250 kneeling students sing Gregorian chant for ‘ad orientem’ Mass in motel bar

By now we have all heard about the March For Life pilgrims in the snow, the buses in the snow, the Masses in the snow, etc.

Here is an interesting article at Catholic Pop:

Stranded Pro-Life Group Holds Sung Ad Orientem High Mass in Motel Bar


You’ve probably already heard of the Great Turnpike Mass of 2016, but they weren’t the only ones to have Mass while stranded. Another pro-life group stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike was able to make it to a nearby motel where 250 kneeling students sang Gregorian chant and celebrated an ad orientem high Mass in the motel’s bar room! (Pictures at the end of this article.)

“They knelt on the floor for the duration of the Mass,” Fr. Joshua Caswell, SJC, one of the group’s leaders, told ChurchPOP. “Tears could be seen on many faces—tears of gratitude, I think.” He added: “I have never seen a more reverent scene.”

Fr. Caswell is a priest at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, IL. […]

Like many groups, their buses got stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Thankfully, they were near a small town and were able to all walk to a nearby motel.

“The first morning assembly there,” Fr. Caswell said, “Fr. Nathan announced we would be starting ‘Our Lady of the Snow Monastery.’ And come to think of it, all we did was work and pray (ora et labora)!”

It was the students’ who got the idea to try to have Mass at the motel. “I doubted if it were possible,” Fr. Caswell said, “but I promised I would look into it.”

He called a nearby parish to try to get supplies. “Amazingly a priest answered, and he found Catholic couple who risked a drive through the blizzard to bring us the things needed!

[…]The only place big enough to hold Mass in the motel happened to be the bar area. The motel owners graciously let them take over the space and the students did what they could to get it ready for Mass.

“The youth cleaned the bar room as best as they could and found whatever they could to beautify the space,” Fr. Caswell explained. “Furniture was rearranged. A small crucifix over a clean bed sheet could be used as a raredos. A hotel desk bell would ring out the consecration.  [What do you ring when you want someone to show up and help you?] Br. Matthew Schuster gave a music practice to the youth. The Rosary was recited as Confessions were heard. The newly purchased linen-scented candles were lit for Mass.”

Not only did the Dominican sisters’ group come, but other people from the motel joined them, including the motel owners! “Word spread, and by the time Mass happened, there were as much as 250 people in the bar.”

Fr. Caswell describes how the Mass was celebrated: “We celebrated a sung Mass in the ordinary form ad orientem. Latin and English were used. This Mass on Saturday evening would fulfill our Sunday obligation, presuming we would travel home on Sunday (we were wrong). We certainly might have celebrated Mass in the extraordinary form, but altar cards and other necessary items could not be found in the snow stranded hills of Pennsylvania.” [They needed the wonderful travel altar cards from SPORCH!]

They also sang beautiful music: “The students, many of whom are enrolled in our choirs, sang the Gregorian Chant ordinaries from the Missa de Angelis—and with gusto! The youth also sang some motets, including one in four parts. I think the whole experience of finding some comfort and solace in the Sacred Liturgy in this hardship really focused them. I have never seen a more reverent scene.” [I just have to wonder if some of those people went back to their regular parishes and, as the guitars started up, wished they could have something else.  “Those kids could do that in a bar. But we… get this?”]


Read the rest there.

We must be Catholic everywhere.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Humbug! That’s an honourable tradition over here in England; not something to be excited about!

    Seriously though, that kind of dedication is something to be very excited about, because we need that kind of attitude to help the pro-life cause (save the liturgy, save the world, to coin a phrase ;)

  2. Kerry says:

    Brick by brick, motel bar by motel bar.

  3. taffymycat says:

    thank you for posting this father, very moving…there is hope.

  4. lairdangusmcangus says:

    Well now, this is some news that nourishes the soul!

    I find myself wondering how the non-Catholic motel guests and employees must have reacted…I can clearly recall my first exposure to the Mass of the Ages. I was a young, hedonistic lapsed Protestant at the time. I had read about this otherworldly ritual called the Latin Mass, but I wanted to see it for myself…if for no other reason than to rule it out as a path to personal grace.

    I sat in the back of a Church in New York City (I believe it was Holy Innocents) and waited. What unfolded before me was one of the most beautiful, holy, and moving scenes I have ever witnessed. Although it would be years before I went through the conversion process, I believe that was the moment I returned to God (and to Rome) in my heart.

