Fitchburg, Mass., brick by brick with the TLM

A reader pointed out this article from telegram.com, of Fitchburg, Mass.

 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Fitchburg, Latin Mass ‘resonates with rhythm’
Fitchburg church celebrates traditional service

By Bronislaus B. Kush TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
bkush@telegram.com

FITCHBURG —  The pews at Immaculate Conception Church contained a scattering of congregants as the solemn and somber chanting soothingly echoed through the cavernous nave of the Catholic house of worship.

The women, in a throwback to simpler times, ["simpler"?] wore veils or kerchiefs to cover their heads and many of the men, despite the oppressive summer heat, were conservatively attired in suits or sports jackets.

The worshippers — some struggling to follow the liturgy because of their unfamiliarity with the language — reverentially [note the juxtaposition of "struggling" and "reverentially"] focused their eyes on the altar where the Rev. David Phillipson, [CLICHE ALERT!] his back to the congregation, celebrated the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass in ancient Latin.

It seemed as if the veils of time had been peeled back.

Two years after the Vatican allowed for its wider use, the Latin, or, Tridentine Mass, [the writer seems not to have done much research before writing this] is being celebrated again on a regular basis at diocesan churches.

“The Latin Mass resonates with rhythm,” said Rev. Phillipson. “It’s a way in which individuals may deeply immerse themselves in faith.”

Pope Benedict XVI, in the summer of 2007, eased restrictions on the celebration of the millennial-old Latin rite, to the delight of many who believed the church had moved too far from its traditional spiritual moorings. [umm... including Pope Benedict XVI, right?]

In making the worship service more accessible, the pontiff acknowledged he was, to some degree, attempting to heal rifts with traditionalist groups within the church, including ultra-conservative followers of the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The Latin Mass was “codified” in 1570 and remained the standard Catholic liturgy for about 400 years.

After the sweeping reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council, however, the Latin Mass was mothballed [wrong] in favor of a worship service celebrated in vernacular languages encouraging more interactive participation by lay congregants.

Nonetheless, the Latin Mass could be conducted with permission of a local bishop. [Note the sloppy use of the term "Latin Mass".]

But church officials said, upon its introduction, the so-called “modern Mass” ["so-called"?] quickly caught on with Catholics and there were few calls for a return to the old rite.

Some, however, clung tightly to the Latin Mass.

Locally, many traditionalists have traveled for years to Still River in Harvard to attend services at St. Benedict Center, a non-diocesan facility operated by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a religious congregation.

Many of those Catholics are now attending the Latin Mass in the Fitchburg church,. Other worshippers include families who send their children to the small Trivium School [great name!] in Lancaster, which provides students in Grades 7 to 12 “a Catholic perspective” of the liberal arts.

Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan spokesman and vice chancellor of operations, said despite all the hoopla generated internationally when the pope announced his intention to slacken restrictions, there’s been very little interest in the Latin rite among Central Massachusetts Catholics.

“There’s no question there’s a vocal minority that favors it and there is some curiosity among others,” he said. “But most Catholics have grown up with the current form and prefer it.”

The Latin Mass is a complex service replete with centuries-old trappings — harkening participants back to a time when the church served as the central authority of Western civilization.

With its stylized rituals, it conveys a sense of majesty and mystery. [BTW... any form of worship which doed not do this is a failure.] Imbued with formality, the old liturgy is precise and it can lull congregants with its cadence. [Does this writer really get what he is saying?  On the one hand it converys a sense of mystery, but it lulls?]

The service runs a bit longer than the modern Mass, and many parts of it are sung.

At Immaculate Conception, only the scripture readings and the homily are in English. Missals are available that provide English translations of the Latin text.

Even the Mass accoutrements are different. For example, the priestly vestments are more ornate than those used in the “modern” service. [Again, no sense of what is inherent in the two forms of Mass and what is accidental.  Okay, just read to the end... you get the idea.]

“Going to a Latin Mass is like enjoying a piece of classical music,” said Ted Turner, a Lunenburg resident who was instrumental in bringing the rite to Immaculate Conception. “It’s an enriching experience. It truly is an antidote to all the bad things in the world.”

