“I teared up a bit … We’re in a parish now.”

A reader alerted me to this item in the Catholic Free Press.

My emphases and comments.

Latin Mass a regular

Parishes attract new people with old Mass

By Tanya Connor

A desire to attend Latin Mass – and belong to a parish [This is a major point, which needs to be discussed.] – is bringing new members to Immaculate Conception Parish in Fitchburg and St. Paul Parish in Warren.

The Masses, like those before Vatican Council II, benefit newcomers and long-time parishioners, those involved say. They do not replace, but are in addition to English Masses.

Father Daniel J. Becker, St. Paul’s pastor, said that last spring he started celebrating Latin Masses [We should be careful with this terminology.  I object to saying simply "Latin Mass" instead of "Traditional Latin Mass" (TLM).  Holy Mass really ought to be in Latin with the Novus Ordo as well.] there at 10:30 a.m. Sundays, and also celebrates them at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Starting Aug. 16 the high Mass, which is sung, will replace the low Mass on Sundays, he said.

Parishioners wanted these Masses and they are getting youth involved [Yes… the TLM is turning into the Youth Mass in some places.  You look around at the TLM congregation and see lots of young people while at the Novus Ordo, a bit more gray.] and saving people long trips, said Steven Rust, a member of St. Paul’s.

On June 28 Immaculate Conception Parish started a Sunday Latin Mass at 8 a.m., preceded by confessions and the rosary, and followed by refreshments, said Father Thien X. Nguyen, pastor. People there say the Masses are bringing new life and hope for preserving the parish[In many places people are facing closure of parishes.  Why not give a new old idea a try before shutting them down?]

Two years ago, in an apostolic letter, Pope Benedict XVI cleared the way for wider usage of this “extraordinary form Mass.” The ordinary form Mass is what most Catholics have attended for nearly 40 years.

Extraordinary form Masses used to be held in basements or chapels, [Indeed.  At times I refer to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum as the "emancipation proclamation".]  but since the pope’s letter they are coming to parishes, said Sam Schmitt, who has played the organ and directed the choir for the Latin Masses at Immaculate Conception.

“I’ve seen changes in attitude, where people thought, ‘That’s not mainstream; you’re cutting yourself off from the Church,’” but now have started to see it as a regular part of the Church, he said.

The resurgence of the Latin Mass can benefit even those who don’t attend, [Ahhhh….. yes.  Save The Liturgy… Save The World!  It works.  Consider as well that by learning and using the older form of Mass, the priest is himself deeply affected.  He learns more about who he is at the altar and what Holy Mass is all about.  That will affect everything he does in a parish.] Mr. Schmitt said. English Masses might incorporate more of the Latin Mass music and priests who have celebrated the Latin Mass say it has influenced their reverence at English Masses.

“Everybody’s welcome to attend,” said Father David Phillipson, of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He celebrates Latin Mass at Immaculate Conception and, since last January, for the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary communities in Still River.

These Masses fulfill the Sunday obligation, he said. Translations and explanations are provided in missals and he preaches and reads Scripture in English.

“It will strike one as being very different from the ordinary form,” he said. “But, if you give it time, there’s a good chance a person can come to appreciate its depth, its reverence, its beauty.”

“I’ve got to try it,” said Immaculate Conception parishioner Donald Dufault, after the 10 a.m. Mass that follows the Latin Mass. He said he was looking forward to reliving old memories. [Though this really isn’t a "nostalgia" trip in the final analysis.]

“I thought it was a beautiful Mass, back when I was in my 20s,” said parishioner Robert Belanger after the English Mass. “But then I guess they said times were changing. People didn’t understand Latin.” He said he didn’t think the Church would return to all Latin, but if some younger people are brought up with this Mass, they may want it in the future.

“My oldest son made his first Communion this year,” Mr. Rust of St. Paul’s said. “He wanted to start serving Mass the day after.” He said Peter, 8, knew the Latin Mass parts; he’d been watching.  [Ex ore infantium…]

“I wanted to be on the altar,” Peter explained. He said he likes “getting the water and wine and ringing the bells.”

Mr. Rust, who is director of St. Thomas Aquinas School at St. Paul’s, said Peter and other students attended the daily Latin Mass.

They liked the beauty of it,” he said. “Each hand gesture and word is saturated with meaning. They liked learning about it.

Father Becker is teaching the students Gregorian chant so they can be in the Sunday choir with the adults, Mr. Rust said.

Father Becker took two weeks of training in celebrating the extraordinary form Mass from the Canons of St. John Cantius, a religious community, at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.

Many parishioners hadn’t ever attended Latin Masses and some resisted because they don’t understand Latin, Mr. Rust said. Once they learned there was an English translation available and that even saints without Latin training understood and appreciated the Mass, they accepted it. [And now they will understand the Novus Ordo better as well!]

For some locals, having Latin Mass at St. Paul’s means they now can be involved in the parish, instead of spending their time traveling far away just to attend Mass, Mr. Rust said. Father Becker said that about eight new families have joined the parish because of the offering of Latin Mass. [In fact, it is charitable to make this available in parishes.]

In Fitchburg, a wedding and the need to record baptisms birthed the idea for Immaculate Conception to host the Latin Mass, Father Nguyen explained

Ted Turner said his daughter, Anne, and her fiance, John Triolo, from Virginia, wanted an extraordinary form Mass for their wedding in August 2007. Immaculate Conception’s church was recommended for the setting because of its great organ and acoustics.

