A friend alerted me to the following from Arizona:
Latin Mass makes a return to the Valley
by John Faherty – Oct. 12, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Standing outside the church, Marie Shoban stops to make sure her head is covered properly.
Then she checks her four young daughters to ensure that their veils are also in place.
Shoban, 44, and her husband, Mark, are attending a Latin Mass.
The service is solemn, ritualistic, and intelligible to only a very few. [I deny the premise. It might be that not very many understand all the Latin without the help of a side-by-side translation. It certainly is the case that people know what is going on and that something very important is taking place.]
But for the Shobans, and others who kneel in the pews, the Mass offers reverence and awe in a time when almost nothing seems sacred. [Well put.]
It offers quiet in a loud world. [I am reminded that C.S. Lewis's Screwtape looked forward to the hideous constant noise that would reign in hell.]
They find comfort in the constancy of the Mass because the world around them is changing faster than they can keep track.
The Latin Mass, a relic from the 16th century, [First, let's not call it "the Latin Mass", which is misleading. Second, it is not a "relic": it is alive and well. Third, this is far older in its structure than the 16th c.] is returning to churches across the Valley, the nation and the world one year after Pope Benedict XVI loosened restrictions on priests performing it.
The irony, of course, is that it has become relevant again by not changing at all. [Well said.]
So the women cover their heads with veils or manilas as a sign of respect. The priest turns his back to the congregation so he can face the altar, which represents God. [He has turned around, not turned his back on people.]
The sound of Gregorian chants fills the church.
"There is a desire for a return to a better place," [I like the qualification "better".] said Richard Rosengarten, dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School.
"It’s not fundamentalism, but the impulse that fundamentalism reflects – of recovering something – is very strong."
For the Shoban family, the Mass offers a time to think and pray and be still.
"It’s the Mass of the saints; it’s perfect," said Shoban of Chandler, who comes to St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in central Phoenix each Sunday.
"If they don’t change anything, I know that’s OK." [This is an important element. Constant change gave people the impression that everything could change and that what there was was not so important.]
A change to tradition
The Latin Mass makes sense to some people as a bulwark against change.
It is nearly the exact same Mass as the one established by the Catholic Church during the Council of Trent in 1563.
For 400 years, Catholics around the globe sat through the same services.
In the 1960s, the church held the Second Vatican Council, and one of the results of the conference was a series of significant changes to the Mass.
The priest, who always had his back to the congregation, [grrr The writer seems particularly focused on this, however. Which is interesting. That is because this position is immediately sensed to be significant.] would face the faithful and address them in their own language, not Latin.
There would be modern music, [Umm... there was modern music for the older form of Mass too.] and lay people would be encouraged to take part in the services.
The old Latin Mass was never banned by the church, but Vatican II made sure it could be said only with permission from a bishop.
With that, the Latin service was placed on a shelf and quickly started gathering dust.
In July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued his Motu Proporio, a decree, which loosened restrictions on the Latin Mass.
He wrote, in Latin: "In parishes where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass."
Suddenly, any priest, or parish, could perform the Mass without getting permission from a bishop.
It turned out there was an audience – and not just of people who remember the Mass from their youth and felt nostalgic about it.
"The desire for a Latin Mass isn’t limited to a few elderly attempting a return to their childhood," said Roger Finke, a professor of sociology and religious studies at Penn State University. "It includes members of all ages seeking a tradition with a long history, theology and sense of meaning."
Tiffany Kpodonu, 34, goes to Latin Mass in Phoenix as often as she can.
For her the service is more reverential and meaningful.
At a service in September, she was 8 1/2 months pregnant. She had recently moved from Chicago to Phoenix and would soon be moving again to California.
"This Mass is so peaceful. It’s very, very solemn," she said. "It calms me."
‘Quiet is good‘
The 6:30 Mass held each morning at St. Thomas feels like stepping back in time.
Typically, 20 people or so are at the service and they are spread across the large church.
For much of the service, the only noise is the occasional cough or the sound of somebody shifting in the wooden pew.
"There isn’t much quiet in the world today," said Father Kenneth Fryar, pastor of the Mater Misericordiae Mission. "Quiet is good."
The mission was established by Bishop Thomas Olmstead in 2005 to provide Latin Mass to the faithful in Arizona.
The parish, which does not have its own church, holds services at St. Thomas.
In September, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted gave Mater Misericordiae permission to buy a church.
It will be dedicated entirely to the Latin Mass.
