Skip to comments.Latin at Last
Posted on 08/21/2004 6:56:03 PM PDT by tridentine
Latin at last
The traditional Mass is making a modest comeback for Catholics who yearn for the rite they grew up with and for those in awe of its solemnity
DUNN, N.C. - They came to a tiny rural church from all over North Carolina and as far away as Maryland to celebrate Mass in a language that's scarcely been spoken in the state's Roman Catholic churches for nearly 40 years.
Once inside, they saw a version of the church as it looked and sounded before the reforms of the 1960s. The altar was pushed back against the wall. The priest said the Eucharistic Prayer with his back to the congregation.
The Mass was celebrated in Latin.
As part of its efforts to reach out to all members, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh is allowing traditional Latin masses at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Dunn, about 35 miles south of Raleigh. For some, it is a walk down nostalgia lane. But for many more it is a new experience -- one that appeals especially to young people.
Indeed, in Dunn as well as Fort Worth, Latin is enjoying a modest comeback. Movies such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, spoken in Latin and Aramaic, may be partly responsible. More likely, the traditional Latin Mass owes its fascination to a longing for timelessness and transcendence.
"There's a sense of mystery and holy sacredness," said Kim Hoover, 42, of Clayton, N.C., who recently attended the first such Mass with her family. "I don't know how to explain it -- a reverence you don't find a lot of times."
The late afternoon was hot and humid during that Latin Mass. Still, people arrived prepared for church the way their ancestors once did. The women wore lace veils; the men, suits and ties. Not a word was spoken before the service began, and people kneeled before the altar as they received the Eucharist on their tongues.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) replaced the traditional Latin Mass with a modern version spoken in the language of the people. In it, the priest faces the congregation, and lay people participate, reading from the Bible and offering prayers.
But some hanker for the traditional Latin Mass. Older people regard it as the only genuine form of worship. Younger people are awed by its solemnity.
In 1988, Pope John Paul II gave permission for the Latin Mass to be celebrated in its traditional form with the consent of the local bishop. Today, 194 parishes across the United States, including one in Fort Worth, celebrate at least one such Mass a month, according to the Latin Mass Society, an association that promotes the traditional Mass.
Sixty-nine other parishes celebrate the modern Mass in Latin; 28 more celebrate a hybrid Mass of Latin and English.
That's still a tiny fraction of the nation's 19,000 Catholic churches, but it's a resilient group, increasingly made up of people ages 50 and younger.
"There's an innate desire for otherworldliness," said William J. Leininger, president of the Latin Liturgy Association in Staten Island, N.Y. "When you go into God's temple, you want to use another language than you would at McDonald's."
In Fort Worth, attendance at a weekly Latin Mass has grown to about 200 parishioners, said Gerald Kramer of Fort Worth, who was part of a group of Catholics that, in 1989, petitioned the diocese for permission to organize a Latin Mass locally. The bishop approved, and Mass was held for several years at St. Francis Village. Kramer said congregants came from far and wide, including one man who drove to Fort Worth from Louisiana each Saturday evening.
In September 1992, the Latin Mass was moved to St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, where it is still held each Sunday afternoon for a mix of old and young congregants. On the second and fourth Sundays, a specially trained choir sings the complete high Mass in Gregorian chant.
"We get a lot of young familes with small children," Kramer said. "Younger people really cherish the Gregorian chant. Even if they never grew up with the old Mass, they find it very inspiring.
"Others come because they miss the good, old music," he says.
The Fort Worth Latin Mass group keeps reprints of the 1962 Catholic missal at the back of the church for visitors to use during services.
The traditional Mass holds a special place in Kramer's life.
"I grew up with it, and I just think it's very reverent," Kramer says of hearing the rites spoken and sung in Latin. "I think it preserves the sacred -- for me, anyway."
Although the early Christians spoke Greek (one of the earliest languages of the New Testament), Latin has been the lingua franca of the church since the middle of the fourth century. For that reason, many see it as the sacred language of the Christian Church, much as Hebrew is sacred to Jews and Arabic to Muslims.
To some, like Frank Korzekwinski of New Bern, N.C., it is the only language deserving of the Mass. The 76-year-old was one of nearly 200 who signed a petition saying they would attend a Latin Mass if it were offered in the North Carolina diocese.
Fortunately for Korzekwinski, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman allowed the Rev. Paul Parkerson to celebrate Mass in Latin. Parkerson, a 33-year-old convert, is pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Dunn.
Raised in a Baptist Church tradition, Parkerson fell in love with Roman Catholicism as an undergraduate at Campbell University.
"You could tell there was something much greater than the local customs of a particular culture," he said. "You had the sense it was something universal."
