Why I love Mass in Latin by Indira Sweeny
Young and Old in Diocese Are Drawn to Latin Mass By Linda Busetti
Letters to the Editor
(Text is copied below in case links die)
Why I Love Mass in Latin By Indira Sweeny
The new motu proprio Summorum Pontificum has received a surprising amount of media attention given its obscure topic: the “old Mass,” the Mass as it was celebrated up until 1970.
This Mass is often – and inaccurately – called the “Latin Mass” (the missal of the “new Mass” of the 1970s is also written in Latin). Its basic form and language is over 1,500 years old. As the Holy Father notes, the Latin Mass was never officially forbidden. Due to the rush to “reform” everything in the 1970s, however, it became virtually extinct in a matter of years and could be found only “outside” the Church, in splinter groups of Catholics who held onto the old ways. This situation began to change in the 1980s when John Paul II asked bishops to allow the Latin Mass to be celebrated in their dioceses once more for those Catholics who might desire it. Over the past 37 years, however, as the Holy Father writes in his letter to the bishops, “…in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience… I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”
People often ask me what I find so compelling about the Latin Mass since I didn’t grow up with it and am not a Latin scholar. It was many years of “creativity” and “arbitrary deformations of the liturgy” that drove me to find a different liturgy in which Communion was still valid – and what I found was the Latin Mass. My first experiences at this Mass were like those of Paul Claudel (20th-century poet and Catholic convert) who wrote: “It was the most profound and grandiose poetry, enhanced by the most august gestures ever confided to human beings. I could not sufficiently satiate myself with the spectacle of the Mass.” I had never seen anything so beautiful nor read any prayers so devout. My heart was singing, like St. Augustine’s, “Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new.”
Ironically, the things that people criticize about the old Mass are some of the things I love the most. I love that the priest’s back is to us because we’re all facing the same way – to the East, whence Christ will someday return. We are all offering the sacrifice together. I love that the Mass is in Latin, the language of the Church, even though I understand very little of it when I listen to it. But that’s what the Missal is for!
It is not only lay people who love the Latin Mass. Many young priests and nuns are devoted to it. Latin Mass religious orders cannot accommodate all the men and women who want to join them. In June, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter held a series of training camps for secular priests who wished to learn the old Mass – the flood of requests received was so great that more camps are being planned for the near future.
My heart is full when I think of what the Holy Father has done by giving us Summorum Pontificum. As a priest wrote to me last week: “The world has changed; I’m sure in ways that it is hard to see at this point in time. God has no doubt prepared Ratzinger his whole life for this moment.” Te Deum Laudamus – We praise you God.
Young and Old in Diocese Are Drawn to Latin Mass By Linda Busetti
It is not only older pre-Vatican II folks who attend the traditional Tridentine liturgy in Latin on Sundays at Our Lady of Peace Church in Park Slope.
Little Cassie Ryan’s pink T-shirt with the words “I go Tridentine” was a gift for her baptism at Our Lady of Peace.
The weekly congregation of anywhere from 50 to 100 includes older women wearing mantillas as well as young couples with children.
According to longtime congregant Dorothy McMahon, permission was granted for the Mass from the 1962 Missal in Latin to be celebrated at Precious Blood Monastery around 1988. Msgr. James Asip was assigned to coordinate celebration of the Indult Mass. For a few years the Latin Mass was celebrated at the chapel of the former motherhouse of the Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor, Park Slope, which is now a diocesan office building.
On May 30, 1993, the traditional Latin Mass began to be celebrated at Our Lady of Peace, where it continues on Sundays at 10 a.m.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio named Father James Massa coordinator of the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in the diocese in August, 2005. Father Massa, who is now executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, travels most weekends from Washington, D.C., to celebrate the Latin rite at Our Lady of Peace.
Father Massa said he was in one of the first ordination classes “who have no memory of Mass before Vatican II.” He had to be “tutored in the 1962 Missal in the rubrics of the Tridentine Mass.”
“Among young Catholics who practice their faith there is a yearning for many of the traditional elements of piety and worship that were rashly dispensed with after Vatican II,” Father Massa said.
He believes, “the usage of the Tridentine rite… will continue to attract younger people, but not in such numbers that it will exceed the Vatican II Mass.” He has performed baptisms in Latin and “I look forward to doing weddings.”
Before the celebration of the Latin Mass, Peter Cardillo takes the prayer cards from the altar in the center of the sanctuary and places them on the altar before the tabernacle. Cardillo has assisted at the Mass since the late Msgr. Asip was coordinator.
Arriving for Mass were Angela and Vincent Toner from Woodside, who have attended the Mass in Latin in Brooklyn for 18 years. “This is the Mass we grew up with,” Angela says, “The Mass we are familiar with and we both love.”
Jimmy Yazzo of Park Slope has been coming for eight years. Yazzo, who used to be an altar boy, said, “I just love this Mass.”
