First Tridentine Mass in Phoenix, AZ a big hit!

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June 6, 2004, the Feast of the Holy Trinity was a special day in another way for the diocese of Phoenix Arizona.  After the Latin Mass has not been allowed for 40 years, the Feast of the Holy Trinity was celebrated by a solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missal.  The Mass was made possible by a group of volunteers and the new Bishop of the diocese of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted.

Cars lined the street for several blocks surrounding the hosting parish, St Thomas the Apostle, an overflow from the two usual parking lots.  Local residents were coming out of their houses with a look on their faces like "what is happening at the Catholic church?"  Walking into the church, I found the seats filled and the aisles packed with standees - more Mass attendees than I'd seen in years.

Twelve altar boys were trained and commissioned as the first part of the liturgy. The altar boys did very well.  Devoid of the smirking one sees in modern altar servers, they served Mass smoothly and reverently, looking like they had done it for years.  A special choir sang in Gregorian chant and this Mass had the same reverence and other-worldly quality which many of us remember from before Vatican II.  Among the attendees were many older people however, there were an appreciable number of young folks also.

Women were encouraged to wear mantillas or chapel veils and kneelers were set up for Communion (St Thomas like most of the churches, had ripped out its altar rail a while ago).  It is interesting that when one kneels for Communion, and the priest says a prayer for each person, one really feels the enormity of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ even though true to the pre Vatican II church, only the Host was offered.  Everyone there received Communion on the tongue and only priests offered it.

Many of us brought our Missals some of which (like mine) were 40 years old. I wondered why mine had collected no dust although I had not opened it for years. It was almost like new.  Why did I keep mine?  Did I harbor a hope in the secret rooms of my heart that the church would again allow the Tridentine Mass?

There was no hand shaking or kiss of peace, but people there had a gentle friendly spirit.  They smiled at each other quietly.  And I remembered that when I first joined the Catholic church in 1963, I found it a more friendly place for a stranger than our church is often today, despite all our attempts at making it 'folksy'.

Vatican II had affected the attendees.  I didn't see anyone saying their Rosary. All tried to follow along and many treated it like the transition "dialogue" Mass and said the responses. The priest seemed to encourage this.  This is a good thing.

Many people were touched to tears during Mass and all of us came away with a special feeling.  Many said they were planning to attend again the following week (it will be low Masses until the choir gets more organized - they are tentatively planning the next Solemn High Mass for the Feast of the Assumption in August).

No one knew exactly how many would attend this Mass.  The people planning it estimated there would be 200-400 in attendance.  But all were surprised when 1500 people showed up! Standing room only.  One lady at a church where we ministered music at an earlier Mass, showed me she had her hat on. "I'm planning to attend the Tridentine Mass!" she told me, and then added "they should have never taken that Mass away from us!"

Reactions from priests and liturgists not involved with the Latin Mass, were generally not positive.  One priest told me he felt it was making a concession to those who had become schismatic (I told him that when the news media asked a traditionalist parish about that, they assured them they didn't plan to come back to the Roman church). Another priest said angrily "I will NEVER have a Latin Mass in THIS parish!" (it's up to the priests whether they wish to host a Latin Mass or not).   A liturgist asked "Do you want to take the church backward 1000 years?"  My husband thought to himself that the Post Vatican II Mass had taken the church back 1850 years since it's the Mass of St Justin the Martyr.

Hubby and I attended the low Mass this week.  It was hubby's third Mass of the day and my second since we ministered music at our own parish.  Since it was Corpus Christi, after Mass, they did a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  Complete with "O Salutaris Hostia" and "Tantum Ergo" sung.  Hubby told me that was very touching - he converted in 1970 well after Vatican II. "Why don't they do that more often like that?"  he asked.  Even the low Mass had an other worldly quality to it. One felt strongly brought into the Presence of God.  It was an experience which brought serenity to my soul.

Attendance at this week's Mass was somewhat less than last week but the church was about 3/4 full - similar to a usual later Sunday Mass.

Seeing this Mass come back to our diocese is the answer to a long standing prayer of mine. Since we have Spanish Masses and Guitar Masses and choir Masses and Mariachi Masses why, I've wondered, can we not have a Tridentine Mass.

We plan to attend next week although we are not planning to make the Tridentine Mass our only Mass - these is a lot of beauty in the current liturgies. However, I have to say that assisting at the Tridentine Mass provides a very prayerful, serene ending to a nice Sunday worship.

Need a missal?  You can print out the Order of the Latin Mass and the propers for the day at this site:

The Ordinary of the Holy Mass