Missa Cantata

In honor of the feast of conversion of its namesake, St. Paul's celebrated a Latin Mass for the first time since Vatican II introduced the modern Mass some 40 years ago.

By Lorraine Gennaro
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 19 | Posted Feb. 12, 2009

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Father Gerald Carey, pastor of St. Paul Church, prepares for last month's Traditional Latin Mass at 808 Hutchinson St. Photo courtesy of Jim Capaldi

Many St. Paul parishioners had tears in their eyes, including the Catholic church's Business Manager Jim Capaldi. Antoine O'Karma remembers feeling swept away, almost entranced, by the chanting and singing. But perhaps Josephine Zampirro said it best, "I felt like it was a little bit of heaven on earth."

Beautiful, sacred, awe-inspiring are just some of the words parishioners used to describe Missa Cantata, one of three types of traditional Latin Mass that were celebrated Jan. 25 at the 808 Hutchinson St. church.

"It was absolutely beautiful," O'Karma, from the 500 block of Federal Street, who attended with 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth, said.

Zampirro, 67, from the 700 block of Alter Street, added, "The music, the prayers, the reverence. Every time the altar boys brought the priest something they kissed his hand. Everything was done with such reverence."

The packed house of more than 150 parishioners witnessed history in the making as the Rev. Gerald Carey celebrated traditional Latin Mass (also called Latin Mass) for his first time. For St. Paul, it was the first since Vatican II some 40 years ago introduced Novus Ordo, or the modern Mass, thereby ousting the old and bringing in the new. While the Latin Mass was not banned by Vatican II, it died a quick death -- priests embracing the new in an attempt to change with the times. While Vatican II did away with requiring women to cover their heads, often with veils, many females who attended the ceremony at St. Paul returned to tradition. For Zampirro who always wears a hat to services, it was nice to see so many embrace the past ways "in keeping with the old Catholic tradition," she said.

The decision to resurrect Mass was Carey's idea to honor the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, Capaldi said.

Carey, a former director of worship for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell did not return a call for comment on St. Paul's Latin Mass celebration.

St. Paul is the only church in the area and Center City to celebrate Latin Mass, while Overbrook's Our Lady of Lords and Tacony's Our Lady of Consolation offer it weekly.

"There's nothing in Center City or South Philadelphia on a regular basis," Capaldi said.

Three elements characterize Latin Mass: Parishioners kneel at the altar and receive communion on the tongue ­-- as opposed to modern Mass where people line up down the aisle, approach the altar and have the option of taking the Body of Christ via hand or tongue; the priest celebrates Mass with his back to the congregation, facing the altar, in "ad orientem" -- meaning "to the East," where all altars once faced -- as opposed to facing the congregants; and altar servers are male only, not a mix of genders. Heavy use of incense is another component.

There are three types of this service: Low Mass, which is devoid of music except for maybe an opening or closing hymn; High Mass or Missa cantata, which is Latin for "sung Mass" and celebrated with one priest and schola, or a singer or choir, who chants parts of the service; and Solemn High Mass, which is celebrated with a priest, deacon and sub-deacon and schola.

Last month's celebration at St. Paul featured its Missa Brevis, the part of the Mass comprised of the Curia, Gloria, Offertory, Communion and Sanctus, by Italian composer Giovanni Palestrinia. In need of those versed in Latin, Carey went out-of-house and hired Robert Hall, who led the 10-member schola and organist Robert Ridgella.

"During the Credo, it brought tears to my eyes. It was just beautiful. The reaction of the people was the same," Capaldi said.

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Comments 1 - 19 of 19
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1. William A. Torchia, Esq. said... on Feb 13, 2009 at 09:55AM

“ I am sure almost the entire congregation felt as if they had seen a "slice of heaven on earth." For once, God seemed to be the focus of worship, not the people. Yes, we have lost our Catholic identy, and it's time to claim it back. More Masses, please, Fr. Carey, ASAP.”