Mr. Turner’s family was among those who had been attending the Latin Mass in Still River for years.

Though spiritually satisfied, those families yearned for a parish life, something they couldn’t get at St. Benedict Center.

Representatives approached the Rev. Thien X. Nguyen, the pastor of Immaculate Conception, about holding Sunday Latin Masses at his parish, which was founded by French Canadians in 1886.

Mr. Turner was familiar with the church because his daughter, Annie, was married there two years ago in a service using the Latin rite.

Rev. Nguyen agreed and, with the blessing of Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus, Latin Masses began to be celebrated this summer.

The Masses are celebrated by Rev. Phillipson, who was born in Middletown, Conn., but raised in New Jersey.

Rev. Phillipson, who was ordained in 2003, is from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico and is associated with, though not a member of, the Fraternity of St. Peter. He has been celebrating the Latin Mass for three years.

Though the first, which was held on June 28, drew about 250 worshippers, subsequent services have attracted far fewer.

“We expected that,” said Mr. Turner, a former member of the Episcopal Church who converted to Catholicism in 1968. “It really takes awhile to appreciate the Latin Mass.”

Mr. Turner, who is originally from north Virginia and who works in the information-technology field, said he hopes the influx of Latin Mass worshippers will help the parish at Immaculate Conception grow. There’s some fear, among parishioners, the church might be closed by the diocese.

Since the introduction of the Latin rite, about a dozen families have joined Immaculate Conception.

Besides the Fitchburg parish, the Latin rite is conducted on Sunday mornings by the Rev. Daniel J. Becker at St. Paul Church in Warren.

Contact Bronislaus B. Kush by e-mail at bkush@telegram.com. 

 

I didn’t get any sense from this article that the writer had done much homework.  There wasn’t much evidence that he asked questions or did any reading so as to understand what the terms were, etc.

The upside is that something is growing in Fitchburg, despite certain attempts to downplay what is going on.

The writer did, however, pick up on the sense of "mystery" which is conveyed through the older form of Mass.  This is the single most important point people who are not used to the TLM have to deal with.  It often leaves them, at least at first, confused, disoriented.

 

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Fitchburg, Mass., brick by brick with the TLM

  1. Henry Edwards says:

    the Latin Mass was mothballed [wrong] …

    Perhaps the author might have said deep-sixed. The term “mothballed” has a temporary aspect, whereas at the time the impression in the pews was that the older form had been suppressed and banished, never to be seen again.

  2. Dave N. says:

    Actually, for as bad as religion writing is in most papers, I thought the reporter did a pretty fair job.

  3. pjsandstrom says:

    The Saint Benedict Center mentioned is the headquarters of the Feeney followers who did not reconcile with the Church for reasons of their own.

  4. wmeyer says:

    Despite the Latin form never having been officially removed, deprecated, or even mothballed, in my part of Michigan, by 1967 it was certainly MIA. My uncle in the Detroit area had shifted to a parish frequented by the Mafia, where Latin continued to be the normal form.

    Here in the Atlanta area, Summorum Pontificum seems to have been little noticed by our priests or our Archbishop. I have never found any commentary on it in the Archdiocesan bulletin, though I watched expectantly. We have still only one parish in the Archdiocese where the Mass is celebrated in Latin — and that is an FSSP parish where only Latin is used. The distance, however, makes it inconvenient, at best. Moreover, now that my home parish finally has a crucifix over the altar (!) I’m feeling an obligation to stay and raise my voice in support of our pastor.

  5. P.McGrath says:


    Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan spokesman and vice chancellor of operations, said despite all the hoopla generated internationally when the pope announced his intention to slacken restrictions, there’s been very little interest in the Latin rite among Central Massachusetts Catholics. “There’s no question there’s a vocal minority that favors it and there is some curiosity among others,” he said. “But most Catholics have grown up with the current form and prefer it.”

