office. The Rhine contingent to the Second Vatican Council was composed of men who had been bishops during the war, many of whom were cardinals by the 1960s. They brought with them younger advisors — the so-called ‘periti’ — whose names since have become well-known to Catholics: Congar, de Lubac, Ratzinger, Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Küng. These young men brought their various ideas and schools of thought to Vatican II, with a view towards modernization and ecumenicism.
In the years since, well-regarded observers have posed different explanations for what happened at the Council.
Some have reported that it was the powerful Rhine alliance – with reluctant Italians in tow — and more specifically, Father (later Archbishop) Bugnini that led the revolution. Father Wiltgen, who reported on the Council for the news media, described a struggle between the Italian and German contingents. Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 1988 book, ‘Milestones’ described ‘German arrogance’ as a key factor.
The Council Unfolds
The Second Vatican Council opened in October 1962, and closed three years later. In terms of liturgy, several changes set a precedent for further change early in the Council’s meetings. These included permanently omitting Judica me (prayers at the foot of the Altar), the Last Gospel, the Confiteor and the Absolution before Communion.
In December 1962 Pope John XXIII changed the Canon by adding St Joseph’s name immediately after the name of the Most Holy Virgin. This was the first change to the Canon of the Mass, an unexpected move which surprised many.
Also, early in the Council, missionary bishops assigned to Asia and Africa sought liturgical reform and practices, hoping that languages other than Latin would bring a richer and more vital liturgy to their faithful. There were a few calls for changes such as shortening prayers at the foot of the altar, ending the Mass at Ite, missa est, making the priest facing the people, and developing an ecumenical Mass.
The vast majority of the Council Fathers, however, did not call for any liturgical change. Undaunted by this lack of enthusiasm, however, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy approved three distinct Mass formulas, specifying that the Canon was to be said aloud, in the vernacular, and with the priest facing the people.
One can say things moved quickly in just three years.
A High-Jacked Reform From whence came all of this unprecedented change? By the 1960s, opposition to the Vietnam War and Cold War balance of power politics prompted the US peace movement. In Germany and France, the ‘68er’ movement of student protest, activism and rebellion seemed to shadow America’s experience. But did the turmoil in society necessarily have to affect the Church so much – and for so long?
In the decades since this tumultuous era, various observers and authors have offered their comments. Michael Davies famously opined that the liturgical movement was ‘high-jacked’ and contended that a ‘pseudo liturgical renewal’ developed afterwards.
Of this same influence Benedict XVI later reported, “I was not able to foresee that the negative sides of the liturgical movement would afterward reemerge with redouble strength, almost to the point of pushing the liturgy towards its own self-destruction.” Furthermore, he stated unequivocally that the Council Fathers ‘never intended many of the changes that took place.’
How then did this all happen?
Outright rebellion against the Council
In the final analysis, it appears that fifty years later we can say with certainty that it was outright rebellion on the part of some European and American bishops and priests that led to institutionalizing practices such as Communion received standing and in the hand, and priests no longer celebrating Mass ad orientem.
Furthermore, this same group unleashed a storm of iconoclasm never imagined by the Council Fathers, destroying the work of centuries in beautiful art — high altars, stained glass, and statuary in Catholic churches all over the world.
Tragically, the damage wrought by the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ did not end there. The catechesis of Catholics was seriously damaged. Traditional Orders quickly lost their bearings — and most of their members. As religious vocations plummeted, abuses rapidly crept in to the Church — in seminaries, in parishes and in Orders. Today, many observers point to the fact that two generations of un-catechized Catholics have meant mass apostasy in most of the Western world.
The damage that has been done to the Church is only now starting be assessed by a new generation of unbiased Catholic and secular scholars alike. What really happened at Vatican II may in fact take another fifty years to understand.
(Editor’s Note: This short essay is but an introduction to and some thoughts on the liturgical movement, the Rhine alliance and Vatican II. See the Reference list and their bibliographies for further reading.)
References Davies, Michael. Liturgical Revolution, Volumes I, II, III, Angeles Press Fortescue, Adrian. The Mass, A Study of The Roman Liturgy, University Press, Longmans, Green and Co, Ltd 1955. Guardini, Romano. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Sheed & Ward, London 1930; Ratzinger, Joseph. Milestones Memoirs 1927-1977, Ignatius Wiltgen, Ralph. The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, The Unknown Council, Hawthorne Books, Inc
Thoughts of a Priest on the 30th Anniversary of His Ordination
Father Richard Cipolla was ordained a Catholic priest thirty year ago, after a journey to the Faith which included studying at Oxford University and serving as an Episcopalian minister. A scientist and a Latinist, Father Cipolla is currently the Chair of the Classics Department at the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut. Father Cipolla is also parochial vicar of St Mary’s in Norwalk, where he gave the following homily on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his ordination as a Catholic priest.
Last week we heard the gospel from St John that recounts Jesus’ first miracle, the changing of water into wine. Today we hear of two more miracles performed by our Lord: the healing of the lepers and the healing of the centurion’s servant. The gospels in the season of the Sundays after Epiphany concentrate on the miracles of Jesus as the answer to the seminal, the basic question asked and answered in the gospels: who is this man Jesus?
