BALTIMORE: New life for a parish with the TLM, FSSP: Sat 16 Dec – RORATE MASS

There is a good piece in the Baltimore Sun about the newly established FSSP parish at the St. Alphonus, a fine old church.  It is the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori.  Parish site HERE.   NB: They have a RORATE MASS tomorrow, Saturday 16 Dec.  If you are in the neighborhood – GO AND SUPPORT IT.

At St. Alphonsus Ligouri in Baltimore, believers find new inspiration in old Latin Mass

An icy wind rips along a boarded-up downtown street, swirling paper wrappers into the air. A city bus roars past, trailing fumes. A man in rags begs for a handout. Two passersby ignore him on their way to lunch.

It’s a typical winter tableau for a modern East Coast city. But walk up the steps at West Saratoga Street and Park Avenue, pass through a warm foyer, and enter the sanctuary of the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and you’ll think you’ve stepped back a thousand years in time.

Worshippers kneel in worn pews, a vaulted ceiling soaring far above them. Towering stained-glass windows admit just enough light to dispel any gloom.

Women young and old wear the lace head coverings of eons past, and a priest in white and blue vestments stands up front, facing not the congregation but the altar against a wall, murmuring in Latin.

“Introibo ad altare Dei,” says the Rev. Joel Kiefer, the church’s 48-year-old pastor: “I go unto the altar of the Lord.”

St. Alphonsus is the only church in Baltimore that offers the traditional Latin Mass, [WHAT?!? That’s a crime!] the celebration of the Eucharist that all Catholics observed prior to the sweeping reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

It’s also part of what appears to be a modest worldwide comeback for the ancient service, also known as the Tridentine Mass or the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

Pushed to the margins of Catholic practice by the reformist church leaders of Vatican II, [That’s an understatement!] the traditional Latin Mass had nearly vanished in the United States by the early 1980s.

Now it’s celebrated in more than 400 Catholic churches across the country, according to Una Voce, an organization that promotes the rite.

Nathaniel Marx, an assistant professor of systematic theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, says it’s hard to track the numbers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement is continuing to grow.

Marx explored the ethnography of modern Latin Mass Catholics in his 2013 doctoral thesis, “Ritual in the Age of Authenticity.”

I do believe it’s gaining energy, both from older Catholics who recall the rite from their childhood days and from younger ones now discovering it for the first time,” he says.  [Especially younger Catholics… with big families.  And as the numbers go south for the Novus Ordo, the numbers will climb for the TLM.  Just watch.]

That growth is certainly evident at St. Alphonsus, which offers a Tridentine Mass seven days a week in addition to Lithuanian and English-speaking services earlier on Sunday mornings.


At St. Alphonsus, weekly attendance at Latin rite masses has nearly doubled, from 125 to 247, in the four months since Kiefer took over.

Before entering the priesthood, Kiefer was an Army officer. The Philadelphia native graduated from West Point, was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in combat in Mogadishu, Somalia.

But he had always wanted to be a priest. After completing his military obligation, he entered the seminary. He learned Latin during summers.

Now he’s set to make local history.

[NB: TOMORROW 16 December] At 6:30 Saturday morning, he’ll offer the Rorate Mass, a Latin-language devotion associated with Advent that has not been celebrated in Baltimore in more than 50 years.

Per Catholic tradition, he’ll conduct it by candlelight in an otherwise dark church, the space illuminated only by however many candles the faithful contribute.

Kiefer avoids touting his work, lest the larger mission become identified with one person. But with the Rorate in the offing, and the parish in financial need, he’s happy to make an exception.

Anyone can call or visit our website and donate a candle with intentions,” [Did you get that?  About the website?] the Catholic practice of requesting prayers for particular people or causes, he says. “All donations go directly to the maintenance of our building, and the church will be as lit as people’s support.”

If that’s the benchmark, the place should be aglow Saturday.


Read the rest there.   The writer didn’t butcher the issues and facts, as so many newsies do.

The parish website is sort of fancy, which nearly always means that it is hard to find what you are looking for.  The fancier they are, the harder they are to navigate.  If you want to donate a candle, keep looking around.  It’s there.  I found it.

