Charlottesville VA: Dominican Rite Missa Cantata scheduled

From a reader:


By an initiative of the pastor, Fr. Luke Clark, O.P., in response to requests by parishioners, St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Charlottesville VA, will host a Dominican Rite Missa Cantata (Sung Mass) on an experimental basis each third Sunday of the month during the rest of the academic year. The dates will be March 15, April 19, and May 17. The Mass will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel of the parish center at 401 Alderman Road, which is attached to the church.

Music will be provided by a group of parishioners singing from the Dominican Gradual, and the celebrant will be Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., S.T.M., professor of Religious Studies and History at the University, a member of the Western Dominican Province. Depending on the response, this offering may become a regular offering after the summer recess.

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  1. Iakovos says:

    This is absolutely astounding! I had heard that Father Clark, Father Thompson, and the other Dominicans were doing GREAT things at the Catholic Student Center there, but this – this – is a 180 degree turn for that parish. In the early 90s I was a student at UVa and attended Mass there ONCE. The church building at the time, which I believe has been replaced by a different structure since, was triangular with quotes from Thomas Jefferson on the subject of reason in the stained-glass windows (N.B. “Mr. Jefferson,” as he is referred to at UVa in hushed and reverent tones, founded the university). In addition, the altar was triangular and made out of metal painted black, and was arranged in such a fashion that ad orientem worship was impossible. Female altar servers (before they were were approved) were de rigueur. There were no kneelers, only stackable chairs. The most prominent feature of the interior of the church was the pulpit, which was arranged so as to be the focal point of the interior, much like in a church of the Reformed tradition. The Liturgy was worse than the architecture, if you can believe it. I was so troubled by what I witnessed and experienced that I drove sixty miles each way every Sunday to attend a Mass I could at least identify as Catholic.

    What is even more interesting is that the Dominicans were in charge of the Catholic Student Center then, as well! This province must have also made a 180 degree turn, but that is speculation on my part based on my experience and this subsequent announcement.

    Kudos and thanks to Fr. Clark, OP, and Fr. Thompson, OP, and the other Dominicans on staff at the student center! The progress in 15 years is amazing. The one Mass I attended only featured two people who knelt – one of whom was yours truly – so to go from that to a Domincan Rite Mass in the Extraordinary Form is nothing less than a miracle.

  2. student says:

    One of the Dominican priests at St. Thomas Aquinas told me that they were considering this, but I will admit, I was very skeptical. Needless to say, I have never been so pleased to be proven wrong.

    Despite the atmosphere of prevalent liberalism here on campus, I hope that enough people will love Catholic tradition enough for this “experimental” measure to become permanent.

  3. student says:

    Let the terrible grammar in my previous post be attributed to my state of great excitement rather than having it detract from the reputation of Mr. Jefferson’s University.

  4. laurasplat says:

    There is also a pretty strong Secular Dominican group there. I came up one day to attend a meeting. Alas, it is not for me, but I was glad to see how many people were there. The priest leading lauds was also in full habit, which I was very glad to see.

  5. Kevin says:

    I was a graduate student at UVA from 2001 through 2003 and often attended daily and Sunday Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas parish. Having come from a very orthodox parish in Alexandria, Virginia (Arlington diocese), I was very disappointed to find all three of the local Charlottesville parishes to be quite liberal. Then I found out that Bishop William Sullivan (RIP) was the odinary for the diocese of Richmond, VA, and that explained a whole lot. I struggled through two years of Masses in those three Charlottesville parishes, thankful when one of the Dominican priests in residence there at STA parish (whose name escapes me at the moment, but he had a PhD in biochemistry and taught ethics courses at UVA along with his priestly duties) explained that he was pushing the parish pastor to tighten up the liturgy, beautify the sanctuary, and offer additional extra-liturgical practices like Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Liturgy of the Hours. He also explained that the Dominican Order of the Western Province had received a special dispensation from the Vatican itself to alter certain aspects of the Holy Mass, most notably the complete elimination of kneeling during any part of the Mass. I knew then there was a reason for what I perceived as one specific liturgical abuse (no kneelers were even available if one wanted to kneel, and the celebrant always stated that parishioners were not to kneel but to remain standing during the consecration.) It was an odd dispensation and one that I didn’t care for, but I respected their ways once I learned this.

    Great to hear they are now adding this sung Mass, and I hope the new set of Dominican priests in residence there are as solid as the priest who I knew when I was living there a few years ago!

  6. Boko says:

    Is this the first publicly-offered Dominican rite Mass in the Eastern Province since the NO was introduced?

  7. Dan says:

    Does anyone know if Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel, where the TLM will be offered, is a beautiful Church?

    What is the architectural style.

