Skip to comments.Offering The (Traditional) Latin Mass Behind Bars - a story you will not soon forget
Posted on 09/23/2006 3:08:56 PM PDT by NYer
There is a slow but steady increase in appreciation for the Churchs ancient liturgy. Requests for the Traditional Latin Mass continue to grow and, much to the delight of Latin Mass devotees, some bishops now are establishing Latin Mass parishes in their dioceses. St. Giannas Latin Mass Community in Tucson is a stellar example. Fascinatingly, the bulk of the interest comes from young Catholics. Who would have diivined this development 35 years ago when the old Mass seemed destined to become passe?
Recently, I received a surprising request from an unlikely place: Arizona State Prison. One of the inmates - lets call him Jim - wrote informing me of the desire of about 30 inmates to have the Traditional Latin Mass. I forwarded Jims letter to Bishop Gerald Kicanas. As I expected, he responded pastorally: Permission granted!
Two men from St. Giannas accompanied me on the journey. One was a young man who was about to pursue the priesthood with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The other was a married man with four children. None of us had the faintest idea of what to expect.
Security was very tight as we entered the compound. The unit to which we were to go was medium security - not the worst, but certainly not the church choir!
Because of a terrible accident on Highway 10, we arrived two hours late and only 15 men were able to attend. The resident Episcopalian chaplain was most welcoming and helpful.
Each inmate went to Confession before Mass. Each heard the Churchs ancient absolution: Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Therefore, I absolve [you] from your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. From the moment that Our Blessed Savior shed His last drop of Blood on Calvary, the words of Sacred Scripture have become a reality: Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be made white as wool.
We vested for Mass in the stifling August Arizona heat. Flies swarmed around the altar as I began the Holy Sacrifice: Introibo ad altare Dei. I will go to the altar of God. Following in their missals the men responded: Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. To God Who gives joy to my youth.
I wondered how many still had Gods joy in their hearts. Some had been in this dreadful place of punishment for many years and faced many more. From the window behind the makeshift altar, I could see other inmates walking the yard. Most were tattooed beyond any semblance of rhyme or reason.
Kyrie, eleison! Christe, eleison! Kyrie, eleison! Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Never before had I begged Gods mercy with such a heartfelt plea.
In the epistle St. Paul exhorted Timothy to preach the Gospel: In season and out of season. These prisoners in their orange jumpsuits surely were in season. Wounded by their crimes, they sought to salvage their lives. Desperately, they needed to hear the words of Jesus Christ. He spoke to them through St. Matthew, himself a repentant sinner.
You are the salt of the earth, we read in the Gospel. You are the light of the world. Yes! It is true, I assured them: You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Here, in this horrid place, you must let your light shine in the darkness of sin. Here, where the salt indeed has lost its savor, you must be the salt of the earth.
It was the feast of St. Augustine. What could have been more appropriate? Inspired by our Savior, great sinners have repented in the world redeemed by Jesus Christ. Dismas, the thief and murderer crucified with our Lord, became the Churchs first canonized saint. He became The Good Thief! St. Mary Magdalen, who washed the Masters feet with her torrential tears of repentance, is a model of repentance for all. Augustine, a complete scoundrel in his youth, repented and became a priest, a bishop, a doctor of the Church, and a Saint.
In his Confessions, the converted sinner cried out: Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient ever new. You were within me and I sought You outside. In my ugliness, I fell upon those lovely things that You have made. You were with me but I was not with You. Late, have I loved You!
Hoc est enim corpus meum! This is my Body! We were alone no longer. With the words of Consecration, Jesus was with us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. As always, He had come to seek His lost sheep.
At Communion time, I lifted high the Host: Domine non sum dignus. Lord! I am not worthy! Which one of us is worthy? Who in the whole world is worthy? Indeed, only the Virgin Mother of God is sinless! Yet, our Lord has issued a divine mandate to all: Come unto me and I will refresh you.
On their knees, the prisoners received the Bread of Life. Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ bring you to eternal life. Our Divine Savior united Himself with each inmate present in that depressing prison chapel. The mercy of Jesus Christ exceeds our wildest expectations.
