Roanoke Times on older Mass: super pessimistic reporting

The Roanoke Times has an article about the Motu Proprio and older form of Mass.

Do you remember The Party Line?  "There is no interest here.  Priests can’t do this.  We’ve already done enough for these people.  I’m in charge!"

My emphases and comments.

Area priests see little demand for Latin Mass
Church leaders likely would need special training to perform the old-style ceremony.

By Pamela J. Podger

Several [Doesn’t sound like very many.] Roman Catholic priests in Southwest Virginia are thankful demand for the old-style Latin Mass hasn’t [!] emerged here because they are already stretched thin trying to serve rural parishes.

This summer Pope Benedict XVI allowed freer use of the traditional Latin liturgy. Some regard his July 7 apostolic letter as a way of healing a rift with Catholic traditionalists.  [Sigh… do we have to go through this again?   This was not the only group of people the Motu Proprio concerns!]

Although Latin is woven occasionally into regular services, [It’s NOT about the language, Pamela.] the pope’s action means that priests no longer need special permission from bishops to perform the old-style Latin Mass. The 16th century Tridentine Mass had been commonly celebrated [There’s an understatement for you.] for 1,500 years but was modernized during the Second Vatican Council in 1962.

In Virginia, just two churches in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond ["]practice["!] the Tridentine Mass; St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Richmond and St. Benedict Chapel in Chesapeake. The Richmond diocese encompasses an area that includes all of Southwestern and southern Virginia.  [So… two places in that whole region.  Not very many.]

In the Arlington diocese that covers Northern Virginia, the Tridentine Mass is celebrated in two parishes, [Again, not very many.] St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Alexandria and St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Front Royal. At this time, the diocese is aware of at least two other parishes considering it, according to diocesan spokesman Soren Johnson.

In Southwest Virginia, refresher training would be needed before local priests would be able to do the old-style Latin rite with ease. Monsignor Thomas Miller at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke recalls the Tridentine rite when he was a youth altar server at a Winchester church.

"I’ve been a priest 36 years, and I’ve never celebrated a Latin Mass and haven’t had any language training for over 40 years," Miller said. "We already do four weekend services. The thought of adding an additional service and having to learn an entirely different way of conducting it is not an attractive process."  [A valid issue for a busy priest.]

Catherine Combier-Donovan, director of the diocese’s office of worship, said demand for the Latin liturgy was less than expected. [!]

"We thought we would get a lot of calls, but it has not been very much," she said.  [!]

Where it would be offered depends on the interest from parishioners.

"It is not done just for the sake of nostalgia, but to respond to the spiritual needs of the community," she said.

The diocese isn’t offering training [Perhaps it should?] in the Tridentine rite, so priests who want specific training would have to contact seminaries and universities.

"The difficulty is very few priests would know how to celebrate it or have the proficiency in Latin that is necessary," she said. "Some might have further interest in pursuing further education."  [They make this sound like learning Quantum Mechanics.]

The shortage of priests means they travel to several churches to perform Masses.  [Well… "practice" is needed before a performance, I guess.] The number of Catholics is growing more rapidly than the vocations to the priesthood.

There are 118 active priests for 152 parishes in the Richmond diocese. [That, friends, is a problem.] And Southwest Virginia has fewer priests to serve more parishes than elsewhere in the diocese.

In July, priests received assignments that added new parishes to their duties. For example, the Rev. Rene Castillo now has three churches that he serves, including St. Gerard’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, St. John the Evangelist in New Castle and Church of the Transfiguration in Fincastle.

The Rev. Joseph Lehman and one other priest from Our Lady of Nazareth in Roanoke take turns doing services at Resurrection Catholic Church in Moneta, celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments. They also serve Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Rocky Mount.

Lehman said there may not be a need for every parish to offer this rite. He envisions a regional site where people could travel for the Tridentine Mass.  [One?]

Recalling that his Latin study was 38 years ago in high school, Lehman said he would need more training. Still, there hasn’t been much call for the traditional Latin Mass in his parishes.

"I probably would not be able to pray in Latin," he joked. "I have a hard enough time praying publicly in English."  [!]

Chris Barrett, pastoral coordinator at Resurrection Church in Moneta, said he grew up with the Latin Mass. As a pastoral coordinator, he is charged by the bishop to provide pastoral care, management and coordination of ministries.

"I grew up with the Latin Mass, and I have fond memories of it," Barrett said. "I treasure in my heart some of the Latin responses, but I have no desire to pray in that fashion any more."

