Books Read in 2007
"A Latin Mass"
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"PROGRESS" IN THE "WAY BACK MACHINE"
11 July 2007
Monsignor Cantwell, pastor of St. Brigid's Church from 1926-1956, said the fastest Mass in town. We always loved it when Msgr. Cantwell was on the altar. Nobody could understand a thing he said because he muttered so low, he said it with all the speed of an auctioneer, and you were in and out of Mass in a matter of 20 minutes. Zip...zip...zip and off to the school cafeteria for donuts and hot chocolate.
St. Brigid's is a San Francisco landmark. It was dedicated in 1864 and marked the outer edge of the famous 1906 fire, which stopped burning across the street from the church.
The church is now, unfortunately, closed because it needs earthquake retrofitting. There has been a fight for many years to save the building, which has long since ceased to be a functioning Catholic church.
I always thought of it as a big gothic style church, but now I think it's more Norman, with all those round arches and tall marble pillars.
Many are the processions that took place inside this church. I remember well dressing in my First Communion finery, holding a bouquet and processing down the side aisles here while the smell of incense blended with the smell of chrysanthemums, as Gregorian chant floated from the choir loft or the strains of some religious music was piped through the pipe organ.
I remember "First Fridays," when we would sit in the pews while the priests said the "stations of the cross," stopping at each of the marble stations mounted on the wall between the stained glass windows, and retraced the steps of Jesus on the way to his crucifixion.
I attended St. Brigid's School, which was next door to the church (separated by the rectory, on the left in this photo, where the priests lived).
It was the age of the Latin Mass. The priests celebrated (I was never sure why the word "celebrate" is used) the Mass with backs turned to the congregation so we couldn't even see what was going on. We all had our missals, so we could read along as the priest muttered whatever it was that he was muttering in Latin (or Greek, in the case of the Kyrie). The Latin I can decipher today comes from years of hearing Mass and the scriptures read in Latin.
There was a huge controversy in the Catholic Church when, following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, priests turned and faced the congregation and Mass began being said in the language of the people. No longer was the Mass the same wherever you went. Now you attended Mass in French in France, in Portuguese in Brasil, in English in the United States and other English-speaking countries.
It was an adjustment. We lost a lot of church music at first, because everybody sang only things that were written in English and that everybody could sing. I had been in choirs forever and missed all that multi-voice harmony. But the Mass, because it had to, became more meaningful because now we had no excuse not to understand what was being said, and we were included in the ceremony. It wasn't just an old Monsignor rattling off a dead language as fast as he could while we sat in the pews fingering our rosaries, or reading our prayer books, or checking our watches, and having no connection with the altar at all.
But apparently that is about to change. Pope Benedict XVI has removed restrictions on performing the Latin Mass. Fortunately, this no longer applies to me since I haven't attended Mass in years.
When the last Pope died, I had little interest in his replacement. The only person I felt adamant about was Cardinal Ratzinger, one of the most conservative of Cardinals, the one who wrote most of the papal encyclicals against homosexuality. But Ratzinger got the nod and now, as Pope Benedict, he is taking a gigantic step backward into the 19th Century.
I know there are people who will be thrilled to hear that Latin Mass will be available in a more widespread fashion. But I wonder if the next step is having the priest turn his back on the congregation again and if Monsignor Cantwells will again start putting their heads down and plowing thru the Mass lickety split once again while the congregation fingers beads and looks at their watches, not knowing what is going on and wondering when it will be over.
The Catholic Church is nothing if not progressive.
Oh my...how timely is
Sister Joan Chittester's column today!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
LOL...I think I'll leave this photo one more day--it seems appropriate, somehow!
This is entry #2661