Chicago Tribune: Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome

Here is a story from the Chicago Tribune about Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, the church in Rome which is established as the parish for the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite.

‘A greater sense of the sacred’
With pope’s blessing, Latin masses reborn in Rome, drawing pilgrims anew

By Christine Spolar | Chicago Tribune correspondent
    10:27 AM CDT, July 13, 2008

ROME — In the cool recesses of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini church, a Roman Catholic rite steeped in Latin has been reborn in this country.

Three priests, garbed in lace-trimmed white and golden robes, take to the altar as a band of brothers every Sunday, their backs to worshipers, their eyes on the mass at hand[Count the cliches.]

Dozens of people dutifully follow a service studded with long silences and soaring choral song. Many women have pinned lace mantillas to their hair. When parishioners, young or old, seek the sacrament of communion, they move quickly to kneel, with mouths humbly open.

A celebration at Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini is a visit to your grandfather’s mass—and that is exactly the chain of devotion that Pope Benedict XVI wants honored and maintained.

The 16th Century church, located near the lively Campo dei Fiori [actually it’s Campo de’ Fiori] in Rome’s historic district, was built about the same time that Latin liturgy was formalized. It now bears the distinction of being the first large parish in Rome to be granted free rein to celebrate the long-gone liturgy known as the Tridentine rite.

Pope Benedict’s role

Pope Benedict signaled last year that he was loosening restrictions on the Latin mass, which had essentially been swept away with the 1960s reforms of Vatican II. His desire, church officials said, was to give "greater access" to all the church’s traditions.

Part of the legacy of the Second Vatican Council was a rethinking of the liturgy to include more robust participation of parishioners and most notably to end the use of the ancient language of Latin [Nooo… the Church had a clear understanding of "active participation" which was later derailed.  Also, the Council required that Latin be retained at the language of worship.] — which was seen by some to limit understanding—and allow people to participate in their native language. [They could already.  People had hand missals.]  Pope Benedict, a fervent theologian, [A "fervent" theologian?] now appears to be rethinking the loss of some traditions[Indeed yes.  But that is just the beginning of what he is doing.]

By June, with the Vatican’s help, this Rome church —The Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrim church, in English—was designated a personal parish within the local diocese and, as such, open to any Catholic who shared the new mission of reinvigorating the Latin-laced rite[It’s open to anyone.]

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which for years had celebrated the traditional liturgy as a religious group, was given the authority to launch the old-made-new-again mass.

"Some people say there’s a greater sense of the sacred and the transcendental when they hear the mass in Latin," said Rev. Joseph Kramer, who leads the grander services on Sunday as well as daily evening masses. "In some ways, it is less invasive. It lets people pray freely.

"What I sense is there is a lot of silence and people are very concentrated. During the mass, I can feel the concentration. There’s no one talking and no one fidgeting."

For some believers in the heart of this Catholic country, the new parish is a blessing to their long-held desire to keep the faith with the liturgy of their childhood. Only a few people after mass said they had trouble following every word. The church helps out a bit: Missals are printed, side by side, in Italian and Latin.

Unlike in the modern liturgy, the priests barely interact with the public. [Argh!  They are intimately inacting with the people but, evern more importantly, for the people with God.] They don’t face parishioners — a big visual change from the modern service—and repeat their prayers in near solitude. Still, even younger observers left the service touched by its intimacy. "There’s just more solemnity to this," said Roberta Tantalo, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher.

Alessandra Petruccioni, 40, rode a train for a half hour from her suburban home into Rome for a chance to pray in Latin. She was smiling broadly after a mass that resounded with an a cappella finale of Salve Regina.

"I grew up with this as a child and I wouldn’t change it for any other mass," Petruccioni said.

A nod to conservatives [Another cliche.]

Some American parishes, while amenable to the Vatican reforms, were more likely to look for ways to accommodate traditionalists. Some parishes in Chicago and New York, for example, have for years designated services for parishioners who wanted the old mass. Six parishes in the Chicago area currently offer Latin masses. [Again… the Novus Ordo should also be in Latin.]

But Italy’s clergy were less inclined to buck a firm Vatican line. It was not until 1992 when a small group of priests, the fraternity now in charge of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, were approved to celebrate a Latin mass on a regular basis at a smaller Rome church.

But Petruccioni said even that fell short of a full-service parish to serve her needs.

"I like this now because this is a real parish, and we can have all the sacraments," she said. "We’ve had 40 years of decline in the church, and I am so glad that this pope is here, to again make people obey.[An unfortunate quote.]