Mr. Turner said his family didn’t belong to a parish; they have been attending extraordinary form Masses at St. Ann’s House in Still River with the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Mr. Turner has worked with Father Nguyen and parishioner Joseph Brisebois to bring the extraordinary form Mass and the “extraordinary form community” to Immaculate Conception in an attempt to bolster the parish.

Father Nguyen said about 14 new families have joined the parish and membership continues to increase each week.

Mr. Turner said the sisters in Still River are happy that some of the laity are joining Immaculate Conception, because “Catholics belong in parishes.” The sisters helped with the transition by loaning liturgical items such as vestments and patens. Father Phillipson said permanent donations of these items are welcome.

Father Nguyen said baptisms which took place at St. Ann’s House had to be recorded in a parish, and parents asked him to do it at Immaculate Conception. He asked Bishop McManus about recording the baptisms. The bishop in turn asked him if Immaculate Conception would host the Latin Mass these Catholics wanted.

Father Nguyen said he could not celebrate the Latin Mass without training. But he agreed to host the Latin Mass, after securing the support of the parish finance committee, a focus group and getting the bishop’s approval for Father Phillipson to celebrate it.

Father Ngyuen said [wait for it…]  this benefits the parish too; it brings young members and financial support to a community where, “I bury more people than I baptize.”

Immaculate Conception parishioner Lucille Lamarine said she was impressed by the many, well-behaved children at the June 28 Latin Mass. [This is, I think, a universal experience.  It seems that children are almost always better behaved at TLMS.  Who knows why this is.] Fellow parishioner Linda Bourque said they’re thrilled with the new members, who help support the parish.

Preparations to host the Mass predate current discussions about closing Fitchburg parishes, Father Nguyen said. He said he does not know what will happen to the parish through the pastoral planning process.

He said he asked Bishop McManus if he could take the Latin Mass community with him if Immaculate Conception closes and laughed about the bishop’s response: “Are you Moses?

Latin Mass attendees expressed gratitude to Father Nguyen and the bishop and pope.
“Our hopes were high, but we were entirely unprepared for the palpably sacred ambience that persisted in the church,” John Mick said of Immaculate Conception’s June 28 Latin Mass. [This next line is GREAT.]I had the distinct impression that Father, the altar servers, and the choir were actually praying (not acting out roles).

“I teared up a bit,” Barbara Meier said of that Mass. “I couldn’t help but think, ‘We’re in a parish now.’” She said they’re very grateful to the sisters at St. Ann’s too.

Mr. Turner said the pope spoke of the ordinary and extraordinary forms as mutually enriching.

“The extraordinary form Catholics are being enriched by having the advantages of full parish life,” Mr. Turner said. “And the ordinary form Catholics are being enriched by the sudden occurrence of this beautiful liturgy with full sung Masses.”

We just want to bring people in and have them experience it,” said Mr. Schmitt. “It’s part of the heritage of the Church.

And we must not lie down and allow ourselves to be cheated of our patrimony!

Very good article. 

One point raised here is that of having a parish.

It is one thing to have A MASS celebrated, even at a convenient time and place.  It is entirely another to have the whole life of a parish and access to all the sacraments with the older forms – in a community of people who have the same aspirations – opened up for you. 

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  1. gloriainexcelsis says:

    One observation. Perhaps the children are more well-behaved at the TLM because the adults are more well-behaved – quiet and reverent. Example, you know.

  2. It is surely the case that children are attuned to the attitudes of the grownups who are present. They sense that something important is going on, perhaps, and thus settle down.

    Just speculation.

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    The Parish thing: Having found our parish, having experienced the feeling of community, friendship and like-mindedness, I would be lost now without it. We keep growing. Almost 1000 attend the three TLM Sunday Masses. There is usually breakfast and/or lunch served in the gym by a family or group as fundraisers for perhaps Pipe and Drum Corps, Rosa Mystica, etc. The children, after 10:30am High Mass (lasting about 1 hour and 1/2+), exercise their lungs and release their energies while the adults catch up, eat and discuss whatever. The bookstore cum gift shop is always full after Masses, as well. We have become a very large, joyful family of families. More importantly, the Eucharist is central and that fact is almost palpable. Weekdays are full with Masses, devotions, confessions every day. We are so blessed and our FSSP priests are exceptional. Please, this isn’t a demonstration of pride so much as it is of gratitude.

  4. q7swallows says:

    “It is one thing to have A MASS celebrated, even at a convenient time and place. It is entirely another to have the whole life of a parish and access to all the sacraments with the older forms – in a community of people who have the same aspirations – opened up for you.”

    Thundering, thundering approbations on this comment!!!

    Case in point: As much as we deeply appreciate our TLMs here in CA, we are about to undertake a huge family move across country to gain precisely all of these things you mention: regular TLMs that are the norm and not the exception + a community that appreciates that fact dearly + acreage—within walking distance of each other. That is how much it has come to mean to us.

  5. irishgirl says:

    I met Fr. Philipson when he used to come to Upstate NY and say the EF Mass. He was a diocesan priest who transferred to the FSSP, so he was older than most of the priests who came for the Mass here.

    Is he still with the FSSP?

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