My emphases and comments.
COLORADO SPRINGS. Two years have passed since Pope Benedict XVI released Summorum Pontificum, an apostolic letter specifying new rules for celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments in the form used before the Second Vatican Council. During that time, renewed interest in this "extraordinary form" of the Mass, based upon the Missal of 1962 promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII, has slowly spread within the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
A MASS FOR THE AGES
Until 40 years ago, the Tridentine (Latin) Mass was the "ordinary form" of Mass in the Roman rite, not significantly changed since the sixth century, according to Father Adrian Fortescue in his book, "The Mass: A Study In the Roman Liturgy" (Longmans, Green and Co. 1912). Today, this Mass of legions of saints is unknown by many Catholics and widely misunderstood. Yet, in light of Summorum Pontificum, its celebration may become more commonplace. [Commonplace... we will say this more often, you know.]
Signs of this are already visible. Father Stéphane Dupré of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an order whose charism [well... apostolate...] is to promote and celebrate the Tridentine Mass, celebrates a Low Mass every morning at 8 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Parish in Security, where he is the pastor. He also offers a 10:30 a.m. Sunday High Mass. Msgr. Ricardo Coronado-Arrascue, diocesan chancellor and judicial vicar, offers a weekly Low Mass at Pauline Chapel in the Broadmoor neighborhood of Colorado Springs on Friday evenings at 6 p.m., with a High Mass on First Fridays.
In the Low Mass, the priest prays many of the prayers quietly, such as the Canon which begins before the consecration and ends with the Pater Noster (Our Father). There is no music and no incense, and the Mass typically has no more than two altar servers.
The High Mass is ceremonious, with many of the prayers sung in Gregorian chant by a choir, joined in parts by the faithful and usually accompanied by an organ. The priest also chants certain parts of the Mass. There are several altar servers, sometimes a deacon and a frequent use of incense. The Mass usually begins and ends with a procession.
[It is good to have a little instruction for people who may not be familiar with these things.]
One additional priest in the diocese, Father Robert Manning, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Colorado Springs, has also spent time learning to celebrate the extraordinary form.
"Others are interested, perhaps daunted by the required proficiency in the rubrics as well as Latin," said Msgr. Coronado-Arrascue.
"While many of the diocesan seminarians receive the experience of the extraordinary form," ["many" might be overstating it a bit, but things are getting better.] Bishop Michael Sheridan added, "those attending Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis are being groomed to offer it as well as the ordinary form." Bishop Sheridan is a graduate of the seminary and is a member of its board of directors. [Bishops on boards of directors of seminaries can really help with this.]
This direction is consistent with the growing attraction this Mass seems to hold for young people. Twenty-year-old convert and new Immaculate Conception parishioner Eric Jensen said he was drawn "by its solemnity and deep reverence." Like many of those in attendance at these Masses, Jensen is too young to harbor nostalgic memories of this form of the liturgy. The same is true for the 20 or so altar servers who rotate serving at Father Dupré’s Masses. [Which gives the lie to those who claim that this is about nostalgia.]
Father Dupré pointed out that Immaculate Conception Parish has the same far-flung borders as those of the diocese. Parishioners travel from Monument, Castle Rock, Penrose, Divide, Colorado City, Limon and points in between, some for daily Mass. Yet, parishioners are quick to counter that such distances do not present obstacles to Father Dupré in his devotion to their spiritual wellbeing.
"(This is) evidence," said parishioner Byron Harris, "that the fervor and commitment of this energetic priest’s growing flock reflects that of its pastor." [Fathers... notate bene.]
The Old Latin Mass: A Brief History
"The first source for the history of the Mass is obviously . . . the account of the Last Supper in the New Testament," wrote Father Fortescue.
It is because of Our Lord’s command to do "this," namely what he himself had done, in memory of him, that liturgies exist.
"We have here the essential nucleus of the holy liturgy in any rite. This we may be sure was constant from the beginning," Father Fortescue wrote.
Other practices in the development of the Mass, familiar to us today, were soon adapted from Jewish customs. Father Fortescue wrote that "the first part of the liturgy with its readings from the Bible, sermons and prayers is a Christianized form of the old Synagogue service."
"A definite pattern for the celebration of the Eucharist had developed within decades of the death of Our Lord, which can still be discerned clearly in the finalized Roman Mass of 1570," he added.
He goes on: "Our knowledge of the details of the liturgy increases from the earliest Church Fathers and with each succeeding century. There is a gradual and natural development. The prayers and formulas, and eventually the ceremonial actions, develop into set forms. There are varying arrangements of subsidiary parts and greater insistence on certain elements in different places (locales)."
This produced different liturgies, among them our Roman rite, "but all go back eventually to the biblical pattern," he wrote.