These miracles are not offered as proof to the gospel answer to this question, that he is the Son of God, the Word of God and the Savior of the world. But they are offered— offered in a historical sense, not in some sort of symbolic sense—to point to the answer to the seminal question. Many who call themselves Christians have been having problems with these miracles for a long time, and they have done so because they have succumbed well over a century ago to a rationalistic and moralistic understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.
These people are locked into a totally outdated and false understanding of the physical world: they live in a imaginary Newtonian world in which surprise is absent. It is absent by decree, since there can be no surprises in a clock world understanding of the physical universe. One does not have to be conversant with the ins and outs of contemporary physics to know that physical reality is full of surprises and that these surprises happen with alarming frequency. The irony is that in an age in which science is seen to be the basis and the touchstone of what is real, most people, certainly including theologians, are locked into a view of reality that corresponds in no way to the mysterious and in a way crazy picture of physical reality that contemporary physics paints for us. And the verb paints is very apt, for physical reality is much more like a painting whose meaning can never be fully grasped than the rather boring view of reality that is like a Patek Phillipe watch: expensive, elegant in its own way, keeps good time, but in the end not very interesting.
There is no doubt that we are living through one of the worst crises the Church has faced in her 2000 year history. The roots of this crisis do not lie in yesterday. The roots have been growing for at least three centuries, some would say much longer than that, and these roots are firmly grounded in the soil of that radical and myopic view of reality that places the individual at the center of the universe and as the ultimate meaning of what is real and true and good. The cry of Martin Luther: “Here I stand, I can do no other”, finds its logical and inevitable consummation in the world in which we live, a world that loves to talk about ‘community’ only in terms of a reality that is totally circumscribed by a radical denial of what has formed communities in the past: family, friends, shared values grounded in something beyond the community, and a sense of the transcendent.
This is a world in which any objectivity in morality is denied, morality is defined in terms of the freedom of the individual to do whatever he wants, with the exception of hurting another person, and that hurting another person is seen in terms of making that other person “unhappy”. Even killing another person does not get in the way of this morality based on the self and a selfish understanding of freedom, as we can see in the painful example of the contemporary acceptance of abortion as a personal right.
And the crisis in the Church lies in her willful refusal to vigorously counter in an ecclesial way, based on the truth of the Gospel, this warped view of what is real, what is true and good. There is no doubt from a reading of Church history that the Church has succumbed at various times in her history to trying to make peace with the world by a deliberate forgetting of her role and mission given to her by Him who is the ultimate contradiction to the world. But in those times, there have always been those whom we call saints, especially the martyrs, who have seen through these dishonest attempts to come to terms with the world, and whose lives and death have the same effect as Jesus’ miracles: they point beyond and above to the God who is good, true and beautiful.
The Church has often had a hard time dealing with these people: like St Antony of Egypt who fled from the world to live in the desert; like St Francis of Assisi who embraced a terrible form of poverty to point to the reality of the radical nature of Christianity; like St Thérèse of Lisieux, whose understanding of the vocation of love that lies at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic brought her to such terrible suffering and in the end at her death a darkness that she perceived as a loss of faith. Or like St Thomas More, that very worldly and intelligent man, that eminent scholar and writer of superb even if mock Ciceronian Latin, that ambitious man who rose so high in political power and who found himself quite unexpectedly and not by choice confronting that choice that is at the heart of the Catholic faith and yet is denied by most Catholics, that choice between the world that tolerates only a tamed and impotent Christian faith and that faith which demands to choose contra mundum because of love of Christ who died pro mundo. And Thomas More chose for God in the context of defending the Papacy in the person of a Pope who was no great model for the Petrine ministry. The trouble is that these saints and most saints have been so pietized and hagiized and sentimentalized by Catholics that their meaning, who they really were, has evaporated. St Francis becomes a Disney character complete with birds and a birdbath. St Thérèse becomes a sweet pious French little girl holding roses. St Thomas More becomes a character in a Robert Bolt play who is reduced to a “man of principle.”
But this is all part of the history that has brought us to this time of crisis. A time when bishops refuse to condemn the warped worldliness of their flock holding prominent positions in government, those who dare to claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, dare to proclaim themselves as Catholics, dare to claim to be daily Mass goers, and at the same time support contemporary moral positions that deny the Lord of life himself. And all of this in the name of compassion, compassion redefined in the name of the freedom of the individual. And this is what compassion has been reduced to. So many Catholics do not know what compassion means: it means to suffer with another. It does not mean to excuse the faults of another. But it does mean to love the other, and to love some one means to be willing to suffer with that person, means to reach out to the other from the Cross of Jesus Christ.
There is no other compassion than the compassion of Mary at the foot of the Cross. There is no other compassion than St Francis’ receiving the stigmata. There is no other compassion than St Thérèse suffering her dark death in the context of her vocation to love. There is no compassion other than St Thomas More’s terrible realization of what love for the world really means — dying on behalf of the love of Christ for all men, in a most ambiguous context. It means that there is no foundation for true compassion except in the infinite compassion of Jesus Christ for the sinners of the world.
