Monday, December 29, 2008

St. Patrick's, New Orleans

St. Patrick's, New Orleans, is a thriving parish that provides Latin Masses in both the old and new forms every Sunday, and is home to a spectacular music program -- a good case of a parish that has completely revived through focus on fantastic liturgy. It attracts people each week from around the state and even from neighboring states.

In many ways, the program here seems to use St. John Cantius in Chicago as a model, with friendliness to both forms of the Roman Rite with special attention given to the interior beauty of the Church and also to the liturgy. This is the source of its energy and growth. It is a case in point that you won't find mentioned in any of the well-established Catholic music periodicals, even though the full embrace of tradition and excellence has been a boon for the parish in every way. Such places as this are a great hope for the future.

Here is one report that landed in my inbox:

If you have not been made aware of St. Patrick's Church in New Orleans (it seems to be flying underneath the radar), permit me to share the news with you -- it is everything that you would admire. I travel to New Orleans on Sundays from Hattiesburg, Mississippi for the weekly Latin High Mass, the Solemn High Mass on the first Sunday of the month, along with solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament every third Sunday.

Each Mass is Gregorian while the high holydays (Christmas, Easter, Epiphany, etc.) are usually highlighted with one of the Masses of the great composers. (I must confess, however, that the simple reverence of the chanted Masses are much more congenial to me than the splendor of the classical Masses - too much like a perfromance for my personal taste, but that is just me.) The choir is nothing short of magnificent: fabulous tenor, accompanied by a grand organ, and graced on occasion by Sarah McMahan, a beautiful young soprano who has quite a repetoire of operatic performances in both New Orleans and New York.

When one is kneeling at the communion rail, gazing at the altar built before the Civil War, being administered communion by the beautifully-vested Fr. Klores (he wore a chasuble on Gaudete Sunday that had been worn five centuries earlier by St. Ignatius of Loyola) and with Sarah singing Panis Angelicus, Ave Maria or the like, well... it is just beyond my capabilities to describe.

Before each Mass, six acolytes process to the foot of the altar where they intone a series of quiet prayers - they have been enrolled in the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament - this is part of their ritual. The opening procession, after the Asperges is sung, usually has about a dozen acolytes, a couple of young seminarians and deacons and sub-deacon when applicable. When I tell people about it, I seem to keep repeating the same word over and over: magnificent; but there is no other word that conveys it better.

This past year the parish celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding, and the Mass was attended by two bishops (there would have been three but Archbishop Hannan was ill), more priests, seminarians and acolytes that one could count and when it was all over, the choir sang the Te Deum in all of its splendor. The huge congregation was numb with joy.

So, just as you have given me so much hope and ecouragement that a better day will dawn, I wanted to cheer you up a little bit also. If you ever get the opportunity to visit New Orleans, be sure to search out St. Patrick's, and also be sure to contact me as I would be thrilled to have you as a guest for brunch.

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