Update on the TLM in Springfield, Illinois

 Mass trend: Latin making a comeback locally

Preface:  One can appreciate Mr. Steven Spearie’s efforts with writing about the Traditional Latin Mass at Blessed Sacrement in Springfield, Illinois.  However, his knowledge and understanding of the Traditional Latin Mass falls short.  He sure didn’t get his research from Father Arnaud Devillers, FSSP!  Yet, just enjoy the fact that the TLM is getting attention in a diocese that was once one of the greatest!  This church structure like many in the Springfield Diocese was altered to accomodate a completely different liturgy other than the one that it was built to serve.  If you’re from the Springfield Diocese, the like days of two of  Springfield’s finest, Monsignors Amos Giusti and James Suddes are returning! 

 By STEVEN SPEARIE, Correspondent


Posted Apr 26, 2009 @ 12:00 AM

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS – Early on a Saturday morning under the watchful gaze of archangels and the Gospel writers in a darkened church, a voice intones Hail Marys and Our Fathers with measured responses from a smattering across the church.

The Rev. Arnaud Devillers consecrates the host during a Latin Rite Mass at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The altar servers are John Bultmann, foreground, and Michael Lawless. Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register

The Rev. Arnaud Devillers consecrates the host during a Latin Rite Mass at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The altar servers are John Bultmann, foreground, and Michael Lawless. Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register

Worshipers cross themselves with holy water and gather missals while some women pluck mantillas – lace head scarves – from a box sitting on a radiator. Altar servers, dressed in black cassocks and white surplices, ready the altar, pausing to genuflect ramrod-straight each time they pass in front of the tabernacle.

At precisely 7 a.m., the lights burst on at Blessed Sacrament, the bells chime and the Rev. Arnaud Devillers, flanked by the servers, comes out and heads immediately to the back altar near the tabernacle. Kneeling, with his back toward the congregation, he begins: “In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.”

When Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic decree in July 2007 calling for wider implementation of the Traditional Latin Mass – also known as the Tridentine Mass or the Extraordinary Rite – he noted that it isn’t “a museum piece, but a living expression of Catholic worship.”

Largely hidden from Roman Catholics since the late 1960s as a result of Vatican II – a period of sweeping reforms in the Catholic church – the Latin Mass has slowly crept back onto the scene.

Not your everyday Mass

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Springfield has been the setting for weekly Latin Mass since Jan. 31; the Church of St. Rose of Lima Chapel in Quincy, where Devillers is chaplain, has offered Latin Masses since November.

Latin Masses in Springfield and Quincy have attracted moderately sized but fervent followings, ranging from those who preferred the pre-Vatican II rituals to those simply curious about the Mass. A 7 a.m. Saturday Mass recently drew about 50 people, where attendance has leveled off.

Since communion rails were removed from most Catholic churches, members of the congregation kneel in the front pew to receive the Eucharist. Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register

Since communion rails were removed from most Catholic churches, members of the congregation kneel in the front pew to receive the Eucharist. Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register

Like Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox rites, the priest mostly has his back to the congregation during the Latin Mass. Masses are punctuated with long silences and – unlike the Masses in English familiar to most area Catholics – an absence of congregational participation. Springfield’s Latin Mass has no music, while a full choir performs at Quincy’s weekly Mass.

Rosanne Wiatroliak, 48, of Springfield says she went to the Latin Mass at Blessed Sacrament “to see what I remembered (from my childhood.)

“I don’t remember being as separated from the Eucharistic celebration (as I did before),” she says. “I felt like a spectator this time around. It was harder to follow. I’ve gotten closer to understanding (the Latin) and following along. You really have to stay on your toes unless you’re fluent in it.”

“It’s a lot more contemplative,” says Jim Dodge, like Wiatroliak a Blessed Sacrament parishioner who lives in Springfield. The 41-year-old took some Latin in high school, but says he leans on a Latin-English missal to follow along.

An eye on the past

Under Pope Benedict’s personal decree, Summorum Pontificum, groups requesting the Latin Mass may approach a pastor who knows how to say one directly, bypassing the bishop.

While the rite has the enthusiastic support of Springfield Bishop George Lucas, it has created some controversy nationally, with some experts citing Pope Benedict’s aversion to modernism. There is speculation that it may pave the way for other conservative advances.

Devillers is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a society founded with the endorsement of then-Pope John Paul II with the purpose of celebrating Mass “according to the traditional Roman Rite.”