    I get the distinct impression that Mr. Delisle does not want the Traditional Latin Mass to take place in Fitchburg, or anyplace else in his diocese.

  6. St Chad says:

    It’s very heartening to see more and more places where the EF Roman liturgy is being celebrated regularly. You will rarely see the EF Mass celebrated on the airways, however. Since EWTN is the primary medium for Catholic television broadcasting in the United States (perhaps in all the world), I would like to make the following recommendations to EWTN:
    (1) Please consider televising a regularly scheduled EF Latin Mass [at least weekly and preferably every Sunday]. You could do it yourselves at the monastery; or by links to a church like St John Cantius in Chicago, or an FSSP or Institute church. It need not be High Mass; a simple Low Mass or Missa Cantata would even be preferable – so it lasts one hour or less. It would be a great service to the Church by letting people see the EF Latin Rite liturgy frequently, and in a widely-repected medium.
    (2) Spare us – and the world – the unspeakably bad liturgy that comes out of the Nat’l Shrine in Washington. On every major feast day, EWTN goes there to televise their liturgy. Yesterday, I watched the Mass with procession & Benediction(s) at the Eucharistic Congress sponsored by the CMSWR & the KC. It was excruciating to watch! The shrine is a beautiful and important church, has a very good choir, and a great organ; but the people who dream up the liturgy there simply have no idea what they’re doing. [I would be happy to consult with the Rector of the Shrine (free of charge!) to set in place a Novus Ordo liturgy worthy of that holy place. We would start by using the noble high altar, not as a plant stand, but as the place of sacrifice; and institute AD ORIENTUM celebration of Mass.]

  7. joecct77 says:

    St. Chad

    The good sisters and fathers of EWTN cannot celebrate a televised daily EF or an ad orientum OF Mass without the permission of the ordinary. So far, it has been withheld. Maybe one day….. We can pray the His Excellency will one day permit more frequent televised celebrations of the EF (NB there is one tomorrow @ 8 AM ET) and ad orientum OF’s.

    Father — a church near Fitchburg founded by French Canadians? It reminded me of St. Peter’s in The Cardinal… :)

    And, any publicity on the EF is good publicity.

  8. AndyMo says:

    The Worcester Telegram and Gazette is owned by the New York Times. It’s no surprise they bungled this one.

  9. Craig says:

    That quote from Fr. Phillipson seems rather bland. Having spent some time with Fr. Phillipson, I know he is a bit more lively than this, I suspect some serious editing happened with the quote.

  10. lux_perpetua says:

    as someone interested in [but still thoroughly confused by] the TLM, can someone please explain to me the differences between a “high Mass”, “low Mass”, and “Missa cantata”? thanks

  11. chironomo says:

    Hey Bronislaus… why not tell us about the Mass in Fitchburg instead of giving us your lame (and uninformed) opinions about liturgy. Can’t anybody REPORT anymore without editorializing… I mean, if you want to write opinion, get a blog!

  12. maynardus says:

    “The Saint Benedict Center mentioned is the headquarters of the Feeney followers who did not reconcile with the Church for reasons of their own.”

    I realize it is off-topic for this thread but what “pjsandstrom” has asserted rather gratuitously is in fact incorrect and defamatory. If he wishes to check his facts he can easily call the Diocese of Worcester and verify that the Saint Benedict Center in Still River is in good standing.

    On a more positive note the traditional Mass in Fitchburg is a wonderful example of the good fruit of Summorum Pontificum, and it may in fact be the saving grace for this parish and a great old church built with the pennies of hard-working immigrants. And on balance I think that in this case the publicity will help. Brick-by-brick!

  13. maynardus says:

    “I get the distinct impression that Mr. Delisle does not want the Traditional Latin Mass to take place in Fitchburg, or anyplace else in his diocese.”

    Perhaps, but Bishop McManus is not opposed to the old Mass at all – he has celebrated it publicly as a bishop – and there was a very positive article in the diocesan paper about six weeks ago:

    http://www.catholicfreepress.org/_Pages/_This%20Week/0731Latin.html

    In fact, a certain well-known Catholic blog which promotes liturgical sanity linked to it as well:

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/08/%e2%80%9ci-teared-up-a-bit-we%e2%80%99re-in-a-parish-now%e2%80%9d/

    This is a very good situation with a good priest and a young and committed group of the faithful. Given some time it will definitely thrive.

