Latin Mass not ‘an effort to move the Church back’

GREENVILLE — Msgr. Lawrence McInerny has been training priests in the Diocese of Charleston in the various forms of the traditional Latin Mass for the past five years. The pastor at Stella Maris Church on the southern end of Sullivan’s Island has trained priests in Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis.

In recent weeks, Msgr. McInerny said, he has received additional requests for training and, chances are, that trend will continue — and perhaps accelerate — with the release last month of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter on the Tridentine Mass.

Father Steven L. Brovey, director of the Office of Prayer and Worship for the Diocese and pastor at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, said Bishop Robert J. Baker is asking priests who may wish to celebrate Holy Mass according to the “extraordinary form” to be certain that they have mastered the rubrics of the ancient Missal and that they know enough Latin “to be able to read the prayers and Scriptures correctly.”

The traditional Latin Mass is currently celebrated once a month at Prince of Peace, though that schedule will change to every Sunday beginning Aug. 5, Father Brovey said.

“When I was first learning to say Mass according to the ancient Roman Missal, I spent several months privately studying the prayers and rubrics,” he said, “and then I began meeting with a priest to practice.

“It took a good six months before I was ready to celebrate my first public Mass using the ancient Missal,” he said.

For interested priests, Msgr. McInerny said he tries to make a training video available. 

“Father Kieron Wood produced the video in Ireland some years ago (“The Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven”) and it is available from The Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei,” Msgr. McInerny said.

“Also, we make the traditional Latin Mass available to parishes by bringing the Mass to the local parish,” he said.  “We have brought our servers, organist, singers and booklets for the faithful. We even have a portable railing for Holy Communion.”

For laity who have never been to a traditional Latin Mass, Father McInerny says once they experience it many don’t go back to the Novus Ordo.

“The Novus Ordo is externally more engaging. Participation in the TLM is more interior — and some would say deeper. Recently, I heard an interesting comment from someone who attended our TLM. He said he was attracted not only to the Mass, but the ‘focus and reverence’ of the people who attend and pray quietly before, during and after the Mass.”

Michael Pennell and his family have been attending the traditional Latin Mass for the past 12 years, three of those at Prince of Peace. Their home parish is St. Mary in Greenville, where they go to the Mass in the “ordinary form” every Sunday.

“Participating in Latin Mass was a natural progression that began with our understanding the Mass as a sacrifice, with our love of the liturgy and with our attendance at beautiful and reverent Novus Ordo Masses,” Pennell said.

Pennell, who is principal at Prince of Peace school, said attending the Latin Mass has increased his family’s reverence at the liturgy, even when he and his wife, Laura, are accompanied by their six children.

“The Latin Mass is a very quiet, prayerful experience that even the youngest child seems to be able to sense the importance and wonder of,” he said.

Pennell said the Latin Mass has played a key role in getting his three young sons to serve as altar boys and to consider the priesthood when they get older.

“Our boys actually play ‘Mass’ at home like some children play ‘house,’ ” he said.

Both Father Brovey and Msgr. McInerny agree that for some parishes, taking on another Mass would be a challenge.

Franciscan Father Aubrey McNeil, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Anderson, was 21 at the time of Vatican Council II. He said he grew up with the Latin Mass.

“I thought it was very beautiful at the time,” Father McNeil said.

He said he didn’t like the changes that were made in the Liturgy 40-plus years ago, “but I have grown to love the Liturgy as it is today.

“My question is: ‘Where are we going with this?’ I just don’t see the need. I think it’s more important today to be able to speak Spanish than it is to speak Latin.”

Father McNeil said none of his parishioners have asked him about adding a Latin Mass.

“I don’t suspect that we will be doing it here,” he said.

Father Brovey said the Holy Father’s Motu Propio isn’t part of an effort to move the Church back 40 years.

The “extraordinary form” of the Mass was the Mass that nourished the great saints of the Church, Father Brovey said. “What was deemed as sacred and good for them cannot all of a sudden be seen as something spiritually unhealthy for us. That is the rupture in thinking of which Pope Benedict XVI has often spoke.

“The 1962 Missal is now available for those who request it. It is not being forced on anyone who may prefer the Missal promulgated following Vatican II,” Father Brovey said. “The Holy Father is committed to the authentic call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. He clearly recognizes that the majority of priests and people, at the present time, will prefer the Missal first promulgated by Pope Paul VI. But, as universal pastor, he also wants to ensure that the spiritual needs of those who prefer the ancient Missal are met as well.”

For the past few years, Father McInerny has been holding day camps for altar servers in the traditional Latin Mass and in September he will begin training a new group of priests.

For people interested in the traditional Latin Mass, Msgr. McInerny said he would encourage “study, preparation and allowing time for the ancient form to draw them in.  The approach to the TLM is different from the Novus Ordo. The TLM is approached as something greater, beyond and more ancient than the individual persons or the individual community.  As I often say, ‘We don’t change the traditional liturgy; it changes us.’ ”

Currently, the diocese has three churches where the traditional Latin Mass is offered. In addition to the Prince of Peace Mass that will be held every Sunday at 5 p.m. starting Aug. 5, the Mass is celebrated at Stella Maris every Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and at Good Shepherd Church in Columbia at 3 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month.

Priests interested in receiving training in the traditional Latin Mass can call Father Brovey at the Office of Prayer and Worship at (864) 268-4352 to obtain a list of priests willing to train others in the rubrics.