14 June 2007

"'Old' Latin Mass Makes a Comeback

It seems the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has finally heard about the traditional Mass. The following story appears in today's edition--the headline, above, is theirs. My comments follow.

Old Latin Mass Makes a Comeback
Tim Townsend

Melinda Scanga (left), of Jefferson County, prays during Latin mass at St. Francis De Sales Oratory. (Dawn Majors /P-D)

The church's windows are broken, its beige bricks are sooty, its paint is chipped. The 300-foot steeple, a hallmark of the St. Louis skyline, is pulling away from its foundation. One day it could tumble into traffic on Gravois Avenue.

St. Francis de Sales church, often called the Cathedral of South St. Louis, is an ideal home for a group of Roman Catholic priests devoted to restoration. But restoring this 19th-century neo-Gothic church to its former glory is only one reason St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke assigned the priests to oversee St. Francis de Sales.

The real mission of the group, called the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, is the restoration of the traditional Latin Mass.

The 1,600-year-old Mass isn't used much today, but it's making a comeback.

That effort will get a boost Friday when Burke — one of the most devoted supporters of the old Latin rite among U.S. bishops — will ordain two deacons of the Institute at the Cathedral Basilica. Burke has ordained members several times in Italy, where the institute is based outside Florence. But Friday will mark the first time members of the 17-year-old institute will be ordained in the United States and the first time the traditional Latin liturgy will be used in an ordination here in more than 40 years.

Most of the world's 1 billion Catholics are familiar with the celebration of Mass in their own languages. The traditional Latin Mass, also referred to as the Tridentine Mass, Classical Latin Mass, Old Rite, Classical Roman Rite or Mass of Ages, was largely set aside by the church in the 1960s when the Second Vatican Council approved changes in the liturgy.

The Latin Mass is thick with pageantry, solemnity and symbolism and is often referred to as "smells and bells" for its generous use of incense and music.

A papal decree, which Vatican officials have said should be released soon, is likely to expand the use of the ancient Mass. The decree — called a motu proprio — is expected to allow any priest to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass without the permission of his bishop.

Vatican watchers say the decree could be released July 14, the date, in 1570, when Pope Pius V published the liturgical text that would be used to celebrate Mass for the next 400 years — until the reforms of Vatican II.

In today's church, priests are free to celebrate the post-Vatican II liturgy, or new order Mass, in Latin — though most don't. What a priest cannot do without the permission of his bishop is celebrate the traditional Latin Mass as it was structured, worded, sung and heard in 1962, the last time it was changed before Vatican II.

Audio slideshow of the Latin Mass

Because two generations of American Catholics are accustomed to hearing the Mass celebrated in English, it's unlikely most will want to switch to a liturgy that is longer, more formal and celebrated in a language they don't understand.

But some Catholics would welcome a choice.

Eric Kraenzle, 44, of Webster Groves and a member of St. Pius V parish in St. Louis, said he thought it was a good idea for the Vatican to expand the use of the traditional Latin Mass.

"It would be a nice option," he said. "I'm not sure it's for everyone because of the language barrier, but why not let people experience that tradition if they want to?"

In St. Louis, Catholics who love the traditional Latin Mass have a bishop who shares their feelings. Burke was the first bishop to bring the Institute of Christ the King to the United States when, as bishop of LaCrosse, Wis., he invited its priests into his diocese. He also established another group of religious men dedicated to the old Latin rite, called the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, while in Wisconsin. He has since moved that group to St. Louis.

Burke declined to be interviewed for this story.

The institute is a "society of apostolic life" within the church. Its priests are not quite part of a religious order, nor are they quite diocesan priests. They live in community as religious order priests do, but they take no vows.

A papal decision reinstituting the wider use of the church's ancient liturgy would be a celebratory moment for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

Monsignor Michael Schmitz, the institute's U.S. superior, has said the motu proprio "will be like seeing your mother all dusty and in rags on the streets; you go up to her and rip off the old dusty clothing and below that you see the golden clothes that she has brought for the most beautiful ball she has ever attended.

