Mass appeal in Tridentine tradition

Hundreds gather weekly at St. Alphonsus Church for its services in Latin

April 25, 2005|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Kim Keller wanted her nine children to experience as many different Masses as possible and took them to services in English and in Spanish at churches throughout the Baltimore region. "We thought it was important they experience different cultures," she said.

But the Kellers stopped searching for new services when she heard Mass in Latin at St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church. "It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. We've been coming here ever since," she said yesterday after attending services.

On the day when Pope Benedict XVI, known as a staunch defender of Catholic traditions, was formally installed as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, hundreds of people like Keller came to the traditional 11:30 a.m. Latin-language Tridentine Mass at St. Alphonsus Church, a stone building on Saratoga Street built in 1845.

The Tridentine Mass was the official service for Catholics for centuries. But during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, a new way of offering Mass was introduced that used familiar language and allowed priests to face their congregations.

Supporters argued that the new Mass was more appealing because it could be adjusted to parishioners' needs and fit individual priests' styles. But some said the new Mass was untraditional, and they disobeyed the church by continuing to use the Tridentine Mass. In 1984, Pope John Paul II said the Latin ceremony could be performed with the permission of local bishops.

Many parishioners at yesterday's Mass said they hope Pope Benedict will continue to support traditional Catholic beliefs and practices. "I think [Latin Mass] is a good thing for the whole world," Keller said.

Tridentine Mass returned to St. Alphonsus in 1990, when the Rev. Casimir Peterson, who offered yesterday's Mass, began performing the service, which is more formulaic than the modern Mass. The ceremony, with the exception of the homily, is performed in Latin.

To St. Alphonsus parishioners, the ceremony's appeal lies in its tradition. "It's a Mass I grew up with, and it contains all the grace and beauty of 1,500 years of history," said Rita K. Dent of Baltimore. "Latin is a dead language, and the service doesn't change from generation to generation. And I like that."

It is the only such Mass in the Baltimore area and draws people from as far away as Pennsylvania. "It's a much more reverential Mass. The prayers are more respectful of God, and God is more present in the Mass for me," said Bill Mansell, who comes to services every Sunday from his home in York, Pa.

Keller and her husband, Buddy, drive to Baltimore from their home in Westminster, packing their children - five boys and four girls ages 9 months to 18 - into a 15- passenger van.

After four years, Kim Keller said she can understand bits of the service without the help of the church-provided translation. But regardless of how much Latin she absorbs, she said she will continue to worship at St. Alphonsus.

"It's the most beautiful thing this side of heaven," she said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.