Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Cause for Celebration

~from the Tampa Tribune
The moment Cardinal Ratzinger emerged on the balcony at St. Peter's Square as successor to the late Pope John Paul II, Mary Kraychy knew her long wait was over.

"The Latin Mass is free again!" she thought that spring day in 2005.

Kraychy had reason to celebrate. As executive director of the Chicago-based Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei, she leads a national organization of Latin Mass enthusiasts.

She knew that Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI - favored making the mostly obsolete traditional Latin Mass accessible again. He would likely make that a priority during his tenure as spiritual leader to the world's 1 billion Catholics.

The new pope did not disappoint.

On Friday, Benedict's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, launches a new era, borrowed from an old one. The letter directs that, as of that day, clergy will no longer need special permission to celebrate the Trindentine Mass. The thoroughly Latin Roman rite reigned from the mid-1500s until the 1960s.

The directive does not spell the end of the Norvus Ordo (New Order) Mass commonly celebrated by Catholics in the vernacular, or language of the local people. That wasn't the intention of Latin Mass supporters, who felt alienated when the rite was essentially replaced by the Second Vatican Council with a common-language liturgy and a new Roman Catholic missal.

"It won't be forced down anyone's throat, the way the English Mass was," Kraychy says. "We know the feeling, and we don't wish that upon anyone.

"Let the two versions peacefully co-exist. That's all we ever really wanted."

Looking For Something Different

On Sunday mornings, Don and Kristen Beard get an early start to feed and dress their four children - ages 6, 4, 3 and 1. The couple load up their Chevy Tahoe, securing each child in a car seat, for the hourlong drive from Zephyrhills to St. Petersburg.

Although they pass several Catholic churches along the way, none will do. They are headed for the Latin Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, which draws about 200 people a week.

"It's so worth it," says Kristen, 41. "It's so beautiful, so holy and so sacred."

And so different from how they worshipped most of their lives.

Don was raised Methodist; Kristen, Lutheran. After lots of long talks with a Catholic friend, they began exploring the faith through classes and study. In April 2000, they converted.

That same friend introduced them to the Latin Mass, where the priest faces east on the altar, his back to the people. He follows a rite that for centuries bound together millions of Catholics around the world.

Such a Mass has been hard to find in recent decades. The Second Vatican's New Order rules also required that the traditional Mass be celebrated only with the diocesan bishop's permission and only by clergy ordained before 1970. That so limited options that a group of traditionalists broke with the Vatican in 1988 and formed the Society of St. Pius X. Its estimated 600,000 members have attended Latin services ever since.

At this sacred celebration of the Eucharist, only men can serve at the altar, and female congregants must cover their heads. It was all the Beards imagined.

"It resonated with me," says Don, 39, director of packaging for Vitality Food Service. "As newcomers to Catholicism, we spent a lot of time studying the early church. This seemed to be the way it's supposed to be."

It doesn't matter that they don't speak the language. The missal has the English version on one side, the Latin on the other, and it includes illustrations so worshipers can visually follow along.

A New Generation

The Beards are among a growing number of young families who choose this service - though they never experienced it during its heyday. With restrictions lifting Friday, some observers predict the experience won't be sought just by old-school Catholics yearning for the old days. They foresee a surge in attendance by a new generation.

"I didn't even know it existed growing up," says lifelong Catholic Phil Eastman, 34, a pilot for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. He and his wife, Amy, 34, bring their children - ages 5, 4, 3 and 1 - from south Tampa to St. Jude the Apostle every Sunday.

Eastman goes to Latin Masses whenever he's on the road, and he says the young congregants always far outnumber the older ones. Although the services are filled with small children and babies, it's a reverent experience, he says.

His wife agrees. "I think the Mass speaks to the children as well. They're much quieter here," she says. "People dress more modestly, and there are fewer distractions. It's just a holier atmosphere."

It's a distinct contrast to the contemporary Masses offered today, some of which include rock music, casual attire, liturgical dance and clergy telling folksy stories from the altar.

Michael Brennan, 64, says Pope Benedict's decision to bring "legitimacy" to an ages-old church tradition was the right one. It allows the pope to re-emphasize that Vatican II and the new Mass were not a break with the past but rather another form of worship more suited to some believers.

He's not among them, though.

"The other Masses seem like a pop fest to me now," says Brennan, a retired nurse.
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Alarms in Discursions said...

Yes it will be great, as long as some bishops don't attempt to thwart the intent of the motu propio.

Anonymous said...

I'm so saddened the Motu Proprio has received a very chilly reception by our bishop. He and other priests have publicly pooh-poohed it as something being done to assuage the malcontents within the Church.