"Many of those Catholics who love the traditional Latin Mass are part of a younger generation, people who are seeking a connection with the ancient history of their faith, said the Rev. Karl Lenhardt, St. Francis de Sales rector. For instance, he said, the average institute priest (there are 50 around the world) is in his 30s, and the institute has 70 young men in various states of training.

The Rev. Eugene Morris, a theology professor at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, said younger Catholics who have no memory of the old Latin Mass are attracted to the "traditional symbols and rituals that in some ways communicate more clearly the historicity and mystery of what we are celebrating."

Outside St. Francis de Sales on Sunday, Daniel Frasca, 28, of St. Charles said he attends Mass there "because it feels more like church here than at other Masses.

"Natalie Kummer, 31, a mother of four from Florissant, said she liked to experience the same Mass as Catholics a millennium ago. "It's more reverent," she said, "more beautiful."

St. Agatha Church, also in south St. Louis, hosted the archdiocese's old Latin Mass before it was moved to St. Francis de Sales in 2005. According to Lenhardt, about 300 people came to one traditional Latin Mass each Sunday at St. Agatha. At St. Francis, the number is close to 1,000 for two Masses each Sunday, he said.

On Sunday, about 500 people gathered in St. Francis, for a 10 a.m. Mass that lasted more than two hours. Before Mass, and for about 45 minutes after it began, the line for confessions was 10 deep at three different elaborately carved wooden confessionals inside the church. Most of the women and girls wore black or white lace head coverings. The army of priests, deacons, subdeacons and altar boys in the sanctuary, which is separated from the nave by an altar rail, wore an array of ornate vestments. Six members of the Knights of Columbus, dressed in full regalia and bearing swords, escorted the clergy to the altar before the Mass began.

The pace of the traditional Latin Mass can seem slow and drawn out to those used to the newer liturgy. Long periods go by while the congregation sits still, watching the rituals in the sanctuary, praying and listening to the chanting of the choir. But it is exactly this meditative quality of the Mass that attracts some Catholics.

Mostly, though, it is tradition — as important in Catholicism as Scripture — that draws so many people to the old Latin rite. With the traditional Latin Mass, "we merge into a stream that has its origins in Christ himself, and that goes until the end of time," said Lenhardt.

Before high Mass on Sunday, Kummer stopped her son Joseph outside the church to wipe a smudge of dirt from his forehead. She seemed excited but contemplative as they walked through St. Francis de Sales' large wooden doors into a two-hour ritual that would be the same this Sunday as it was for some of the earliest Christians.

"They used to say Mass was the most beautiful thing this side of heaven," said Kummer. "That's what it's like here."


My comments: All in all, for a secular paper, a very nice story, and largely favorable. The article starts out with some doom and gloom about how the Church building needs restoration (it does, but is presently still gloriously beautiful). You think it will be the typical, "these people are stuck in the past" hatchet job. But it isn't.

The Mass is making a comeback, they note. True. Some of my favorite parts of the article--

A novus ordo Catholic is quoted as supporting giving the faithful the choice of this rite.

Fr. Lenhardt at de Sales is quoted well, noting that many of the people who choose the traditional Mass are young, "people who are seeking a connection with the ancient history of their faith."

Fr. Morris, of the local archdiocesan seminary, states that the traditional Mass "in some ways communicate[s] more clearly the historicity and mystery of what we are celebrating."

A member of the oratory is quoted saying "it feels more like Church here than at other Masses." Amen.

The reporter notes that close to 1,000 people go to Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory each Sunday,and that the several confession lines were jammed all day. You don't see that everywhere, do you?

How better to some up the experience than to quote Fr. Lenhardt about the traditional Mass: in it, "we merge into a stream that has its origins in Christ Himself, and that goes until the end of time."

Oh, as an aside, I don't know where the local paper gets the inside info on the next expected date of the motu proprio. We hope, but so far all predictions have left us disappointed.

If you can make the ordination Mass at the Cathedral tomorrow at 1pm, you won't be disappointed.


Brandon said...

Great article and well written, I am definitely looking forward to the return of the Old Latin Mass.

Olivia said...