"From roughly the consolidations of Pope St. Gregory the Great [who died in 604]," he continued, "we have the text of the (Roman) Mass, its order and arrangement, as a sacred tradition," still intact, except in unimportant details, in the modern extraordinary form. [In some prayers, the Novus Ordo versions restore a more ancient text.]
He added that the keynote of the reform of Pope Gregory was fidelity to the traditions that had been handed down. It consisted principally of the simplification and more orderly arrangement of the existing (Roman) rite. It is also to this pope that the church owes, to a large extent, the codification of Gregorian chant.
In Gregory’s time, the Gallican and other rites were celebrated in much of Europe outside of Rome. But as the Roman rite spread, supplanting its Western rivals, it adopted some of their peculiarities.
[Again... catechesis is very important. This may also be of help to people in accepting the changes to the translation of the Novus Ordo coming up. After all, fidelity to the text is part of the continuity we need as faithful Catholics.]
"The Gallican additions are, in general, decorative or symbolic ritual. The pure Roman rite was exceedingly simple, austerely plain. Its prayers were short and dignified compared with the exuberant rhetoric of the East. In our missal then we have from non-Roman sources the decorative processions, blessings and much of the Holy Week ritual," wrote Father Fortescue.
Father Fortescue added that subsequent changes to the Mass over the next 1,000 years amounted primarily to minor additions and amplifications. Apart from these, the 1570 missal of St. Pius V corresponds very closely with the order established much earlier by St. Gregory. Beginning in 1969 with the promulgation of the new Missal of Pope Paul VI, celebration of the ancient form diminished considerably. However, Pope John Paul II took steps in 1984, and again in 1988, to increase access to this Mass. Finally, with his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI moved to facilitate its renewed widespread usage.
NEXT ISSUE: Impressions From A Latin High Mass and Journal of a Latin Parish.
IMPRESSIONS FROM A LATIN HIGH MASS
Father Frederick Faber, a popular figure in 19th century English Catholicism, called the ancient Catholic Mass of the Latin rite, "the most beautiful thing this side of heaven."
A decade ago, Mother Angelica, founder of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), had similar praise: "It was almost mystical. It gave you an awareness of heaven, of the awesome humility of God, Who manifests Himself in the guise of bread and wine."
Rooted in the early church and infused with powerful symbolism, it is a tapestry interwoven with richly colored vestments, moving ritual, clouds of incense and deep solemnity. This, along with the sacred music of Gregorian chant, offset with contrasting silences, led convert to Catholicism and Immaculate Conception parishioner Viki Hackett of Divide to call it "a spiritual feast."
"I am moved by the humility of it from the opening procession," she said. "Fittingly, the choir goes on to chant biblical verses asking God for cleansing, while the priest sprinkles the faithful with holy water. Then he prays humbly at the foot of the altar before daring to ascend to the altar proper (which symbolizes Mount Calvary), bowing as he prays the Confiteor, striking his breast at the self-accusatory words . . . mea maxima culpa."
The altar servers, kneeling, then do the same, faces almost touching the sanctuary floor in a posture of atonement. These expressions of penitence and unworthiness — as well as prayers asking for mercy and forgiveness — permeate this Mass, which is a bloodless re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
As the Mass proceeds, Gregorian chant wafts from the choir loft in response to expressions of prayer from the priest. While the priest quietly says such prayers as the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the choir chants them aloud. The priest also chants at various points in the Mass, such as the Epistle and Gospel, which he also proclaims in English preceding the homily.
"The effects of the sacred music, eye-filling ritual, pervasive reverence and sense of awe and mysticism stir feelings of piety and faith," said Byron Harris, who with his wife Mary is a parent of three Immaculate Conception altar servers. "The beauty and dignity of the offertory prayers only add to it, followed by those of the Canon," which surrounds the priestly action of the consecration. This is the moment where, by the miracle of transubstantiation where the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, Christ himself joins the priest on the altar.
New Immaculate Conception member Douglas Montgomery said he likes to reflect at this point of the Mass on the meaning of these prayers together with those after the consecration, and to also pray for people dear to him.
Once the priest chants the Pater Noster (Our Father), the time to receive the Son of God is drawing near.
Hackett’s husband, Tom, noted that "it is here, especially, that I experience a rising sense of anticipation and awe. The Son of God is about to come to me." [I ask: Do you get this sense from the Mass you attend?]
Following the chanting of the Agnus Dei, Montgomery silently prays some of the Prayers Before Communion found in the missal. He said he finds this an intimate way to ready himself to receive the Creator. [This would seem to fly in the face of those who claim that no prviate devotions are permitted.]
Moments later, those able to receive Communion file in reverential silence to kneel abreast at the Communion rail, there to receive the King of Kings. The choir sings Panis Angelicus or another hymn of adoration, while people meditate on the God-come-to-dwell-within-them. In a few short minutes, the Mass will end. And for Tom and Viki Hackett, Montgomery, the Harris family and many others, the high point of the week will be coming to a close.
