Skip to comments.Youth behind resurgence of ancient Catholic ritual
Posted on 09/26/2004 5:34:44 AM PDT by tridentine
With the aroma of incense hovering, the Rev. Eduardo Garcia lifts the communion wafer toward heaven, reciting, "Hoc est enim corpus meum."
As the prayer echoes through St. Peter's Catholic Church in Volo, 15-year-old Beth Gammel says this is the moment she feels closest to God.
She doesn't understand Latin, but the book she holds translates Garcia's prayer: "For this is my body."
For Gammel and a growing number of young people, the once traditional Latin Mass provides a connection to the divine unmatched by any contemporary service.
The Catholic rite dating from the 5th century had almost faded into oblivion after Vatican reforms in the 1960s, which included an official ban on its use. But since Pope John Paul lifted the ban in 1984, it's thriving in Volo and being revived across the country, with young families leading the way.
The Rev. Donald Dietz, a priest at St. Peter's, says he's seeing a growing number of young people coming to Volo from as far as Marengo and Palatine.
"It's not just gray-headed folks. We're getting younger families who were born after 1964. It's an amazing thing to see," Dietz said.
St. Peter's is one of several churches offering the Mass in the dioceses that serve Chicago and its suburbs. Dietz says they have 150 people attending each Sunday, and the number is growing.
The two Chicago parishes are reporting increases, too. St. Thomas More Church on the South Side is getting 300 people a week. Nearly 1,000 folks show up to St. John Cantius on the Near West Side for two Sunday services. A fourth church, St. Gelasius near Hyde Park in Chicago, will offer daily and Sunday Latin Masses as soon as its building renovation project is complete.
At a time when churches are competing to attract the Gen-X crowd, what's the draw of this more traditional practice?
"The Mass has an intensity you don't normally see," Garcia said. "The art, the music, the chanting connects the people to God in a deep and mysterious way."
Garcia says he believes young people "crave a closeness to the Lord" and need a sense of permanence in a chaotic society.
Dietz agrees. "We're constantly bombarded with change, change, change," he laments. "The Mass is like a rock, a source of stability in a noisy world."
The revival isn't just in the Chicago area, home to nearly 3.5 million Catholics. The comeback is happening across the country.
"There is definitely a resurgence of the Latin rite," said Mary Kraychy. She heads a group called Coalition Ecclesia Dei in Glenview. The organization is a clearinghouse for issues related to the Latin Mass.
In 1990, six dioceses in the nation offered the Mass, Kraychy said. That number has now climbed to 120. The newest additions are in Michigan, South Carolina and Arizona. Kraychy's group says it hopes to see the Latin Mass eventually offered in all the nation's 180 dioceses.
It's Kraychy's sense there's been a "snowball effect" over the last dozen or so years. "Now that people have had some time to see what effect the reforms would have, they're returning to a more God-centered service," she said.
Yet some see the trend as more worrisome - a move they say is a step back to a time when women had even less a role in the church than they do today, a time when rigidity took the place of a more humane view of real life and faith.
"This isn't a trend we would welcome with open arms," said Crystal Chan. "What underlying message is being sent to the laity, especially women?"
Chan is with Call to Action, a Chicago-based group whose mission is to "work for equality and justice in the church and society," according to the group's Web site.
"The nature of the Latin rite encourages the laity to revert back to a powerless position," she said. "We need to embrace the rituals we have now. There isn't a need to return to the Middle Ages."
Inside St. Peter's church, the tone is hushed. The shuffling of pages and an occasional cough are the only distractions from the pews where many of the women wear traditional veils that were standard for females during Mass more than 40 years ago.
That stillness suits parishioner John McLinn just fine. "The Mass isn't a place for back-slapping, laughing and joking around," said the Wonder Lake man. "It's not a picnic. People forget that."
In a culture where people are accustomed to living in 30-second intervals, the long silences in the Latin rite may seem like an eternity. But for others, it's refreshing.
"The incense, solemnity and holiness of the Mass are powerful," said Mark Covalt, 31, of Palatine. The recent convert to Catholicism and the Latin Mass says he comes out of church "absolutely revitalized."
The service is also called the Tridentine Mass, referring to the formalizing of the liturgy at the Council of Trent in the 1500s.
It's that sense of antiquity that impresses Gammel, a sophomore at Grayslake High School. "The fact that it's ancient gives it a sense of importance," she said. "I feel like I can defend the tradition with confidence."
Except for the homily, or sermon, the entire service is in Latin; either spoken or chanted in Gregorian style. Far from being a hindrance, proponents say the language is incorruptible by modern vernacular and serves as a unifying force across cultures.
Alter server Matt Carlson, 17, of Hawthorn Woods says Latin adorns the service. "For a dead language, it's really beautiful," he said.
Magazines such as Latin Mass Quarterly and other support organizations like Une Voce have formed in recent years hoping to keep the tradition strong.
The Rev. Anthony Brankin of St. Thomas More says he believes the counterculture nature of the Mass is its strength.
"It's a no-nonsense, no-fluff way to honor God," he said. "There isn't room for the priest to get creative. It's so unhip, it's hip."
At a time when churches are competing to attract the Gen-X crowd, what's the draw of this more traditional practice?
As a non-Catholic, I could only hazard a guess. It could be that the use of Latin adds to the mystery of religion something that is lacking in the English Mass.
This must be encouraging to all of you. It is certainly good news. Many, many years ago, Fr. Louis (Thomas Merton) wrote about the dangers of the then, as he saw it, fast paced world where there was no time to be alone with God. How much worse are things today, especially for the young. The Latin Mass, with its sense of the sacred, its sense of other worldliness, can provide a respite, however brief, from a terrifying world and an opportunity to advance in Theosis.