But what has brought us to the particular depth of crisis the Church faces today? The difference between the crises of the Church in the past — and there were many of them — and the crisis besetting us now is this: the contemporary loss of the sacred, specifically the loss of the liturgy, of the Mass, as the binding force that was the fundamental context in which the Catholic life was lived through the centuries. It was, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, the fons et culmen — the source and summit of the Catholic life.
The Mass of the Tradition is the fruit of organic development whose words, prayers, gestures, music cannot be identified with any one culture, any one language, any one provenance. The Mass includes its roots in Judaism, in the Greek speaking world of ancient times, in the Middle East of Syria and Lebanon, in the city and empire of Rome, drawing from traditions far and wide, from Britain to Gallican France, to Spain, to North Africa, from what we call in general the East: all expressed in a common and unchangeable language that is foundational in the Christian world of the West.
This structure, this palace, this humble home, this house that everyone, rich, poor, men, women, children, educated, peasant could come to and be at home in, at home even if not intellectually understanding what all these rooms meant, coming into a place that was familiar and yet not common, the place that was always there, that did not depend on the fashion of the world, what was au courant at the time, that transcended time and space, that always pointed to what one could not understand but believed. This is so wonderfully captured in that scene in Graham Green’s novel, ‘The Power and the Glory’ when the Mexican peasants sigh with happiness as the priest, risking his life for them, says the Mass in a poor home, and when he raises the Host they sigh, and in that sigh they know, they know, despite the terrible reality of their lives, they know that God is with them again in the home of the Mass.
But there came a time, not too long ago, where this understanding of the Mass was shunted aside. And it was declared that the Mass was no longer the venerable place for people of all times and places of encounter with God, but rather, that it was an historical document, that it was a text that could be manipulated, in opposition to tradition and with a great deal of arrogance, brought up to date, to fit the needs of modern man who now demanded knocking down walls to create open concept kitchens with granite counter-tops, whose focus needed to be the family room with the huge TV. And this reform had to be entrusted to committees and experts, as if because scholars could identify historical developments in the Mass this gave them the right to correct what they did not like: once the contemporaneity of the Mass with eternity was forgotten: then the Church, in the name of relevance to engagement with the world, in the name of making the Mass more meaningful to her people — in this case, the people of the 1960s — then the touchstone of the Faith is gone, and there is nothing to hold back the godless face of secularism and relativism.
And once the priest became the center of attention in the Mass, often sitting a throne-like chair where the tabernacle used to be, once he became the facilitator and entertainer, once he faced his people with the altar as a barrier between him and his people, thinking that he was talking to them instead of to God, he forgot who he was. He forgot that the essence of his priesthood is to offer the Holy Sacrifice for and with his people and that this sacrifice demands the sacrifice of himself and that the center of his being must be Christ and Him crucified. This is why, in the words of Romano Guardini, the priest, amidst the joys of being a priest, always carries within his heart “la tristezza così perenne”, the sadness that is always in his heart, for as he offers up the Holy Sacrifice. his heart is rent by the knowledge that the Son of God had to die in such a terrible way for his sins and for the sins of the whole world.
And yet, what we are doing right now is the antidote to the crisis we face. The greatest gift given to the Church in the past fifty years has been Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, giving back to the Church what was wrongfully and arrogantly taken away from her: the Mass of the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Benedict did this because he knew that the heart of the crisis of the Church is the parlous state of the liturgical praxis of the Church that has forgotten that the Mass is for God. It is the worship of God. It is the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, the re-presentation of Calvary. It is not a religious exercise for the people. It is not something for the priest to make up and to make relevant and to make the people happy. It is not an extension of religious education, a didactic exercise.
The Mass is where one enters the Holy of Holies and gives oneself over to the mystery and the love of God. When I was ordained a priest thirty years ago, I never dreamed that I would be celebrating this Mass surrounded by people of faith from all sorts and conditions of men and women. But God is good and faithful. And he has given back to his Church this source of grace and truth, this treasure, the ultimate treasure that is filled with the beauty of God in the distillation of time, of that time impregnated with the astounding event of God becoming man, becoming flesh.
And what else can we do on this day than be grateful and happy, oh so happy, oh so filled with joy? Especially in this parish church so beautifully made fitting for the coming of God under the veils of bread and wine! And what else can we do than before Holy Communion to echo the centurion’s words from the gospel: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed!
Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home— Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou Shouldst lead me on. I loved to choose and see my path, but now Lead Thou me on! I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still Will lead me on, O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till The night is gone; And with the morn those angel faces smile Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
They are young and old, converts and cradle Catholics. The ways in which people discover the Traditional Latin Mass vary widely, but their stories are all fascinating. In this first in a series of roundtable discussions, Catholics from all over America and the world reveal their voyage of discovery of the ancient beauty of the Mass.
Robert in Chicago: Back in 1994, a Russian Orthodox friend of mine mentioned to me that the “pre-Vatican II Mass” was being celebrated at St. John Cantius in Chicago. He was aware of it because a friend of his was involved there and served as an Acolyte. At that time, I wasn’t even aware that the Tridentine Mass was celebrated anywhere.
I never left the Traditional Mass; it left me during Holy Week of 1970. When it returned, I was already attending the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite.
