For the first time in almost 40 years, a traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated regularly at a Roman Catholic church in Lancaster.
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 501 E. Orange St., will hold the Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass, on a weekly basis beginning Saturday, May 24, at 5:45 p.m.
The Rev. Daniel Mitzel said he is "enthusiastic" about the parish offering the Mass, which will be entirely spoken and sung in Latin, to Lancaster Catholics.
Since some families were already traveling to Harrisburg to attend this type of Mass, "it was practical to offer the opportunity here," Mitzel said.
There's "a buzz, an excitement," about the Mass, he said.
Mitzel said he can't personally celebrate the traditional Latin Mass because he doesn't know the procedures like he does for English and Spanish Masses.
Instead, the Rev. Frank Parrinello, pastor of Mater Dei Latin Mass Community, which meets at St. Lawrence Chapel in Harrisburg, will be the celebrant of the high Mass at St. Anthony's.
There are 13 altar boys and men already training to learn the procedures of the Mass. The men, who previously have served at Latin Masses, will start immediately, while the boys will undergo training for several more months.
Te Deum Laudamus Singers will help celebrate the Mass by singing the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, which are heard during every Mass, and other prayers that change from week to week.
When the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s adapted the Mass so Roman Catholics could hear it in their native languages, the traditional Latin form - which had been used throughout the Catholic Church for nearly 1,500 years - became unfashionable to celebrate.
It became so unfashionable that most bishops placed such severe restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass that it was nearly wiped out as younger generations were not given the opportunity to experience it.
But in 1988, Pope John Paul II, wanting to meet the needs of a growing number of Catholics attracted to the traditional Latin Mass, issued instructions allowing lay Catholics to celebrate it.
Years later, there were still only a handful of Tridentine Masses being celebrated, and many Catholics did not have the opportunity to attend those Masses.
In July, Pope Benedict XVI gave specific permission for priests to allow the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass and make it more widely available to Catholics who wished to celebrate this older form.
Benedict's decision elated a group of Lancaster County Catholics.
Erick Wittemann, one of those who attended the Latin Mass at St. Lawrence Chapel, said a core group had approached the late Bishop Nicholas C. Dattilo about starting a traditional Latin Mass in Lancaster. He said Dattilo was not interested in starting one in the county at that time.
Now that Benedict had again given permission for the Latin Mass to be celebrated, the group decided to again submit a request, this time with the new diocesan bishop, Kevin C. Rhoades.
"The Pope has given wider latitude for its use," Rhoades said, and since 36 families from Lancaster County had asked for the "Mass in Extraordinary" to be celebrated in Lancaster, "I wanted to support what the Holy Father expected since there was a priest able and a parish for it. It's a very good thing."
Wittemann, who experienced his first traditional Latin Mass in the late 1990s at St. Gregory Academy in Elmhurst, described the Tridentine Mass as one of "other worldliness."
The Mass includes Gregorian chant, incense, organ music, kneeling for Holy Communion and the priest, with his back to the Massgoers, facing the tabernacle (east in many churches), leading everyone in prayer toward God, Wittemann said.
"Combined, they make a sublime experience," he said.
At a Holocaust memorial service Wednesday night, at which Rhoades was the keynote speaker, one Jewish observer asked Rhoades about the Good Friday prayer of the Tridentine Mass, which had called for the conversion of Jews to Christianity.
Rhoades said there is no Catholic campaign to convert Jews, adding that the prayer is not meant to disrespect Jews.
He said Benedict has changed the prayer, adding that the pope discussed this issue with Jewish leaders while he was in New York City in mid-April. Rhoades said there will continue to be a dialogue between the two faiths.