Catholic New York on “Solemn Joy”: a very pleasant article

Here is a nice article from Catholic New York.

My emphases and comments.

Solemn Joy

Traditional Latin Mass community celebrates pope’s decree


Reverence and devotion filled the air like incense [There is really something very different about the atmosphere of the older Mass, no?  Even without the incense.  Still, you can almost see and smell it in the air.] at the Tridentine Mass Sept. 16 at Immaculate Conception parish in Sleepy Hollow. There was extra joy, too, because of the occasion. The traditional Latin Mass is celebrated there on Sundays and holy days, but this was the first one after Pope Benedict’s decree granting wider permission to celebrate the traditional Mass went into effect Sept. 14.

"It’s wonderful," Anne Meeks said. "We think very highly of Pope Benedict. We’re very grateful." [It is very important to express gratitude to your priests and bishops about the older Mass.  Very important.] Mrs. Meeks, who lives in Croton-on-Hudson with her husband, Michael, and is expecting their third child, attended the Mass with their daughters, Mary, 4, and Katherine, 15 months; her husband was at work.

"We love the Tridentine Mass," she said. "We feel it’s extremely reverent. We love the beauty of it."  [There are a lot more reasons than the beauty, though that is a very good start… and they are tied together.]

The Tridentine Mass is celebrated at a number of other churches of the archdiocese, and several people at Immaculate Conception expressed gratitude to Cardinal Egan for making it available. They also thanked Msgr. Louis J. Mazza, pastor of Immaculate Conception, for welcoming them to the parish.  [Yes… everyone… do thank people.]

"He has always been so good to us," said Amy Kelley of Mount Kisco. "He really recognized the legitimacy of our attachment (to the Tridentine form)…He took us under his wing."

Msgr. Mazza told CNY, "They are a good, loving, Christian community." Though geographically scattered, "when they come together they have a lovely family atmosphere," [There is that unmeasureable sense again.] he said, and the children of some of the families receive baptism, first Communion and confirmation at Immaculate Conception.

Msgr. Mazza expressed support for the pope’s decree and said that interest in the traditional Latin Mass "is not dying, it’s growing."  [Yep.] But, he added, "Not every parish has a priest who can say a Latin Mass."

The regular celebrant at Immaculate Conception is Father Richard Munkelt, a priest of the Diocese of Scranton who teaches philosophy at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He said in an interview that he is "deeply grateful and overjoyed" by the pope’s action in making the Tridentine Mass more available.

"It’s a very important step in the direction of keeping the Church in touch with its liturgical past and heritage," [continuity] he said.

He said that the Tridentine Mass gives worshippers "a sense of the sacred, and a sense of what solemn worship is about…It’s about giving glory to God using our highest talents, in the highest artistic and intellectual manner imaginable."  [We will see a revival of many of our very best traditions of music and of art.  For two millennia the Church was the greatest patroness of the arts there ever was.  Holy Church has given to all humanity two great gifts: art and saints.  Saints express God’s truth and beauty in living, breathing people.  Art is like God’s grandchild, an expression of God’s children about His beauty and truth in the material things around us.  The holiness of saints and the beauty of art flow out of and back into Holy Mass.]

The Mass on Sept. 16 had the solemnity and formality [We must recover a sense of what Dante expresses with the Italian word "cortese", a "courtliness" of noble formality and courtesy in the face of mystery and majesty.] that older worshippers recall, and that most younger worshippers do not—and would likely find unusual and perhaps fascinating. Father Munkelt, wearing emerald-green silk vestments trimmed in gold, marched into the Gothic-style church accompanied by eight altar boys, one of whom held up the edge of the priest’s cape. After going up to the sanctuary, Father Munkelt turned and walked back down the aisle, sprinkling the congregation with holy water. Then he returned to the sanctuary and, assisted by altar boys, removed the cape and put on a chasuble. He then began the prayers of the Mass.

Singing throughout the Mass was the group’s schola cantorum, or choir. It is made up of two professional musicians—including the director, David Hughes—and six volunteers. They sang Gregorian chant superbly. Some of the people joined in the singing of Mass prayers such as the Agnus Dei, as well as the responses to the priest’s prayers. When he sang "Dominus vobiscum" ("The Lord be with you") they responded, "Et cum spiritu tuo" ("And with your spirit").

According to the Tridentine form, the priest celebrates the Mass while facing the altar, that is, with his back to the people, so that all face the same direction, which traditionally is the East, symbolic of the Resurrection. [That covers the bases.] After reading the Epistle and Gospel at the altar in Latin, Father Munkelt read both from the pulpit in English. He then preached a homily in which he called on all to cultivate the virtue of humility and the realization of "our complete dependence on Christ."

Worshippers followed the Mass in attentive and reverent silence; small children were present throughout, but they made little noise. At communion, all knelt to receive the Eucharist on the tongue.

Immediately following the end of Mass, the schola sang the Te Deum in gratitude for the pope’s decree.

Speaking with CNY after the Mass, Father Munkelt, 51, said that his vocation was inspired by the Tridentine Mass. Formerly an Episcopalian, he was received into the Catholic Church in 1983 and began to attend the Tridentine Mass at St. Agnes Church in Manhattan, "out of intellectual curiosity," he said, about the Church’s liturgical heritage. At St. Agnes, he continued, "I felt a calling to the priesthood and the altar." He is in residence at St. Anthony of Padua Chapel in West Orange, N.J., where all Masses, as well as the sacraments, are celebrated according to the Tridentine form. The chapel operates with authorization from the Archdiocese of Newark.

Commenting on the use of Latin, he noted that it is "the historical language of worship in the Roman rite."  [We need more thought about the language of worship.  The great scholar Christine Mohrmann wrote of Latin as a hierarchical language.  I wish I could scare up that reference again.]