He said the priests typically weave Greek or Latin into special services during the holy season of Lent.

"One of the things people like about the Latin is that it accentuates the mystique," he said. "There is plenty of celebration of the sacred mysteries in any language."

Demands for the old-style Latin Mass would burden priests in this region, he said.

"The priests are overwhelmed with duties and responsibilities," Barrett said. "There is really no good reason to add this to their responsibilities." 

For heaven’s sake!  What a pessimistic article!  

Did the reporter not have any interest in any of the positive things she could have dug up with a few phone calls?

I am reminded of the character in the Little Abner cartoon who always had a little dark cloud hovering over his head everywhere he went.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Don Boyle says:

    Remember, too, that Richmond is a (geographically) really big diocese, which adds to the problem of providing for the EO Form. The state stretches from Va. Beach to the Appalachian coalfields. (Imagine Churchill: “From Sandbridge on the Atlantic, to Grundy on the Levisa Fork, a felt banner has descended . . .”)

    Former Bp. Sullivan moved Rome to split the diocese, but his successor, Bp. DiLorenzo didn’t back the plan, and it seems to have been dropped. Some of the people in the southwest may be closer to a Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Raleigh or Knoxville Diocese. The southwest corner of the state is closer to 8 other state capitals than to Richmond.

    Msgr. Miller was my former pastor in Richmond and is a good guy.

  2. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    On a conservative blog ,The Richmond Catholic,one person comments on a mass celebrated coram cane,with the pastors dog in the sanctuary,that the reason for the lack of vocations in the diocese is the lack of priests who would serve as models to the young men especially at the liturgy.What do boys and young men think when they see their priest do such stunts and worse? The article cites my diocese,Arlington,and says that there are two parishes they know of who will do the older rote.Mine is one of them but there are many more who may not do it immediately but will do it soon.I countat least 7 including a parish which would be considered moderatly liberal.That pastor believes he must minister to all his parishioners and because there is a sizeable group there who would prefer the usus antiquior he will give the go ahead gladly.

  3. Papabile says:

    Father Mcafee:

    I assume my parish is the other one then…. quite close into DC….

    But wait, I know of at least four others preparing to offer it within the next 6 months or so. I am training altar servers at two of them. One already has a Priest who has offered it privately for years.

  4. Jim McMurry says:

    Don’t be discouraged with negative articles from progressive newspersons. (See how PC we can be!) This is going to take time.
    Having succumbed to conversion to Roman Catholicism, I began cautiously asking people in my office who mentioned something about their own RC membership about the EO rite. I found only one who was very interested.

    I could drive across metro DC to St. Lawrence, but I am lucky and have two EO rites each Sunday between my home and St. Lawrence. People in SW Virginia are not going to be so lucky for some time. If they don’t have such a reverent mass (and still attend mass), then they are going to get the news eventually and put some pressure on the priests in SW Virginia.

    Like Father Z has noted, it will take some time for the full effects of the Motu Prorio to occur. This is one of those places.

  5. Quilisma says:

    I’m really intrigued by the weaving of Greek and Latin during Holy Week. What does that mean…Kyrie eleison, Hagios o Theos and Gloria in excelsis Deo…what a big effort they must be making!

    A comment like that just shows how they really don’t understand the point of all this. Fr. Z must be getting tired of saying this by now!

  6. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Has anyone looked into the possibility that it is bishops’ stinginess towards granting indult TLM’s that has led to there only being “one or two” TLM’s in a diocese?

  7. It occured to me that all those bishops who use the excuse that “priests here don’t know Latin” are actualy digging their own grave. Unless I am wrong, Rome has mandated that seminarians learn sufficient Latin. It isnt just about the Liturgy after all- what about Church documents or the Church Fathers or older theological writings, where translations just don’t cut it?

  8. Ole Doc Farmer says:

    I live smack at Ground Zero of the…uh…”troubled” Diocese of Richmond. It’s not a little disingenuous for the director of the diocesan office of worship to declaim about the lack of interest in the EF: the diocesan newspaper itself urged people NOT to ask for it (because the priests are already overworked and don’t have time to learn).

    The lack of vocations is coming home to roost. But let’s not forget that here (as much or more than anywhere else), there has been a concerted effort to discourage applicants to the seminary at the chancery level. At the same time, there has been a significant push to place lay women in “MRE” (not “MRS,” mind you) courses. The crisis in vocations is manufactured — at least in part.