Parkerson said the response to the recently initiated Latin Mass was overwhelmingly positive.
"People want to step into a piece of heaven," he said. "We make that very hard with the way we build our churches and the mundane and banal way we have worshipped."
It's not that Parkerson is switching wholesale to Latin. He will continue to celebrate Mass in English and Spanish most Sundays, and the Latin Mass will be celebrated once a month.
Nor does he think the modern liturgy is lacking. But he said the Latin Mass has given him a richer understanding of why the modern Mass is celebrated as it is.
And he's won a group of admirers willing to make the trek to Dunn.
"A lot of traditional Catholics feel marginalized and alienated from the life of the parish and the hierarchy," Parkerson said. "I feel like God is asking me to minister to these people. If I can do something for them, and the bishop will allow me, I'll do it."
Where you can attend Latin Mass
Traditional Tridentine Mass in Latin is celebrated at 5:30 p.m. Sundays at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 509 Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. Low Mass is celebrated the first and third Sundays; high Mass (sung in Gregorian chant) is the second and fourth Sundays of the month. Latin/English missals are provided for visitors. For more information, call (817) 923-1911.
In Dallas, daily Latin Mass is celebrated at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 8 a.m. Saturday at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 6303 Kenwood Ave. On Sunday, the Latin Mass is at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Chapel of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, 600 S. Flowers Ave., at the intersection of Flowers and Jefferson Boulevard.
All Masses, including the weekly Fort Worth service, are led by the Rev. Christopher Hathaway
Best part of the article!
Actually, attendance was as high as 300 people at one time; it's been on the decline for the last three years.
Here a further important point must be mentioned, a decree of the Council not only misunderstood but also completely denied: the language of worship. I am very well acquainted with the argument. As an expert on the commission for the seminaries, I was entrusted with the question of the Latin language. It proved to be brief and concise and after lengthy discussion was brought to a form which complied with the wishes of all members and was ready for presentation in the Council hall. Then, in an unexpected solemnity, Pope John XXIII signed the Apostolic Letter Veterum Sapientia on the altar of St. Peter. According to the opinion of the commission, that made superfluous the Council's declaration on Latin in the Church. (In the document not only the relationship of the Latin language to the liturgy, but also all its other functions in the life of the Church, were pronounced upon.)
As the subject of the language of worship was discussed in the Council hall over the course of several days, I followed the process with great attention, as well as later the various wordings of the Liturgy Constitution until the final vote. I still remember very well how after several radical proposals a Sicilian bishop rose and implored the fathers to allow caution and reason to reign on this point, because otherwise there would be the danger that the entire Mass might be held in the language of the people-whereupon the entire hall burst into uproarious laughter. (Alfons Cardinal Stickler, "Recollections of a Vatican II Peritus")
Bl. John XXIII ordered bishops to suppress all dissent by anyone who "writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the Liturgy" (Veterum Sapientia). It's really quite bizarre that he has been elevated into a saint of liberalism.
That's because the FSSP has three Masses in the area each Sunday that draw large crowds.
Two Masses. And the crowds are not huge. I know the chapel at the Carmelite Center. It holds 100 people.
Three Masses. You forgot the one in Ft. Worth on Sunday evenings at St Mary of the Assumption Church. Lat time I went to the Carmelite Center it was so crowded I had to stand.
If there were 125 people at the Carmelite Center, you had to stand.
Thanks for weighing in with the truth.
Are you from DFW?
You're correct, of course. The Council never envisioned that things would go as far as they eventually did. It is quite common now for Masses to be said without a single word of Latin. That's not how it was meant to be.
Bumpus ad summum
The FSSP Mass was not approved by the bishops?
I'm going to disagree and say they knew EXACTLY what they were doing and that making Catholicism just one more denomination was the main goal. The whole picture seems to say that there has been a 225+ year effort to undermine and destroy the church from the inside and this was the best effort that's been made. That there were people at the council who were used and honestly didn't know it is a distinct possibility, though.
Yes, and when I went and visited Dallas and tried to find the Carmelite center so my family and my sister-in-law's family went, we couldn't even find the stupid place. I went to two places (the Sister of Charity and one other), but couldn't find the actual location of the Mass as it was not listed on any website and the sisters do not want it "advertised." This might be for a good reason, but I went two hours prior to the Mass and could not find; and I was bound and determined to find it. Looks like Bishop Graham is really concerned about assisting us in a "wide and generous" application of the indult. Cannot advertise and those in good faith who want to attend cannot even find it. And the FSSP priest says daily Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas church in one of the most ritzy parts of Dallas, but they cannot find a slot for the Sunday Mass there, huh?
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