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Making History In The Archdiocese Of Washington

February 18, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


For the first time since the 1960s, one parish in the Archdiocese of Washington is again offering Sunday and weekday Mass and all seven sacraments in the Traditional Rite. It all began over thirty years ago with the 1988 decree Ecclesia Dei of Pope John Paul II in which he wrote “respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition by a wide and generous application of the directives issued….by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.”
A small group of faithful from various locations in southern Maryland responded to this invitation by approaching James Cardinal Hickey with the request to begin the offering of the Traditional Mass in Charles County. Though he recommended a larger church, he approved their choice of the more diminutive St. Francis de Sales in Benedict, Md. The petitioners desired its use because of the existing altar rail.
The parish also possessed a humble though dignified Italian marble “high” altar, once the Marian side altar of the cathedral and gifted to our parish by the archdiocesan mother church when it was replaced with a new one.
The numbers at the Mass, held an hour before noon every Sunday, hovered for about 20 years at around 30 to 40 faithful. They persevered in worship and charity, gathering after Mass every Sunday for a coffee and donuts social at the church hall.
Their efforts paid off. When the Traditional movement got another infusion of lifeblood in 2007 with Benedict XIV’s Summorum Pontificum, their numbers swelled yet again. Your writer was named pastor in 2010 and the group continued to grow with the addition of some young families to the aging “plank-owners” of the congregation. I was asked to take the helm because my friendliness toward tradition was known by some members of the archdiocesan priest personnel board. At the time I was an active Reserve Navy chaplain and there had been a successful precedent of balancing these two roles with one of my predecessors, a Reserve Air Force chaplain, at this particular parish.
The seed of tradition had been planted but more needed to be done. Upon my arrival I immediately scheduled a Novus Ordo Latin Mass on Saturday mornings, a spot long abandoned in parish schedules everywhere in favor of Saturday evening Masses. The traditional weekly devotion to our Lady on Saturday mornings had been eclipsed by a new “devotion” among a subgroup in many parishes: going to Mass every day of the week except Sunday.
I put out the six parish brass high candlesticks on the marble altar under the “resurrectifix” mounted above it on the wooden wall that had been wedged between the marble altar and the apse wall in the 1970s. I catechized the parish on the necessity of a prominently and permanently placed crucifix, eventually replacing the risen Christ superimposed over a cross with a brass crucifix which had once adorned the Jesuit chapel at Woodstock, Md. A parishioner installed wheels on the “Cranmer table” and I began regularly to move it out of the way in favor of free access to the parish’s high altar for the Sunday Traditional Mass.
Small changes, both physical and liturgical, which elevated the Church’s tradition to its proper place were added throughout parish life. The community had become bifurcated, with a modernist bent to the English rites while a small circle of openness to the tradition was preserved with the 11 a.m. group, many members coming from surrounding areas in three counties and beyond.
A beautification project that began with removing the brown reredos that had been added in the 1970s in favor of a white apse wall with a neo-classical pediment ended with details painted in blue and gold and the addition of statues and angels bearing electrified candelabra. The altar rails were moved and reinstalled to accommodate restored brass gates. Carpeting in the sanctuary was replaced with Carrara marble to match the altar.
A marbleizing project was applied by a parishioner to a custom gradine designed, built, and installed also by parishioners. Side altars built by a local craftsman were added and also marbleized to match the yellow and white color scheme of the altar rail.
Today faithful are drawn from Baltimore to the north, Delaware on the Eastern shore, the banks of the Potomac to the west, and the southern tip of Maryland’s St. Mary’s County at numbers approaching 150.
Exposing the whole parish to ad orientem worship across all Masses, weekends and weekdays, began seasonally at first in Advent and Lent. Eventually all Masses were offered thus and the Vatican II table altar was permanently removed to a place as the Marian side altar. It was a minor change to extend the Traditional Mass to weekdays after years of facing east and using Latin in the Novus Ordo. At that point the Traditional Latin Mass was already being offered also on Saturday mornings. The parish experienced an explosion of sorts a few years ago as young families started to seek each other out here. They typically home school and bond on Sundays at what has grown to a weekly brunch at the hall. The children play, the parents chat, and members of the young single men’s “mutual protection society” smoke cigars together after the meal.
Many of our initial TLM pioneer group have gone on to meet the Lord. I think of Danny, MaryJo, and Alice, among others, who were so faithful each Sunday and so supportive. We first offered the Traditional requiem Mass for one of the founders, Michael Quinn, and then for additional souls.
Our efforts to provide a sung, or high, Mass once monthly were rewarded with arrival of a mother and daughter who joined the parish with their family a few years ago. The father and sons serve the Mass. Additional boys from our young families are joining the server team as they grow.
We are known for processions to avert tempests and other needs as well as for the accustomed yearly Corpus Christi and May processions. Weddings in the Traditional rite are frequently chosen by couples tying the knot here. Baptisms in the Traditional rite are favored by all our parents, including those who still attend the one English Mass weekly at 9 a.m. on Sundays. Our archbishop granted delegation a few years ago for this writer to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional rite, completing our full embrace of the Church’s liturgical life prior to 1962.
Much of Catholic identity and faith was lost through a misinterpretation of Vatican II Council documents which led to the now ubiquitous auto-destruction of the Roman rite. The mutilation continues today with many parish Masses often unrecognizable from Protestant services.
We are reaping the whirlwind with heresiarchs calling for the jettisoning even of Scripture where it conflicts with the LGBT agenda. This is not the “renewal” the fathers of Vatican II envisioned with the Council.
Rejection of our Catholic faith begins with rejection of our worship. Small changes made here and there did not end with the minor alterations but only led inexorably to more and more manipulation, growing into the avalanche which has overwhelmed the Church today. There is no longer any such thing as universal worship except among those who humbly cling to the Tradition as to a spiritual life raft.

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