Latin Mass makes comeback in NYC
The Rev. James Miara gives communion at a traditional Latin Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the Bronx. (Alana Abel)
When Benjamin Cirillo goes with his wife and infant daughter this Sunday to Church of Our Savior in Murray Hill, the service a traditional Latin Mass will be unfamiliar territory.
I came into the Church as an adult, so Ive still got a lot to learn, said Cirillo, 28, a portfolio manager for a hedge fund. Im looking forward to following it page by page.
Our Saviors pastor, the Rev. George William Rutler, is making his church the third in Manhattan in the past year to regularly offer a Latin Mass.
In place of vernacular-language liturgy introduced by the Vatican in 1970, Rutler, in low-voiced Latin, will conduct a centuries-old Mass last popularly celebrated in the early 1960s. Pope Benedict XVI eased the Latin Masss revival in July 2007, when he scuttled a requirement that bishops review any parishs request to perform it.I thought it would be appropriate to have the old rite, Rutler said. Younger people are looking for something stable.
Dioceses are no longer required to keep tabs on the practice in parishes, but one estimate puts the number in the region at about two dozen, perhaps triple the number of regularly celebrated Latin Masses in the New York region compared to a year ago, though still a tiny minority with about 1,000 parishes in the region.
The Latin rites return underscores a divide between Catholics who never adjusted to the new Mass and others who fear a scaling-back of contemporary reforms.
The Second Vatican Council, which introduced the new Mass, enacted some important reforms in the churchs attitude toward the modern world, said the Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, a theology professor at St. Johns University. But the church never intended to jettison the long and rich liturgical tradition associated with the Latin Mass, he said.
In Little Italy of the Bronx every Sunday morning, Mario Borgatti shuffles to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, where he served as an altar boy in the 1920s, to celebrate the Latin Mass that started there last December.
I grew up with it and I missed it, said the 93-year-old pasta maker.
While the Mass has appeared in several parishes in the past year, there has been a Latin Mass at St. Agnes Church on East 43rd Street since 1988, when Pope John Paul II restored it with restrictions.
Its supposed to connect you more to the divine, said congregant Scott Surrency, 35, of Greenwich Village.
But while some worshippers have attached themselves exclusively to the revived service, others say that the old and new can coexist.
They complement each other, said Dempsey Acosta of St. Agnes. Both of them are treasures that we have to protect.
Old vs. new
Orientation: Post-Vatican II Mass, Priest faces Congregation; Traditional Latin Mass, Priest and congregation both face east
Language: Post-Vatican II Mass, Vernacular; Traditional Latin Mass, Latin
Communion: Post-Vatican II Mass, Priest places the Eucharist in the congregation's hand; Traditional Latin Mass, Priest places the Eucharist directly in the worshipper's mouth while the alter boy holds a tray under the worshipper's chin
Lay participation: Post-Vatican II Mass, May perform readings; Traditional Latin Mass, Only an ordained man may read