  9. Ole Doc Farmer says:

    Addendum: there has been an effort to discourage applicants of a certain type: “rigid,” “pre-Vatican,” “son of Trent,” [INSERT WHATEVER ADDITIONAL CLICHE DESCRIPTIVE OF A FAITHFUL CATHOLIC YOU WISH HERE]

  10. John Paul says:

    I assist at Mass at St.Benedict’s, one of the two locations in the Richmond
    Diocese to offer the Traditional Mass. But I still am considerably sad and
    bewildered by the reaction to the MP in this diocese. As noted elsewhere, the
    diocesan paper announced the MP with an editorial that included language such
    as “think twice before asking our over-worked priests to learn a new way of
    saying Mass.” “Think twice?!” It also included the Director of the Office of
    Worship advising all priests to wait for instructions before proceeding, so that
    the MP “could be clarified on matters such as what is a ‘stable’community,etc.”
    The secular press is one thing, but this is the official paper of the diocese,
    published by our bishop.
    Instead of even reverent forms of the N.O., most parishes (a large percentage
    without kneelers)continues to offer the most “progressive” option of Mass at
    every juncture, including armies of Extraordinary Ministers at every Mass to
    minister Communion under both kinds at every Sunday Mass. That is not the “norm”
    in the Diocese of Arlington, just up the road from Richmond. How come?
    But if you are charismatic, or you have a labyrinth on the parish grounds for
    “centering prayer,” then you are in the mainstream here and the Catholic
    Virginian wants to tell your story. I pray for our bishop and priests, but
    I feel lost in this diocese. I can only find my faith at the “side chapels”
    that are offered to us.

  11. Bernadette says:

    I was a resident of the Roanoke area for quite some time, in fact went through RCIA there. It took me years to get my Catholicism straightened out after the poor catechesis I received, and my children also. Every liberty imaginable was taken with the Mass. I am not surprised that they have a shortage of vocations.

  12. Cacciaguida says:

    I know the Virginia situation both north and south of the diocesan frontier. In fairness to the Richmond side, although there are only two EO parishes, they are both located in major population centers. That means the percentage of Richmond Catholics who have access to one or the other must be fairly high.

    Also, St. Benedict’s effectively serves northeastern North Carolina as well, being close to the Rt. 17 corridor.

    St. Joseph’s, the Tridentine parish in Richmond, was the featured parish in the “centerfold” of last week’s Catholic Virginian. It was a nice break from the peacey-weacey lunchrooms they usually feature there.

    The pastoral problem with Virginia’s vast southwest is that it’s hard to drum up demand for any Mass, never mind the EO. This is hillbilly Baptist country: Catholics are thin on the ground. That’s no reason not to offer a Trid out there (I know one priest out there who probably wants to); just that SW Va’s problems go beyond the absence of the EO and the diocese’s general suckitude.

    Fr. McAfee — thanks, and keep up those Arlington traditions! I’ll bet Fr. Fasano’s gearing up for 9/14, eh? eh?

  13. TJM says:

    The underlying message I received from this article was that many of the priests in that Diocese are not very pastoral. If there are Catholics who desire a TLM or the Novus Ordo in Latin there should be priests willing to fill the need. They slobber all over each other to learn Spanish to say Spanish Masses, so why not find a bit more time to learn the Mother Tongue of the Church which they should have learned in the Seminary to begin with if the Seminaries were properly run. I’m tired of priests like this and would be happy to tell them so to their face. Father McAfee my hats off to you for working in this type of environment. Tom

  14. Brian Byrne says:

    In our parish, St. Mary, in the Diocese of Arlington, one of our priests is in Nebraska as I write this, training to offer the older form of the Mass. I suspect Pamela Podgers, by the comments of others here, and by a casual knowledge of other parishes in the Diocese, has the count for Arlington at least, way off.

    Pax et bonum.

  15. kat says:

    As a former parishoner at St. Benedict’s I can say that it is one of very few growing parishes in the Richmond dioceses(with 3 vocations to the priesthood and seminary). Due to an ongoing petition to St. Joseph they raised a large amount of money to build a beautiful new church. A new priest was assigned and now there are 2 daily Latin Masses EVERY day of the week! But… the bishop won’t grant a request to make it an independant parish, it is relegated to being a chapel associated with St Gregory’s in VB.
    The diocese of Richmond is filled with many horrid liturgical abuses and few vocations. We trust that things will change over time, because God is in control. Trust that prayer and hard work will bring a return of holiness to our churches.

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