Latin mass for everybody, including children

By James Buchok

WINNIPEG — The traditional Latin mass includes periods of deep silence providing a space for the union of the hearts and minds of the faithful, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring your kids, says an English Roman Catholic priest, scholar and lecturer.

When the silence is broken by a child speaking or crying out “or dropping a book on the floor,” said Rev. John Saward at St. Ann’s Church in Winnipeg Oct. 9, “that’s a good problem to have. If we don’t have children in the church, where would we be? In the Latin mass the noise of the children somehow accentuates the silence. And the parents are always more bothered than the priest.”

Saward is parish priest of St. Gregory and St. Augustine’s near Oxford, England. He is Oxford educated and has been a lecturer and professor at St Cuthbert’s College, Durham, England, St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, and the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria.

He is also married and has three daughters. After being ordained an Anglican priest in 1972, he was received into and ordained in the Roman Catholic Church under papal dispensation in 1979.

Saward said the quiet of the Latin mass, from the offertory onward, “provides a space as we gaze at the elevated host. The union of our hearts and minds is what the church means as active participation. The silence of the canon gives us a space in which that can happen.”

The silence is the time for “the secret prayers of the priest,” he said, imitating the way Jesus prayed in Gethsemane and on the cross. “Dumb as a lamb before his shearer,” Saward said, quoting Isaiah 53:7.

Saward said the traditional Latin mass, also known as the extraordinary form or Tridentine mass, named for the Council of Trent (Italy), 1545 to 1563, “can help us to wake up and take up the call of holiness. The Latin mass doesn’t have exclusive power to make us saints, any form of mass will do that,” he said. “It is Christ himself who is the author of our sanctification, who will make us holy if we allow the gift of his resurrection to save us.”

The evening was presented by Winnipeg’s newly created Society of St. Dominic, a private association of the lay faithful with a mission “to rediscover the contemplative Catholic tradition through the lives and writings of her saints, her arts and her liturgy.” The society plans to present an ongoing series of lectures and cultural events.

Since 2011 St. Ann’s has been offering the Latin mass Sundays at 11 a.m., Winnipeg’s first official Latin mass in nearly five decades. The mass was created with the co-operation of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and the Archdiocese of St. Boniface after Pope Benedict XVI declared that those who want to worship using the traditional Latin liturgy should be given the opportunity.

“The words and actions of the older Roman mass have a particular power to arouse devotion and reverence,” Saward said. “Prayers of the traditional mass prepare us for mystical union with the trinity.”

Saward described how during the mass the celebrant faces east. “The dawn of each day is a natural symbol of God and paradise because God is light and the Garden of Eden was in the east.”

Saward said there is no holiness “without a spiritual battle and the mass begins by calling us to spiritual battle, the spiritual battle we find ourselves in as fallen children of Adam and Eve. “

“Every Catholic should know that if he or she wants to enter into paradise they must pass through purgatory either in this life or the next one,” Saward said, adding a lament for what he described as “50 years (since the Second Vatican Council) of neglect of spiritual warfare being taught in confirmation.” Saward said any Catholic over the age of 60 learned that he or she is a soldier of Christ.

“The Holy Spirit makes us soldiers of Christ in a world that is hostile to him. Our struggle is with the world, the flesh and the devil. The world, all that was created, is beautiful and God loves the world of mankind. But in the New Testament the world is a wild and dangerous place. It is the world of the worldly, of those who live only for the advantages of this world.”

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