We ended the ancient Mass with the prayer of Pope Leo XIII: St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the battle! These men who had been convicted of violating societys laws were in mortal conflict for their souls. That day the Bread of Life and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass had fortified them. We now prayed that the mighty Archangel would defend them from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Before leaving I promised to return at Christmas to offer The Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven. The men made one final request - they would like to have a sung Latin High Mass. I left missals with them to prepare to sing the Latin Mass.
My dear friends, let us pray for our brothers behind bars! Let us give thanks to the Lord Jesus who is rich in mercy!
For almost ten years, I served as the Pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in Ajo, Az. A native of Philadelphia, I attended the Annunciation, B.V.M. Catholic School and Southeast Catholic High. At the age of eighteen, I entered the seminary and remained for four years. Then, for personal reasons, I took a leave of absence. This lasted for twenty years, a length of time that I never anticipated. However, I never lost sight of the Priesthood and after a number of years in the business world, I entered Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Ct. There, I completed my theological studies and received a B.A. and also a Master of Divinity Degree. For the past ten years, I have had the profound joy of celebrating the "Traditional Latin Mass," every Sunday at 5:00 PM at Holy Family Church, 338 W. University Ave., Tucson. On February 1st, 2006, Bishop Kicanas of Tucson assigned me as the Chaplain of the Saint Gianna Latin Mass Community, PO Box 14257, Tucson, Az, 85732-4257. We offer the Traditional Latin Mass and the Sacraments according to the 1962 Roman Missal. At present, we are located at Saint Ambrose Church, 300 S. Tucson Blvd., Tucson, Az. 85715
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very moving. After saying the rosary now every day for a month and reading this I feel moved to go to Mass tomorrow for the first time in over a year... long story. But I was remembering a Good Friday service I attended in 1972. My new husband and I were house parents in a fraternity but pretty hard core hippies at the time (I've traveled a long way) One evening a friend of a friend knocked at the door and asked if we could shelter someone. We said yes. He stayed in the dorm. After being there two or three days he shared his story. He was a devote Catholic who had been convicted of treason and had walked off the farm so to speak. After he told me this, we went to the Good Friday service and sat next to a police officer wearing his gun. I have never experienced anything like it since. He then left on a Greyhound bus and I have never heard what happened to him.
Great story! I haven't heard of the St. Gianna folks before.
No doubt, Father will be pleased to know that his story moved you to return to Mass. It truly is the Greatest Gift our Lord left us.
But I was remembering a Good Friday service I attended in 1972. My new husband and I were house parents in a fraternity but pretty hard core hippies at the time (I've traveled a long way)
Ditto :-) I too was married in 1972.
He was a devote Catholic who had been convicted of treason and had walked off the farm so to speak. After he told me this, we went to the Good Friday service and sat next to a police officer wearing his gun. I have never experienced anything like it since. He then left on a Greyhound bus and I have never heard what happened to him.
This reminds me of a similar story from one of Marcus Grodi's guests on The Journey Home. The young Canadian man was a biker. He LIVED to feel the wind rushing through his hair and traveling the US. To support his lifestyle, he sold drugs that he kept concealed in the lamp of his bike. He too ended up on a bus and met two other men. During their trip, they exchanged stories and, like a bolt of lightening, the biker rediscovered God. At the next rest stop, he tossed the drugs down the drain, reached into his pocket and pulled out enough money to purchase some crackers for the remainder of his trip home. Sitting back down on the bus, and quite thirsty, he prayed - 'Dear Lord, it would be good if I had something to drink right now'. He became aware of a brown paper bag next to him on the seat. Reaching inside, he pulled out a can of soda, raised his eyes to heaven and said something like "you act quickly, don't you?"
After returning to Canada, he joined an Evangelical Church for a few years and eventually rediscovered his catholic roots. As time passed, he felt 'called' to serve God. He is now a Ukrainian Catholic priest!
Perhaps you can volunteer to teach the class :-)!
I grew up pre VCII when the only Mass celebrated was the one now referred to as the TLM. My mother worked for an international airline. I still recall flying to Denmark at age 5 and attending Mass in Copenhagen. As you pointed out, because of the universality of the Latin language, it did not matter where we traveled, we could always attend and fully participate at Mass.
I spent two years teaching in the max security and camp of Lewisburg Penitentiary and in the max, medium and low securities of the Allenwood Complex, two federal prisons in Pennsylvania. My nephew was also a DMD spending one day in each. We would often say that there were more potential Saints in their populations than outside the walls.