    There is nothing in this world that comes close to the beauty and majesty of this Mass, and I know from personal experience what a power it has to convert hearts and souls.

  5. jlduskey says:

    Strictly speaking, altar cards are not an absolute necessity for the extraordinary form. The priest can read those prayers from his missal, or recite them from memory, if he can. The priest is supposed to use a larger altar missal, but, in extraordinary circumstances, mass can be validly said using the smaller missal that lay people use. Likewise, mass can be validly said without a maniple, chalice veil, or burse. It is wonderful that a mass could be offered for all those people, regardless of which form is used. And it might be a prudent decision to use the ordinary form if so many of them would not understand, and be confused by the extraordinary form.
    And, as for having mass in a bar, Father Z, you should have been to Marchesi’s Danceland in Sussex, Wisconsin, on a Sunday morning, back in the 1980s.

  6. lairdangusmcangus says:


    What “confusion” could there possibly be in the EF? God is front and center. The priest and the people are facing Him, praising and honoring Him. The Holy Eucharist is treated with the respect and sanctity it merits. The supernatural order (aka, “internal logic”) of the ritual is evident to anyone–Catholic, Protestant, atheist, or Buddhist–who witnesses it.

    There is far more danger of “confusion” in the OF, if you ask me. One might easily believe that he or she is in a Methodist or Evangelical ceremony, for instance, or that the priest and people are simply going through the motions without any faith that they are before the Real Presence.

  7. Luvadoxi says:

    Inspiring! I like your comment Vincent–we are in Oxford for a few months and have the great good fortune to be in the parish of Sts. Gregory and Augustine church. All the masses are ad orientem and it’s no big deal! The way people have talked about it you would expect something stuffy and pharisaical but it’s nothing of the sort. The priest is very personable and knows everyone by name. Once a month there is also a sung extraordinary form mass (I don’t know if that’s the same as a high mass) that I attended for the first time! The ordinary form has a lot of Latin, too, including the Gloria and the Creed. There is a great Catholic hymnal, but I haven’t been able to find the book that would help me sing in Latin yet. When I go home to the US, I’m not looking forward to returning to the guitar masses…..

  8. CradleRevert says:

    Do you suppose that they had to order a glass of wine from the bar to use for the consecration?

  9. roma247 says:

    What can be said here?

    I wept tears of joy on reading this.

    God bless the priests of St. John Cantius.

    …and this is the only community of priests in the Chicago Archdiocese for whom Abp. Cupich refused to perform ordinations this past year…?

  10. NBW says:

    Some viewed the snowstorm as a curse but actually it was a blessing and a beautiful gift of mercy from God to His people. I hope this inspires many to build the TLM in their parishes.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Good news indeed, thanks for the link to the inspiring story. The anecdotes about the questing nuns and the surprised Baptists were great.

    May I add that somewhere on Fr. Z’s site is an entry about travel and packing supplies along, for both Mass and survival in extremis.

  12. lsclerkin says:

    There was room for Jesus at this inn.
    And how.

  13. iamlucky13 says:

    It sounds like what started out as a journey to protest unjust laws, ended up as an impromptu retreat on living out your faith in times of trial.

    Hopefully future laws don’t make the lessons of the retreat turn out to be fortuitous.

    @ lairdangusmcangus

    “What “confusion” could there possibly be in the EF?”

    I don’t know if jlduskey is right that the group in question might have been confused, but I guarantee the overwhelming majority of typical US Catholics, as well as the non-Catholics who attended, have little to no exposure to the EF and would not have known what to do, or even sometimes what was going on at all.

    Throwing people into water over their heads with no missal, unfamiliar surroundings, and probably few people around them who know how to swim is not an effective way to evangelize the Extraordinary Form. When you attended your first TLM (inspiring story, by the way), not only were the familiar elements of the Church, the priest in proper vestments, etc present, but it sounds like you were well aware you were going to be seeing something extraordinary.

    I’ve talked to a few other Catholics who attended a TLM unintentionally when they didn’t know the scheduled Mass would not be in the Ordinary Form. They were all pretty put off by it. It’s disappointing that the context can form a negative opinion like that, but I’m just reporting what others told me.

    As for the Ordinary Form, while I won’t try to argue its better than the Extraordinary Form, I do know that when the Ordinary Form is celebrated properly, there is no danger at all of mistaking it for an evangelical ceremony. It’s hard to find it truly celebrated properly, but when done right, it is a very different experience from how it is done in most parishes.

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