A guest report by Bro. Peter Junipero Hannah, O.P.
Holy Family Cathedral currently offers the extraordinary form in the Dominican Rite every Sunday, and the servers for this Mass on my arrival tended to be adults. As the year progressed, three boys specifically began to express interest in serving, so I and the other main adult server began to incorporate them into appropriate roles, for example boat-bearer, junior server, and even thurifer. Two more boys came forward shortly thereafter, and I and the other adult trainer began to realize we could use a more “in-depth” workshop to school our growing team of young servers.
I have included here a number of photos from various parts of the week. One will note that in the shots of the Missa Cantata, I acted as “M.C.” out of necessity. The Dominican Rite traditionally does not have a Master of Ceremonies, but due to the newness of the Mass for all the servers, I needed to be on hand to direct the various stages and movements.
As we know, extraordinary form masses are not something one can just “pick up” after even a number of tries, especially when frequency is limited to one day a week (Sundays being the day this Mass is offered). So Fr. Vincent Kelber, O.P. (the usual celebrant for the Dominican Rite at Holy Family) and I decided it might be a useful thing to run a “Dominican Rite Camp” some week of the summer, where our team of boys could get the training and repetition necessary to really begin to understand and master the necessary movements and rubrics.
To our delighted surprise, the announcement of the camp quickly generated more work than we had anticipated. I decided, almost as a side thought, to put an announcement in the parish bulletin for the camp, which would run mornings for one week, Monday through Friday, and involve about an hour and a half of catechesis and instruction on basic liturgical theology, the history of the Dominican Rite, and practical aspects of serving, culminating in a Mass served by members of the camp. We would adjourn to a local park afterwards for lunch and recreation. Within a week the announcement had gotten out by word of mouth, “through the grapevine,” as it were, and we had no less than twenty-six boys signed up ranging in age from 7 to 17.
We had to cut off sign-ups simply because I and the other trainer could only handle so many boys at one time. Alas, the wonderful problem emerged that, at the close of the week, the original six boys did not get the repetition they needed to feel comfortable with all the movements, since we decided to distribute as many boys as we could to serving roles each day, allotting two servers for each of the Low Masses celebrated Monday and Tuesday (senior and junior), and four servers for each of the Missae Cantatae celebrated Wednesday through Friday (senior, junior, thurifer, boat-bearer).
Needless to say, the tremendous interest in learning to the serve the Dominican Rite among our Catholic boys and young men was wonderfully encouraging. The training sessions in the parish hall each morning involved everything from memorizing the Confiteor and Misereatur (which slightly differ in the Dominican and Roman Rites), to presentations on liturgical symbolism from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, to a lesson from Fr. Kelber on the history of the Dominican Rite in relation to other rites, to practicums on the parts and order of the Dominican Rite Mass, to proper posture, movements, vestments and their symbolic significance, etc.
Other than the sheer pleasure of leading such a week, what was especially fascinating for me was observing was the sense of camaraderie that developed among the boys, and their sense of responsibility for the sacred dignity of the Mass as it was taught and experienced each day.
The older boys tended to take charge of the positions demanding more responsibility (e.g. senior server), the “middle” group of boys got to fill in at other spots and follow the leadership of the older, and the youngest boys (7 and 8 year olds), though they did not get a chance to actually serve, were champing at the bit in anticipation of being able to serve in the near future. A kind of healthy competition developed to memorize the Confiteor and Misereatur first, to remember the moves correctly, and to learn more about the sacred liturgy.
The final day we seized the opportunity to show the excellent USCCB video Fishers of Men, and speak about vocations, highlighting that every Catholic boy is called to a mature Catholic manhood, which means knowing and living the faith as a father, whether that fatherhood is exercised in leadership and service to a physical family, or in Holy Orders as a spiritual father.
The effort and training required to serve the extraordinary form well is an excellent mental, physical, and spiritual training for this fatherhood. On a basic human level, boys learn etiquette, teamwork, responsibility, seriousness of purpose, and duty to God. On a deeper level, they of course draw near to the font of Fatherhood, the Triune God, as they reverently serve the priest acting in persona Christi at the altar of God.
The fruit of the camp was to produce a list of 10 boys whose families were willing to commit to weekly attendance at the Dominican Rite, and an additional list of about 12 more who were willing to come about once a month. Fr. Vincent and I took the list of servers committed weekly (plus 2), and scheduled three more additional weeks of training, taking 4 boys for a week at a time, and giving them a bit of repetition to better master the movements.
It appears indeed that there is a plentiful harvest waiting to be reaped to meet the call of the Holy Father that the extraordinary form be more widely disseminated, and affect in a healthy way the liturgical balance and sensibility of the Catholic faithful. I am deeply grateful to God that I was able to be an instrument in serving Holy Family Cathedral in this ministry over the last year, giving me as it did a deeper familiarity with, and even greater appreciation for, the Rite of my Order which goes back to its very beginnings, and has been an extraordinary (pun intended) font of holiness through the ages.
Sts. Dominic, Thomas Aquinas, and all Dominican saints, Orate pro nobis!