Pope Benedict’s new approach appears to have broader goals. A top Vatican official this spring indicated that the pope’s interest in the Latin mass was also meant as an olive branch to an ultraconservative group, the Society of St. Pius X, long opposed to the modern liturgy.  [Grrrr.  His vision extends way beyond this.]

The society and the Vatican share a tumultuous past. The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the society in 1969 as a rebuke to the reforms of Vatican II. The Vatican later excommunicated Lefebvre after he consecrated four bishops without Vatican approval.

Pope Benedict, it is said, is hopeful of bringing the conservative group back to the Vatican fold and sees giving new life to Latin as a sign of reconciliation.

‘A living phenomenon’

For Kramer, such lofty Vatican aims are far beyond his immediate concerns to build a healthy congregation. This summer, Kramer said, he sees a few more pews empty when the weather is nice. The beach always claims a few summer souls, he said wryly.

Still, Kramer feels that Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini will have a strong allure. Still graced with sculpture and paintings from the 16th and 17th Centuries, the church reflects the best times of Catholic civilization and consideration, Kramer said. (The altarpiece in particular, "The Holy Trinity" by Guido Reni, is a riveting piece of spiritual art. The entire church is a modest museum in its own right and a sanctuary from the busy city.)

"It’s part of that time, what brought millions of pilgrims to Rome in hundreds of years ago," Kramer said. "With the old liturgy, we can be part of a living phenomenon." [Exactly.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. paul says:

    I’m just amazed at how many articles keep saying vatican 2 meant to get rid of Latin- a total bald face lie. Why such blatant lies??

  2. paul: You don’t need to leap to the word “lie”. Most people simply don’t know the truth. Sure, reporters should dig deeper, but most of the people they would consult don’t know the truth either.

  3. LCB says:

    I’m shocked! An article about Catholicism that didn’t quote Fr. Reese or McBrien?

  4. Chironomo says:

    Truly more cliches for your money in this article! I particularly like the maybe unintentional “Latin-Laced Liturgy”. Is it laced with latin? Or is it a Latin and Laced Liturgy? I guess we’ll never know…

    It’s also rather humorous to figure how the author manages to create a negative portrayal in light of all of the positive comments by those interviewed. He essentially has to later paint them all as “Ultra-Orthodox” or “Conservative” or “Ultra-Conservative” or “Catholics who share the new mission of reinvigorating the Latin-laced rite”… they can’t possibly just be Catholics, could they?

  5. Chironomo: Perhaps the Lace itself is Latin in some way?

  6. Fr A says:

    “…open to any Catholic who shared the new mission of reinvigorating the Latin-laced rite.”

    In the English language, “to lace _________ with” is almost always used in reference to a poison. Since the Mass is, in the eyes of the reporter, being “laced with Latin”, one draws the natural conclusion that the use of Latin “poisons” the sacred liturgy.

    Do we detect an editorializing attitude here on the part of the “reporter”? So much for objective journalism.

  7. Chironomo says:

    Fr. A…

    I was thinking that too… perhaps the author could have been less subtle and said “Latin-Spiked” liturgy… or “Latin-Infested” liturgy! I can’t help thinking that he had the image of lace from the first paragraph still fresh in his mind though…writers do that sometimes!

  8. joy says:

    How about laced up, like shoes or corsets, to keep everything in place. Also used for PRESERVATION, like a Christmas cake laced with brandy, not only to infuse with flavor, but so that it keeps FOREVER…

  9. Mark G. says:

    Father, I don’t think “band of brothers” is a cliche, as there aren’t enough parishes left with 3 priests in them currently for it to have become one!

    Also, I took “band of brothers” as a derogatory remark about this being a guys-only club where women aren’t allowed to listen in, let alone participate.

    She seems to be expressing that although the aesthics of the Extraordinary Form are nice, it strips the laity, esp. women, of their rights and reduces them to the passive role of mere observing. She seems to pity the people she interviews as simpletons.

    Seems like “band of brothers” would actually be a compliment for a group of faithful priests.

  10. Jack W says:

    While I think there are some cliches in the article, I actually think “band of brothers” was meant to be positive. It made me think about the popular book about WWII soldiers, and most people consider a “band of brothers” to be a group of people who share a special fraternal love for each other, or look out for each other. “Brotherly love” and all that.

    I think “Latin laced” had more to do with alliteration than making comparisons to poison.

    Not that there aren’t other areas where the writing could have been more positive…

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