  14. Gail F says:

    As a former reporter (though for only a short time), I think this writer did a pretty good job, given the time I am guessing he had to do it and assuming he had no knowledge of the ins and outs of the Catholic Church in the past 40 years, or perhaps at all. It doesn’t convey everything we would like, but its errors are mostly omission and not understanding precise terms. Unlike some posters, I do not note either a bias on the writer’s part or a reluctance on the part of the bishop. The bishop’s representative said that there wasn’t much interest on the part of local Catholics — and given that this mass was asked for and granted, and that there is another EF mass in the area, the bishop doesn’t seem hostile.

  15. Gail F says:

    Oops, I meant to say that given that this mass was asked for and granted, and that there is another EF mass in the area, the bishop doesn’t seem hostile and that he may simply be right about the current amount of interest in the diocese.

  16. St Chad says:

    joecct77
    Thank you for your clarification about the situation in Birmingham. I was under the impression that the new bishop of Birmingham was sympathetic to public celebrations of the EF. Given the motu proprio, how could he forbid a regularly scheduled and televised EF Mass, even if he wanted to? And perhaps more importantly, Why would he forbid it? Also, does a priest need the permission of his Ordinary to celebrate Mass ad orientum – whether on television or not? I thought Pope Benedict had spoken pretty clearly on both these issues.

  17. joecct77 says:

    St Chad

    Somebody correct me if I am wrong….

    It is my understanding that when it comes to televised Masses in the USA, the local ordinary has complete control of what and when. If you go here: http://www.ewtn.com/liturgy/traditional/Archive.htm, and the last video under Miscellaneous has a panel discussion on the Motu Proprio. Somewhere in there this very point comes up.

  18. AndyKl says:

    “Imbued with formality, the old liturgy is precise and it can lull congregants with its cadence.”

    I’ve only ever been lulled at a NO.

    And I’ve been at TLMs after having been up for 18+ hours.

    Never a lull at the TLM.

  19. pjsandstrom says:

    I must stand corrected.

  20. Aaron says:

    But church officials said, upon its introduction, the so-called “modern Mass” ["so-called"?] quickly caught on with Catholics and there were few calls for a return to the old rite.

    Yes, I’ve seen numbers that only ten million people left the Church almost immediately after the Novus Ordo was introduced. Obviously almost no one minded.[/sarcasm]

    I wouldn’t be so hard on the author. Yes, he appears to have a bias against the TLM, but not a strong one–just the usual suspicion of modern man for traditional things. As for his wording, if he interviewed people at our TLM, 95% of them would call it the “Latin Mass.” I know that term is not technically correct because the Ordinary Form can be said in Latin (not that I’ve seen it in 40 years), but everyone knows what “Latin Mass” means, so it’s probably here to stay. (Kind of like everyone knows what “Americans” means, even though it’s geographically incorrect.) It’s hard to blame the writer for using the term everyone he spoke to about it used.

    Mostly, it looks like he interviewed people pro and con, and printed their opinions, some in quotes and some not, making sure the overall slant was to his liking. That’s journalism today; they don’t do research.

  21. irishgirl says:

    Are there no ‘reporters’ out there who can get their “Catholic Facts’ straight? It’s very irritating…

    I met Fr. Philipson in 2007, when the FSSP was still coming to Upstate NY to say the EF Mass twice a month-and sometimes more than twice. When he didn’t have to leave right away, some of us in the congregation took him to breakfast. He was really nice, as were all the FSSP priests. He wore a black zucchetto on his head…kinda like a Benedictine monk…and he had a Blackberry! We miss the FSSPs, and hope they can come back to the diocese now that we have a new Bishop.

    I thought the new Bishop of Birmingham, Alabama would be more favorable to EWTN having EF Masses….hmmm….