David in Virginia: As I am now 59 years old, born into a devout Catholic family, I first learned about “the Old Mass” when it was just “the Mass.” I never left the Traditional Mass; it left me during Holy Week of 1970. When it returned, I was already attending the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite. There were no polemics over traditional versus vernacular language, or inward versus outward participation. All coexisted, and I was in heaven on earth.
As to the Roman Mass, when the indult was enacted, I found a lot of bad attitudes, bitterness over what had been lost, lingering for years after it was found. Ironically, it was the Episcopal Church that brought me back to the Old Mass; more precisely, an Anglo-Catholic convent outside of Baltimore that I used to frequent for retreats. The “Missale Anglicanum” was essentially the TLM in English. The sisters in choir were fully engaged with the Anglican chant. There was no bitterness, only love.
I was born into a devout Roman Catholic family. Ironically, it was an Anglo-Catholic convent, where the sisters in choir were fully engaged with the Anglican chant. There was no bitterness, only love.
Steve in Washington: I had been a Catholic about a decade, having heard nothing other than to stay away from “traditionalists.” This was with groups such as Regnum Christi and Opus Dei — but they were as traditional as they thought that they could be consistent with the current approaches, which is why I seldom use the term “neo-Catholic.” When Blessed John Paul II issued the second document encouraging availability of the TLM, the ice was starting to break…and there was finally a Mass not far from us.
I had been a Catholic about a decade, having heard nothing other than to stay away from “traditionalists.” This was with groups such as Regnum Christi and Opus Dei.
Rosa in New Jersey: I had been attending a small Anglican breakaway chapel in Mary Mother of the Church Benedictine Abbey near Richmond, Virginia, and I had arranged my work schedule to enable me to come to Benediction and Vespers with the good monks of the abbey. I’d long known that only Rome possessed the fullness of the faith, but after attending several Novus Ordo masses and leaving in tears because they appeared so irreverent, had nearly given up on becoming Catholic. The beauty and holiness of the Benedictine liturgy of the hours gave me hope once again.
I’d long known that only Rome possessed the fullness of the faith, but after attending several Novus Ordo masses and leaving in tears because they appeared so irreverent, had nearly given up on becoming Catholic. The beauty and holiness of the Benedictine liturgy of the hours gave me hope once again.
Linda in Wisconsin: The TLM has always been in the background of my life. My late father stopped going to Mass after all the changes in the liturgy in the 1960s and 1970s. But he always talked about it. So there was always a TLM “presence” in the house growing up, though I did not attend one, when and if I went to Mass at all.
My late father stopped going to Mass after all the changes in the liturgy in the 1960s and 1970s. But he always talked about it.
Neal in West Virginia: When I converted, I became a student of Catholicism very naturally to learn more about the faith that I had just joined. Not long after (maybe a year), I was hired as a Theology teacher at the parish high school, partly because I am an avid reader and had read everything on Catholicism that I could get my hands on coupled with my knowledge of the Bible from my Baptist upbringing (my father is a Baptist minister), and partly due to the fact that they were very desperate and couldn’t find anyone else to fill the spot. Due to my new position, I continued educating myself on the Faith and its past, which led me to the Traditional Latin Mass.
I was hired as a Theology teacher at the parish high school, partly because I had read everything on Catholicism that I could get my hands on coupled with my knowledge of the Bible from my Baptist upbringing, and partly because they were desperate. This led me to the Traditional Latin Mass.
Neil in North Carolina: I was born in 1963, right in the middle of the Second Vatican Council. My parents and older brothers and sisters were part of the generation that experienced the transition. By the time I was old enough, the liturgy it was entirely in English with the Mass structured as a dialogue and the priest facing the people. I have no memory of the TLM, but I knew from talking to my parents that there was an older Latin form of the Mass.
Ken in the Philippines: In October 2012, I saw a poster about the return of the TLM at the National Shrine of the Most Holy Rosary (St. Dominick Church) here in Metro Manila, which made me curious. I researched about the TLM on the internet and saw a photo on Wikipedia.
I saw a poster here in Manila, researched about the TLM on the internet and saw a photo on Wikipedia.
Larenne in New Jersey: I was coming back to the Faith when dating my husband, who was a secular Jew. He came to Mass once to hear me cantor (I’m an opera singer & conductor) and he was really disappointed in the liturgy and the “cheesiness” of the music — his words, not mine! So we started church shopping and it was always the same, just varying degrees of bad, seemingly without purpose, and impossible to relate to. I had been away from the church for a while, though I did not want to leave Catholicism.
What piqued my then-boyfriend’s interest was I had told him that I was on my “journey home” and I wouldn’t consider dating someone seriously unless he was also Catholic. This prompted him to go see the Passion of the Christ. He bought a Bible and read the entire Gospel section. I had heard Mel Gibson was a ‘traditionalist Catholic;’ I Googled the phrase and stumbled upon Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, NJ – a TLM parish given special permission to practice this rite on October 13, 2000 by Bl. Pope John Paul II.
I was coming back to the Faith when dating my husband, who was a secular Jew. He came to Mass once to hear me cantor (I’m an opera singer & conductor) and he was really disappointed in the liturgy and the “cheesiness” of the music.