Very good article and solid comments re: same. Archbishop Burke is truly a devoted conservative Catholic and he is exactly what this entire country needs at this time. Hopefully, his good example will filter through the other Bishops across this country and other parishes will experience what this particular parish is experiencing during the Rite of Reconciliation. LONG LINES!

Archbishop Burke is also a strong proponent of the Our Lady of America messages and apparitions that took place in Rome City, IN in 1956. I believe he will be addressing this movement with his fellow Bishops at next week's conferences. A wonderful article was written by Fr. Fox from Mother Angelica's Our lady of The Angels Monastery in the Immaculate Heart Messenger magazine this past month. I understand the circulation is sold out, but you can download it for free at either www.ourladyofamerica.com or at the www.oltiv.org websites.

OLTIV.org carries current news of events that have been taking place at the actual apparition site in Rome City, IN and info on pilgrimages, etc...

Again, praise to Archbishop Burke and his leadership at a time when this country needs it most. Good luck to the religious in restoring this wonderful church for the next 100 years.

Thanks to the authors for their quality commentary on this topic.

thetimman said...

Olivia, thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. Because I don't know much about the apparition you reference, I just wanted to add that of course we should follow the Church's lead on whether this or any private revelation is worthy of belief.

God bless.

Olivia said...

This should always be the case in matters of private revelation.

I do believe, however, that these messages and the attending apparition were given an Imprimatur by Archbishop Paul Leibold of Cincinnati back in the late 60's and this may have been already deemed "worthy of belief" had he not died suddenly in 1972 from a brain aneurysm.

My understanding is that AB Burke is now "chapioning" this cause and may be one of the leaders in finally getting the image of Our Lady of America into the National Shrine as she had requested in 1956.

So far, there has been absolutely no denial or condemantion of these events by any US Bishop (including the local Bishop D'Arcy who is retiring soon).

As Pope Urban VIII said "It is better to believe than not believe..."

I advise all discerning individuals to do the reading for themselves and to speak with their spiritual advisors on this topic. I have been following this movement for over 15 years and it appears that it is growing quickly under the leadership of this fine Archbishop Burke.

All for Our Lady!

May God Bless us all!!

Anonymous said...

All is alive and well at St. Francis de Sales Oratory. I believe every Catholic in the Archdiocese should visit de Sales at least once. Come you WONT be disapointed! The article in the Post couldn't be better in my oponion. Thanks be to God...The Holy Ghost is moving. There is REVIVAL in the Land....Ordinations at Cathedral Basilica at 1PM, June 15, 2007. SEE YOU THERE!

VivaMother said...

Perhaps off topic a bit but since it has already been mentioned, Our Lady of America has received partial approval by Sr. Neuzil's spiritual advisor, Bishop Liebold - Imprimatur on messages and striking of requested medal (at his own expense). The bishops must act, at OLOA's request, to solemnly process the image and place it in the Basilica of Immaculate Conception (where, btw, it has been processed during annual weeks of prayer and fasting) in order for graces to flow for America. These apparitions took place when the Basilica was being built and it was addressed by the Virgin as Her Shrine and model held by her during the apparitions. The emphasis is America's need to lead the world in purity and for the family.... with great honor and instruction for the role of St. Joseph. Mother Angelica has enthroned the statue at the Hanceville Shrine. It has also been solemnly processed and backed by Cheyenne Wyoming diocese. Archbishop Burke informed the bishops at their last meeting of the history and presented the statue before them. Let us all pray for the bishops' action for this grace-filled cause brought to us from heaven through our Mother at such a time of dire need for this country. There has also been an article written in Our Sunday Visitor - plus many informative articles on Spirit Daily several years ago, working with the reps from OLOA's official site in Fostoria, OH where the remnants of Sister's order promote the cause.

thetimman said...


Well said. Thanks.

As for the OLOA issue, I thank those who have commented here, but let's try to keep the comments focused on the post subject.

tebesco said...

I just moved here from the heterodox wasteland of Western KY. Our first weekend here was Mother's Day, and I asked that Mass at St. Frances de Sales be my Mother's Day gift. I wish I could convince my husband that SFdS should be our home parish, but it looks like that will take time and prayer.

