By Dr. Carly York | Correspondent
Over the past seven years, a very close, vibrant community of faithful devoted to the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, or Latin Mass, has grown in both faith and number.
The devotion was made known Nov. 27 when hundreds gathered in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, to commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal with a Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass of Thanksgiving.
Photo Gallery: Latin Mass for Feast of Miraculous Medal
The timing of the Mass also resonated as it marked seven years since Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., established the Latin Mass in the Diocese, said Father Brian Woodrow, diocesan liaison to the Mass in the Extraordinary Form and pastor of St. Dominic Parish, Brick, who was the Mass celebrant.
“The aesthetics of the Latin Mass help remind us that Christ is our King,” Father Woodrow said.
“The Mass is Christ’s court and we are members of his royal family,” he said, adding that anyone with questions about the Extraordinary Form should “just come and experience it once for themselves.
“They will see the future of the Church in the Latin Mass community,” he said.
“We need more reverence in all areas of our life in the modern world, and the Latin Mass gives us its holy reverence.”
Also adding to the reverence of the Mass was the unexpected presence of Bishop O’Connell.
“Bishop, what a gorgeous surprise!” Father Woodrow said at the start of his homily. “We are honored to have you here in your home, our home, the Cathedral of St. Mary’s. Bishop, your presence here means the world to us!”
Rich In Worship
The Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass was steeped in tradition. The entrance procession was led by members of the Maidens of the Miraculous Medal from St. John the Baptist Parish, followed by Daughters of Mary from the Cathedral. The ladies in both groups, ranging in ages eight to late teens, wore traditional lace mantilla veils, white dresses with light blue sashes draped over their shoulders. A host of dedicated Latin Mass altar servers also assisted.
The procession continued with several priests attending including Msgr. Joseph Roldan, Cathedral rector, Father Todd Carter, who served as the deacon and Father Michael Wallack, who served as subdeacon. The Schola Cantorum from St. John the Baptist Parish, where Masses in the Extraordinary Form are celebrated each week, chanted the Introit of the Mass while Father Woodrow silently prayed the opening prayers facing “liturgical East.” Portions of the Mass were chanted and the Readings were proclaimed in Latin, which is the official language of the Catholic Church.
In his homily, Father Woodrow told the story of the conversion to Catholicism of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a young Jewish socialite from France in the 1800s. Though he considered himself an agnostic, he accepted the challenge to wear the Miraculous Medal and pray the “Memorare” every day for 10 days. Shortly after the bet concluded, he was invited to Rome to attend the funeral of another affluent socialite. Even though he had entered the church mocking Christianity, within a few minutes, he was overwhelmed by a vision of the Blessed Mother. Ratisbonne became a convert to the faith and eventually went on to be a priest who founded a religious order focused on evangelization.
“Never was it known to Mary that anyone who sought her intercession would be turned away,” said Father Woodrow. “And so we come here today, as a Church who is hurting, especially in recent day. It causes many of us to seek an answer and hope for the future.
“We need to look no further than the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in the Miraculous Medal, offers us so much grace. All we need to do is ask and pray,” he said.
The Mass also provided an opportunity for those in attendance to reflect on the growth in popularity of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese.
While Barbara Reinecke, who traveled with fellow parishioners from St. Dominic Parish, Brick, found her first time attending a Latin Mass to be “an amazing, powerful” experience, Patrick Cunningham, a senior in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, said he was “drawn to the reverence and beauty of the Extraordinary Form of the sacred liturgy.”
Some of the congregants remarked on how the mystery, silence and reverence of the Latin Mass speaks to people in different periods of their faith journey.
Pete Phillips, also from St. Dominic, said the celebration of the Latin Mass “reminds me of the Mass of my childhood. “I am just getting back into it, and it feels like I am coming home.”
Janet Denney of Mary Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, a convert to the Catholic faith, said the beauty of the Latin Mass helps her connect to the history of the Catholic Church.
In the past seven years, several different community organizations have been established to support the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, including the Maidens of the Miraculous Medal, which has as its mission “to serve God, pray for the Bishop and priests, and serve the parish community,” said group leader Clara Coleman.
Serving as Maidens has also enhanced the appreciation of the liturgy for Maggie Byrne, 15, a group member for six years, and Natalie Pardo, 11, who noted that praying for priests helps her feel closer to the Mass.
The large band of Latin Mass altar servers has also attracted a significant number of young men to serving the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Aixa Wellborn of St. John the Baptist discovered the alter server community for her two sons, Andrew and Daniel, through the Boy Scouts who “challenged them to do something uncomfortable.
“So I encouraged them to try alter serving at the Latin Mass. It was so different!” Wellborn exclaimed.
Father Wallack noted how he was always familiar and interested in the Latin Mass during his years in the seminary and now he has come to enjoy “the labor of love getting back into the groove of the Latin Mass now that I am at St. John’s.”
“Being here tonight and celebrating the Latin Mass at the Cathedral is a truly awesome experience!” he said.