Here is a letter written to the editor of The Tidings concerning last weeks column The Tridentine Mass: The views of two priests:
To: Mike Nelson, Editor of The Tidings, Los Angeles Archdiocesan newspaper.
Greetings to the Tidings of Los Angeles from St. Francis de Sales, Benedict, MD! Wonderful that our tiny little parish is such news in your fair city!
In reference to your article The Tridentine Mass: The views of two priests: I am familiar with most Tridentine and post-Vatican II Latin masses in the greater Washington, DC area, thus the mass to which Fr. Peter Daly refers could be none other than at the above Maryland location. If advised otherwise I will stand corrected. I live in Virginia and attend St. Francis once a month in order to provide music for that small and faithful congregation. Our musicians are so few we can’t really even be called a choir, however, a few comments:
First: As St. Francis’ once-a-month-such-as-we-can-do Tridentine mass music director I wish to express my gratitude to those who attend the English masses there as they have been extremely hospitable to us Latin mass goers. Many of us who attend the Tridentine mass at St. Francis do not live within parish boundaries and the good people who do have been very gracious to us. I further thank Father Vitturino for saying the Tridentine mass.
Second: For his charitable work, housing for the homeless, support of needy African children, etc., Fr. Peter Daly, pastor of St. John Vianney in Prince Frederick, MD, has an excellent reputation among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, including but certainly not limited to those who attend the Tridentine mass at St. Francis de Sales in Benedict. I do take issue with being, as he put it, "almost nobody." I’ve met Fr. Daly once or twice in passing and I’m sure he doesn’t remember me. I’m also sure he knows in his heart that we’re all somebody. Why he should write of us as he does is beyond me.
Third: A few clarifications:
1. I share some of Fr. Hemick’s concerns about the familiarity of the celebrant with both the Latin language and Tridentine rubrics. Mass is said in any number of languages in any number of places, a Latin mass for all of us isn’t that bad an idea.
2. St. Mary’s in downtown DC is easily accessible via public transportation and St. Lawrence in Arlington, VA relatively so. St. Francis in Benedict is like a Tridentine mass, "Seek and ye shall find."
3. Mass should not be about numbers; those of the Syro-Malabar rite are few in the West, but they have that rite available to them which is as it should be. I can’t really give figures for St. Alphonsus in Baltimore though I have been to that lovely old church. I can give high and low attendance for other area Tridentine masses, Sunday numbers counted by yours truly are as follows:
St. Mary’s downtown DC, probably the best attended mass at that parish, 200-400;
Our Lady Queen of Poland/St. Maximillian Kolbe, Silver Spring, MD, 40-110;
St. Francis de Sales, Benedict, MD, 17-85;
St. Lawrence, Arlington, VA, 200-400.
4. Fr. Daly is partly right, many who attend St. Francis’ Tridentine mass are elderly. Congnizant of that fact I try to use both Latin and English hymns they will remember. After mass one Sunday an elderly person threw her arms around me saying "Thank you! I haven’t heard "Queen of the Holy Rosary" since I was a little girl. Something tells me that made her feel more welcome and gave her a greater sense of unity with the Universal Church than she has felt in a long time. Things like that make it all worthwhile, even if we’re the only ones there.
5. There is more than enough unreasonable hostility to go around on either side between those who favor the Tridentine mass and those who don’t. We’re all Catholics for HEAVEN’s sake, bury the hatchet!!!!!!! If we do we might get there. I accept that the post Vatican II mass has spiritual meaning for most Catholics, so would the Tridentine mass were it more available. Even in the case of weddings and more importantly funerals, those of us who would like a Tridentine mass have had to beg and plead for permission. I certainly welcome the easing of restrictions in the case of funerals. Asking permission at the chancery level, especially for a Requiem Mass when church support should be there automatically, places an unnecessary and hurtful burden on a grief-stricken family. Making Tridentine Requiems more available to the bereaved is long overdue.
6. On a given Sunday not an inconsequential number of local people attend one of either masses at St. Francis. I have had very positive comments on our music from those who usually attend St. Francis’ English mass and I thank them for same.
7. Fr. Daly is right, no one under 55 remembers the old Latin mass. Neither do I and I’m over 55; as a youngster I called the roll up yonder with the best of ’em. Neither did a young couple married in the old rite where I sang for a few years back. Few went to communion, family and friends of the bride were Jewish, those of the groom were Methodist. Neither do most of the people who attend Tridentine masses pretty much anywhere around here, they’re all under 55. Conclusion: The Tridentine mass continues to enrich the lives of people the Church might not otherwise reach. Is anything so bad about that?
8. I can’t really speak for the duration of low mass, sung mass is seldom less than an hour and ten minutes. Even singing as fast as an auctioneer talks I couldn’t get through all that music in less than an hour.
9. Fr. Daly is right for the most part when he states there are no Hebrew Scripture readings in the Tridentine mass. I am sure he is intelligent enough to concede there are a few, but he is correct, most of the time the Epistle is from the New Testament. However, readings is the operative word here: The old mass is replete with psalms; the Introit always contains a psalm. The prayers at the foot of the altar contain psalms. The Epistle and Gospel are usually read in English before the sermon; do not forget in the old mass there are not one, but two Gospels. The Last Gospel sends us forth with a reminder of the Living Word. The Tridentine mass lacks one reading, but does have Scripture at places of prominence throughout the mass in the form of propers. The Introit, Gradual and Alleluia or Tract, Offertory, and Communion are taken from either Testament and are translated in the battered old missals I see people following. This practice results not only in two scripture readings, but also Scripture when mass opens, before the Gospel, at the preparation of the Sacrifice (the Offertory), and at distribution of the Eucharist, (Communion). Yes there is more Scripture in the new mass because of cycles A, B, and C. More or less Scripture does not necessarily guarantee more reverence for Holy Writ nor obedience thereto.
10. Father Daly is right, age is something of a factor, years ago when I joined the Roman Catholic Church I didn’t think I could do so without the reforms of Vatican II. I’m older now, God willing we all get older. Whether we get any wiser is an open question. Like age itself, the Tridentine mass grows on you, and with you.
Some final points: Benedict, MD is a small unincorporated community; Benedict’s population is so small it isn’t even listed in the 2000 census. An economic census in 1997 showed the population of Benedict to be 197. Prince Frederick, where Fr. Daly is a pastor, had a population of 1,432 according to the 2000 census. Now I have no idea what the population of Los Angeles was in 2000 or is now, but I’ll bet LA has a few Tridentine masses that are reasonably well attended. Considering the population figures just quoted, why we are news in Los Angeles is a great wonderment.
To really shoot my mouth off: In the spirit of Christian charity and unity, if good Father V., Father Daly, and any available red hat are willing to draw straws for priest, deacon, and subdeacon, a Solemn High Pontifical Tridentine Mass might not be out of the question.
Last but not least, the Tridentine Mass deserves a better music director than a wheezing ol’ cuss like me, however: If you would like to attend a mass where we have resurrected hymns such as Michael Prince of All the Angels, Queen of the Holy Rosary, and O Esca Viatorum, SUNG MASS IS 11:00 a.m. FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH, St. Francis de Sales, 7185 Benedict Ave., Benedict, MD, 20612. Run the address through yahoo maps & slow down west of the Patuxent River or you’ll miss us.
Ya’ll come, you’ll be most welcome!
Steve Karsteter, almost nobody,
Tridentine Mass Music Director,
St. Francis de Sales, Benedict, MD.