What a treasure!

Anonymous said...

Oh How I wish I could get to the ordinations. Long live tradition. In time, the Traditional Latin Mass will catch on and more people will attend it. Keep the Novus Ordo Mass for those who like it and it brings them closer to God. But the Tridentine Mass is time-honored, traditional, beautiful, overwhelming and transcendent. Face it, hippies...the 60s are over. Thank God. Bill Avis will be a great "honking" priest.

thetimman said...

Anon, thanks, keep these men in your prayers, and all priests.

I don't know that I'll ever have the cheek to call him "Bill Avis", though. ;-)

Abbe Avis has been assigned to the Oratory for about a year. His rubrical knowledge is immediately apparent to anyone with even a casual knowledge of the traditional Mass. I always figured that if the Holy Father has been waiting to celebrate that pontifical high Mass in the traditional rite because they can't find anybody who knows how to stage it, that between Abbe Avis and Father Lenhardt they could celebrate tomorrow.

crusader88 said...

I have never seen such a pro-Tridentine Mass article in the secular press. And my, my, Bishop Burke is even more traditional than I thought.

The news about the 70 Institute of Christ the King seminarians greatly encourages me. The traditionalist movement is bound to explode in size soon!

gloryrosary said...

Just discovered your website. Thought you and your readers would be interested in the following article, which I found this past spring.

EU Could Revive Latin as a Working Language
By Jonathan Luxmoore:
Posted on August 29, 2006

The Vatican's daily newspaper has called for Latin to be made the official working language of the European Union, after attempts by the new Finnish presidency to promote its use in EU departments.

"While Latin has been given up as a compulsory subject in schools over recent years, interest in the language is growing in Europe and other parts of the world," the semi-official L’Osservatore Romano said in a commentary.

"In these circumstances, it would constitute a suitable instrument for international communication."

The paper said a Latin-language news programme, Nuntii Latini, had been broadcast weekly for the past decade by YLE, Finland’s equivalent to the BBC, making the ancient Roman language "potentially contemporary."

It added that Latin formulations had been found for numerous modern phenomena, such autocinetica (motorway), supervenalicium (supermarket), fullonica electrica (washing machine) and pilae coriaceae lusor (soccer star).

Besides Finland, which has a tradition of classical scholarship, other countries have reported a growing interest in Latin, whose renewed use as a once-universal language has also been encouraged by the Catholic Church.

The Finnish government set up a weekly news summary in Latin when it first assumed the EU’s rotating presidency in 1999, and has repeated the service, alongside English, French and Swedish, since taking over the six-months presidency for its second term on 1 July.

Classics scholars have insisted use of the language would "turn EU jargon into poetry". As examples, they said the Common Agricultural Policy could be rendered as "Ratio communis agros colendi" (“common scheme for cultivating the fields”), while the EU's Acquis Communautaire, or body of laws and regulations, could be Latinised as "Corpus legum institutorumque iuris Europaei."

"Using Latin is a way of paying tribute to European civilisation and it serves to remind people of European society’s roots, stretching back to ancient times," explained Mia Lahti, editor of the Finnish presidency’s website.

"Latin isn't dead – it’s still very much in use in different forms across the world today. After all, Italians, French and Spaniards all speak a new form of Latin."

Several Italian newspapers have backed the L’Osservatore Romano proposal, while noting that Finland itself was never part of the Roman Empire.

pachri7 said...

The ordination was very beautiful! Four hours long, but VERY beautiful!!! I'm glad I didn't miss it! This Latin Mass at St. Francis de Sales with the priests of the Institute of Christ the King is the very closest thing to being in Heaven! It makes difficult to accept anything less in the way of Liturgy to honor Our King!!!

Anonymous said...

St. Louis: I always knew there was a reason why this Bostonian always was infatuated with your "gateway City" since my young school boy days. Bravo Cardinal Burke and congratulations to all who make this extraordinary effort to rehabilitate not only St Francis de Sales Oratory, but also our sacred ancient Latin Liturgy. I am fervently awaiting the new 2011 Pope Benedict XVI Latin-English Missal due in November, 2011.