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Rare Latin Mass draws faithful to St. Paul's

Monday, June 26, 2000

By Christopher Snowbeck, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

More than 600 Catholics turned out yesterday afternoon for the first celebration of the Tridentine Mass in Latin at St. Paul Cathedral in 35 years.

 
  Dorothy Rose Igou, 2, in a traditional lace veil at St. Paul's Cathedral yesterday. (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

"We are participating in the Mass for all seasons," said the Rev. Thomas Murphy, a retired priest who works with St. Boniface Church on the North Side and delivered the homily yesterday. "We don't change with the weather."

The congregation at St. Boniface celebrates the Latin Mass every week, but yesterday marked the first time the traditional Mass has been sung in the seat of the Pittsburgh diocese in decades.

The Latin Mass was largely abandoned by the Catholic Church following the Vatican II reforms of 1964, which replaced the Latin with the "new order" Mass in the languages of many countries. Yesterday's Mass was part of a Holy Year pilgrimage to St. Paul's in Oakland by members of St. Boniface's.

Standing outside the church for a smoke-break during yesterday's service, Sam Valletta, 47, of Aspinwall, said he misses the old days.

"I believe that St. Paul Cathedral was built for the Latin Mass," he said. "There's more of a feeling of holiness to the Latin Mass."

Like many in attendance yesterday, Valletta grew up with the Latin Mass and enjoys the old familiarity of the service.

Naomi King, 64, of Blairsville, Indiana County, travels twice a year to St. Boniface to hear the Latin Mass. She grew up with it, she explained, and even her wedding ceremony was performed in Latin.

"There's tradition here, there's beauty," she said.

Virginia Briggs didn't set out yesterday to hear a service in Latin, but when the Wellsville, Ohio, resident arrived for the 1 p.m. Mass at St. Paul, she learned of the service in Latin and stayed for the two hours.

Briggs travels one hour every other week to attend Mass at St. Paul to worship in the beauty and majesty of the cathedral, she said. While she's not sure it would be attractive to many younger parishioners, Briggs, who was a young adult when the Latin Mass was dropped in the 1960s, said she enjoyed yesterday's service.

"It feels more devotional to me," she said.

Not everything in the Latin Mass is Latin. In the United States, for example, the Gospel and the homily or sermon were always read in either English or the dominant vernacular language of a given parish, said the Rev. Lawrence DiNardo, vicar for canonical affairs in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

So Murphy could be understood by just about everyone in the church yesterday when he sang the praises of Latin in English.

By observing the Latin Mass, he told parishioners during his sermon, "you're doing a wonderful thing for your holy mother church and for yourself."



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