Monday, June 27, 2005

Masses in Latin are here to stay

Before any Church is finally closed, the Bishop should offer the parish to any of the orders that say the Latin Mass. They will be surprised and hopefully delighted about for positive spiritual results.

Church officials deem test a success

Michael Clancy and Judy Nichols
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Jim Warras clutched a well-worn Maryknoll Missal, a gift from a cousin who was a nun, as he entered St. Thomas the Apostle in central Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.
A faded ribbon marked the day, the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, in the leather-bound book that contains the Latin and English version of prayers for each day's Mass.
Warras, 69, remembers the Latin Mass from his youth in Milwaukee.
"It is a seamless prayer," Warras said. "It's a service where I pray more than perform."
Enough Valley Catholics love Latin that Masses in the church's ancient language will become permanent and more frequent.
Church officials have deemed a yearlong test-run a success and given the service's worshipers status as a mission called Mater Misericordiae, or Mother of Mercy.
The move makes it possible for a future parish based on the Latin Mass.
"There is a stable community now, and we will see what happens," said Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.
Tony Martinez, 79, and his wife, Dolores, 76, drove to St. Thomas from Scottsdale, especially for Sunday's Latin Mass.
"We grew up in the Latin Mass," Tony said. "We sure miss it."
Along with mission status, the Tridentine RiteMass will be expanded to daily services at one church and Sunday services at three, including:
• At St. Thomas the Apostle at 1 p.m. Sundays.
• At St. Augustine in west Phoenix at 7 a.m. Sundays, 6:30 a.m. weekdays and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
• At St. Cecilia in Clarkdale, a former mission that has not been used for years, at 5 p.m. Sundays.
Olmsted brought the Latin Mass to the diocese for the first time officially a year ago. The new schedule and mission status will begin Friday.
The Latin Mass, formalized about 400 years ago, was the standard for the Roman Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council, when the Mass was altered to include vernacular languages and other changes. To this day, even after 40 years of relatively rare usage, the Tridentine Rite remains a touchstone for conservative Catholics.
But according to some who have attended the Latin Mass, it's not about the personal politics of being liberal or conservative.
"This has everything to do with a deeper sense of reverence befitting God," said Steve Skojec, 27, of Surprise, who drives 40 miles each Sunday to and from the service. "It has nothing to do with nostalgia, but instead, an immediate recognition of its appeal."
Mike Malone, 49, of Phoenix, who with his wife, Ann, has helped train altar boys for the service, said the language is not the main draw, either.
"It is not about the Latin," he said. "It is about the ritual, the sense of the sacred, the mystery of the sacrifice."
Bill Haley, 28, said for him, the Latin provides a link to the church's heritage, to a rite that is centuries old.
"Today's culture is so rootless and adrift," Haley said. "This is something to anchor us to a sense of timeless worship of God rather than of man."
David Pursley, 18, who just graduated from Brophy College Preparatory, and his brother Steven, 16, who will be a junior there next year, trained as alter boys for the Latin Mass.
"It's easier to stay focused," said David, who knew no Latin before his training.
Steven said he likes having the priest face away from the congregation.
"It puts the focus on God, rather than on the people," he said.
Another young member of the congregation, Rachel MacGillivray, 15, said she was drawn by the language, which she is taking at Veritas Preparatory Academy.
At first she found the service confusing and hard to follow, but now has persuaded her parents to attend also.
The Catholic Mass, in both its English and Latin forms, includes the same elements. However, when the English Mass was translated, changes were made to simplify much of the language, the priest was turned to face the congregation and the communion practices were altered. (People receiving communion were allowed to stand vs. kneel.)
It also changed other services and the prayers used for sacraments. Olmsted now is permitting those to return to the pre-council format for those who desire them.
Church officials say they don't know how many people returned to church because of the Mass - one stated purpose for bringing it back a year ago - vs. how many simply prefer the more formal service.
Malone said it is not easy even to keep a count of those regularly attending the Mass, a number believed to be 300 to 500 people. Being a mission will begin to resolve that question because congregants would be asked for formalize membership.
The estimated total is a bit smaller than the congregation of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the diocese's Polish parish with a membership of 380 families, and a congregation of Vietnamese Catholics now in the process of forming its own parish.
The mission will be led by the Rev. Alonso Saenz, 39, pastor of St. Augustine, and the Rev. Stephane Dupre, a priest with the religious order the Fraternity of St. Peter, who will move from Sacramento.
To reach parish status, Olmsted said, the congregation must demonstrate continued stability in numbers and begin to take on responsibilities of a parish, including religious education and ongoing financial support.

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