JOURNAL OF A LATIN MASS PARISH
[Here is a good "brick by brick" section.]
When Father Stéphane Dupré transferred from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Littleton to pastor Immaculate Conception Parish in July 2008, he wanted to offer the fullness of the ancient Roman Liturgy, including regular High Mass, to his new congregation. One of his first acts was to evaluate the readiness of two critical areas.
"While the parish celebrated the extraordinary form of the Mass," he told The Colorado Catholic Herald, "the High Mass and certain other expressions of the liturgy had been offered infrequently. In assessing the choir, they were experienced and very professional. But they sang a cappella (unaccompanied), and with only four adult members. There was not only a need for the choir to expand but also to make use of the organ for High Mass, which I wanted to begin offering every Sunday starting in one month." [Hmmm... it is good for organ to be used. But... it is not strictly necessary for a High Mass, after all.]
Similar expansion seemed necessary for the Altar Server’s Guild.
"Fortunately," said Father Dupré, "Mr. Collins (parishioner Richard Collins, who had trained the servers) had built a very fine foundation here, and we had a capable and dedicated group of young servers. But in fairness to the guild, up to that point they had not been expected to produce the greater numbers of highly experienced servers suddenly needed. So while a number of the boys were making their way up the ladder, we were a little light on the senior positions."
Individual mastery of the altar positions, including the Latin responses, takes years, from postulant up through torchbearer, junior and senior acolyte and up to master of ceremonies. [Brick by brick. We mustn't complain if we don't think things are moving fast enough. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.]
James Sullivan, cantor of Gregorian chant, was quick to size up the choir’s new challenge from Father Dupré.
"For us," he said, "this meant quickly integrating an influx of volunteers, including an organist."
Gregorian chant, which most scholars agree dates to at least the sixth century, had all but disappeared in many quarters following the 1960s.
"Therefore," Sullivan said, "while most of the volunteers had some choir experience, few had sung much Gregorian chant."
Among the new recruits were the Carmack girls, Therese, then 14, and Mary, then 13, who had both trained on piano and organ from the age of 6. Neither had ever played sacred music, but after a break-in period on the temperamental, old church organ, which actually let out smoke at times, it was decided the sisters would alternate.
In an article in the June 21, 2008, edition of The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), Sacred Music [one with which I am quite familiar] magazine managing editor Jeffrey Tucker said chant "has an inner pulse like a heart beat, but it doesn’t have a regular rhythm. The effect is like musical incense. It’s always sort of floating and rising."
He added that there are tens of thousands of Gregorian chants, and few of them are easy to master. [Well... you know... it isn't exactly lyric opera or quantum mechanics. Chant is hard for those unfamiliar, but it isn't that hard.]
Said Sullivan: "(Immaculate Conception) had no time to waste. With more than 15 newcomers, including an organist, we took the advice of the music director at the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter Seminary in Denton, Neb., and went back to the basics."
Meanwhile, some members of Father Dupré’s former parish who happened to live in Monument were intrigued by his plans for Immaculate Conception Parish. Chad Higgs had been in charge of the huge Altar Guild there and, according to Father Dupré, had achieved "something absolutely wonderful." Higgs volunteered to help Collins meet the new pastor’s expectations. Moreover, Higg’s son, together with the three Harris boys also transferring, had been in that program for years. These four were qualified to serve even the most senior positions.
"The Altar Guild members, ranging in age from seven to 19, alternate serving daily Mass as well as other sacramental offerings," said Higgs. "The time and distance traveled to Mass is but a fraction of the commitment required of them and their families. With so much to learn, they need to be available for ongoing training, and depend on family members for transportation." [It is a parish project.]
As the weeks of preparation flew by, the one-time Baptist church building, now the home of the ancient Catholic Mass, [true ecumenism] rang with the sound of chant and organ music, while the integration of the new servers proceeded at a hectic pace.
"Looking back," Father Dupré said, "despite the challenges, that initial High Mass went very well."
All the same, fostering the growth of these young altar servers is a commitment spanning years, and Collins, in order to meet other obligations, has since handed the Altar Guild to Higgs, with involvement from Father Dupré.
"In a similar manner, it takes years of singing together for a Gregorian chant choir to reach its potential," added Sullivan.
One year later, the old organ has been replaced by a donated cathedral organ, while Therese and Mary Carmack recently spent a week in Chicago as the youngest participants of this year’s Sacred Music Colloquium, attended by Chicago Cardinal Francis George.
For Sullivan, Higgs, the servers, choir members and their families from as far away as Monument, together with two young organists from Eagle Mountain, the labor of love continues.
(For more information, visit www.cosfssp.org.)
(Hartnett is a new member of Immaculate Conception Latin Mass Parish in Security.)
Brick by brick!