Austin Texas Latin Mass community finds home at Cathedral

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By Michele Chan Santos
Correspondent for THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

The traditional Latin Mass celebrated on Sunday afternoons at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin is unique among the Sunday Catholic Masses around the Diocese of Austin.


Most of the women and many of the young girls are wearing black or white lace veils over their heads. As people enter, they pick up copies of a Latin-English Booklet Missal. The missal has the prayers and Gospel readings in Latin on the left and in English on the right. The songs are sung in Latin, and some portions of the service are chanted by the priest.


Parishioners receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Those receiving Communion do not say “Amen” because it is included when the priest says “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.” (This translates as “May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.”)

This congregation meets each week at 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. Beginning at 3 p.m., a rosary is prayed and the sacrament of penance is made available. Those who regularly attend this Mass call themselves the St. Joseph Latin Mass Community. About 160 to 175 people attend regularly, with more people coming during the Christmas and Easter seasons. The Mass and sacraments are celebrated by Jesuit Father Robert Bradley.

The Latin Mass has brought together a diverse group of people who have formed a strong community and deep friendships as a result of their attendance at this Mass. They drive from Cedar Park, Bastrop, Round Rock and all over Austin to the downtown cathedral.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, all Masses were celebrated in Latin. However, after the council, it was decided that Masses should be celebrated in the language of the people. After 1962, the Latin Mass was no longer permitted, until October 1984, when Pope John Paul II gave permission for Mass to be celebrated in Latin with approval of the local bishop. In Austin, Bishop John McCarthy made arrangements for a Latin Mass for those who wished to attend one.

In July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued “Motu Proprio,” a papal letter that made it easier for parishes to celebrate a Latin Mass and it said that priests no longer needed special permission to have this type of service. In his letter, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.”
At the Austin service, there are many people who remember services conducted in Latin from their youth. There are many young families as well, who have decided this is the service that is right for them.
Lucy Trainor and her husband brought their three children, ages 3, 2, and 9 months, to Latin Mass on Sunday, Feb. 3.

“We love the reverence and the quiet,” Trainor said.

Brooks Whitmore is the musical director for the service; his wife, Jennifer Whitmore, directs the children’s choir, which also sings in Latin.

“We love the respect for our Lord and the Eucharist, the way the priest says the Mass facing the tabernacle and facing our Lord,” Jennifer Whitmore said.

Steve Valerga and his wife, Jean, have regularly attended Latin Mass for many years.
“I just like the old traditional Mass, some of the old rites are beautiful,” Steve Valerga said. “There’s a lot of history, a lot of tradition going back 1,500 years.”

Jean Valerga said she loves this service, “the whole concept of it, the reverence of it. It’s more spiritual for me.” After Mass is over, the regular attendees gather outside to chat and talk over the events of the week. “There is a very bonded community,” she said.

Whitney and Pearsall clearly recall the community’s early days. Their gatherings began with the permission of Bishop John McCarthy and the appointment of their founding chaplain, the late Holy Cross Father Leon Boarman. The community’s first celebration of the traditional Latin Mass was held in the St. Joseph’s Hall chapel at St. Edward’s University, on an Advent Sunday in 1988.

The Latin Mass remained at St. Edward’s for nine years, then moved to the Our Lady’s Maronite Parish on 51st Street. From 1999 to 2002, the Mass was held at St. Ignatius Parish, and then it relocated to Sacred Heart Parish for the next five years. During this period, Jesuit Father Robert Bradley was appointed chaplain upon Father Boarman’s retirement.

“At every place, our attendance grew,” Whitney said. “The beauty of it is while we were roaming, we kept adding people and expanding.”
In April of last year, the Latin service moved to St. Mary Cathedral at the invitation of Father Bud Roland, the rector of the Cathedral, and with the approval of Bishop Gregory Aymond.

Father Roland said the Latin Mass community has been a blessing to the parish community at St. Mary Cathedral.

“Our setting lends itself well to the Latin Mass,” he said. “Father Bradley has presented a series on adult education, which many of our parishioners attended. One of their members is on our parish council, so we routinely get updates about what is going on with them … the group has grown, which I think means they are happy here.”

The people who attend this Mass were grateful for the invitation from Father Roland.
“It’s such an appropriate place for such a beautiful liturgy,” Trainor said.
“We are truly grateful to be in the Cathedral, we really appreciate it,” Whitney said.

Pearsall is happy that so many younger families are joining their community. “It’s drawing a lot of people who didn’t grow up with it.”

This is appropriate, Pearsall said, because “the Latin Mass was part of our heritage for hundreds of years.”
The traditional Latin Mass is celebrated at 3:30 p.m. on Sundays at St. Mary Cathedral at 203 E. 10th St. in downtown Austin. The public is invited.
For more information, visit http://www.austinlatinmass.org or www.saintmaryscathedral.org. The Latin Mass is also celebrated at St. Louis Parish in Waco. For more information, contact wacolatinmass@gmail.com.

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