East Palo Alto, California Church Revives Tridentine Mass

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Latin liturgy was previously lost to modernization

By Christine Morente, Staff Writer, TRI-VALLEY HERALD

EAST PALO ALTO, CA – With reverence, the Rev. Larry Goode raised the Eucharist high above his head and prayed aloud in the sacred language: “Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi.”

At that, many congregants looked down at their Latin-English missal and silently read the translation – “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world.”

Last Friday, more than 40 people attended St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church’s Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass. The church began offering a monthly Latin Mass six months ago.

The service is steeped in rituals that hark back to the days before the Second Vatican Council allowed the modernization of the Catholic Church. Gestures, words and postures are all designed to bring celebrants’ focus to God and Christ’s sacrifice.

“It’s all very, very, very sacred,” said 56-year-old Aita Veamatahau of East Palo Alto. “I feel so holy.”

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI removed restrictions that were believed to exist regarding the celebration of the Latin Mass, making clear that parishes may perform the old rite if members of the congregation ask for it.

The rite was practiced in the Catholic Church for 1,500 years until the 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council decreed the importance of modernizing the church.

The Latin liturgy was never banned by the council, but it was gradually phased out, a move that hurt traditionalists deeply.

“We felt it was wrong to suppress it,” said the Rev. William Young of the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. “It was a devastating and catastrophic mistake. We were determined to do all we could to keep it from becoming something for antiquarians to study.”

Young blames liturgists and theologians for creating the false impression that the Tridentine Mass was forbidden.

“To celebrate it would constitute disobedience and disloyalty,” he said. “Rome allowed the impression that the Mass was forbidden to continue.”

Young leads a Latin Mass every Sunday at the Holy Rosary Chapel in San Rafael. He said there have always been a significant number of people who desired the older ritual.

“The old Mass attempts to create a sense of the transcendent and the sacred,” said Young, who was ordained in 1976. “It attempts to create an experience that is totally discontinuous of ordinary experience.”

Monsignor Bruno Peschiera of Pacifica presided over traditional Masses while living in Rome for 10 years.

“There is a great devotion,” Peschiera said. “You see the respect for the Eucharist and for the things that happen at the altar.”

Traditionalists have said the focus of the modern liturgy is on the human community rather than the heavens. Priests face the congregation during services, rather than facing the Cross.

“There’s too little focus on God,” Young said.

Joan Favero, a Santa Cruz resident who spent his youth in San Mateo, remembers when attending Latin Mass was the norm.

“It was just part of life,” said Favero, 64, who did not like the church’s shift to the vernacular. “I don’t think it’s important to actually be part of the Mass as far as answering in English. Worshipping God is why we are there. Any other type of community or social activity can be after Mass.”

Goode agreed.  “For a long time, I have felt that the Mass we’re doing today is not as reverent,” said Goode, who went through six years of Latin in seminary.

Goode said attendance has remained steady for the special service since it was introduced. He eventually wants to perform the old Mass for different occasions.

“It helps in my devotion,” he said. “It makes me conscious of the meaning of what I’m doing. (But) I’m just beginning to get the hang of it.”

Some people are reluctant to embrace the Latin Mass, Young said.

“By now, it’s almost been 40 years,” he said. “It’s something unfamiliar to a lot of people, and they tend to approach the unfamiliar with hesitation, I think.”

St. Francis of Assisi offers Latin Mass at 7 p.m. every first Friday of the month.  The church is located at:

1425 Bay Rd.
East Palo Alto, 94303.
(650) 322-2152

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