Many of them had deep introspection and I am sure they had remorse. There was religious services but in the federal system there were many Muslims. I never met a priest but I would be sure that he would be welcomed.
you have freep mail
Then check out the web site! Father also hosts a blog.
Why am I not surprised by this! You have the tough outer shell with a soft lining :-)
We would often say that there were more potential Saints in their populations than outside the walls.
Is it the Corporal Works of Mercy that say we should visit the prisoners? (it's been so long since I've heard those words).
5 years ago, a freshly ordained Maronite priest was assigned to a parish in MI, where he did prison ministry. Not only did he rise up to the challenge, he superceded it by baptizing 31 inmates. You can read the awesome story of how he converted hearts through Eucharistic adoration here .
Last year, he was recalled to Lebanon and assigned to a parish up north. During the recent 33 day war, his village welcomed 300 Muslims, providing food, shelter and clothing. Father extended an invitation to any who wished to join the catholics in prayer each evening. Many did! The children especially loved 'Abouna' (Father in Lebanese). One young boy asked him for a cross to wear. Father told him he needed to get permission from his parents. The parents agreed and Father presented him with a cross to wear around his neck.
Once the cease fire was announced, the Muslims packed up their bags and left, inviting Father to come and visit them. He did! The first time he drove south, the entire village came out to greet him. Same thing, the 2nd time. After returning to his village, the Muslim families called to invite him to come for dinner and bless their homes. He returned south and was welcomed once again with open arms. The Muslims explained to Abouna that had the tables been turned, the Muslims would NEVER have done for the christians what was done for them.
Sadly, many of the Maronite Catholic Churches in the south were badly damaged during the bombings. Syria is now funding the Muslim families to help them rebuild their homes but the christians have received nothing. Father took up a collection amongst his friends in the US and presented $3,000 to one of the bishops in the south, whose eparchy suffered the most damage. He was most grateful!
You can read more about Father Elfeghali's experiences, here , on his blog.
Thank you! Very nice!
One thing that the "new, improved" version of Christianity has dropped is sin - and the free will that goes with it. A person who is in prison, if he has any awareness at all, knows he has done something wrong and that he has the ability to repent and change this. Once upon a time, the prison ministry was very important in the Catholic Church. But then it got flooded with soft-headed women, rather than priests, who spent their time basically telling the prisoners that it was all okay, God didn't really care, they were fine and groovy as is. That's not what these guys wanted to hear. They wanted to get their lives in order, straighten up and fly right, and these ditzy ladies were basically telling them their serious project in life didn't really matter after all.
Small wonder they went off to the Muslims, who told them that it was all okay because they were killing kaffirs and all they had to do was pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca and all would be well. Irrational, but at least it was something, which is a heck of a lot more than the Catholic Church (or any Christian organization outside of Chuck Colson's Prison Ministries) gave them.
ROFL!!! My pastor has had to take the nun who serves as chaplain at the local catholic hospital, to task, on several occasions. Her, and the EMHCs who serve under her. The stories he tells me would make the hair on your back stand at attention! Custodians with keys to the Tabernacles at local area churches, who refill the ciboriums, EMHCs who toss consecrated hosts into the pockets of their sweaters rather than a pyx ... and the list goes on. The new trend in this diocese is to assign women to run the priestless parishes. No need to share those stories with you; it's nearly bedtime.
Small wonder they went off to the Muslims, who told them that it was all okay because they were killing kaffirs and all they had to do was pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca and all would be well.
The Holy Father addressed this in his 'apology' over the misunderstood lecture at Regensburg. He said he wished catholics were more attuned to prayer, like the Muslims. And, he is absolutely right! Many catholics are so absorbed in the 'responsibilities' incumbent upon their daily lives that they leave little or no time for prayer. That is relegated to attending Mass on Sunday. God is there for us 24 hours a day. He waits for us to call upon Him. We need only respond.
From a drug-taking biker to a Ukranian Catholic priest.
Sounds similar to the path of St. Augustine. :o)
Nice to know that those miracles still happen.
Maybe they will be able to tape the Latin Mass when they do it again at Christmas,it would be wonderful to hear and pray along with them.
What a beautiful suggestion! Good to see you back in the forum. Is this your diocese?