Some Catholics are in favor of the Latin Mass. Why the Pope is trying to limit it.


The priest celebrating Sunday Mass at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church did not speak in a familiar, modern language, but in ancient Latin, as had happened for centuries.

“Dominus vobiscum”, intoned the Reverend Robert Hewes, pastor of the parish of Dix Hills, meaning “The Lord be with you”.

“Et cum spiritu tuo,” replied the 200 members of the congregation, transmitting “And with your spirit”.

Many in the pews were young adults, their presence reflecting a resurgence of a form of liturgy abandoned by the Church in the 1960s.

Their choice of worship put them at odds with Pope Francis and forced Bishop John Barres, steward of the Catholic Diocese of Long Island, to heed a papal directive issued in July that limited the freedom some priests felt. to celebrate what is called the Traditional Latin Mass, which is attended by a small but growing percentage of Catholics in the United States

“He’s nipping this in the bud and he won’t allow these guys to continue celebrating traditional mass,” said Reverend Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for the nonprofit Religion News Service .

Like many bishops, Barrès has yet to explain how he will put Francis’ position into practice.

“The Rockville Center Diocese strives to understand and implement appropriately,” Pope spokesman Sean P. Dolan wrote in an emailed statement to Newsday. “In the meantime, we will continue to provide for the needs of our faithful Catholics on Long Island who attend this form of mass.”

Likewise, Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan sent an email indicating that parishes offering Mass in Latin “may continue to do so for the time being, with more information to follow. Perhaps once we have made a decision on how we will proceed, we would be in a better position to discuss the larger issues.

William Yap, a 41-year-old software engineer who lives in Valley Stream, regularly attends Latin Mass at St. Rocco Church in Glen Cove or St. Josaphat Church in Bayside, Queens.

“I would say that the diocese knows its people and the good they bring to the diocese,” he said in an interview. “My feeling is that the bishop would never do away with the traditional mass.”

A central act of Catholic worship, the Mass recalls the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus Christ with his disciples before his crucifixion 2000 years ago. The Church celebrated it in the form of the Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass, from the 16th century until the early 1960s.

In addition to the foreign sounds of Latin, the most visible distinction of the Old Mass is that the priest directs the service facing the altar, with his back to the assembly. He speaks only English while delivering his sermon.

Over the past half century, the vast majority of Catholics have attended a ritual established in the 1960s after Vatican Council II. The Church then evolved to celebrate Mass in modern languages, such as English or Spanish, turned the altar for priests to face their congregations, and gave lay people the opportunity to help priests in certain parts of the liturgy.

In 2007, amid renewed interest in the Latin Mass, then-Pope Benedict XVI empowered individual priests to celebrate the liturgy in this form. His successor, François, decided that Benoît’s action fed the division. He said he saw “a situation that worries me and persuades me of the need to intervene”.

In July, the Pope ordered priests to obtain the approval of their bishops before celebrating the Old Mass. In addition, he ordered that newly ordained priests obtain permission from their bishops in consultation with the Vatican.

“I pray for the Holy Father because he is the first Pope in our time to do such a thing. It is an absolute prejudice to distract people from something so powerful for all of us,” said Nicole Martino , who lives in Huntington and spoke after attending a Latin mass at St. Rocco Church in Glen Cove in September.

Catholics who worship at the Latin Mass say they find beauty, mystery and religious intensity in the ancient liturgy.

“The Latin Mass is so reverent. There is silence, there is music, there is verbal prayer. And there is just a nice balance of all of these things,” said Frances Goodman, of Selden. , after attending the liturgy at St. Matthew, where his three sons served as altar servers for the priest.

Lea Hansen of Babylon "It connects us like

“It connects us as Catholics to something deeper. “

-Lea Hansen, from Babylon, on Latin Mass.

Henry and Lea Hansen, who live in Babylon, tied the knot in July at a Latin mass in Bellmore.

“It connects us as Catholics to something deeper, it has a lot of historical context,” said Lea after the service at St. Matthew, her head still covered with a white chapel veil.

Already angry with the pontiff, conservative American Catholics have expressed some of the strongest objections to the pope’s action.

“The seat of the opposition against Pope Francis is in the United States – for theological, cultural and political reasons,” said Massimo Faggioli, professor of historical theology at Villanova University.

“It started in 2013 when Pope Franks said of homosexual priests, ‘Who am I to judge? in 2016, when it changed a bit [Church] practices towards divorced Catholics; and the papacy on the environment. So there is a whole series of problems. “

In July, a survey by Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication, found that the number of U.S. parishes offering traditional mass and the number of people attending had both increased since the start of 2019, with parishes increasing by 27% and the number of people attending. attendance increasing by 71%.

While noting that only 4% of the country’s 16,700 parishes regularly offered a single traditional Mass, the magazine concluded that “at a time when general mass attendance was declining, attendance at the MLT increased dramatically.”

Offering a contradictory point of view, David Gibson, director of the Center for Religion and Culture at Fordham University, wrote in an essay that “The idea that Catholics piss off the Tridentine rite is the trending story that never dies. never “.

Reverend Patrick Flanagan, professor of theology at St. John’s University, said the pope’s position “restores a sense of unity among bishops.” While supporting the Pope, he acknowledged that the traditional Mass had attracted young Catholics.

“There is a desire on the part of young people to feel the depth, the beauty, the order and the sacredness of the Latin Mass which they do not find in the Mass of Vatican II”, he declared. . “Because of that, it should make the church and our priests, including myself, say, ‘Why isn’t this happening? “

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