Austin Latin Mass community continues to grow
By Michele Chan Santos
The vibrant community of people in Austin who choose to attend the Latin Mass is growing, buoyed by the addition of many families with young children, said several members of the St. Joseph Latin Mass Society, which celebrates the Latin Mass at St. Mary Cathedral in downtown Austin every Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
On Sept. 6, about 250 people attended Latin High Mass at the cathedral. The attendees were a mix of elderly people and families with young children, as well as some families with teens. Father Albert Laforet, rector of the Cathedral, celebrated the Mass.
Some of the notable differences between this and a typical Mass include the service is conducted in Latin (with the exception of the readings and the homily); the priest spends the majority of the time facing the altar, with his back to the people; the songs are sung in Latin; Eucharist is received on the tongue, while kneeling; the “Our Father” is prayed by the priest and not the congregation; and there is no Sign of Peace exchanged. The congregation is more formally dressed, with the men and most of the boys in suits. Most of the women wear white or black veils covering their heads.
Formally, this type of service is known as the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.” The first Sunday of each month is the High Mass (slightly longer, with more formally sung portions) and the others are Low Masses (more spoken portions).
Father Laforet said what makes this service unique are the people who are devoted to Mass in this particular form.
“They really like this form of worship. It’s quieter, it’s a little different,” he said. “It’s more solemn, there is more kneeling. It’s a different way to focus yourself.”
Tami Brett said “a desire for more reverence” brought her and her family to the Latin Mass community. She and her husband Shannon have five children and live in Georgetown.
Shannon Brett said, “I’ve always been interested in the antiquity of the church and its traditions.”
Once they began attending the Latin service, “We fell in love with it,” Tami said, “with the beauty of it.”
The Bretts (and several other people) said their children are better behaved during the Latin service.
John Thorp is the current president of the St. Joseph Latin Mass Society, which is a committee of St. Mary Cathedral. He and his wife Janet have four children.
“Our children listen more at this Mass, they follow the altar more closely. The Extraordinary Form makes it easier to focus on prayers and tradition,” Thorp said.
Prior to the Second Vatican Council, all Masses were celebrated in Latin. After 1962, the Latin Mass was no longer permitted, until 1984, when St. John Paul II gave permission for Mass to be celebrated in Latin with bishop’s approval. In 2007, Pope Benedict issued “Motu Proprio,” a papal letter that made it easier for parishes to celebrate a Latin Mass.
The other Latin Masses in the Austin Diocese are held at St. Mary Parish in Brenham and at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University in Waco.
In Austin, the Latin Mass moved from one location to another over the years, finding its current home at St. Mary Cathedral in 2007. For many years, Father Robert Bradley celebrated the Mass. (Father Bradley passed away in December 2013.) Father Laforet stepped in during 2010, as Father Bradley’s health declined.
Barbara Manson and Brooks Whitmore direct the adult and children’s choirs, which consist of about 15 adults and more than 30 children. The popularity of Gregorian chant on holiday CDs and on iTunes has led more people to be familiar with this type of music, which is very solemn and beautiful.
“It’s a great voyage of discovery to learn these chants that are so old,” Whitmore said. “It helps us get in the mind of the early church.”
Thorp said the biggest misconception about the Latin Mass is “that it’s a bunch of old, disgruntled people. On the contrary, it’s a growing community that is very vibrant with young families, with many children.”
After the High Mass each month, there is a potluck with people filling the Cathedral hall. After the low Masses, there are coffee and snacks. Mass-goers socialize and build community.
The Bretts and Thorp encourage those who are curious about this service, to “just come,” and don’t worry about veils and knowing Latin. (A booklet handed out at the Mass gives the English translation.)
“Just come and enjoy the beauty of it,” Tami Brett said.
For more information about the Latin Mass, go to www.austinlatinmass.org; on Facebook search “St. Joseph Latin Mass Society;” or e-mail AustinLatinMass@yahoo.com.