Rebecca in Montreal: I’m a university student and had never heard of the TLM before. The Masses I grew up with were either Maronite or Roman rite, but in the liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. Two years ago I asked a question about Catholic teaching on a Facebook group, and a Catholic couple reached out to me to help me with it. Being very faithful Catholics themselves, they started telling me about the Latin Mass, and encouraged me to find one near where I lived. I managed to find an SSPX parish. A year later, someone posted a picture of a TLM on an FSSP Facebook group, and that is how I ended up being part of my current FSSP parish.
Someone posted a picture of a TLM on an FSSP Facebook group, and that is how I ended up being part of my current FSSP parish.
That famed beauty, America’s City by the Bay, now has a new jewel in her crown. His Grace Salvatore Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco, has established a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) at Star of the Sea Parish. While there have been TLMs in the archdiocese for some time , this is the first to be made available in a centrally-located San Francisco parish during normal Sunday morning Mass hours.
Father Mark Mazza, pastor of the parish, celebrated his first TLM there on Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2013. His Low Mass was the first TLM celebrated publicly at the parish in nearly 50 years.
“The last Latin Mass was probably celebrated here the week before the first Sunday of Advent in 1964,” Father Mazza surmises. “The last Christmas Masses in the extraordinary form were then celebrated in 1963, fifty years ago. After this, the TLM sort of went undercover, save for exceptional circumstances.”
“Before 2013, the last Latin Mass was probably celebrated at Star of the Sea Parish the week before the first Sunday of Advent in 1964.”
Fr. Mazza was trained by Fr. Joseph Previtali, currently the assistant Chaplain to the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco, based at Star of the Sea. (Editor’s Note: For more on the Society, see sidebar below.)
The old rite wasn’t totally new to Fr. Mazza, however. When he was a parochial school student in Pittsburgh, he attended a Latin Mass every weekday. Fr. Mazza became an altar server in 5th grade, learning enough liturgical Latin to facilitate his later celebrating the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
“When the Archbishop called to say he wanted a weekly TLM to be scheduled at Star of the Sea, I asked him, ‘Who is going to celebrate the Mass?’ He told me, ‘You are!’ When I explained that I had never celebrated it publicly, his reply was ‘Well, you’ll have to learn.’ I thought it was exciting really to learn it and have the opportunity to do it — now almost every day.”
When the Archbishop called to say he wanted a weekly TLM to be scheduled at Star of the Sea, I asked him, ‘Who is going to celebrate the Mass?’ He told me, ‘You are!’
Fr. Mazza celebrates the TLM Sundays at 11 a.m., weekdays at 7:30 am and First Fridays at 6:30 pm, in addition to a full schedule of Masses offered in the Ordinary Form. All of the Sacraments are also available in Latin, as well.
Star of the Sea is in San Francisco’s Richmond district, where the majority of the population is Chinese.
“The Latin Mass is actually at the same hour at which we used to offer the Chinese Mass. I met with the Chinese people in the parish, and they seemed to agree the Latin Mass would be a good thing. They are in the process of putting together a Mass booklet with Latin and Chinese,” Fr. Mazza explained.
“I met with the Chinese people in the parish, and they seemed to agree the Latin Mass would be a good thing. They are in the process of putting together a Mass booklet with Latin and Chinese.”
Fr. Mazza’s progress has been swift. On October 2, 2013, in honor of Fr. Mazza’s 33rd Ordination Anniversary, he celebrated his first Solemn High Mass. Archbishop Cordileone attending (in choro). The Golden Gate Catholic Boys Choir sang. Canon Olivier Meney (Deacon) and Abbe Kevin Kerscher (Subdeacon) of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest assisted.
“The choir — that was the hard thing,” Fr Mazza says with a laugh. But the daunting problem of how to get together a competent choir was resolved when he found a young Hungarian organist, Peter Ujj, schooled in the classical tradition of church music. Ujj now directs the Stella Maris Schola, which sings at high Masses.
“I’ve gained a greater sense of reverence and tradition, and an understanding of where the liturgy has been for so many centuries. One challenge is a lack of understanding. Some see the Traditional Latin Mass as disobedient, as a going backwards.”
“I’ve gained a greater sense of reverence and tradition, and an understanding of where the liturgy has been for so many centuries.”
Fr. Mazza teaches his parishioners in the bulletin and from the pulpit that the old Mass is “part of the Church’s living tradition,” and that he is not “resurrecting something from a museum. There is one Roman Rite of the Mass, but with two forms, the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form. In other words, the Traditional Latin Mass is fully the Roman Rite of the Mass but in its extraordinary form,” Fr. Mazza explains. “The Mass introduced by Pope Paul VI is the Roman Rite but in its ordinary form. Therefore, there is no longer an old rite or new rite of the Mass. There is the Roman Rite with two forms.”
Fr Mazza teaches his parishioners in the bulletin and from the pulpit that the old Mass is “part of the Church’s living tradition,” and that he is not “resurrecting something from a museum.”
“I don’t see there is anything lost at all. Nobody is leaving the parish because there is still a full schedule of Ordinary Form Masses for those who prefer the new Mass. The parish has lots of choices. I believe in the option. We’re trying to provide the TLM as a service to the work of evangelization.”
Sancta Trinitas Unus Deus: The Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco
Based at Star of the Sea parish, the Society says they are looking for new members who want to help build up a community to support the Extraordinary Form.
The Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco is an association of Roman Catholic faithful dedicated to the preservation of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as a legitimate use of Holy Mother Church’s great liturgical patrimony.
The Society includes lay faithful drawn from every age, group and walk of life as well as clergy and religious members. Based at Star of the Sea parish, the Society says they are looking for new members who want to help build up a community to support the Extraordinary Form.
“How wonderful to find a Latin Mass in San Francisco. I’ll go tomorrow, Sunday, for the first time in this city. Mass, Holy Communion, and confession beforehand! To all who made this possible, much gratitude and many prayers.”
Finding your way to a Latin Mass isn’t always the easiest thing to do. In this second in a series, Catholics open up about the circumstances in their lives that drew them to the ‘strange’ and ‘mysterious’ Latin Mass — and what they experienced there.
Linda in Wisconsin: I wanted to see for myself what my dad always longed for. What he so often talked about.
Also, I had a broken heart at the failure of my civil marriage in late 2005. I had fallen away from the Church for most of my adult life. As so many Catholics do. The world is very seductive. And I went with the world.
I was not married in the Church. When that fell apart, I did not intellectually think ‘I have to get back to church.’ But, I knew that the Church is immovable. Unending. Familiar. Home. I knew I had to go to Confession.
And I did. It was Tuesday 7 pm Mass. I knelt in the confessional at 6:50 pm. And exploded in tears. It had been 10 years since I’d been to confession. Poor Father. Ten minutes before Mass and he gets someone like me. He was so kind. Patient. Merciful. And normal. Like I had just told him what I had for lunch, or something.
Poor Father. It was Tuesday 7 pm Mass. I knelt in the confessional at 6:50 pm. And exploded in tears. It had been 10 years since I’d been to confession. Ten minutes before Mass and he gets someone like me. He was so kind. Patient. Merciful. And normal. Like I had just told him what I had for lunch, or something.
The unchanging normalcy and strength of everything I had remembered from when I was a child going to Mass and confession was still there. That drew me back in. I went to confession a couple of times a week in those days. To get everything confessed and absolved. So I could feel clean again. And happy.
Rosa in New Jersey: Fr. Adrian, a Benedictine Monk, invited me to come to the Tridentine Mass he celebrated every Sunday, by indult. Whilst living in Baltimore, I’d gone to a spiky high Episcopal church, which had glorious music (Masses by Palestrina, Byrd, Haydn, Mozart, as well as chant); however, as lovely as the music was, I came to see the ceremony as exquisite theater.
Fr. Adrian told me he thought the Tridentine Mass would lead me to the solid, substantial faith I was craving.
I’d gone to a spiky high Episcopal church, which had glorious music by Palestrina, Byrd, Haydn, Mozart, as well as chant; however, as lovely as the music was, I came to see the ceremony as exquisite theater.
Neil in North Carolina: I’ve always been interested in history, and I took a course in church history (at a Protestant college) as an undergraduate. I was instinctively drawn to the sound of the Latin words; I loved the sound of Latin when chanted or sung. As a young man, I considered the priesthood and decided against it, but remained active in the church. I began blogging on Catholic topics in 2005 and quickly noticed that arguments, pro or con, about the TLM were a contentious issue among Catholics. There were Catholics who loved the Traditional Latin Mass, and those who despised it. I wondered what all the fuss was about.
There were Catholics who loved the Traditional Latin Mass, and those who despised it. I wondered what all the fuss was about. In 2006, I heard sacred polyphonic music and was absolutely entranced.
In 2006, I heard sacred polyphonic music and was absolutely entranced. When I realized that this was music specifically composed for the older Latin form of the liturgy, I was really curious. If music this good was composed for the Latin Mass, the Latin Mass must really have something going for it. I did not have the opportunity to attend a Traditional Latin Mass, however, until June of 2013.
Steve in Washington: I converted because I became convinced that there really is a God, who really did have a Son, who really did found a Church in 33 AD (not 1962). My background was Protestant, in churches of relatively modern origin — and I was leaving that. Moreover, Chesterton said that Catholicism is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. So, when I went into a church, assisted at a Mass, heard a homily, or read a book, I was looking for a sense of timelessness. And yet, my RCIA class hung all truths of the Faith upon only the documents of Vatican II–as if there had been no Catholic teachings prior to then.
Chesterton said that Catholicism is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. So, when I went into a church, assisted at a Mass, heard a homily, or read a book, I was looking for a sense of timelessness.
Robert in Chicago:I was born in 1961, the year before the Second Vatican Council was convened. During my years in Catholic grammar school (ca. 1965-1974), the “reforms” were being implemented. Remember, Chicago’s Cardinal Cody was heavily involved in the Council, and he pretty much led the American Church in interpreting and adopting all of the changes. The Archdiocese of Chicago moved quickly, so from second grade on (1967-1968), Mass became clapping and singing, we stopped saying the Rosary and learning about the lives of saints, novenas, etc. In fact, I never learned about – or even owned – a scapular until I was an adult.
From second grade on (1967-1968), Mass became clapping and singing, we stopped saying the Rosary and learning about the lives of saints, novenas, etc. Religion class became a form of social studies: we had missionaries talk about the poor in Guatemala, and South America.
