There is a good piece in the Baltimore Sun about the newly established FSSP parish at the St. Alphonus, a fine old church. It is the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Parish site HERE. NB: They have a RORATE MASS tomorrow, Saturday 16 Dec. If you are in the neighborhood – GO AND SUPPORT IT.
At St. Alphonsus Ligouri in Baltimore, believers find new inspiration in old Latin Mass
An icy wind rips along a boarded-up downtown street, swirling paper wrappers into the air. A city bus roars past, trailing fumes. A man in rags begs for a handout. Two passersby ignore him on their way to lunch.
It’s a typical winter tableau for a modern East Coast city. But walk up the steps at West Saratoga Street and Park Avenue, pass through a warm foyer, and enter the sanctuary of the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and you’ll think you’ve stepped back a thousand years in time.
Worshippers kneel in worn pews, a vaulted ceiling soaring far above them. Towering stained-glass windows admit just enough light to dispel any gloom.
Women young and old wear the lace head coverings of eons past, and a priest in white and blue vestments stands up front, facing not the congregation but the altar against a wall, murmuring in Latin.
“Introibo ad altare Dei,” says the Rev. Joel Kiefer, the church’s 48-year-old pastor: “I go unto the altar of the Lord.”
St. Alphonsus is the only church in Baltimore that offers the traditional Latin Mass, [WHAT?!? That’s a crime!] the celebration of the Eucharist that all Catholics observed prior to the sweeping reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
It’s also part of what appears to be a modest worldwide comeback for the ancient service, also known as the Tridentine Mass or the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.
Pushed to the margins of Catholic practice by the reformist church leaders of Vatican II, [That’s an understatement!] the traditional Latin Mass had nearly vanished in the United States by the early 1980s.
Now it’s celebrated in more than 400 Catholic churches across the country, according to Una Voce, an organization that promotes the rite.
Nathaniel Marx, an assistant professor of systematic theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, says it’s hard to track the numbers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement is continuing to grow.
Marx explored the ethnography of modern Latin Mass Catholics in his 2013 doctoral thesis, “Ritual in the Age of Authenticity.”
“I do believe it’s gaining energy, both from older Catholics who recall the rite from their childhood days and from younger ones now discovering it for the first time,” he says. [Especially younger Catholics… with big families. And as the numbers go south for the Novus Ordo, the numbers will climb for the TLM. Just watch.]
That growth is certainly evident at St. Alphonsus, which offers a Tridentine Mass seven days a week in addition to Lithuanian and English-speaking services earlier on Sunday mornings.
At St. Alphonsus, weekly attendance at Latin rite masses has nearly doubled, from 125 to 247, in the four months since Kiefer took over.
Before entering the priesthood, Kiefer was an Army officer. The Philadelphia native graduated from West Point, was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in combat in Mogadishu, Somalia.
But he had always wanted to be a priest. After completing his military obligation, he entered the seminary. He learned Latin during summers.
Now he’s set to make local history.
[NB: TOMORROW 16 December] At 6:30 Saturday morning, he’ll offer the Rorate Mass, a Latin-language devotion associated with Advent that has not been celebrated in Baltimore in more than 50 years.
Per Catholic tradition, he’ll conduct it by candlelight in an otherwise dark church, the space illuminated only by however many candles the faithful contribute.
Kiefer avoids touting his work, lest the larger mission become identified with one person. But with the Rorate in the offing, and the parish in financial need, he’s happy to make an exception.
“Anyone can call or visit our website and donate a candle with intentions,” [Did you get that? About the website?] the Catholic practice of requesting prayers for particular people or causes, he says. “All donations go directly to the maintenance of our building, and the church will be as lit as people’s support.”
If that’s the benchmark, the place should be aglow Saturday.
Read the rest there. The writer didn’t butcher the issues and facts, as so many newsies do.
The parish website is sort of fancy, which nearly always means that it is hard to find what you are looking for. The fancier they are, the harder they are to navigate. If you want to donate a candle, keep looking around. It’s there. I found it.
Again, support that parish if you are anywhere near Baltimore! Go to that Rorate Mass.
This is the New Evangelization.