Friday, September 28, 2007


My former boss will be celebrating 1962 Mass! WOOHOO!

I usually don't read the Pawtucket Times. Most of the time it's really only good for wrapping fish and lining litter boxes. But today I stumbled onto this front page write-up and I was very elated. (Links and snarky remarks added by yours truly)

Introibo ad altare Dei (I will go in to the altar of God)

PAWTUCKET - St. Leo the Great Church will be going back in time (Not really, but you have to understand, this is secular media that printed this article). Using a 1962 pre-Vatican II missal, the (Very) Rev. Kevin Fisette (my former pastor who I still consider a good friend to this day) will celebrate Sunday Mass in Latin on Oct. 21 at 5 p.m. (WOOHOO!)

The pastor will be wearing traditional vestments and during much of the Mass, will be standing with his back to the congregation. (When will the secular media around heree ever get it right? He will be facing the Lord, "to the East", the same direction as the congregation will be facing!) Worshippers will have to kneel to receive Holy Communion, and the host will be placed on the tongue.

In one other notable difference, Father Fisette will be assisted by altar boys - no girls allowed.

While this hasn't met with any resistance from parishioners, he did admit that one of his female altar servers, perhaps only half jokingly, responded with "Hey, that's not fair!" when told of the Latin Mass rules. (Quoting Fr. Fisette on my first Sunday at Holy Name, after I announced the hymns at the Latin Mass, obviously my still not knowing any better then, he asked me not to announce, and for good reason. "They didn't do that in '62," he told me. Same applies to the rule allowing altar boys and not altar girls - "They didn't do that in '62.")

St. Leo's, at 697 Central Ave., is the second church in Rhode Island to offer the Tridentine Mass. The other is Holy Name of Jesus Church in Providence (where I worked with Fr. Fisette for four of his seven years there, very happily, mind you), which has been offering the Mass for almost a decade by special permission from church authorities.

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI lifted Vatican restrictions (Well, he really didn't "lift" the restrictions, but made clear that such restrictions never really existed, contrary to the belief of many bishops worldwide) on the celebration of the Latin Mass, paving the way for more parishes to offer the traditional rite. However, as Father Fisette pointed out, there are many specific rules and regulations associated with it, which have been outlined by the Most Rev. Thomas Tobin, Bishop of Providence.

"Bishop Tobin made it clear we can not mix rites, do a little of the old Mass and a little of the new," said Father Fisette (that is correct). "Everything will be just as it was in 1962." He added that Bishop Tobin has been "extremely supportive" of his plan. (God bless Bishop Tobin!)

Father Fisette said he is excited about offering the Latin Mass and hopes that it will generate enthusiasm among his own parishioners, and perhaps attract some that are new. (Like I mentioned in an earlier post - "Build it and they will come.")

Noting that weekly Mass attendance among Catholics has dropped about 40 percent in the last 40 years, Father Fisette said, "We have to do whatever we can to bring people back."

Father Fisette, who has been a priest for 26 years, said he realizes there are some who consider the practice a sign of the church going backwards. (A word to said skeptics, it's really just bringing back those sacred elements that somehow got lost in transition... well, and then some.)

He and other supporters of the Tridentine Mass view it as a return to a time of more sacred, traditional church values that were in place prior to the Second Vatican Council. "Sometimes, I think we have lost a sense of the sacred. It's all become very familiar," he said. "We would like to bring back the sense of mystery, if you will - back when people were more in awe of the Mass." He added that the Latin Mass celebration offers more in the way of "spiritual drama." (I've often sensed that in the sudden outbursts of "Nobis quoque peccatoribus", from the Canon of the Mass, and "Domine, non sum dignus", from the priest's Communion.)

Commenting on the longtime practice of the priest turning his back to the congregation, Father Fisette said that traditional thinking held that the old Mass was, essentially, the "priest's prayer on behalf of the people who were gathered."

In contrast, the new Mass is centered around the idea that all of the people celebrate the Mass with the priest. (Not to mention the stereotypical innovative liturgeist's definition of "Full, Conscious, and Active Participation")

Father Fisette said he sees the Latin Mass as providing parishioners with another option of a traditional Catholic Mass.

"The Church is certainly big enough for different types of Masses. It is big enough for everybody's spirituality," he said. "We have guitar Masses and Gregorian chants, why not the Latin Mass?" (After all, Cardinal Arinze once said, "I will not now, nor will I ever say, 'Never guitar'". The problem is not so much the guitar as it is the music that the stereotypical "liturgical guitarist" uses at Holy Mass. Let me remind you that the beloved Christmas carol Stille Nacht, Heilege Nacht got its premiere on guitar, as the organ at the composer's church had broken down.)

Before arriving at St. Leo's, Father Fisette was pastor of Holy Name Church, where he celebrated the weekly Tridentine Mass for seven years. He said that at Holy Name, there was a great deal of interest in the Latin Mass, even attracting a younger segment of the parishioners. (We had really good turnouts at that Mass. And don't let Fr. Fisette's being a diocesan priest ordained in 1981 fool you. He can say/chant the Mass in the Extraordinary Form just as well as any of the other well-trained priest in that form, and with class.)

Father Fisette admits he is no Latin scholar, having only taken a couple of years of the ancient language in high school. However, when he was assigned to Holy Name in 1997, he decided to learn it himself. He said he used his mother's old missal and watched a videotape as a guide. "I was tongue-tied at first, but I found that it was fairly easy to learn," he said. (I took a similar route - I did one year of French in eighth grade, then took Latin in my first two years of high school. When I got involved in church music in my late teens, I had to do some converting - mainly in pronunciations, as the high school I attended was a public high school and the Latin was Classical Latin - so I had to learn to convert all my pronunciations to Ecclesiastical Latin. I try not to show conceit, but I have to say it paid off well for me, and for Father Fisette as well.)

He said he still intends to deliver his homily in English, however. (That is fine. That is usually the custom, as well as re-reading the Epistle and Gospel in English just before the homily.) Because of all the different rules and practices involving the Latin Mass, Fisette said he plans to hold an instructional session for parishioners on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in St. Leo's Church. (Big time kudos!)

Following the inaugural Mass on Oct. 21, Father Fisette plans to celebrate a 5 p.m. Latin Mass on the third Sunday of each month for one year, to see if it catches on with parishioners. "I feel optimistic that it will," he stated. (I feel it will too.)

BTW, I plan on being there for (at the absolute least) the October 21 Mass. St. Leo the Great Church is on 697 Central Avenue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Looks a little modern on the outside, but looks more traditional on the inside.


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