As I was driving to my regular Saturday Holy Hour – Mass early this morning, I was startled to see a half dozen squads from the Erie, PA Diocesan Liturgical Police idling along side University Avenue near Surdyk's and Kramarczuk's while the drivers and navigators poured over maps of Northeast Minneapolis. The mitre-shaped red “bubbles” on the squads’ roof was what caught my attention.
Being a long time resident of Minneapolis and somewhat familiar with “Nordeast”, and always game for a “corporal work of mercy”, I pulled over and approached them, questioning if they needed help. They were a little jumpy, but when I showed them that I wasn’t wearing a scapular or a Miraculous Medal (Not having seen mobile liturgy cops before, I had taken my medal off before exiting the car), they dropped their guard.
One of them, a Lt. Col. Trautman, explained that they had heard that some of the parishes in that part of Minneapolis were known to use forbidden languages such as Polish, Old Slavonic, Ukrainian, Arabic and even Latin, he said, which is a Canon Law capital offense according to the “Bish” back home. “Nothing but English is the rule; and simple English!”, said Trautman.
He wondered if I could help them identify some of the 20 or so Catholic parishes in that neighborhood, and which ones would be most likely to be committing Canon Law language offenses. He was also interested in hearing about other offenses, such as priests disrespecting parishioners by turning their backs to them.
Well, I just happened to have received my monthly “Nordeast Catholic Parish Summer Directory” yesterday and had it in the car with a schedule of all the Masses, Reconciliation times, Novenas, Processions and Parish festivals which occupy most Minneapolis Catholic residents each Summer. I took six of the eight pages from my daytimer and gave them to Col. Trautman. He was amazed at how many Catholic churches there were in Northeast, and how many languages were spoken. He was so pleased that he gave me an autographed copy of the English language Mass Sacramentary without the recent amendments that added all those difficult words. He thought I would be pleased. I tried to look it.
As it was getting late, I wished the Erie Liturgy Cops luck in their search and headed out towards St Anthony of Padua (whose information was on the directory pages that I retained).
I arrived in time (7:30 a.m.) just as Father Glen had placed the Sacred Host in the monstrance on the altar and the Divine Mercy Chaplet was about to begin. This was followed by a Rosary, various prayers for the First Saturday of the Month and our usual intentions and then Benediction. So far, so good.
I noted that no Latin had been used and was nervously hoping that those Liturgy Cops wouldn’t find us before we finished singing O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo. They wouldn’t be happy if they heard those being lustily sung by the small congregation. [Perhaps “lustily” is the wrong adverb. Let’s say “energetically” if that word could be used to describe people who personally remember what times were like before Vatican II].
We would be in real big trouble if the Liturgy Cops popped in on us for the Mass. We have been singing Gregorian Chant in Latin for years. But before Mass began, Father asked us if we had noticed anything different? None of us seemed to and then he pointed out that the Low Mass candles were lit on the High Altar, not the “Front Altar” normally used for Novus Ordo Masses.
He explained that this was permitted for special occasions by the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (The “GIRM”). This is probably what St Agnes in St Paul uses to justify their Latin Novus Ordo Masses.
But today Father Jenson celebrated Mass in both English and Latin, at both altars. We started at the “Front Altar” with Gregorian Chant in Latin, Father facing the congregation. The readings were in English as usual. Then, after the Homily, Father and the two servers moved to the High Altar and from then on he celebrated the Mass “ad Orientem”, facing the tabernacle and the crucifix, only occasionally turning to face the congregation when there was a prayer to be said by him which called for a response by us.
Frankly it was wonderful and he looks forward to hearing our reactions. As an innate “detached critic” the only thing that I saw wrong today was that the credence table where the water, wine, etc. are kept was on the left, or Gospel side, of the High Altar. It shouldn’t be a big deal to move them to the right, or Epistle side, of the High Altar. That’s how we did it in the olden days.
Thank goodness the Pennsylvania Liturgy Cops never discovered us. I’m sure there would have been severe penalties and lectures about breaking the rules and how difficult it will be to teach older priests how and when to occasionally turn around and face the people.
Does anybody want a copy of the First Edition of the English Translation of the Mass? I’ll trade you it for a copy of the Northeast Catholic Parish Summer Directory.