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2. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 13, 2009 at 10:31AM

“"Last month’s celebration at St. Paul featured its Missa Brevis, the part of the Mass comprised of the Curia, Gloria, Offertory, Communion and Sanctus," There are some errors here. The parts of the Missa Brevis include: Introductory Rites: Kyrie - (not curia) - which is the "Lord have mercy - Kyrie eleison" followed by "Christe eleison - Christ have mercy") It is the only Greek sung in the Mass. Gloria - " excelsis Deo" or "Glory to God in the Highest".....the words of the angels to the shepherds at Christmas. The Missa Brevis or "short Mass" leaves out the Credo "I believe" which usually follows the Gospel. Offertory Rites: Sanctus 3X "Holy, Holy Holy" soon followed by "Benedictus" ....."Blessed " He who comes in the name of the Lord." Communion Rites: Agnus Dei - "The Lamb of God" ”

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3. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 13, 2009 at 10:49AM

“I see no reason why we cannot have some of this glorious music without going back to the time when the priest turned his back to the people as if only HE could be the conduit of our conversation with God. Did Jesus turn his back on his disciples at the Last Supper? Of course not. He included them and they spoke back to him and broke the Bread of the first Eucharist among them and handed it to each other. Receiving Communion on the tongue goes back to the time of Saint Augustine, who had a lot of guilt on his own conscience, when he told the people that their hands were impure and only the hands of the priest were worthy to touch the Eucharist. Come on. The first Christians handled the Eucharist without that guilt thrown at them. Jesus broke the Bread and passed it around the table. He did not tell the disciples to stick out their tongues. Going back to an all male ministry including altar boys is also anti- Scriptural. Jesus always respected and included women in his teaching and ministry. He taught Mary of Bethany as a rabbinical student at his feet. He gave the Word to Mary Magdalene to pass to his apostles the Good News of his Resurrection. He took his meals with Martha and Mary of Bethany on a regular basis. The disciples going to Emmaus after the Resurrection, and who were not apostles, recognized Jesus in the breaking of the Bread. One of them could easily have been a woman. Jesus was the last thing from a misogynist you could find. I loved hearing and singing the Mass in Latin as a child and young adult. I miss those glorious hymns like the Regina Coeli, Panis Angelicus, O Bone Jesu, and of course the wonderful Ave Maria. We can still have this music and enjoy its soaring inspiration without turning back the clock on the reforms that brought us back to the original Mass. And the focus really does belong on the people who ARE the worship. No mass can be said in an empty church.”

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4. TJH said... on Feb 13, 2009 at 02:37PM

“Gloria Endres, You are sadly missguided! First of all the Priest is facing THE SAME WAY AS THE PEOPLE! It is not that he has his back to them. He is looking towards God and praying WITH and FOR them. Are you offended when you are on a bus and the driver has his back to you? Of course not, because you know that he is taking you to your destination. In the liturgy the priest is doing the same sort of thing for us spiritually. He is the one who offers us to God the Father as he acts in the Person of Christ. He takes us to Calvary and to Heaven itself in the mystery of the pascal sacrifice. So yes he is the only one in the Mass through whom the sacrament is confected. No priest, no Eucharist!!! As to communion on to toungue. The current indult that allows us to receive in the hand was only given because there were so many who were already DISOBEDIENTLY doing so, and pressured Rome into giving it. The hope behind it that it would foster greater love and respect for the Blessed Sacrament was obviously vain. Since this practice has been going on the believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament has decreased. The last stat. I heard was only 30% of Catholics believe in it. To have all males serving on the altar has nothing to do with weather or not it is in scripture. To serve at the altar for a young boy is one of the best ways to forster vocations to the priesthood! ("no priest, no Eucharist") Anyone who knows anything about the interaction of boys, and girls at the ages used for altar serving should know that the girls will tend to take over, or the boys will tend be reluctent to serve with the girls. The upshot is that the boys will be lost most of the time. Hence part of our "priest shortage". And lastly, and most importantly. THE FOCUS OF THE MASS IS GOD!!! NOT US! Yes Mass can be said in an empty church! Just ask any priest! We don't need to be there for the Mass to take place! We don't go there to be entertained! We go there to WORSHIP GOD! We worship God because He commands us to, and also we should be doing so because we LOVE Him and want to. The Mass that Fr. Carey offered in the Extraordinary Form was the first one I had been to, and it was the most beautiful mass I have ever ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED in. Thank God for priests like Fr. Carey! I pray there will be many more priests who will learn to offer this form of the Mass. ”

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5. JR said... on Feb 13, 2009 at 05:02PM