It was the first time that Peter Barker and his sister had come, although Barker lives only blocks away. “My sister heard about it,” the native of Ireland said. He said he came “to reconnect” with the “spirituality” of the Latin Mass.
Joan Bennett heard about the Latin Mass on The Prayer Channel seven or eight years ago. “I just love the Latin Mass,” she said explaining that the reverence made her feel closer to Christ.
Sara Lentz is a convert from Protestantism and used to attend a Latin Mass at St. Agnes in Manhattan. For the past three years, the young woman who wears a mantilla has been coming to Our Lady of Peace. She says she can “count on the homilies at the Latin Masses to follow conservative Catholic teaching.”
Barbara Puleo and her family, including two teenagers, come from Staten Island. “I grew up with the Latin Mass,” she explains. Puleo says it is hard to find one in Staten Island. She has been coming to Brooklyn for the Tridentine Mass since 1988. Her daughter, 16, and son, 15, received all their sacraments in Latin.
Just before Mass began, Father Massa greeted the Ryans from Bay Ridge with little Cassie in her stroller.
About 60 congregants sat spread widely around the church as Father Massa entered the sanctuary to the ringing of bells. With his back to the congregation he proceeded to read the prayers of the liturgy in Latin. The congregation followed along in a red paperback missal with English on one side and Latin on the other.
“In the Latin Mass there seems to be more holiness,” McMahon said. “The priest faces the tabernacle, not the people. There are less distractions.”
Father Massa said earlier, “It is important to see the two Missals as a continuous development of the Roman rite” which should not be “in opposition.”
People in Queens found it difficult to drive all the way to Park Slope and requested a Latin Mass there. Bishop DiMarzio granted permission about a year and a half ago for the Latin Mass to be celebrated at St. John’s Cemetery Chapel, Middle Village.
One participant did not want his name used because some people might see attending a Latin Mass as going against Vatican II. He said that as a college student he had originally started attending a Latin Mass at St. Agnes, Manhattan, in 1989. He was immediately struck by the “depth to it …what the Mass should be on many levels, spiritually, aesthetically and intellectually.” The Third Order Carmelite said he was attracted by the “contemplative” nature of the Mass. “There was more silence and interior participation in the heart.”
He said about 50-60 people come to the Mass in Queens, which is celebrated by Father Joseph Wilson of St. Margaret’s parish, Middle Village, on the second and fourth Sundays of each month at 9 a.m. The summer schedule is July 22, Aug. 12 and Aug. 26.
He said that people come from Bayside, Whitestone, Woodside, and Long Island as well as Middle Village. There is a diverse congregation of Chinese, Koreans, Polish, Italians and Indians.
Many of the congregants are young couples and families, he said. “Young people see a certain spiritual poverty in the world,” he said. “When they go to church they want to be raised above it.
“Latin unites everyone,” he said.
Reactions to Latin Liturgy
Dear Editor: I am writing to wholeheartedly support the recent document of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI of the “Roman” Catholic Church authorizing parish priests to celebrate the Tridentine (“Old Latin”) Mass.
Ecclesiastical Latin is truly our Catholic language dating back to the time of St. Jerome (c. 340-420 A.D.) and St. Ambrose (340-397 A.D.) — St. Jerome’s Holy Bible — and developing, through borrowing and assimilation, from koine Greek (i.e., the language of the New Testament) and Hebrew into the fruits of canon law, papal bulls, the Latin of the liturgy of the Mass and Ambrosian hymns, and the Latin of the scholastic philosophers, particularly the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Ecclesiastical Latin is not to be confounded with classical Latin, although they both share the same vocabulary, forms, and syntax, since ecclesiastical Latin is a dynamic language, borrowing words and assimilating constructions from the original koine Greek, thus adapting Latin words to the authentic theological meanings of the New Testament as written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the evangelists.
The Church is temporally characterized by disunity precisely because of the plethora of biblical translations and interpretations in the vernacular since the time of Luther’s German Bible. Ecclesiastical Latin only serves to unify the Catholic Church in word and act comparably with the Greek of Orthodox Christianity, the Hebrew of Orthodox Judaism, and the Arabic of Islam.
I would like to encourage English-speaking Catholics to study Latin — perhaps the introduction of Latin language classes in our local parishes would be an excellent ministry — so that we could appreciate the richness of our Latin heritage. The English language owes its evolutionary versatility to Latin and French, with over 60% of the roots, prefixes and suffixes of Modern English having been derived from Latin after the Norman French conquest of England in 1066 A.D.
Our Latin heritage is linguistic, political, legal, scientific, medical, literary, artistic, philosophic and religious. What higher sense of awe can a Catholic feel when saying, “Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam?” (“I will go unto the altar of God. To God Who makes my youth joyous?”) (Old Latin Mass liturgy).
John F. Collins’ A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1991) shall be an excellent resource as we embark on a learning experience of who we are as “Roman” Catholics. Now is the time to thank His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for giving us the opportunity to experience our Catholic language and heritage.
