Feb 20, 2007

FSSP Mass in Kansas City, KS

[This is the first post in a series of generally describing Masses celebrated in Catholic churches in Kansas City (both dioceses). Most of the time, I'll focus on unusual stuff and the homily. I'll start with the Latin Mass Community of St. Philippine Duchesne (SPD) where the "Saint of the Party Animals" [my title] was the sermon.]

The two SPD Community Masses are offered by two chaplains of the FSSP at 6:30 and 11:00 a.m. every Sunday morning. Last Sunday, one priest offered Mass and the other heard confessions before and during Mass, except when both chaplains were needed to distribute Holy Communion. The 6:30 a.m. Mass is a shorter liturgy called the Low Mass. A slightly longer High Mass is offered at 11:00 a.m., with special opening prayers, entrance/exit processions, organ music, singing, additional prayers, incense, etc. I decided to attend the Low Mass early last Sunday morning.

Those who wanted to follow the Low Mass could pick up red booklets with side-by-side English translations of the Latin prayers said by the priest and the altar servers. However, it seemed many, if not most, people had their own large prayer books which they read silently before, during, and after Mass.

It's hard to believe the 6:30 a.m. Low Mass for Quinquagesima Sunday attracted a total of 12 altar boys dressed in black robes with white surplices. [Note: the High Mass a week later had 26 altar boys.] Many genuflections to the Blessed Sacrament were made by the altar boys who crossed repeatedly in front of the tabernacle as they helped to make the sanctuary ready. When the opening bells were rung, the priest and his entourage of 12 young servers entered the sanctuary. Two boys then stood, knelt, and genuflected at the side of the priest and prayed in Latin--apparently memorizing the prayers. Most of the time, the other boys quietly stood and knelt on both sides of the sanctuary, sort of like praying angels, I thought.

Latin was used for all the Mass prayers except for the repeating of the Epistle and the Gospel in English from the priest's podium. The sermon "Saint of the Party Animals" was then given and I have since learned that it was taken from The Story of Hermann Cohen by Fr. Tadgh Tierney, OCD.

After the sermon, more Latin prayers were said by the priest while the people read from their prayer books, and then the bells were rung for the holiest part of the Mass where the priest consecrated the bread and wine. At the consecration, bells were rung three times when the bread became the Body of Jesus Christ, and three times for the consecration of His blood.

The consecration is a very notable and reverent ceremony because of the deep bow of the priest, the bells, the slow raising of the chalice, the reverent genuflections by the priest and altar boys, an impressive silence, and reverent attention of the people. Actually, there seemed to be almost complete silence during the entire time I was in church, except for the priest's prayers and the occasional noises made by a few of the good number of small children attending this very early Sunday Mass. Personally, I found the silence helpful in praying.

Holy Communion was distributed to kneeling parishioners by the two priests, except for a couple of older people with walkers who stood for Communion. It appeared almost everyone in church went to Holy Communion. People returned to their pews, knelt down, and appeared to be praying. They finally stood when the opening verses of St. John's Gospel were read at the end of Mass, in Latin. Everyone genuflected when the Gospel said Jesus descended to be born on earth. After the Mass concluded, the priest led more prayers at the foot of the altar, including "Hail, Holy Queen," another prayer asking God to protect the Church, the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and three "Lord, have Mercy's".

What was most impressive was to see the priest leave the sanctuary with his altar boys after Mass was concluded--and almost no one in the church moved for a couple of minutes! Continuing to pray, the people individually left the church once they had finished praying. Finally, I did not observe any talking in the church, even after Mass ended.