“My daughter is an altar server. Why? Because there aren't enough boys in our parish interested in sacrificing their time on weekends and Holy Days of Obligation to serve the Lord in this way. She has no interest in the priesthood, nor does she have any desire "to take over". She would glady give her place to a boy if one was interested but right now, our church has 6 altar servers to serve at 4 weekend Masses. There would be only 2 servers if all the girls dropped out. Since the only time there is more than one server at Mass at our church is on certain holy days and feast days, the theory that the boys don't want to serve with the girls does not apply in this case. So please don't assume every female altar server wants to take over or interact with boys. As for receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, there is a very good reason why this should return as the only acceptable way to receive the Lord - fewer chances for the Host to be desecrated. It is nearly impossible for the priest or Extraordinary Ministers to know with certainty that every person who took the Host in their hand actually consumed It. It is much easier to administer Holy Communion when the Communicants who are physically able are kneeling. (Naturally those not able to kneel could continue to stand or receive in their pew). I agree we are not at Mass to be entertained, but the music should reflect the dignity which should rightly be accorded to the Eucharist . Sadly, much of what passes for hymns at Mass these days is religious pop music composed by Protestants from Oregon. I have to force myself to sing this music and I offer it up as a penance but when a hymn such as "Humbly We Adore Thee" or "Lift High the Cross" is listed, it is such a joy. The Adoremus Hymnal is an excellent resource for any music director or pastor who feels the way I do. I,, too, hope more priests are willing to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but in the meantime, there is no reason why Latin chant can't be incorporated in the Ordinary Form. By starting with perhaps just the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, the congregation can gradually add the Gloria and the Credo. I also wish we'd return to praying to St Michael at the end of Mass. The need for this can be validated just by turning on the evening news. Thanks for the opportunity to share and hopefully, bring about a greater love for our Eucharistic Lord. ”

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6. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 02:08AM

“TJH, I respectfully disagree with you on every issue. I give you SCRIPTURE as a basis for my argument and you give me TRADITION as a basis for yours. I wonder which of us has the stronger foundation for our position. You agree entirely with my point that the priest is SOLE minister of the Eucharist in the older rite, and that is the problem. In the New Order Mass, things are different. “The Lord’s Supper is the assembly or gathering together of the people of God, with a priest presiding to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason the promise of Christ is particularly true of a local congregation of the Church: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in their midst’” (General Instruction to the Novus Ordo, April 6, 1969)." The priest does not act for us but with us and as our presider. In the original Mass, the faithful sat AROUND the Eucharist not in line before it with the priest ( in Persona Christi) as the sole leader. That is not the way Jesus did it. The metaphor of the bus driver is poor because we are not simply passengers or followers, but active and necessary participants in all liturgy like all rowing the same boat. No, a priest cannot say a mass alone, not anymore. The Person of Christ is present in three places: The Word, The People, and the Bread. Ask Saint Paul about the composition of the Body of Christ. All are members. And all are needed for the Eucharist to take place. Your excuse for putting Communion on the tongue is disingenuous and circular. If there is loss of belief in the Real Presence it is because of something else, not because people get to hold the Host for a moment.. Perhaps we could say it has something to do with loss of respect for the clergy because of some of their scandalous behavior. That is just as good an argument. As for the all male servers, now we are getting to the nitty gritty of it. The real purpose for keeping all ministries male is to keep all ministries male. Again, tradition over scripture. You look upon a female presence in the sanctuary as a distraction from recruiting males to the priesthood. God forbid any girls should get any ideas of serving God in that capacity. They do not have, excuse me for the crude way of putting it, the correct genitalia, for standing in Persona Christi. So of course the male priesthood is threatened by such inclusion of females in ministry. That would destroy the patriarchal hierarchy for sure. Again, I refer you to scripture. We are all members of the Body of Christ and we are all spiritually connected to God through Christ. The acolyte is the first of the Holy Orders. The lector is the second. Yikes, females are getting too close for comfort on that all male ladder to the Person of Christ. That is what this is really all about and anyone who denies it has only to read your comments. I am glad you said that Mass is to Worship God. That does not contradict my saying that the people are the worship. Of course, there can be no worship without worshippers. In the old order, the people were passive spectators as the priest did the worshipping with his back to them. Unless, you understood the ancient Latin, you did not know what he was saying in his private conversation with God. I am old enough to remember when even the readings before the Gospel were done in Latin. It was all very mysterious. Only altar boys got to dialogue with the priest in Latin of course. The rest of us did a kind of aerobic exercise of rise and sit and kneel in obedience to bells. We "followed" the mass with our missals. We did not participate until we were summoned to go to the altar rail and receive communion without touching it. with any part of our sinful bodies but our tongues. If you think that returning to the old order dominated by males is going to rescue the church go for it. My suggestion is that it is way too late for that. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit not by men. And the message on the wall is loud and clear. Include everyone. And lead only by imitating Christ's life, and being Christ to each other, male and female alike. And act quickly. Do not fear that the old Mass has been mutilated. It will survive in a new form as all living things do. ”