Religion class became a form of social studies: we had missionaries come-in and talk about the poor in Guatemala, South America, etc. I would hear stories from older relatives about the Latin Mass; we had an old missal at home – stuffed with holy cards – that had beautiful pictures of priests and altar boys celebrating Mass in majestic old churches. The language of the old Mass was exalted…the rubrics were much more reverent and God-centric than what I would read in the “missalettes.” So, I grew-up feeling like I had “missed something.”
Neal in West Virginia: The longer I was a Catholic, the more I felt like something was missing– the more I saw that many modern Catholics (including priests) have thrown away their heritage and no longer hold to the Faith. One example is the mostly protestant Mass in which the focus is no longer on God and our sacrifice to Him in atonement for our sins. It’s now an ‘iMass’ in which it is all about us and our “communal meal.” Many no longer feel it necessary to go to Confession; I have had priests in my area that don’t give out penance for those that do go to Confession. Many don’t seem to believe in sin, or hell, or the Real Presence, or much of anything else.
The longer I was a Catholic, the more I felt like something was missing– the more I saw that many modern Catholics (including priests) have thrown away their heritage and no longer hold to the Faith.
In stark contrast, the TLM and traditional Catholicism in general was EXACTLY what I felt that I had wanted to join in the first place.
Robert in Chicago: I attended my first Tridentine Mass in 1994 at St. John Cantius in Chicago. Armed with a missal that I had bought at a rummage sale, it was naturally very easy to follow along. I never could understand those who complained about Latin. The translation was right next to the Latin in the missals, and after awhile, it becomes familiar.
But instantly I felt like a man who had been wandering in the desert and found fresh, cold water to drink. St. John Cantius also is known for their music, but this Mass was accompanied by live Gregorian Chant. I couldn’t get enough. I imagined this is what Heaven must be like: the celebration and glorification of God – human souls giving God their absolute best. I remember the reverence – the only word I keep going back to – reverence – of the altar servers, the priests, the musicians and even the attentiveness of the congregation. Even the children were well-behaved!
There are tears in my eyes as I think back of that experience. And the anger I felt that this Mass and so many sacramental were discarded – and that millions of Catholics my age and younger have never experienced this. It got to the point to where I couldn’t wait for Sundays so I could experience it again. Before long I volunteered to serve Mass and got involved with the “after Mass breakfast club.” I had found a spiritual home.
There are tears in my eyes as I think back of that experience. And the anger I felt that this Mass and so many sacramentals were discarded – and that millions of Catholics my age and younger have never experienced this.
Over the years, I’ve brought both Catholic and Protestant friends to the TLM. Most Catholics (especially older ones who remember the TLM) cry because they mourn what was lost…having not even thought about it for years. The problem is many live in parts of metropolitan Chicago where there the TLM is not offered.
They are also moved by the physical beauty of the church. Sadly, many suburban churches look like airplane hangars. The post-Conciliar Church has forgotten that we are multi-sensory beings: artwork, lighting, the smell of incense…all contribute to our spirituality. God gave us five senses.
Surprisingly, my Protestant friends are even more impressed, especially with the music and the multi-sensory experience of the TLM. Of course…it’s like nothing they have!
I’ve brought both Catholic and Protestant friends to the TLM. Most Catholics (especially older ones who remember the TLM) cry because they mourn what was lost. The post-Conciliar Church has forgotten that we are multi-sensory beings: artwork, lighting, the smell of incense…all contribute to our spirituality. God gave us five senses.
Rebecca in Montreal: I was very interested in experiencing something so old yet so new to me. As a cradle Catholic, I was surprised to find out how little I actually knew about the history of the Church and her liturgy.
The pictures I saw on Facebook were breathtaking!! There was no way I would miss out on that.
As a cradle Catholic, I was surprised to find out how little I actually knew about the history of the Church and her liturgy. The pictures I saw on Facebook were breathtaking!!
What’s it like to experience a Latin Mass for the very first time? Is it confusing? Enlightening? Exhilarating? In this third in a series of six articles, Catholics from Manila to Montreal — with quite a few Americans in between — tell the story of their first encounter with the Mass of Ages.
Ken in the Philippines: During my first experience, I felt like the whole church became heaven for me. The chants were heavenly. The choir’s voices were angelic.
Neil in Washington: I attended my first Traditional Latin Mass on June 9, 2013 at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC. I wish I could say that it was a soaring, uplifting, transcendent spiritual experience, but in all honesty I found it baffling. Despite the fact I had brought along my own missal and thought I knew what to expect, I had no idea what was going on. When I shared this reaction with my fellow Mass-goers afterwards, they explained that, yes, the Traditional Latin Mass can be bewildering at first and takes some time to get used to.
During my first experience, I felt like the whole church became heaven for me. The chants were heavenly. The choir’s voices were angelic.
I was most unprepared for all the silences when the priest and servers say the prayers of the Mass silently or in a low, inaudible voice. Having grown up on the post-conciliar liturgy, I was used to the priest speaking or chanting almost everything aloud and the people responding when required. My fellow Mass-goers, however, urged me not to give up, not to become discouraged, and to keep coming to the TLM. I took their advice, and even though I’m still frequently confused, with each traditional liturgy I attend, the structure and rhythms of this form of the Roman Rite become a little clearer and a little more familiar to me.