Joseph N. ManagoBriarwood
Dear Editor: I thank God for the action of the Holy Father in the unrestricted reinstatement of the traditional Latin Mass.
I pray that the piety and solemnity of the Mass will influence the celebration of the Novus Ordo which as late as last Sunday, July 1st was celebrated in my parish in the fashion of a three-ring circus: band of musicians in the place where the side altar once stood, the main aisle dance of the pastor as he walked up, down and side to side to deliver his homily, and the constant “editorializing” by the celebrant during the parts of the Mass including a fussy and wordy call to the prayer in the words Our Lord taught us, and finally the excessive use of the additional terms “boys and girls” as well as “brothers and sisters.”
Let us hope that such nonsense will be eliminated and the focus of the Mass be less on the “personal performance” of the celebrant and more on the gift of the Eucharist.
Dear Editor: Pope Benedict has authorized a more amplified use of the Tridentine Rite of the Eucharist. The Holy Father also assures all that this ‘nod’ to traditionalists ought not to be a source of worry.
I am writing to you because it is a source of worry for me. Our public worship is the manner in which the Body of Christ in this day sacramentally joins the eternal passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. This is the celebration in which the fullness of human nature and the entire universe is inspired, nourished, and promised. This is the awe and the mystery. Awe and mystery are not better proclaimed in Latin than in any language whatsoever. No language can truly express the “depth and breadth of the wisdom and the knowledge of God.”
If a ‘nod’ may be given to traditionalists, may a ‘nod’ not also be given to single parents, mothers or fathers; to divorced, or re-married baptized; to adults seeking a voice in the community of the Church into which they are baptized, which baptism bestows all the rights and privileges thereof?
What about a ‘nod’ to children in foster care, or those who are orphans?What about parishioners who find themselves compelled into a new community by a process into which they have had no input? What about a ‘nod’ opening community sharing and hoping for an extension of the service of priesthood in the Body of Christ?
A further reason for my worry is that our baptized brothers and sisters are very distressed by the constant changes or rumors of changes in our public worship. Latin Masses, new translations, new “do’s and don’ts” seem to present a constant flow of unease for us. There are so many things unnerving these days: fewer priests; unavailable bishops; friends who are leaving the community; children who reject outright the attempts to pass on the faith; many who regard the practices of the faith — for example First Communion and Confirmation — as merely ‘cultural’ signposts.
Would that the revelation of the eternal, overwhelming, awesome, unconditional love of our Father be shared among us at this time of our world, with our technology and our lack of or appreciation of our own human dignity.
Brother James Loxham, FSC Brooklyn
Dear Editor: As someone who attends the Tridentine Rite (TR) — it’s the rite that’s important, not the language: the Novus Ordo (NO) rite is, after all, a Latin rite — however, I am sensitive to the words reporters use when writing about it.
Vatican II didn’t “open a door” to the NO so much as slam the door on the TR (codified in the 16th Century, as you say, but parts of what it codifies can be traced back to the fourth century). The TR was suppressed with the same authority that some prelates now fear the new papal document will undermine. As those responsible for the suppression were not overly concerned about the pastoral impact of their liturgical revolution, we should not take seriously the concern their successors feign over the impact of a counter-revolutionary move.
The nearly universal alienation of today’s Catholics from their immemorial Rite is what makes the papal initiative merely a benign gesture that will change nothing unless Benedict sets an example by his actions.
Dear Editor: I have worked and worshiped in many parishes. I have attended Mass in Italian, Spanish, Creole, English, and Chinese. I have seen language communities fight with one another in a parish. I have attended theology classes that focus basically on social justice. I have read about the Church torn apart by scandal. I pray to Mary and St. Joseph and see all the numerous cultural celebrations. I have heard people praise and complain. I saw church real estate sold.
But reading the article about the Tridentine Mass made me focus on only one aspect of the Church. Strip away everything and focus only on the sacrifice of the Mass.
Until the pope, hierarchy, and priests focus on the Blessed Sacrament and teach the laity to do the same all will fail, as it has in other parishes. Nothing is possible without Christ in the Hoy Eucharist and the belief and teaching about His presence!
Dear Editor: I think the title of the letter (June 23) should have read “The Beauty of Latin.” You see Latin was the “vernacular” of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.
At a time when world travel has become so common, it is indeed ironic that the Church should see fit to practically delete its use. For anyone who traveled, it was always comforting to be able to participate in the Mass in a language familiar to them, whether in Europe or the Americas.
Latin was like the metric system – beautiful - for those who took the time to understand it or who used their missals. For just as the metric system is feared by those who are ignorant of its beauty, so also in many instances the same can be said of Latin.
I feel confident that if Latin was reintroduced with the same reverence used prior to its general exclusion, Mass attendance would increase. The world needs a continuance of a liturgy that was used for hundreds of years. It was comforting to the weary traveler as well as the newly-converted. It set liturgy apart from the common vernacular.
Thomas C. CullinaneBayside Text is copied below in case the links expire)