For hundreds of years, the Roman Catholic Liturgy was, in the words of one historian, “the one changeless ceremony in a world of change.”
With the world now seeming to change more quickly than ever, Mass in Latin in the Extraordinary Form seems all the more timeless and transient.
“Whenever we come to Mass,” stated Father Dylan Schrader, “we are in the presence of a mystery that looms larger than ourselves — something beyond our control because it is first of all an action of God’s and not our own.”
Fr. Dylan Schrader, pastor of St. Brendan parish in Mexico and the bishop’s delegate for Mass in the Extraordinary Form, was preaching a homily during Mass in in Latin on June 28 in historical St. Joseph Church in Westphalia.
It was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Fr. Schrader sung the Mass in Latin, using the ritual form of 1962.
He pointed out to the congregation that “the use of Latin, the ceremonial movements, and the fact that the priest and people face together in offering the sacrifice all highlight the other-worldliness of His sacrifice.”
Joining Fr. Schrader at the altar were Bishop W. Shawn McKnight; Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general; Father Anthony Viviano, pastor of the Westphalia and Folk parishes; and Father Nicholas Reid, a priest of the diocese who is serving as an Air Force Chaplain.
Using printed worship aids, about 200 people, including several children, joined the choir in chanting the hymns and responses in Latin.
It seemed that every word and gesture had a precise, deliberate meaning.
The gradual mixing of polyphony and chant, the radiant heat of the candles and incense, the flickering light and gentle, methodical rhythm of this celebration of the Mass embellished it with ethereal transcendence.
At the end of Mass, Bishop McKnight led the Litany to the Sacred Heart and the praying of the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“To increase the glory”
Venerable Pope Pius XII (+1938-1958) served as Christ’s vicar before the Second Vatican Council.
“Mediator Dei” (“The Mediator of God”), Pope Pius’s 1947 encyclical letter on the Sacred Liturgy, offers a good explanation of the Church’s then-customary use of Latin in the Mass.
“The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth,” the late Pontiff wrote (#60).
The focus, Pope Pius noted, is always on Christ and on conforming oneself to His sacrifice: “All the elements of the Liturgy ... would have us reproduce in our hearts through the mystery of the Cross the likeness of the Divine Redeemer ... to increase the glory of the Eternal Father.” (102)
“Something God does”
Fr. Schrader has been offering Mass in Latin one Sunday afternoon per month at his parish.
Beginning in October, he will offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form at noon every Sunday in St. Brendan Church, 615 S. Washington St. in Mexico.
For him, the Extraordinary Form offers “a keener sense of the Priesthood as being one that mediates between God and the people.”
“And it highlights that the Mass is a solemn sacrifice,” he said.
It clarifies for him that the Mass is not something the priest or the congregation does, “but is something that God does.”
It presents a sense of transcendence.
“With all the ceremonies and ritual actions, it becomes clear that this is not something that the community just invented for itself,” he said. “It’s something we have received, that has been handed down to us through the Apostolic Tradition of the Church.”
Nonetheless, Fr. Schrader noted, both forms of the Mass are equally licit and legitimate.
“It is two different forms of the same rite,” he said.
In 2007, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI addressed the diversity of liturgical expression within the Latin Church.
In “Summorum Pontificum,” a personal edict (known as a motu proprio), he affirmed that the Roman Rite of the Church has multiple expressions, among which are an “Ordinary Form” (the way of celebrating Mass in its revised form following The Second Vatican Council) and an “Extraordinary Form” (the way of celebrating Mass in 1962, prior to Vatican II).
“Pope Benedict saw these forms as different ways of celebrating the same faith,” said Fr. Schrader.
Today, many of the faithful, including a significant number of young people, are interested in experiencing traditional elements of the Roman Rite, such as those highlighted in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
Fr. Schrader said that it is not a desire for division, nor is it a rejection of legitimate developments “but is instead an appreciation of our Roman liturgical heritage.”
He pointed to Pope Emeritus Benedict’s statement: “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the Liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.”
“Something profoundly beautiful”
Dave and Pam Grothaus both grew up in Jefferson City, moved away for about 40 years and then moved back.
They are now members of St. Peter parish.
Mr. Grothaus acknowledges that neither of them had a firm grasp of the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith when they got married.
Their journey back involved about 20 years of “dipping your toe in, learning bits and pieces here and there, and pulling back,” he said.
They discovered Mass in Latin in the Extraordinary Form while living in Florida.
Right then, according to Mrs. Grothaus, “we fell in love with it.”
“There is something profoundly beautiful about it,” she said. “You can immediately see that something very important is going on at the altar.”
The majesty and wonder, the smoldering incense and timeless music — “that’s what drew me in,” she stated.
“For anyone struggling with belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, this is tells you He’s here!” she said. “You can feel it! There’s no question about it.”
Husband and wife are both pleased to be able to go to Mass in English and in Latin.
But something about the Mass in the Extraordinary Form fills Mr. Grothaus with awe every time.
“To be honest,” he said, “it feels like you’re transcending this earth.”
“... into the supernatural,” Mrs. Grothaus added.
She encouraged anyone who has not been to Mass in Latin “to just go and be silent and be there as if they’re in Adoration.”
She suggested finding a place near the back of church the first few times while learning.
“You’ll find that you’re going to want to educate yourself more, and you’re going to emerge a different person,” she said.