'Mysterium tremendum' | St. Barnabas begins offering the Traditional Latin Mass

With a single intoning of the bell, Mass had begun at St. Barnabas.

But this was no Ordinary Form of the Mass.

"In Nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti ..."

For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass -- better known as the Traditional or Tridentine Latin Mass -- is being celebrated at the northern O'Fallon parish. In January, Father Raymond Hager began offering the Mass at 10 a.m. on Sundays, after a group of parishioners wrote a letter last January requesting it.

At one of the first Masses, the pews in the modest church were about three quarters full with at least 300 people -- the church seats about 450; the parking lot was nearly filled to capacity. There was a mixture of young and old, middle-aged -- some who had lived in the boundaries of St. Barnabas but attended the Latin Mass at other churches, and some who were new or had not participated in this form of the Mass since before the Second Vatican Council. Some had come from nearby communities including Warrenton, Millwood and Wright City.

"At the first Mass, people had tears in their eyes," said Father Hager. He said that all of this is "directed toward God and what's called the 'mysterium tremendum,' or the tremendous mystery. The sense of the sacred, and the mystery of God becoming present in His most sacred Body and Blood is proclaimed profoundly in and through the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

"In the Eastern Churches they have the iconostasis ... where you can't see everything that's going on, because what is happening is so holy it should be veiled. When the elements of the bread and wine become Our Lord's Body and Blood, you're not seeing that at that moment, but you do see Our Lord and God at the elevation of the consecration in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. It really speaks to that sense of mystery."

Established in 1961, St. Barnabas was established to accommodate the rapid expansion of Catholics in that area of St. Charles County. The parish opened a school in 1963, but in 1981 a fire devastated the church and school building, forcing a temporary closure. The church was refurbished according to changes since the Second Vatican Council, "now that we have the opportunity" to effect such remodeling, former pastor Father George Haar told the Review in a 1981 story. The school merged with nearby Assumption in 1982. St. Barnabas currently has 404 registered households.

Ordained in 1997, Father Hager taught himself how to celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. Born in 1960, he has no memories of going to the Traditional Latin Mass as a child. As a seminarian, he would occasionally visit St. Agatha, where the Latin Mass was offered in St. Louis at the time. "I was blown away by the beauty and sacredness of the liturgy," he said.

The process of learning the language and rubrics took several months. Father Hager approached Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, who connected him with Canon Michael Wiener, rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, one of two churches designated specifically for the Latin Mass in St. Louis. Canon Wiener, the episcopal delegate for the implementation of the Traditional Latin Mass in the archdiocese, offered his guidance.

Father Hager also watched videos, read books and sought help from several others, including Sister Michaleen Vomund, CPPS, PSR director at St. Barnabas, and Bill Guelker of the Latin Liturgy Association, a local organization that promotes the use of ecclesiastical Latin in the liturgy. Several changes had to be made in the sanctuary, including moving the nearly 1,500-pound altar back four feet and adding a communion rail.

In December, before several members of the parish and finance councils, Canon Wiener and others, Father Hager celebrated the Mass for the first time. There were very few corrections to make, according to Canon Wiener.

"I think it speaks to the spiritual solidity of the spiritual life of the archdiocese," said Canon Wiener. "It's a sign of the normality that these Masses are offered in both forms of the one Roman rite. As the archbishop emphasizes, it should be done well; if it's done well, it's extremely edifying and beneficial for the faithful and a great source of consolation and edification. The rite is full of beautiful and rich symbolisms of the truth of our faith. Every Mass recapitulates the life of Christ, His suffering and resurrection."

Father Hager said he had once been approached by Catholics to offer the Latin Mass when he was pastor at Sacred Heart in Elsberry. "But what I found is it was really coming from outside of the parish, and not the parishioners. Here it's the opposite. I am called to serve my parishioners, and if they're wanting this, if I could possibly do it, I'm going to do it for them."

Leah and Jeff Schuepfer live about 10 minutes away from St. Barnabas, but for the past eight years, the Schuepfers and their five boys have been driving almost an hour to attend the Latin Mass at St. Francis de Sales in south St. Louis. While Leah Schuepfer said the drive was worth it, she was thrilled to learn that the Mass is now being offered closer to home.

