Mass appeal in Tridentine tradition
gather weekly at St. Alphonsus Church
for its services in Latin
By Jason Song Sun Staff
Originally published April 25, 2005
Kim Keller wanted her nine
children to experience as many different Masses as possible and took them to
services in English and in Spanish at churches throughout the Baltimore
region. "We thought it was important they experience different cultures," she
But the Kellers stopped searching for new services when she heard Mass in
Latin at St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church. "It was the most beautiful thing
I'd ever heard. We've been coming here ever since," she said yesterday after
On the day when Pope Benedict XVI, known as a staunch defender of
Catholic traditions, was formally installed as the leader of the Roman
Catholic Church, hundreds of people like Keller came to the traditional 11:30
a.m. Latin-language Tridentine Mass at St. Alphonsus Church, a stone building
on Saratoga Street built in 1845.
The Tridentine Mass was the official service for Catholics for centuries. But
during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, a new way of offering Mass was
introduced that used familiar language and allowed priests to face their
Supporters argued that the new Mass was more appealing because it could be
adjusted to parishioners' needs and fit individual priests' styles. But some
said the new Mass was untraditional, and they disobeyed the church by
continuing to use the Tridentine Mass. In 1984, Pope John Paul II said the
Latin ceremony could be performed with the permission of local bishops.
Many parishioners at yesterday's Mass said they hope Pope Benedict will
continue to support traditional Catholic beliefs and practices. "I think
[Latin Mass] is a good thing for the whole world," Keller said.
Tridentine Mass returned to St. Alphonsus in 1990, when the Rev. Casimir
Peterson, who offered yesterday's Mass, began performing the service, which is
more formulaic than the modern Mass. The ceremony, with the exception of the
homily, is performed in Latin.
To St. Alphonsus parishioners, the ceremony's appeal lies in its tradition.
"It's a Mass I grew up with, and it contains all the grace and beauty of 1,500
years of history," said Rita K. Dent of Baltimore. "Latin is a dead language,
and the service doesn't change from generation to generation. And I like
It is the only such Mass in the Baltimore area and draws people from as far
away as Pennsylvania. "It's a much more reverential Mass. The prayers are more
respectful of God, and God is more present in the Mass for me," said Bill
Mansell, who comes to services every Sunday from his home in York, Pa.
Keller and her husband, Buddy, drive to Baltimore from their home in
Westminster, packing their children - five boys and four girls ages 9 months
to 18 - into a 15- passenger van.
After four years, Kim Keller said she can understand bits of the service
without the help of the church-provided translation. But regardless of how
much Latin she absorbs, she said she will continue to worship at St. Alphonsus.
"It's the most beautiful thing this side of heaven," she said.
Read the article in the
Baltimore Sun from April 20, 2005