By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.
As of Oct. 25 worshippers at the noon Mass at St. Paul Church in South Philadelphia can say they go to the altar of God, Who gives joy to their youth (or in some cases their parents’ youth).
The Mass was celebrated in Latin in the extraordinary form, utilizing the Roman Missal published by Blessed John XXIII in 1962, and was authorized by the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum issued by Pope Benedict XVI in July 2007.
Even more to the point, the weekly Mass at St. Paul is not only celebrated in Latin, it is sung in Latin.
“It will be a weekly sung Mass and on special occasions a High Mass,” said Father Gerald P. Carey, pastor of St. Paul.
The parish had two such Masses earlier this year, – in January for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and in June for the closing of the Year of St. Paul.
“We received a lot of positive feedback from those two Masses, not only from our parishioners but other people in South Philadelphia and Center City,” he said.
Because of this and many requests for a regularly scheduled Mass in the extraordinary form in Latin, Father Carey took the issue to his parish pastoral council, which gave unanimous approval.
His own interest comes from a love of music and awareness of how the treasury of sacred music in Latin enhanced the liturgy in past generations. Most weeks he will celebrate the Mass himself, but other priests, including Father Ronald Check, have also agreed to do so.
At this point, for the Latin sung response a five-member male schola cantorum has been assembled as well as a small Latin choir, but the goal is to have some congregational singing in the future, he said.
Music director for the weekly Mass is Dr. Robert Hall, who was a music teacher before entering the medical profession. “I grew up with Latin Masses as an altar server in the former Holy Child Parish,” he said.
The sung portions of the Mass are spanided between the ordinary and the proper; the ordinary includes the prayers which never vary and the proper includes sung portions of Scripture which vary from week to week, he explained.
Dr. Rudolph Masciantonio, who lives in Center City and is chairman of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Latin Literary Association, also grew up with Latin Masses and missed them very much when the vernacular was introduced in the ordinary form of the Mass. It’s not just people from his generation that are drawn to the Latin Mass in the extraordinary rite, he believes.
“There is a huge interest, especially among young people,” he said.
Mostly he has been going to low Masses which are not sung, or for a sung Mass he’s traveled to Berlin, N.J.
“We are grateful for both, but the sung Mass is beautiful,” he said.
Masciantonio believes the Latin Mass in the extraordinary form may draw some people back to Mass who had stopped attending. That would not include Frank Wilson, a member of St. Paul who usually attends the daily English-language Mass in the ordinary form, but still has a great love for the older form.
“The first Latin Mass at St. Paul’s was an amazing experience; the aesthetic dimension to worship should never be underestimated,” he said. “People want to have beauty attached to their faith and why shouldn’t it be beautiful? It would be a very strange person who could hear the last movement of Bach’s B Minor Mass and not realize the faith dimension to it.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.