Re-establishing the Latin MassCatholics sense peace during rite celebrated with times of silence
By Kristy MacKabenPOSTED: January 30, 2009
After a hiatus of more than three decades, the extraordinary Mass, also known as the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite, is being offered again in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese.
Queen of Peace Church in Patton is the only church in the diocese providing the all-Latin Mass since the mid-1960s.
After the Second Vatican Council, in the mid-1960s, the traditional Latin Mass only was permitted to be celebrated privately by priests.
But in July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI launched an initiative allowing the traditional Latin Mass to be offered publicly. Bishop Joseph V. Adamec gave permission to the Rev. Ananias Buccicone, O.S.B., to celebrate the extraordinary Mass at Queen of Peace Sunday afternoons.
''When the pope allowed it, many requests came to me from within and outside the parish. They said, 'if anybody is going to do it, it's going to be you,'" Buccicone said. ''I have a tendency to be more traditional in the way I celebrate Mass."
To offer the Mass, Buccicone is required to understand and speak Latin, as well as perform the precise hand movements.
Unlike the new or ordinary Mass, in the extraordinary Mass, priests face the altar, not the people. It appears as if the priest is turning his back to the congregation. But, Buccicone said, the purpose is for the priest to face God.
''The priest is facing liturgical east, facing towards God and he is acting as the mediator between God and man, therefore he leads the people into the sanctuary, then acts as the mediator," Buccicone said.
The extraordinary Mass is much different than the ordinary Mass in its silence and lack of response from the congregation.
There is no singing and the congregation does not respond to the priest vocally.
During Holy Communion, communicants must kneel at the rail and take Communion on their tongue.
No one is permitted to touch the host with their hands and the priest must not separate his thumb and forefinger when holding the host, to prevent any particle from falling. The communicant also does not say ''amen" after receiving the host.
Instead, the priest says ''May the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto everlasting life. Amen."
About 175 people attend the extraordinary Mass Sundays; some come from Lock Haven or Somerset.
The solemn Mass, which is said completely in Latin, attracts different types of people. While older Catholics enjoy it because it is the Mass of their youth; younger people, including some with families, appreciate the silence and mystery of the Mass.
''It's a matter of personal taste. Some will come for nostalgia sake. They remember it as the Mass of their youth.
"Others appreciate it on a very deep level. Low Mass is almost completely silent. Most of the prayers are being prayed with priests facing God. There is a sense of mystery. There's a sense of awe," Buccicone said.
Teresa Bentivegna of Ebensburg attends the extraordinary Mass at Queen of Peace, although she is a member of Holy Name Catholic Church in Ebensburg. She attends church alone while her husband watches her two young children.
''It's kind of my time. It's just very peaceful," Bentivegna said. ''In the world we live in we're surrounded by noise. It's my time with God because it's so peaceful and it totally envelops you without having to make an effort whatsoever."
When Ray Seymour of Loretto heard Buccicone was thinking about offering the Mass, he was excited.
''I had been encouraging it for 15 or 20 years. It's just great that it became available," said Seymour who teaches Latin at Bishop Carroll High School in Ebensburg. ''It's the Mass of my youth."
Because of his teaching background, Seymour understands the Latin Mass, but missals are provided to the congregation so people can follow it in English.
Seymour and Bentivegna enjoy the solemnity of the Mass, as well as the mystery.
''In the extraordinary form, I think the pressure is off the priest and the pressure is off the people. Sometimes I think we have the idea that the sacraments are something we do for God. In the extraordinary form, it's very evident that God does this for us," Seymour said.
Although Seymour and Bentivegna regularly attend Queen of Peace, they are not members of the church. The diocese does not want people to join Queen of Peace for the reason of the extraordinary Mass. Instead, Catholics are encouraged to join parishes in their communities.
Monsignor Michael Servinsky, vicar general for the diocese, said people should belong to churches in their territories so the priests can better help their members.
''That is in order for the pastor to know you and take care of you. The way the church is structured is you belong to the territory in which you live," Servinsky said.
Buccicone said another reason Catholics should not join Queen of Peace for the sole reason of extraordinary Mass is because he could be transferred at any time to a different parish or assigned back to the monastery.
''People could join here for the old rite and then it wouldn't be offered anymore," Buccicone said.
Anyone is welcome to attend the extraordinary Mass at 1 p.m. Sundays. On the first Sunday of the month, a high Mass is celebrated with choir singing and Gregorian chant. The other three Sundays, a low Mass is said, which is the more solemn Mass.