TLM in D. Madison, WI: a growing minority

From the Madison State Journal:

Growing number of Catholics push for return to Latin Mass

DOUG ERICKSON | derickson@madison.com | 608-252-6149

Ellie Arkin doesn’t speak Latin, so upon entering Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Madison on a recent Sunday, the 21-year-old UW-Madison student opened a Latin-to-English translation book provided by the church.

For the next hour, she and many of the other parishioners followed along in the book as the Mass unfolded mostly in Latin.

For centuries, this was the only way Catholics around the world experienced Mass. Reforms ushered in by Vatican II in the 1960s largely eliminated Latin Mass, but now, across the country and in the Madison Catholic Diocese, traditionalists are seeking its comeback.

Supporters say it offers a reverence and gravity lacking in today’s more casual worship approach.

“There’s this incredible sacredness you can feel and taste and see — it is not just a social gathering,” said Jacek Cianciara, 67, of Madison, one of the parishioners helping to bring back Latin Mass locally.

Other Catholics find the older style needlessly difficult to follow and too passive. [Needlessly difficult?  Why should our liturgical worship, our opportunity to encounter mystery, be easy?  And if you have an idea of what is going on, it isn't passive.]

“When it’s in Latin, it’s just rote — you’re not reading the words for the real meaning,” said Alice Jenson, 66, of Fitchburg. [Speak for yourself, Alice.] “I’m opposed to having this artificial barrier being put up.” [Well.  That settles it, then.]

Catholics now can attend a Mass in Latin somewhere in the 11-county diocese every day, although the vast majority of worship services remain in English. About 200 Catholics consistently attend a Latin Mass at least weekly, with others dropping in periodically, the diocese estimates.

That’s a tiny slice of total church attendance — about 57,000 people attend Mass in the diocese each week — but it’s a vocal and growing slice. [Growing.]

More than language

Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass, is distinguished by more than language. The priest faces the altar, which traditionally faced East, the direction from which Catholics believe Christ will return.

This means the priest has his back to the people, which traditionalists view as appropriate, like a general leading his troops. [The terms are mixed.  If the priest is leading, then is it right to say he has his back to them?  Technically, I guess... but it isn't quite accurate.]

The priest speaks in a low, quiet voice, rendering the Latin largely and intentionally inaudible to parishioners. That’s because the priest should be praying to the Lord in their name, not proclaiming something to the people, said Monsignor Delbert Schmelzer, 81, one of the diocesan priests who leads Latin Masses. [Right.]

“That emphasis is a world of difference,” he said.

Gregorian chant is the required music, sometimes accompanied by an organ or singing. [Not quite.  There is a vast treasury of music available for Mass.] Female altar servers are not used because traditionalists believe the role should be reserved for boys, the only ones who can become priests. [Actually, it isn't necessarily because of the beliefs of the people, but because of the laws that govern liturgy in the older form, as Universae Ecclesiae clarified.]

Only the priest reads the Scriptures or distributes Communion.

[...]

In the Madison diocese, parishioners petitioned Bishop Robert Morlino to restore Latin Mass in 2006. Morlino, a strong supporter, led a Latin Mass in December 2007. It was the first official Latin Mass in the diocese since 1969.  [WDTPRS kudos to him for that!]

Regular weekly Latin Masses began at Holy Redeemer in early 2008, initially attracting 20 or so people. Now seven of the diocese’s 134 churches — one each in Madison, Roxbury, Fennimore, Merrimac and Mazomanie and two in Platteville — offer a Latin Mass at least once a week.

Avella predicts Latin Mass will continue to appeal to a minority of Catholics. [A larger and larger minority.]

“Most U.S. Catholics still gravitate to their home parishes where the Mass is in English, the music is more diverse, and they can be active in various liturgical ministries,” he said.

Schmelzer sees a gradual blending of the more-formal Latin Mass with the more-casual new Mass.

“They are the same Mass, just different styles,” he said. “The Pope would like it to be a melding of the best parts of both for the future, and that may take a generation or two.”

All in all, a fairly well-balanced article.  Read the whole thing there.

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14 Responses to TLM in D. Madison, WI: a growing minority

  1. JP Borberg says:

    “Other Catholics find the older style needlessly difficult to follow and too passive.”

    I agree with that statement, after the first couple of times there’s no need to find it difficult to follow the older style.

  2. JonPatrick says:

    To me it is the Ordinary Form which encourages passivity, since one does not need to follow in the missal, everything is spelled out for you, whereas the the Extraordinary Form, one needs to follow in the missal and be aware of the nuances of the celebrant and servers.

    The admittedly imperfect analogy I use is the difference between watching a baseball game on TV where the commentators explain everything to you and sometimes become the subject instead of the game itself, compared to attending the game in person, where one must pay attention to the sometimes subtle activity (or lack of it) on the field. To the casual fan the game seems boring unless you are focused on what is happening.

  3. Mark01 says:

    “Most U.S. Catholics still gravitate to their home parishes where the Mass is in English, the music is more diverse, and they can be active in various liturgical ministries,” he said.

    Believe me, I do not go to Church for the wonderfully diverse music, and I doubt many young people would tell you that the music performed at their church is very uplifting.

  4. Mike says:

    It occured to me the other day that when the cantor in my parish–the one with the arms outstretched to a seven foot wing-span–announces that “today is the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time”, it’s mostly just a waste of words. First, the missal in the pew also lists by calendar date; second, there really is little need to follow the vernacular Mass in a missal at all.

    But then it gives our dear Cantor a “ministry”, so perhaps I shouldn’t knock it!