Isn't it a shame, however, that people like Chan, who clearly have no concept of what is really going on at the Latin Mass, indeed even what it is (Middle Ages indeed!) insist on advancing the most mundane of modern concerns within the context of an essentially divine and eternal undertaking; something which occurs absolutely off the human timeline. As an Orthodox Christian, please forgive me for saying that your bishops ought to do something about that mentality.
Thanks for posting this!
People have been starved for a long time - they are hungry for God and are seeking what they need as if by instinct, thats one of the draws.
I couldn't agree more -- however, it shames me to observe that the great majority of our bishops SHARE that mentality.
Ideas, for most people, are like clothing: They just pick up whatever is on sale, no matter how eccentric or inappropriate. (Think of the outfits you wore in the 70s.) The bishops and the senior clergy are nearly all frozen in a 1960s time warp since most of them haven't read anything since their seminary days -- and they can't imagine (much less face)the likely fact that Rahner, Kung, Schillebeeckx, Sobrino, Gutierrez, McCormick, et al. will not pass the test of time.
And neither, frankly, will most of the "teachings" of Pope John's Council.
Latin is to the Catholic Church what the Declaration of Independence is to America. As President Lincoln said:
When we celebrate the Fourth of July, Lincoln told his listeners in Chicago, we celebrate the founders, "our fathers and grandfathers," those "iron men...But after we have done this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these mendescended by blood from our ancestorsamong us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from EuropeGerman, Irish, French and Scandinavian...finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and then they feel that the moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are."
For too long I have watched churches change from places of worship to places of entertainment.
You could have a valid point.
Years ago, I imagined how satisfying it must be to go to a Catholic service any place in the world and hearing the same Mass I would have heard at home.
It seemed to make such good sense. And I wasn't a Catholic.
Yup, they are starving for the TRUTH. I WANT to hear fire and brimstone homilies. I want the priest to preach against abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, contracepton, etc etc etc.
I tire of the fluffy make you feel good sermons. I want some meat and potatoes, darn it.
The last time I heard one of those it was from an African priest, probably newly ordained. The africans don't mince words... it was wonderful. I felt like I had gone to a banquet and actually was fed (in addition to the Eucharist of course).
They try to say that "honey attracts more flies than vinegar" with all this "love, love, love" they preach -well, I've got news for them, too much honey makes you sick.........then you NEED vinegar to purge and nourish!
They made great inroads and now these same folks tell us that "you can never go back again". Many people took up this statement and adopted it as a universal Truth. On a micro level there is a lot of truth in the statement;however,we are talking macro,and since God never changes nor does the nature of man,we CAN go back and successfully re-establish anything that captures the truth,beauty and goodness of God's relationship with His creation and/or mans' relationship to God.
The Tridentine Mass captures that essence and I pray that it will continue to be offered with increasing frequency to all Catholics in every diocese in the world,if it's offered,they will come.
From someone I know who attends St John Cantius, the NO masses there are also quite traditional, using the rails for communionm, the Latin NO facing the altar, and of course no altar girls and no EMHCs, and they are well attended. Also one should not forget in Chicago, the Opus Dei ran St. Mary of the Angels that also uses the rails for communion and uses no EMHCs with a large number of young adults. Be it NO celebrated in a traditional manner or TLM missal, more traditional forms of liturgy have the substance that many young adults are looking for.
I understand the sentiment to your statement, so please don't take this as an assault, but I see this all the time and it needs to be addressed.
People always quickly point out how "beautful" the Novus Ordo is when done "correctly", and point out that they are drawing crowds at these also- people looking for more traditional forms of worship.
The only problem with this is that the people are being deceived and are focusing on the accidents, or the externals. The Novus Ordo, done in Latin, English, or Swahili, was created in the 1960's to upset the order of the entire traditional system of belief, from the Mass to the Theology. People learned fast enough that what was once fixed and uncompromising, could now be questioned and replaced. It was a synthetic replacement for the authentic tradition of the Catholic Church.
I am not here questioning the validity. The new mass is valid (all other things being equal), but it is not a substitute for the traditional mass no matter how well it is "decorated". At it's core it is based on a new theology, new prayers, a new calendar, and an open license to adapt it constantly to "modern man". Such a thing can not be seen as an acceptable replacement for the rock which came before it.
Excellent! Well said!
Bump to an excellent good news thread.
That connection is so desperately needed by many catholics!
Thanks for posting this article!
Wake up Miss Chan! From 'ourladyswarriors' web site:
A Call to Action
The most visible dissenting group which is a movement of laity and religious seeking to reform the "sinful structure" of the "patriarchal" Church. One could call them the "mother of all dissenting groups" - feminist pun intended. CTA is infamous since its 1994 conference coverage on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. CTA promotes dissent against Church teachings on a broad front, including women's ordination, homosexuality, creation spirituality, married priesthood, and liturgical reforms, while incorporating new age and Wiccan spirituality. Bishop Bruskewitz excommunicated those that belong to this group in his Diocese. Many members belong to local groups called "small faith communities." Renew 2000 also promotes small faith communities. Membership draws heavily from former clergy, feminist nuns, and homosexuals. Members staff COR. CTA serves on the national task force for the We Are Church referendum. Get a more complete understanding of their position from their own information. For a list of their speakers at the 2004 conference, click here.
The comparison is so appropriate, as Lincoln's words capture the spiritual meaning of your words:
"Latin is to the Catholic Church what the Declaration of Independence is to America".
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