    If its beautiful I might make the 300 mile trek from North Carolina.

    Thank you.

  8. Daniel K. says:

    What great news! This is the first instance of the old Dominican rite, to my knowledge, surfacing within the Eastern Province. Hopefully, we over here in Staunton will be following suit very soon (with a regular TLM, that is). Please pray for St. Francis, folks. Thanks!

    God bless,

  9. As to a couple of the questions and comments. For one thing that was then, this is now. The church has kneelers, install through generous gifts of parishioner under Fr. Brian Mulcahy, O.P., the previous pastor.

    This is not the first public Dominican Mass here: We have had two solemn Masses and two Missae Cantatae at St. Thomas Aquinas in the past three years. As no Eastern Province priest here is yet prepared to celebrate, I have been the celebrant–although I am of the Western Province where such celebrations are regular and common.

    Fr. Brian completed the construction of the new center and chapel following plans already started when he arrived. The OLPH Chapel is plain but traditional in form. It is a fitting place for liturgy in either form, although lacking a communion rail. Lovely major stained glass behind the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help–another gift of the parish.

    Finally, everyone should know that there is an Ordinary Form Gregorian Chant Mass (full ordinary with Credo, Offertorium and Communion, other parts traditional hymns) every Sunday at 7:30 a.m. in the church.

  10. Kevin in Texas says:

    Dear Fr. Thompson,

    Thank you for your message and the excellent news of updates and changes in your parish! I’m thrilled to hear about the new kneelers and the completion of the chapel, as well as the news of a Gregorian Chant Mass there–that’s tremendous! I would imagine a communion rail there would be pushing things a bit, perhaps, at least for many Catholics formed in the Richmond diocese during Bishop Sullivan’s tenure.

    That said, I am pleased to hear from many that Bishop DiLorenzo has really tightened up the diocesan governance and installed a special diocesan theologian who is phasing out more egregious liturgical abuses across the diocese. Bishop DiLorenzo, coincidentally, was previously the Bishop of my last diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii! We were sad to see him leave the islands, as he was ahead of his time in dealing with the Church sexual abuse scandals earlier this decade, and enforced a strict “sero tolerance” policy across the state there.

    As an aside, not meant to be snarky in any way, one of my close female friends in Alexandria had grown up in Richmond, VA under Bishop Sullivan and was very accustomed to the liberal liturgies she had growen up with, not realizing that many liturgical abuses were happening there. When she moved to Alexandria and the extremely orthodox Arlington diocese, she nearly had a heart attack when attending her first liturgy there at a conservative parish! She went alone, but told me about it afterwards. Her question/comment was something along the lines of “I can’t believe how frighteningly rigid the Masses are at my new parish! Nobody is friendly like they are in Richmond! The priest refuses to come down from the altar and hug at least a few people in the front rows during the Sign of Peace, and nobody will even be kind to their neighbor and hold hands during the ‘Our Father’! And the priest there doesn’t invite all of the children up to stand around the altar during the consecration!” I had to laugh at her surprise, or I would have cried. Then I tried to break it to her gently that all of those “customs” she loved so much from her childhood diocese are technically liturgical abuses, which she was astounded to learn…she still lives in the Arlington diocese, but it’s notable that she has sought out the most liberal parish in all of the DC suburbs, and she still doesn’t feel completely comfortable even there!

  11. Kevin in Texas says:

    Oops, two corrections to make regarding my two previous posts:

    1) Bishop Sullivan has not passed away, but is still very much alive and simply retired.

    2) Bishop DiLorenzo had a “zero tolerance” policy for priests or deacons found to have behaved inappropriately with young people in their parishes.

  12. Alderman says:

    Until the early 2000’s, St. Thomas Aquinas in C-ville was, I am told, the “dumping ground”/exile for all the Eastern Province problem children-priests. Then the province realized what a potential gold mine that the parish’s proximity to a leading public Ivy truly is. And that’s when they started sending good priests there. Hasn’t been the same since!

    And Bishop Sullivan — who could never stand any religious because they weren’t completely and directly under his liberal-dictator’s thumb — certainly will be chagrined to hear of this news.

  13. TJM says:

    IT sounds likes it’s a good thing that Bishop Sullivan is retired. Trautman hopefully will be next. Tom

  14. thomas says:

    This was wonderful. Chapel, and overflow area, was packed and the Mass fully exercised both heart and head. The first row pews were used as an altar rail, which worked fairly well, I thought. Great to hear chant fill the lovely little chapel, both ordinaries (thanks to folks from 7:30am gregorian mass), well done propers and esprit de corps all round, so to speak.

    My personal opinion is that the only decent acoustics come, as here, when sanctuary is packed to overflowing and there is no artifical amplification.

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