"The beauty of Latin," he said, "is that it helps to take the worship out of the world of the ordinary," [Yes!  No liturgy is about the merely secular.] emphasizing its "mystery and sacredness." He remarked that "everyone is capable of understanding the words of the Mass through vernacular translations."

Asked whether making the Tridentine Mass more available could lead to divisiveness in the Church, Father Munkelt said, "The key point in this question is the fact that the Church has always been liturgically pluralistic. It has many rites. There have been different rites and usages within the fold of the Western, or Latin, Church. Divisiveness comes in only when a legitimate expression has been suppressed or frustrated."  ["Legitimate expression".  The Novus Ordo is legitimate expression only when celebrated according to the rubrics.]

Frederic Wolff, 69, told CNY that he still remembers the Latin responses he made as an altar boy. "The Latin Mass, for me, is my mother tongue in worship," [There is that language thing again.] he said.

Joanne Riccoboni, 43, of Brewster attends the Mass regularly with her husband, Gene, and their four children. Like many of the women there, she wore a lace mantilla. She recalled how she felt when she first attended a traditional Latin Mass as an adult.

"Tears just filled my eyes, and I had goose bumps all over," she said. "I had been away from Mass for a long time, and it brought me back. I just felt at home again."


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Fr. Z,

    I visited this parish just about a month ago, and posted on it, and mentioned how they’re following your Rule #4:

  2. Geri says:

    Solemn joy?

    The only good argument against priestly celibacy I’ve ever heard is that only a gourp of fatherless celibates could have perpetrated the pep rally style of Liturgy.

    Anyone who had ever held his newborn in his arms would have known that the frantic, loud, energetic response to the joy of, say, your team finally winning the penant, can’t hold a candle to the joys that elicit motionless silence.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  3. Geri says:

    “Childless”, of course, not fatherless…

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  4. Tom says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Catherine Pickstock’s After writing has a good discussion of Latin liturgical language as conveying a proper sense of hierarchy through the use of subordinate clauses. She claims that contemporary liturgy, whcih uses “and… and… and”, reflects a flattened vision of reality that is typical of Cartesianism, but is at odds with the Christian vision as expressed by Thomas’ analogia entis.

  5. Geri: “…only a group of fatherless celibates could have perpetrated the pep rally style of Liturgy….”

    Hmmm… Geri… let me get this straight.  That would mean that the priests who perpetrated that sort of liturgy are… what… “bastards”?


  6. Berolinensis says:

    Father, I suppose you mean “hieratic”, not “hierarchical” language regarding Latin in the liturgy. I think Christine Mohrmann wrote about that in Christine Mohrmann, Etudes sur le latin des Chretiens, Rome 1958.

  7. Mike in NC says:

    “I had been away from Mass for a long time, and it brought me back. I just felt at home again.”

    Interesting, isn’t it, that one definition of ‘nostalgia’ is

    a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact . . . to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends


    I find nothing objectionable in that desire.

  8. Jane M says:

    I went to a Traditional Latin Mass on September 14. The priest read only the Gospel in English, unlike this story where he read both Epistle and Gospel. Why, please? Also, during the Consecration (I think) the acolytes held up the outer vestment of the priest. Again, why? If there’s a better place for this kind of question please let me know. Thank you.

  9. Aaron Traas says:

    I’m from St. Anthony’s in West Orange, NJ, where I serve as an acolyte. Fr. Munkelt is a very holy man, and very educated and intelligent. I think he really nailed this interview. It’s amazing when the press “gets it” better than many of the bishops…

    As for Jane’s questions: it isn’t mandatory for the priests to read either the gospel or the epistle; it’s customary, though, to do so if a homily is given. Some read just the gospel, some both. It’s up to the priest.

    About the raising of the vestments… it’s an old custom, dating back to when the older Gothic style chasubles became really ornate and heavy, and so the server or deacon would assist the priest by raising part of the vestment to make it easier to raise his arms. That’s partially why the Roman style “fiddleback” chasubles were developed. The custom, though not necessary, is kept as part of tradition, and a gesture of respect towards the priest, who’s duty in confecting the Eucharist is quite, shall we say, “heavy”.

  10. Jane M says:


  11. Mike in NC says:

    Jane M: I’ve been told the same reason as Aaron states.

    I don’t know one place on the ‘net where questions such as yours are answered. Many gestures, postures, movements and the like have been given allegorical or symbolic interpretations.

    The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has an online booklet How to Serve the Old Mass, but it doesn’t get into interpretations.

    My copy of O’Connell’s The Celebration of Mass (third printing, 1947), in the section ‘The Serving of Mass by One Server’, has this to say on page 467:

    ‘When the priest genuflects the server rings the bell, and then takes the end of the chasuble in his left hand and, without kissing it, raises it [footnote] when the Celebrant raises the Sacred Host. . . . He . . . acts at the Elevation of the Chalice as he did at that of the Host.’

    The footnote references R. VIII, 6, a reference to Ritus Servandus in Celebratione Missae (found at beginning of the Missal). O’Connell is using the Missale Romanum typical edition of 1920. There is another frequently cited work, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (Adrian Fortescue, J. B. O’Connell & Alcuin Reid) which was reissued for the 1962 edition, but I don’t have a copy. Its contents are not on the ‘net.

    The last revision of O’Connell’s The Celebration of Mass was 1964. ‘It received its imprimatur less than a month before the promulgation of Sacrosanctum concilium and appeared in print in the USA the following year’, quoting Alcuin Reid, who also noted that O’Connell was a peritus on the Conciliar Liturgical Commission for Vatican II.

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