Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Fr. Sam is away with our youth group this week for the annual mission trip, and he’s asked me to take on the weekly bulletin column. I’d like to share with you a bit about the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Traditional Latin Mass. Typically, the Latin Mass is offered here on Holy Days of Obligation and certain feast days throughout the year. As this form of the Mass is not commonly celebrated, I want to explain some of the reasons behind its use in our parish.
One of the primary reasons for my affinity for the Mass is deeply personal: I grew up with it! I get a good chuckle when older parishioners tell me that they served the Latin Mass when they were children and try to explain to me what it was like. What is more humorous is the look of shock on their faces when I tell them that I too served that Mass as a youngster. Invariably, they question how I could have served a Mass that went out of vogue nearly sixty years ago. The story is as simple as it is profound. My grandparents, one of whom was baptized there, returned to St. Mary’s Parish in Norwalk after it was announced the parish would be offering the Mass in Latin. They invited me to attend this Mass with them one day, and my first interaction with it might not be what you would expect. I found the ceremonial, the language, and the music bizarre at best, detestable at worst. I totally dismissed it as something that was not spiritually good for me. Time would show me just how wrong I was! Just because I didn’t understand something initially didn’t mean it was not good for me.
As I continued to attend this Mass each week, I noticed two things that stood out: beauty and youth. I began to hear the music as absolutely gorgeous, and understand the ornate vestments as befitting a God who created all things. Furthermore, the priests and deacons exuded reverence and awe, truly understanding the love of God poured out on the cross for you and me without reservation. Additionally, never in my life had I attended Mass where young people
outnumbered any other age demographic. What was even more shocking was that many of my friends from school were serving this Mass. They invited me to serve with them. You will see quite a few of these “misfits” hanging around Pius from time to time. Some of them perform the music or serve with great compassion and diligence at our Masses. These friendships continue to blossom because of the Mass we love so much. I have never looked back after discovering the beauty of the Extraordinary Form. The Roman Catholic Church underwent a series of changes in the mid-1960s after the Second Vatican Council. For the ordinary individual, the most noticeable aspects were the changes in the celebration of the Mass. However, Pope Benedict XVI, through his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum (2007), recognized the desire of many people to attend and celebrate the Mass in the traditional Latin form, and so has made it possible for the laity to attend the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962 without restriction. It is our right as Catholics to have a well-prayed Mass, and it is the duty of priests to offer Mass worthily and well. We must never forget, the Mass is an invaluable gift given by Christ to His Church.
Through the Extraordinary Form, Catholics can come to see the beauty and love of Christ in the Holy Mass, which has organically developed over centuries. If more Catholics come to understand the Church, and more importantly the Traditional Mass, we will undoubtedly see the laity and clergy become champions of Truth; a Truth that ultimately is Jesus Christ. No longer ought we be discouraged by statistics showing decline in the practice of the faith, but instead we can be encouraged by this solid liturgical grounding to further conform our lives to Christ, Who offers Himself without reserve in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Fr. Sam has begun learning how to offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Fr. Sam, like myself, has experienced the beauty of this Mass and realizes that this Form is not a detriment to the priest or the faithful, but another Form that mutually enriches our lives as Roman Catholics. History proves this point well; most of the Church’s Saints attended this Form of the Mass daily. I will never forget the look on Fr. Sam’s face when he attended my first Mass as a priest. The awe that he exhibited at this Mass could only mean one thing for me, that he didn’t quite understand what was going on, but that he loved it. The master of ceremonies leaned over to me after my first Mass and whispered, your pastor has been awakened. I am blessed that Fr. Sam has asked me to offer this Mass here at St. Pius and to share with you my story, because this Mass is a part of who I am.
I would like to invite and encourage you to attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form if you see that one is on the schedule. It would be my joy to have you experience the beauty and love of God the way I have experienced it throughout my life because of this Mass. To quote C.S. Lewis, “You never know what you can do until you try, and very few try unless they have to.” Together, we can revive and promote the sense of the sacred in the Holy Mass through the aid of tradition and understand the Catholic faith in all its richness, diversity, and spiritual fruitfulness. Finally, persevere and pray earnestly for the faithful to embrace the liturgical traditions of our Church, as they ultimately offer us a freedom the world cannot give.
Yours in Christ,