  5. CarpeNoctem says:

    Hmmmm…. I am drawn to that quote:

    “When it’s in Latin, it’s just rote — you’re not reading the words for the real meaning,” said Alice Jenson, 66, of Fitchburg. “I’m opposed to having this artificial barrier being put up.”

    Artificial barriers? That’s the language of contraception. Indeed, if it is “just rote”…. if the words and the language do not have “real meaning”, then, yes, the fruitfulness of one’s experience of Mass will be lacking. But is this state not something in the eye of the beholder? One could suppose that a person could have just as fruitless an experience listening to droning English or Spanish or Klingon and retreating to in distraction / entertainment by giant puppets, seating in the round, campfire songs, and every other sort of idol… even one’s rosary. In any case it is a loss.

    Back to my main point… God speaks to us in many and varried ways. Not necesarily in the crash of the storm or the rumble of an earthquake, but in, sometimes, the whisper of the wind. We are called to be alert and open and alert… in participatio actuoso… to the revelation and self-sacrifice of God in our midst.

    I suppose that if there’s baggage in one’s past surrounding the old Mass (a lousy ars celebranda or lame preaching or a diminished moral life flowing from an impoverished or underdeveloped Catholic culture in one’s youth), this attitude can be understood or perhaps even tolerated as some kind of ‘invincible ignorance’ … but to one’s own loss and diminishment.

    To regard the language and rites of the sacred mysteries as an “artificial barrier” is to be resigned to a culture of spiritual contraception and to withhold the intimacy we are invited into when we celebrate the liturgy… an intimacy which releases us from the cares of this world, from our own egos, from our earthly desire to be pleased and entertained… Like Plato’s cave, one cannot help but feel pity for those who can only perceive shadows and breathe the fetid air of the cave. …And we’ll never be able to adequately explain to them what it is like to be in the sunlight and breathe anew the fresh air.

    For my faith, having seen the light, struggled with it, and accepted the invitation to live in that world on its own terms (to learn Latin and the choreography and the Trad culture) I can never go back without feeling some kind of dehumanizing, disorientating loss.

    The subjective perspective of “artificial barriers” in liturgy and contraception… there’s something here to reflect on more deeply.

  6. Patti Day says:

    Just give us one TLM an hour’s driving distance for every parishioner in the diocese. It doesn’t have to be a Sunday Mass. Let us see how it grows. I don’t have two generations to wait for something to happen. I’ll be gone by then.

  7. Centristian says:

    “Schmelzer sees a gradual blending of the more-formal Latin Mass with the more-casual new Mass.”

    That’s a nice thing to be able to see. I hope for a day not too distant when the term “Latin Mass” no longer refers to Mass celebrated in the extraordinary form.

  8. Sam Schmitt says:

    “When it’s in Latin, it’s just rote — you’re not reading the words for the real meaning,” said Alice Jenson, 66, of Fitchburg. “I’m opposed to having this artificial barrier being put up.”

    OK, no one is forcing Alice Jenson to attend a mass in Latin – but how can she “be opposed” to having it available for others?

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    Nice article about the EF Mass I attend, interviewing people I know! That Mass is at 7am, it is reasonably well attended considering the hour but if it was at a later time more people would come to it. I smiled at what Msgr Schmelzer says about blending the two forms of the Mass, since shortly after he was interviewed for that article he celebrated his second ever Latin Novus Ordo (first was because a Latin Missal was all there was when he was visiting France), which certainly blended the forms. He commented to me “it is more reverent” to have Mass in Latin.

    We have that Latin Novus Ordo every Friday at St Paul’s on the University campus, and have since before the Motu Proprio, that is also “Latin Mass”! I attest that if you know the Novus Ordo in English, then you know what the corresponding Latin means and thus most people with a little familiarity can learn to pray in Latin with comprehension without necessarily studying Latin.

    I believe Bishop Morlino is celebrating an EF Low Mass at St Norbert’s in Roxbury (Institute of Christ the King) this coming Sunday.

  10. tealady24 says:

    That Alice may not like the Latin mass, but this Alice loves it!
    Nothing is rote; and the prayers in Latin are so beautiful. With time, you come to know the phrases and words for what they mean in English, so if you choose to be brain-dead at Mass, don’t blame the liturgy!

  11. bigfellah says:

    The comment that TrueMass is “too passive,” is right on target. Goodness, Fr.
    Faygele can’t get down and boogie in the sanctuary. His right to express himself is curtailed, as is his right to embarass himself. How rigid, we are!

  12. Cricket says:

    Minor correction to Elizabeth D: St. Norbert’s Parish in Roxbury, WI (like other parishes in the Sauk & Grant deaneries) is staffed by the very fine priests of the Spanish Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. NOT priests from the Institute of Christ the King, none of whom are assigned to the Madison Diocese.

  13. chcrix says:

    “Most U.S. Catholics still gravitate to their home parishes where the Mass is in English, the music is more diverse, and they can be active in various liturgical ministries.”

    Call it cynicism on my part, but I would have phrased that quote: “Most U.S. Catholics still gravitate to their home parishes because it is closer and they can go on Saturday afternoon and get it out of the way.”

    On Sundays I sit next to a gent who drives 50 miles. Our little Latin-only parish was an improvement for him when it opened – he used to drive 80 miles.

    I think of the story told by Simon Tolkien about his grandfather belting out Latin responses to a NO mass. I think of my own father stolidly praying his rosary and doing his superlative best to ignore what must have seemed to him an almost alien ritual.

    Do the Alice Jensens of the world have any sympathy whatsoever for those whom they would (and did) deny the transcendence of the 1962 Mass?

    Thank goodness for Summorum Pontificum.

  14. Elizabeth D says:

    Thanks Cricket for the correction!! You are right.