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7. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 02:31AM

“JR, you state: "As for receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, there is a very good reason why this should return as the only acceptable way to receive the Lord - fewer chances for the Host to be desecrated." May I respectfully disagree. If anyone is so deranged as to want to steal a Host for desecration, changing back to receiving on the tongue is not going to stop him. I have a better reason for giving the Host into the hands rather than the mouths of people. No priest as long as I can remember has ever put on sanitary gloves to administer Holy Communion. It is impossible for a priest's bare hands NOT to touch the mouth or tongue of at least some of the communicants. In this day of highly communicable scourges like AIDS, I frankly do not want Communion put on my tongue by a priest who has just taken his hands out of the mouth of someone else. I also think we should stop the kiss of peace hand shaking entirely and especially during flu season. People unfortunately carry lots of germs on their hands. And the fastest way to spread colds and flu is to shake hands. All you have to do is rub your eyes once and it is all over. Why not simply say the words, Peace of Christ be with you. You added: "I, too, hope more priests are willing to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but in the meantime, there is no reason why Latin chant can't be incorporated in the Ordinary Form. By starting with perhaps just the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, the congregation can gradually add the Gloria and the Credo." Now that is a sensible solution. It allows us to enjoy the dignified and beautiful old music while still understanding the readings and ordinary prayers. The Eucharist has always been clothed in mystery and, yes, pageant. When I saw the wonderful funeral Mass in Rome for John Paul II spoken entirely in Latin and Greek with incredibly gorgeous liturgical music, it was beyond beautiful. I think we have plenty of room for such pageantry and beauty without sacrificing the true intention of Vatican II which was to bring us back to our scriptural roots. We are not a medieval institution anymore. ”

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8. JR said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 05:10AM

“Quite frankly, if our Lord allows His sacred flesh to be placed in our not-so-sanitary mouths to begin with, who am I to object if a priest inadvertently touches my mouth administering Communion? That's why we should be kneeling to receive - it's far less awkward to administer the Host to a kneeling Communicant than it is to one standing. Also, you should talk to any parish priest about the number of times a Sacred Host is found on the floor or in the pews during routine cleaning. My mother is not only an EM but also assists in cleaning her church every Monday and it's sickening how many times the ladies have found Our Lord on the floor. It's much harder to remove a Host that adhered to your tongue to throw it on the floor than it is to drop it out of your hand, etc. Thanks for your comments.”

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9. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 06:57AM

“Thanks, JR, but the occasional accident with the sacred Host is not a good enough reason for the old custom to return. One way to solve the problem is for the altar server to hold the plate under the chin of the communicant until he or she places the Host safely in the mouth. Once inside, there is the same chance as any other to drop it. It is up to the pastors to train people in how to take Communion. I have seen Hosts dropped even by priests on the altar and by EM's. Accidents happen and I don't think God holds it against us. But the many reasons for using our own hands to place things into our own mouths are sufficient to keep our present custom. ”

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10. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 07:08AM

“PS, I hope there is no implication here is that we are not worthy to receive communion in any but the most ritualistic way. I recall as a child being made to feel terribly guilty if my teeth touched the Host in any way. As if the only way to receive was to let the Host dissolve on the tongue. Today we are allowed to chew it as we would ordinary bread. As I said before, this is the way it was done at the Last Supper, and who are we to say it was wrong then or now? You must realize that the Person of Christ is already in us and we in Him. Holy Communion is just the physical manifestation of what is already a spiritual relationship. I recall, even before Vatican II, being taught to make a "spiritual communion" on those times when I could not receive. It was good theology then and it still is. We can have that kind of communion and we should every waking moment. ”

