Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sounds of the Past

My goodness, have a look at this charming story in the Shreveport Times. (Fr. Mangum is young, btw)

A dead language is expected to bring new life to a Mass at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans on Sunday.

The 11 a.m. Mass will be celebrated largely in Latin with the music done in Gregorian chant.

"There's been great interest, excitement around the announcement that we will have a Mass in Latin," said the Rev. Peter Mangum, pastor of the church.

The Mass had been said in Latin for hundreds of years until the mid-1960s when the Second Vatican Council called for the use of the vernacular language. Despite the council's documents saying that Latin is to be preserved, Mangum said "we've almost totally eradicated it."

In recent months Pope Benedict XVI has more vocally encouraged the use of Latin as a way for the faithful to understand their roots and to bring more unity to the church.

For years, Mangum said he has had people request that Latin be brought back to worship.

"I was absolutely thrilled to death," said Josephine Carmody.

Carmody, 77, well remembers the old Mass and is part of the Gregorian chant choir that will be leading the music.

Sunday's Mass will not be the pre-Vatican II order, when the priest would turn his back to the congregation and the readings were in a different order.

It will be the Mass as it is currently celebrated, just with the weekly prayers said in Latin. The Scripture readings and sermon will all be in English.

Older parishioners are not the only ones looking forward to the Mass. Graham Walker, 28, converted to Catholicism several years ago, so he has very little history with the language.

"It's very intriguing and makes a lot of sense from a spiritual sense," he said. "I'm excited about it."

The Cathedral currently hosts Masses in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Latin will allow them to worship together.

"It's no one's language, and yet, it's everyone's," Mangum said.

Accompanying the prayers will be Gregorian Chant, a thousand-year-old tradition of the church. Carmody said she was taught and sang chant growing up and loves having the chance to see it again.

"If you walk into a church, and hear the silence and then hear these voices, it's almost like a angel wings," she said. "It helps you in prayer."

For Walker, the "otherworldly" sound is a welcome change from pop radio and advertisements that permeate modern culture.

"When you hear something like chant, it's genuine, authentic," he said. "Because we've been around so little of it, it's novel. You've dusted off something old, but it's brand new."

Since the Mass has been in English for 40 years, worshippers now should be able to follow what is happening even though they may not understand the words exactly. To help worshippers a booklet will be provided with all of the responses and prayers of the congregation.

Depending on the response this weekend, Mangum hopes to hold the Latin Masses periodically.

"It should end up being a richer experience," Walker said.

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