Again, support that parish if you are anywhere near Baltimore!  Go to that Rorate Mass.

This is the New Evangelization.

¡Hagan lío!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Fr. Kiefer filled in for a month for our Latin Mass community while our priest was away on vacation. He’s a great priest; a real go getter and reaching out to the peripheries, so to speak. He also goes out to the streets and talks to those who are either away from the Church or not part of it and invites them. Furthermore, he was actually originally a diocesan priest, but switched over to the FSSP.

    I wish more Latin Mass Communities and parishes would add online donations to their web sites to make it easier to donate from around the world.

    [PLEASE! Donate to the TMSM – tax deductible! HERE]

  2. DJAR says:

    “St. Alphonsus is the only church in Baltimore that offers the traditional Latin Mass, [WHAT?!? That’s a crime!] the celebration of the Eucharist that all Catholics observed prior to the sweeping reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.”

    All Catholics? That is definitely an inaccurate statement.

    Millions of Catholics did not “observe” the traditional Latin Mass prior to the sweeping reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

  3. Deo volente says:

    This is indeed the only scheduled TLM in the Baltimore Metro region. There is another TLM on Sundays at Saint Mary’s Church in Hagerstown, Maryland in the western panhandle of the state. Since I know many seminarians read your blog, I am hoping some will realize the TLM is offered daily now and perhaps contact Father Kiefer and arrange to learn the Traditional Mass. Also, as of the first Sunday in January, two TLMs will be celebrated each Sunday at 8 AM and 11 AM.

  4. TomG says:

    Deo volente: And by next summer, another FSSP priest will be assigned to the parish under Fr. Kiefer. Great news for parishioners (of whom I am one), especially since confession lines will be MUCH shorter and one of the two priest will be hearing confessions during mass. We are so blessed at St. Alphonsus. Fr. Kiefer is indeed a dyname.

  5. Antiquorum says:

    Great news!

    We only have one TLM by a diocesan priest sadly, and it’s in an area where you probably wouldn’t want to be around at night. We have a “retired” priest who says it for our TLM society, but we don’t have an official home, and I’m frankly not sure how welcome we are at this parish.

    There’s also a small SSPX chapel with a priest that comes into town to say mass

    I’m thankful we do have some options as I know there are many with none.

  6. Adaquano says:

    There are many churches in Baltimore that would be wonderful for a TLM

    Holy Rosary – the city’s Polish parish is beautiful and still has an altar rail
    St. Casimir – Beautiful too, but no altar rail (*sigh)
    St. Mary Star of the Sea – The pastor has been working on restoring the altar, but it’s a beautiful peaceful little church that once served the Irish community
    Holy Cross – Around the corner from St. Mary’s and right near a very busy commercial district.
    St. William of York – In the far Western part of the city – the altar rail is still there too and it’s a beautiful old stone church that would’ve been on the outskirts of the city when it was built.

    Also of note is there are many people trying to get the TLM at St Mary’s in Annapolis which is another beautiful church and within walking distance of the Naval Academy. Anyone visiting Annapolis should stop in as the church is normally open (a Noon daily Mass if I’m not mistaken).

  7. Sword40 says:

    In response to those who lament having limited access to the TLM; fear not my friends. We too have struggled for many years (well prior to 7/7/07). Seattle invited the FSSP into the archdiocese in 2008 after about 10 years of an Indult Mass said in the poorest part of town in an old hotel. Just south of Seattle is Tacoma where we now have our own FSSP parish as a church was given to us after 3 years of renting at the local Polish parish. Seattle, however, after 9 years is Still renting. The local N.O. parish they rent from is “tolerant” of the FSSP folks, but that’s about all. (they like the added income).

    It takes being organized, persistent and polite. Remember the target and smile through it all. You will get there. Oh, yes, and pray the Rosary constantly.

  8. Athelstan says:

    St. Alphonsus is the only church in Baltimore that offers the traditional Latin Mass, [WHAT?!? That’s a crime!]

    Not only that, but it’s one of only two regular TLM’s in the entire Archdiocese (the other one is way up in Hagerstown). There can’t be even half a dozen priests able to (and willing) to say the TLM in the entire archdiocese.

    Arlington it’s not, sadly.

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