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The Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE – The Rev. Alfred P. Almonte hadn’t celebrated the Mass in Latin in about four decades, so when one of his parishioners at St. Bartholomew parish in Silver Lake suggested that he bring back the Latin Mass as part of the church’s 100-year jubilee, he knew that he would have some brushing up to do.
But the priest, who said Mass in Latin for the first four or five years after his ordination, in 1961, saw it as an opportunity to connect St. Bart’s parishioners to their past.
Not that it was going to be easy. While the edict issued by Pope Benedict XVI three months ago gave priests blanket permission to publicly celebrate the old Tridentine rite without having to get the approval of their bishop, there was still the problem of finding a cadre of altar servers who could recite the Latin responses and do the detailed choreography associated with a Solemn High Latin Mass.
Yesterday, as more than 400 people filtered into what some people still call the “new” St. Bart’s (having replaced the original building in 1969), 10 altar servers, all grown men, two deacons and two priests gathered in a room to don cassocks and robes, hoping that they would not forget what they had learned in three weeks of rehearsals.
Angelo DeFeo, 44, acknowledged that he had never been to a Latin Mass. “Don’t worry,” declared fellow altar server Ray Funaro, 64. “We’ll make a lot of mistakes, but nobody will know but us.”
At one time St. Bartholomew’s was an almost exclusively a parish of Italian immigrants, but has evolved over time into a parish with a large contingent of young Hispanic families who attend a Spanish- speaking Mass at 9:30 a.m. and an older, English-speaking congregation that worships at 11:30.
Yesterday the two congregations were joined. Though some critics have expressed disdain for what they see as a liturgy that does not encourage participation by the people, the Rev. Philip E. Lacombe of St. Timothy Church in Warwick, the visiting preacher, argued yesterday that there is participation in the Tridentine rite but of a different sort.
“Through this Mass people experience a profound sense that they are participating in a mystery,” Father Lacombe said.
“The priest’s back is not against the people, but rather the priest and people are facing in the same direction toward God,” he said.
Though there has been a weekly celebration of the old rite at Holy Name Church in Providence for the last 13 years, Pope Benedict’s edict allowing the rite’s wider use seems to be taking hold: the Rev. Kevin R. Fisette, pastor of St. Leo the Great parish in Pawtucket, announced that he will have a 5 p.m. “low” Latin Mass on the third Sunday of every month beginning Oct. 21. and the Rev. Douglas J. Spina polled his parishioners at St. Martha Church in East Providence and found 180 parishioners who would “commit” to attending a Latin Mass weekly. He plans to introduce the Mass in January.
Father Lacombe says St. Timothy’s is planning to celebrate the old rite on an “occasional basis.” Father Almonte said so many people were moved by yesterday’s Mass that he would consider doing the same.
Codified by Pope Pius V in 1570, the Tridentine rite was the dominant form of worship in the Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council permitted Masses in the vernacular and Pope Paul VI promulgated a simpler “new order” Mass in the late 1960s.
As was customary under the old rite, parishioners yesterday knelt at a communion rail and received the hosts on the tongue.
Esther Yacavone said choir members had been practicing the Latin prayers for two months and was pleased with the result.
“Would I like to do it every week? No. But I would like it for my funeral. It was beautiful.”
2007 The Providence Journal. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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