Before that, Devillers was allied with excommunicated French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in the Society of St. Pius X. Lefebvre founded the society that opposes some of the modernizing reforms of Vatican II. But Devillers left that society in 1989, citing Lefebvre’s increasingly extremist views.

Lefebrve, who ordained Devillers, broke with the Vatican in 1988 when he illicitly consecrated four bishops, including Bishop Richard Williamson. Williamson has said the numbers of Jewish casualties in World War II were inflated. (Earlier this year, the Vatican lifted the ex-communications on all four bishops, though they are not in full communion with Rome.)

There is also the matter of practicality.

Few Springfield priests feel comfortable with the rite’s arcane rituals, or rubrics, with few having been trained in them.

The demand of other pastoral services, including Spanish-speaking Masses, may prevent already overworked priests from widely implementing the Latin Mass.

Bishop Lucas has periodically granted permission for Latin Masses. But they have been celebrated infrequently over the past decade in the Springfield diocese, which stretches from the Mississippi River towns of Quincy and Alton east to the Indiana border.

Devillers says Pope Benedict’s motivation in part was to reach out to conservative elements, such as the late Archbishop Lefebvre’s group, which still does not have normalized relations with Rome.

The misperception is that there is only “one rite,” or Mass in the local language, when there are in fact 22 “main rites,” Devillers says. More importantly, he adds, Vatican II never abolished the Latin Rite.

“What Pope Benedict is saying is if people are still interested in the Extraordinary Form, why not keep it?” Devillers says.

Liturgy expert Dennis Martin of Loyola University Chicago says the familiar Ordinary Rite, or Novus Ordo, was crafted by a liturgical commission after Vatican II. The idea, Martin says, was “a limited call for (liturgical) reform,” and Vatican II made no mention about totally eliminating the Latin Mass and replacing it with the locally spoken language.

A rare skill

Wearing his preferred long black cassock, Devillers says he has a two-pronged mission during his one-year trial run at Quincy: build the community at St. Rose of Lima Chapel and serve as a resource for priests from around the diocese who also might be interested in learning the Extraordinary Rite.

Devillers says a handful of priests – mostly younger ones – have approached him for instruction.

“The main difficulty is not the rubrics, it’s the Latin,” says Devillers, the former superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

But adding Latin Masses – against the backdrop of overextended priests and other initiatives – is “always a concern,” Lucas admits, adding that it has to be judged “in terms of personnel and time.”

Even the Rev. David Hoefler, parochial administrator at Blessed Sacrament, says time hasn’t allowed him to follow through on Latin Mass instructions.

Blessed Sacrament did not add any Masses to accommodate the Latin Mass. The parish was already offering the Saturday morning service in English, so Devillers says Mass at a time when Catholics already were gathering to worship. Hoefler says for now the parish can’t add any more Masses, in Latin or English.

Diocesan personnel and others deny that the Latin Mass is dividing congregations or that groups are using their muscle to advance further causes.

“I hope that’s not the case (here),” says Rosanne Wiatroliak. “I don’t know and I can’t judge. It would be sad if someone used it that way.”

Devillers further denies that a sort of “ghetto Catholicism” is being built at St. Rose of Lima, which offers a wider range of Latin Masses and pre-Vatican II church. He points out that many people who come to the refurbished chapel – it is a former diocesan church but doesn’t have standing as a parish – belong to other parishes around Quincy, a largely Catholic town 115 miles west of Springfield.

“It’s the same faith, the same sacraments and the same sacrifice of the Mass,” Devillers says.

Jim Dodge says he doesn’t see any problem with the two forms of the Masses co-existing.

“To me, it’s the genius of the Catholic Church,” Dodge says. “It’s a ‘both and.’ It’s like the church’s view of celibacy and marriage. Both are positive goods.”

Steven Spearie can be reached at spearie@hotmail.com or 622-1788.

1570 – A new missal harmonizes prayers and rites at the Council of Trent
1962-65 – Second Vatican Council
1962 – Pope John XXIII promulgates a version of the Latin Mass
1969 – Pope Paul VI promulgates the Ordinary Rite, the English Mass, taking effect the next year.
1984 – The letter Quattuor Abhinc Annos empowers bishops to allow Latin Masses when requested.
2007 – Summorum Pontificum, or personal decree, issued by Pope Benedict XVI. Requests for the Latin Mass by “stable groups” should be honored locally.

* 7 a.m. Saturdays
* Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 1725 S. Walnut St.

A special thanks to Father Arnaud Devillers for driving 114 miles from Quincy, IL to Springfield, IL on a regular basis.  Although your time and effort is much appreciated, your reward awaits you in the Kingdom to come!