With the aroma of incense hovering, the Rev. Eduardo Garcia lifts the communion wafer toward heaven, reciting, "Hoc est enim corpus meum."
As the prayer echoes through St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Volo, 15-year-old Beth Gammel says this is the moment she feels closest to God.
She doesn’t understand Latin, but the book she holds translates Garcia’s prayer: "For this is my body."
For Gammel and a growing number of young people, the once traditional Latin Mass provides a connection to the divine unmatched by any contemporary service.
The Catholic rite dating from the 5th century had almost faded into oblivion after Vatican reforms in the 1960s, which included an official ban on its use. But since Pope John Paul lifted the ban in 1984, it’s thriving in Volo and being revived across the country, with young families leading the way.
The Rev. Donald Dietz, a priest at St. Peter’s, says he’s seeing a growing number of young people coming to Volo from as far as Marengo and Palatine.
"It’s not just gray-headed folks. We’re getting younger families who were born after 1964. It’s an amazing thing to see," Dietz said.
St. Peter’s is one of several churches offering the Mass in the dioceses that serve Chicago and its suburbs. Dietz says they have 150 people attending each Sunday, and the number is growing.
The two Chicago parishes are reporting increases, too. St. Thomas More Church on the South Side is getting 300 people a week. Nearly 1,000 folks show up to St. John Cantius on the Near West Side for two Sunday services. A fourth church, St. Gelasius near Hyde Park in Chicago, will offer daily and Sunday Latin Masses as soon as its building renovation project is complete.
At a time when churches are competing to attract the Gen-X crowd, what’s the draw of this more traditional practice?
"The Mass has an intensity you don’t normally see," Garcia said. "The art, the music, the chanting connects the people to God in a deep and mysterious way."
Garcia says he believes young people "crave a closeness to the Lord" and need a sense of permanence in a chaotic society. (source)