"There's the sense of the sacred," said Leah Schuepfer, who began attending Latin Mass as a child with her family at Holy Family Log Church in Cahokia, Ill. "The rubrics of the Mass lend themselves to the Real Presence" of Christ, she added. She appreciates the expression of the liturgy in the Church.

Larry Schlesinger was a student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School when Vatican II took place. Being able to attend the Latin Mass again brings him joy, he said. "We're reconnecting with a millennium and a half of tradition. All of these people before us (who celebrated the Mass) are with us here now." When the Latin Mass largely was no longer offered in St. Louis, "I thought we lost a lot of the beauty" of the Mass, Schlesinger said. At St. Barnabas, "I found myself going back to when I knew this in high school."

Latin Liturgy Association

Founded in 1975, the Latin Liturgy Association is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the use of Latin in both forms of the Mass of the Roman Rite — the Ordinary Form (also known as the Novus Ordo Missae or New Order of Mass) and the Extraordinary Form (known as the Traditional Latin Mass).

The organization has chapters in major cities, including St. Louis, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit and has individual members throughout the United States and several other countries. Regina Morris serves as president of the national organization and is a member of the St. Louis-Belleville Chapter.

In the St. Louis Archdiocese, the Latin Liturgy Association has been involved at St. Mary of Victories, where the Novus Ordo is offered in Latin on Sundays by one of its members, Father Brian Harrison. The organization has also been involved in the efforts to offer the Traditional Latin Mass at several other parishes, including St. Barnabas, Little Flower and Assumption in New Haven.

The Latin Liturgy Association publishes a quarterly newsletter and has a website at www.latinliturgy.com. For information, contact morrisrp@swbell.net or help@extraordinaryform.org. 

Significant dates for the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, post-Second Vatican Council

1984: Pope John Paul II and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued the circular letter, "Quattuor abhinc annos," which granted an "indult" for bishops to authorize the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass according to the 1962 missal.

1988: Pope John Paul II issued the document "Ecclesia Dei adflicta" in which he addressed the schismatic actions of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X. The Holy Father also established the Commission Ecclesia Dei to oversee the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass and called for a "wide and generous application" of the directives issued in his previous letter of 1984.

2007: Pope Benedict VI issued the apostolic letter, "Summorum Pontificum," in which he further eased restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. This particular letter gives priests the ability to freely celebrate the Latin Mass using the 1962 Missal. (Previously, priests were required to request permission from their bishop to celebrate the older form.) It also instructs priests to honor requests from the faithful for access to the Traditional Latin Mass. The letter designated the Traditional Latin Mass as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the current Mass as the Ordinary Form. The pontiff noted that one form should not be favored over the other. 

Traditional Latin Masses in the Archdiocese of St. Louis

• St. Francis de Sales Oratory, 2653 Ohio Ave. in south St. Louis; 8 and 10 a.m. Sundays and 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday; see www.institute-christ-king.org/stlouis/ for the full schedule of Mass times

• Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine, 530 S. Mason Road; 7:30, 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 a.m. during the week; see www.benedictineoratory.com for the full schedule of Mass times

• Assumption Parish, 603 Miller St. in New Haven; 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays

• Little Flower Parish, 1264 Arch Terrace in Richmond Heights; 9:15 a.m. Sundays

• St. Alban Roe Parish, 2001 Shepard Road in Wildwood; 7:30 p.m. the last Friday of the month

• St. Barnabas Parish, 1400 N. Main St. in O'Fallon; 10 a.m. Sundays

• St. Cecilia Parish, 5418 Louisiana Ave. in south St. Louis; 6:30 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays

• St. Gianna Parish, 450 East Highway N in Wentzville; 9 a.m. the second Saturday of the month

• St. Mary of Victories Chapel, 744 South 3rd St. Downtown, offers the Novus Ordo Mass in Latin at 9 a.m. Sundays; Chaplain Father Brian Harrison, OS, often celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass privately.

If your parish offers a Traditional Latin Mass but is not listed here, please contact reporter Jennifer Brinker at (314) 792-7505 or email jbrinker@archstl.org. 

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