A GLORIOUS EVENT
The Holy sacrifice of the Mass was offered in Traditional Latin as a sung High Mass (Missa Cantata) according to the 1962 Roman Missal, on April 6, 2008, at beautiful St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Weston, WV. This was in response to the many requests of the Catholics of the area nearby (Clarksburg, Fairmont, Morgantown, etc.). It was also in gratitude for the recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI that now permits the Traditional Latin Mass to be offered with greater freedom.
The richly adorned altar furnishings, vessels, and priestly vestments used this day had been lovingly preserved by a faithful individual for years after the sad closing of a French Monastery. Their regal gold and red colors gave dignity and solemnity to this Mass of the Ages, and reminded us of its ancient origins as well as the communion with the saints of old, who still assist at this Mass they knew.
Father Timothy Grassi traveled one and one-half hours from Thomas, WV, to offer this Mass in the ancient fashion, humbly facing east with the people, thus leading them in prayer. He was assisted By Fr. Eric Hall who traveled two and one-half hours from Huntington, WV, and by the master of ceremonies, Edward Heffernan who came from New Jersey.
They were accompanied by four altar boys, possibly future priests: Sam Tillman, Joe Moran, Scott Cross and Gratt Gannon. Greg Gray, organist and choir leader, and twenty-five members of a magnificent choir came from Charleston, WV, to lead everyone in chant and song. Their ringing, angelic tones powerfully drew the eyes of the soul heavenward. When they came forward to receive communion dressed in formal black, women in hats or mantillas, they set the example by kneeling and receiving the Host on the tongue.
How was this ancient Mass received by today's Catholics? Thanks to an advance news notice from John Roush, 350 to 400 of the faithful responded, squeezing into pews and filling the church to the point of standing room only, and not much of that. The pastor, Fr. Mc Jeremiah Mc Sweeney was asked by a local reporter what it is that attracts people to this old form of the Mass. He replied, "It may be the sweet mystery of it, the aura." What was said by those who were there?” "I have been waiting forty years for this...” “I am not a Catholic, but I came and am deeply moved, such reverence." "I've been away from the Church for so long, but this feels like home again." Several others asked, “When is the next Latin Mass?” Many could hardly contain their emotion as they approached the priests outside the church and hugged them, shook hands, and thanked them again and again. One young father said in answer to a question, "Of course I brought my children, they need this."
Is it possible the attention shown by these faithful points up a serious pastoral need in Roman Catholic parishes? Present were not just the old who remember the ancient Mass, but families and many young people, as young as or younger than the two priests who are also new to this old Mass. Is there a real, heartfelt desire for this traditional Latin Mass? 400 is quite a number of people, and some came from very far away.
Is this devotion, or novelty? Would so many continue to attend this Mass if it were offered regularly? For those seeking traditional worship that is noble, restrained, full of awe, focused on mystery, and lovingly conveyed in lilting Latin, they found it on this day and may well continue to seek it. A statement is made by such a presence and before at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, WV, with standing room only at the first couple of Traditional Latin Masses. Attendance later declined but always remained significant as attested by several of those who attended all the Masses during the several months it was offered.
In Huntington, WV, a recent, polite request for the old Latin Mass was signed by 70 people, most from one parish, indicating that many more in the area, maybe hundreds, are desirous of this Mass. The prayers and needs of Catholics of Parkersburg, WV, may soon be answered by another young, willing priest preparing for the Traditional Latin Mass. Could we be witnessing the fruits of Summorum Pontificam: is this a faithful response to the wishes of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and former Pope John Paul II?
Currently the TLM is offered in WV at three locations: Parsons, Our Lady of Mercy, 12:30 p.m. on second Sundays, by Fr. Grassi of St Thomas Aquinas, in Thomas. Fr. Grassi also offers the TLM at St. Thomas Aquinas daily 7:45 a.m. when possible, and on third Sundays at 7:30 a.m., call to be sure, (304) 463-4488. Fr. Bryan Owens of Charlestown tries to make a monthly TLM available at St. James; call (304) 725-5558.
To be informed of future TLMs or to help advance the movement, Una Voce America has a website, www.unavoce.org listing the local WV chapter. You may wish to join Una Voce, the local chapter or start your own. This may keep you in touch with others who share your prayerful love for the Old Mass.
Note: Grattan is a member of St. Joseph Parish, Huntington, West Virginia. He is married and the father of two children, a retired homebuilder, head of WV chapter Una Voce of the Sacred Heart, and loves the Old Latin Mass even more than fly fishing.