I found it baffling. Despite the fact I had brought along my own missal and thought I knew what to expect, I had no idea what was going on.
Rosa in New Jersey: The music included hymns and chant, moving, beautiful, and profoundly holy. I’d had years of classical Latin in school; however, my ear wasn’t quite tuned to the pronunciation of church Latin. It took a few Sundays for my ears to adjust. Yes, indeed there was incense–but I was accustomed to incense as an Anglican, so it seemed perfectly natural. The other congregants were welcoming and kindly.
Rebecca in Montreal: My first experience of the TLM was at an SSPX parish in Montreal. I was in awe of everything! The vestments, the parishioners, the veils, the incense, the chanting… EVERYTHING! I was also shocked by how close the community is during coffee after Mass. The fact that everyone waited till they were out of the chapel to greet each other was beautiful. “Reverence” would be the word to describe it. Children had more reverence than I found in most adults at the usual Novus Ordo Masses I attended… and I’ve attended many.
I was in awe of everything! The vestments, the parishioners, the veils, the incense, the chanting… EVERYTHING! I was also shocked by how close the community is during coffee after Mass.
Steve in Washington: I first went to the TLM at Mary, Mother of God Church in Washington, DC, to low masses. Initially, I didn’t care for it all that much as a matter of personal preference.
Once a month there was a high, sung Mass: I loved that immediately–and still do! But it took quite some time for me to subjectively fall in love with the low Mass. I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t really understand what was going on, I have never been good at foreign languages, and I couldn’t understand why you could not hear what the priest was saying much of the time.
I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t really understand what was going on, I have never been good at foreign languages, and I couldn’t understand why you could not hear what the priest was saying much of the time.
These indult masses were rare, authorized begrudgingly, and often in dangerous neighborhoods and/or at inconvenient times. During that period, Fr. James McLucas said that traditional Catholics exhibited the clinical signs of children of abusive mothers–because we were. Holy Mother Church had been abusive. We found it difficult to make friends or even acquaintances. Part of the problem was that we were drawn together from the four winds; we were not a parish. If you found friends, they were likely to live a good 50 miles away from you…and so there seemed to be a reluctance to find friends in the first place.
Still, the few acquaintances that we did make light up like a Christmas tree when we see them–even if it has not been for 5 years!
David in Virginia: It was about 1987 or 1988. I was in Cleveland visiting my then-in-laws, and went alone to an old church downtown. I remember watching all that took place on the altar, and the silence of the few who were in attendance, and I wondered what would happen if everybody in the pews simply got up and walked away. Would everyone in the sanctuary just keep right on going? At the time, I thought of that as a bad thing.
I wondered what would happen if everybody in the pews simply got up and walked away. Would everyone in the sanctuary just keep right on going? At the time, I thought of that as a bad thing.
Rosa in New Jersey: My first Mass was at St. Joseph’s in Richmond, Virginia. Although I was a bit confused by the silent parts of the Mass, I also had a profound sense of homecoming. The people sitting near me helped me find my place in the hand missal, when I appeared to be lost.
Although I was a bit confused by the silent parts of the Mass, I also had a profound sense of homecoming.
Rebecca in Montreal: I admit I was slightly uncomfortable at first because I was new there, using the veil for the first time ever, in a Mass that I did not understand. This unease was quickly drowned out by the wonder I felt though. The music was for once unmistakably divine and serving the purpose of opening one’s heart towards something greater, something out of this world.
The people were absorbed in the Mass, though one lady questioned who I was because I was taking pictures all the time. After I clarified that I was just a new attendee, everything was smooth. As for the Latin, one of the parishioners offered me a Missal, and this made it quite easy to follow what was happening. The Maronites use Syriac (dialect of Aramean), and the Melkites use Greek mostly, so foreign languages are something common for me during Mass. I think it preserves a sense of the Mystery and Sacrifice that are present.
The music was for once unmistakably divine. It opened one’s heart towards something greater, something out of this world.
Linda in Wisconsin: In 2007, when Bishop Perry of Chicago came to his native Milwaukee to say the Mass at St. Stanislaus Oratory, a few miles from my home. I had heard this announced on Relevant Radio. So I went. Still didn’t know everything going on, but..but..it was familiar to me. I felt that, and so I wanted to learn about it. And the beauty of the vestments. The incense. The silence. It was all so mysterious. Yet, so familiar to me.
And the beauty of the vestments. The incense. The silence. It was all so mysterious. Yet, so familiar to me.
Larenne in New Jersey: We arrived late to high Mass nine years ago this month. The modesty of dress, the chapel veils, the sacred polyphony, the incense, bells, the unbelievable reverence and Fr. Robert C. Paseley’s homily were beyond compare. The most profound moment was the Sanctus…those bells were rung, and everyone hit the kneelers.
I could follow just a tiny bit, thanks to my musical training. I found the Sanctus and knew what was happening…it was like everything was beginning to make sense. I started crying and looked at my boyfriend and he was crying, too. We knew we were home!
I found the Sanctus and knew what was happening…it was like everything was beginning to make sense. I started crying and looked at my boyfriend and he was crying, too. We knew we were home.