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11. TJH said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 11:10AM

“Gloria, You are totaly clueless! Go read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and maybe you will learn what the TRUTH is as the CHURHC TEACHES it. But I have a sad feeling nothing is going to convince you that YOU are not right about everything, and the documents from the Vatican are wrong. After all they were writen by MEN. All I can say is I will pray for you that God will open your eyes to the truth, and let you see the absolute beauty that you are BLIND to right now. By the way I am a woman! But I will fight to the death to defend the all male priesthood, because I know, and understand who and what they are even if some of them don't! (and you certainly don't) OH, and while you are at it read all the documents of Vatican Council II. I have read All of them, and the entire CCCC, and the GIRM as well. I know what I am talking about as far as the liturgy is concerned. Both the OF and the EF! ”

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12. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 01:33PM

“TJH, there is no need to be rude to me. I was brought up on the Catechism, the Latin Mass and I was around during Vatican II when it all happened. I could read the Missal in both English and Latin, having studied Church Latin my whole life and classical Latin in High School. I sang every one of those Masses and hymns many times. Please tell me how anything I have said contradicts the documents of Vatican II, especially those that introduced the biblical teaching that the church as a whole was the PEOPLE of God, including BOTH CLERGY AND LAITY. This reversed centuries of virtually explicit assertion that the clergy alone were the church. Both laity and clergy, those documents affirmed, shared in the PRIESTLY, PROPHETIC AND KINGLY functions of Christ. The decree "On the Laity" and the constitution "On the Church in the Modern World" (also called Gaudium et spes) charged lay people to undertake their work in the world in all walks of life as Christian vocations, as a lay apostolate which shared directly in the continuation of the work of the apostles of Christ. This too undid centuries of emphasis on the clergy, monks, and nuns as virtually the sole possessors of Christian calling. That is the truth that the church teaches. And have I imagined that the church has allowed women to serve in many former all male ministries including being co-pastors, lectors, acolytes, and EM's? Attack my arguments, not me. That is the last resort of poor debate. ”

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13. chaloots said... on Feb 14, 2009 at 02:12PM

“The problem with the world is "Organized Religion" and those that try to force their version of it down other people's throats. ”

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14. Joseph Myers said... on Feb 17, 2009 at 10:19AM

“While I agree that AIDS is certainly a "highly communicable scourge," I must ask you to consider how odd you sound in associating contracting AIDS with distributing communion. I distribute communion at Saint Rita's and never worry about any causing any harm to my recipients or about receiving any illness from them. Your ideas need more support. ”

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15. Gloria Endres said... on Feb 17, 2009 at 12:58PM

“Thank you, Joseph, but why does it appear "odd" to be concerned about highly communicable diseases being spread through bare hands touching tongues? Just because it does not worry you, does not make it go away. Look, everyone carries some kind of germs in the mouth. We have more resistant flu and other viruses all the time. You do not know which commuicant is carrying what disease....maybe even unknowingly. So why take that chance? I try not to shake hands with people at Mass for the same reason. I have seen people blow sneezes into their hands and then offer them for a handshake. No thank you. My "support" is simple common sense caution.”

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16. Joseph Myers said... on Feb 19, 2009 at 07:39AM

“Perhaps you should simply wrap yourself in a protective bubble and call it a life. ”

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17. Joe said... on Feb 24, 2009 at 07:59AM

“Gloria - VII NEVER mandated a new mass be created. VII NEVER said the mass was to be said in the native tongue of the people. ”

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18. Anglo-Roman-Catholic said... on Aug 17, 2010 at 04:03PM

“Gloria Endres, from your posts it appears that you believe that women can be made priests. That can never happen. Pope John Paul II solemnly declared that the Ordinary Magisterium has always taught infallibly that only men can be made priests, and that the Church lacks the authority to change that.”

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19. To Gloria said... on Sep 28, 2010 at 09:25AM

“Ask any Orthodox Roman Catholic priest how many times they have conducted Mass with no one in attendance. Please don't spread your liberal relativism. If Jesus had wanted women priests he would have named one or more of the very devout women around him as a disciple. Everything else he taught was counter cultural at the time. Why not women? He must have had a reason don't you think?”


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