"I am sure it is closer to what God wants," Fryar said. "We should expect deference to the majesty of God."
Father Fryar is a pious man wholly devoted to the Latin Mass.
It is the best way, he believes, to give "thanks and adoration to God."
He does not allow himself to be concerned with how people feel about the service.
"This is for God," Fryar said in the rectory of St. Thomas. "It doesn’t matter what the people think. It wouldn’t matter if nobody was there." [RIGHT!]
Fryar’s single-minded devotion to the service was a blessing for Myrna Maney of Phoenix.
At 72, she is old enough to remember the Latin Mass and says she was never comfortable with the new services.
"That Mass was noisy. The constant music, the constant singing, bothered me," Maney said. "The difference is that the Latin Mass is aimed at God totally. As a sacrifice."
Before the Pope’s decree, Maney and her husband would drive for hours to find a church where a priest had received permission for a Latin Mass.
"This is not nostalgia, like they always say," Maney said. "This is the way I want to worship."
She was not alone in her search.
"There is a migration to more traditional services, especially among the young, in part because there is a solemn art form to it, a ritualized performance," said Rodney Stark, a Baylor University professor who studies the sociology of religion. "It’s not rap or rock and roll or some idiot priest with a guitar." [YES! YES! "some idiot priest with a guitar" YES!]
Reverence at what price?
The 1 p.m. Sunday Latin Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle is far more ritualized than the daily Mass.
More than 200 people attend the service, where a choir sings Gregorian chants, the liturgical music of the early Catholic Church.
The priests’ moves are practiced and precise.
The six altar boys move in choreographed perfection.
The ripe smoke of burning incense is spread across the church. Holy water is sprinkled.
In nómine Patris, et Fíllii, et Spíritus Sancti. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Intoíbo ad altáre Dei.
I will go unto the altar of God.
Many in the congregation hold a missal, Latin on the left page and the English translation on the right.
Some follow along. Others simply listen.
[And now the "price" being paid...] There are no altar girls at a Latin Mass. There is also no layperson participation [except for those who are praying...] because the Mass follows what is called the 1962 Missal, which means that the service will be held just as it was in 1962.
That was before the church began its modernization. It was before altar girls or lay ministers and before people at the service took time for the handshake of peace. [gak]
There are no musical instruments or video screens. There is no band. [I don't know... there is a band when the music is Mozart's Coronation Mass... which was modern music in its time... and laypeople played it...]
Michael Malone, 51, of Phoenix, learned the Mass as an altar boy in Connecticut.
Now, he attends the services again because the Latin Mass is "beautiful and reverential," he said.
Malone, the father of seven children, thinks the Mass holds a special appeal to people searching for something real in their lives.
"We live in a world of 15-second sound bites," he said. "Religion has to be more than that. There is substance here."
But some fear the search for tradition or reverence may come at a price. [What was that price? No altar girls? No video screens? No idiot priests with guitars?]
"The real issue here is not limited to liturgy but has wider implications for church life," the Rev. Keith Pecklers, a Jesuit liturgical expert, told the Associated Press. [Fr. peckler's is probably the one who wrote Archbp. piero Marini's fascinating panegyric of Bugnini and the work of the Consilium.]
Proponents of the old Mass, he said, "tend to oppose the laity’s increased role in parish life [I don't buy that at all. I think there were lot's of parish organizations and events back in the day. I don't we can reduce parish involvement to being a unncessary "cup minister" as the jazz combo in the sanctuary irritates the congregation with poorly played "hip" music.] and worship since Vatican II along with the Catholic Church’s ecumenical collaboration with other Christians and its dialogue with Jews and Muslims."
Learning the old ways
How much the Latin Mass might grow in popularity may be limited by the fact that not a great number of priests are capable of conducting the service. [Yet.]
Most of the priests who were performing the Latin Mass more than 40 years ago are no longer practicing.
Some orders and societies of priests are still teaching the Latin Mass, like Father Fryar’s Society of St. Peter, but the number of people capable of doing it properly is likely to remain low.
But Father Fryar can, and he will.
"This is an historical treasure," he said. "But instead of putting in on a shelf in a museum, this treasure is still at our disposal."
Marie Shoban will continue to cover her head and attend Latin Mass.
It’s where she will find peace.
"I have a house full of children, and the world is crazy around us," she said. [This implies that the children behave well during the older Mass, doesn't it.]
But she would attend the Mass even if her life were not hectic.
"The old Latin Mass is eternal. It’s unchanged, word for word. There are too many changes around us."