Sacred Heart Catholic Church now offers Latin Mass on Sundays
It’s become common for churches of different denominations to add contemporary worship services, which often feature modern music and a more relaxed style of worship.
Meanwhile, in Salisbury, one church has responded to requests from parishioners by adding an option for worship that is older, not newer.
Since April 7, Sacred Heart Catholic Church has been offering the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, also called the “Latin Mass,” as one option for Sunday worship.
Worshipers at the 4 p.m. service now pray along with Gregorian chants sung by a newly-formed Latin choir, as Father Jason Barone and servers offer prayers that have changed very little since the 16th century.
“We now live in a digital and technological age,” said Barone, Sacred Heart’s parochial vicar. “A two-year-old phone is almost useless. Everything’s new. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same.”
“What I love about Latin Mass for this age is precisely its timelessness,” Barone said. “God does not change. Human nature does not change. Timeless worship, I believe, anchors us God in these very turbulent times.”
Sacred Heart is Rowan County’s only Catholic parish, with 1,001 families currently on the membership roll, according to the church office.
A total of four Masses are offered on Sunday – two in English and one in Spanish, alongside the Extraordinary Form.
The Sunday liturgy in English is also offered on Saturday evenings.
Barone, 29, was ordained as a priest last year after completing his studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
He’s one of a new generation of Roman Catholic priests who say they want to revive interest in the church’s traditional style of worship.
Return to tradition
It all started in 1962, when the Roman Catholic Church opened the Second Vatican Council – a meeting of the world’s Catholic bishops to discuss the relationship between the world’s oldest Christian church and the modern world.
The deliberations at “Vatican II” lasted three years. Over the course of the next decade, Roman Catholic worship changed dramatically.
In the U.S., both Latin and Gregorian chant – still the Roman Catholic Church’s official form of worship music – disappeared from most churches.
The order of worship changed. Many of the traditional prayers were shortened. There was less kneeling and bowing during Mass. Laypeople were allowed to serve regularly as scripture readers and cantors.
Since 2000, however, a growing number of Catholics have lobbied for the traditional Latin Mass.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a papal document clarifying that the previous rite had never been abolished, and could still be celebrated by permission.
Since then, the number of parishes offering the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite has grown.
In North Carolina, Sacred Heart is one of 10 churches currently offering the older form of Mass, according to the website North Carolina Mass in the Extraordinary Form, which collects information about those services.
Father John Putnam, pastor of Sacred Heart, said he believes the interest is because of the spirituality of the traditional Mass.
“There’s a precision and an otherworldliness that draws people into contemplation of the mysteries we celebrate,” Putnam said.
Barone, a lifelong Catholic, said he attended his first Latin Mass in 2004 while in college.
“At first, I didn’t really like it,” Barone said. “It felt so different from my experience of Mass hitherto.”
Still, Barone said, he kept attending.
His perspective changed one day, Barone said, during the silence as the priest said the prayers of consecration.
“The priest wasn’t trying to teach me or entertain me, or even trying to simply keep my interest,” Barone said.
“He was offering a sacrifice to Almighty God, who was truly present in the Church, and doing so on behalf of me,” Barone said.
In the traditional Mass, the priest prays facing the altar in the same direction as the congregation.
In that way, the prayers and offerings are directed toward Jesus Christ, with the priest leading the people in worship.
Where many of the prayers in the contemporary Mass are said aloud, a silence fills the sanctuary, broken only by the sound of the choir or the quiet responses of the congregation.
“This is how virtually all the saints worshiped God,” Barone said. “And, as a priest, my personality is completely detached. I assume the personality of Christ. I say Mass in the person of Christ.”
Praying in English, Barone said, brings with it a temptation “to highlight my personality, but the people should come for God, not the priest’s personality.”
“Everything about it is beautiful and reverent,” said Inara Howard, who attends Sacred Heart’s Latin Mass regularly with her husband and children.
The Howards previously attended Wednesday evening traditional services which started before the Sunday Latin Mass was offered.
“The music, the prayers, the vestments of the priest. Even his every gesture has meaning,” Howard said.
For her, Howard said, the quiet of the traditional Latin Mass is more contemplative than the pop-style music and constant activity of a contemporary worship service.
One of the criticisms priests heard when Sacred Heart announced the change to a Latin Mass for one service was the lack of ability to follow along and participate.
For Barone, the Latin Mass calls for “a different type of participation,” he said.
Not only do the people stand or kneel to pray, he said, but they are called to be reflective and contemplative.
That’s something he said many Christians are already used to.
“Anyone who watched Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ had no external participation, but sat and watched a movie in a foreign language,” Barone said.
“Nonetheless, they were fully engaged and likely felt emotionally drained by the end. As Psalm 50 says, God desires not merely sacrifices but a contrite heart,” Barone said.
“The highest form of participation is the internal self-offering to God the Father, through the offering of His Son.”
Likewise, Barone said, Jesus’ mother Mary “perfectly participated in the worship of God at the crucifixion of her Son with tears and a silent self-offering.”
According to the church office, an average of 148 people have attended the 4 p.m. Latin Mass since the change was made in April.
Putnam and Barone said feedback has been generally positive.
Barone said that the youth of the church, especially, have shown an interest in the Extraordinary Form of Mass.
“Young people, who have known nothing but constant change in this life, seem attracted to the order, beauty and timelessness of the Latin Mass,” Barone said.
There has also been an increase in the number of young men who want to be altar servers, Barone said.
He believes more parishes will offer the Latin Mass “for the simple reason that a great percentage of young priests, seminarians and young men considering the priesthood love it.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.