By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
The Latin Mass is returning to St. Mary's Catholic Church after an absence of more than 40 years.
'It took some work to make it happen, but now that it's here, we're all excited,' said Keb Burns, director of adult Catholic education at St. Mary's.
It's not just a one-time deal. The Latin Mass will become a regular fixture of worship at the Temple church. Father Gregory Hanks of Rockdale will offer it the first Sunday of every month at 5 p.m., starting Nov. 2.
'Nothing's going to change about the regular Mass (the one said in English),' Ms. Burns said. 'It'll still be there. The Latin Mass is an opportunity for those who want it to have it.'
Officially called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and sometimes referred to as the Gregorian Rite and Tridentine Mass, the Latin Mass was a regular practice at all Catholic churches until the Second Vatican Council dismissed it in 1962. 'At that time, it was decided that Mass should be in the vernacular, in whatever language the congregation spoke,' Ms. Burns said.
'A restriction was placed against the Latin Mass so there could be conformity to a single liturgy,' said Brother Luke Chambers of the St. Elias Hermitage in the Diocese of Austin. 'No one church would be competing against another in style of service.'
But Pope John Paul II reversed that decision in 1985.
'Too many people missed it,' Ms. Burns said. 'So (John Paul II) said a church could have Latin Mass if they got permission from their bishop.'
Temple is in the Catholic Diocese of Austin, so Bishop John McCarthy would have been the man whose say-so was needed for the go-ahead.
'He gave his permission, and two Latin Masses started in the diocese - one in Waco and one in Austin,' Ms. Burns said. 'But not every church could be accommodated.'
There was the matter of locating a priest who had the knowledge to officiate a formal Latin Mass, explained Brother Chambers.
'The skill had died out,' Chambers said. 'Priests were retiring and dying. And new priests didn't receive that kind of training in their education.'
So until last summer, Ms. Burns said the majority of Catholics remained without the option of attending Latin Mass.
In July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said if a church desires a Latin Mass, then the bishop must make it a reality. He explained his decision in a formal letter entitled 'Summorum Pontificum.'
'That meant that it wasn't up to the personal opinion of the bishop anymore,' Ms. Burns said. 'And it meant that if there wasn't a priest available who could say the Latin Mass, then the bishop would have to help the church find one.'
So last summer the church sent a petition to Bishop Gregory Aymond, asking that a regular Latin Mass be available at St. Mary's in Temple. Ms. Burns said more than 30 signatures were on the petition.
Aymond located Father Hanks, pastor at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Rockdale, to officiate at St. Mary's. His first practice with the altar servers took place Oct. 19.
'I'm super excited to take on the responsibility,' Hanks said. 'The Latin Mass is the Mass I remember from when I was a child. It was when I fell in love with the church and wanted to become a priest. It's a very sacred, beautiful service. You don't see that kind of reverence in everyday life.'
Hanks learned how to perform the Latin Mass at a five-day workshop in October 2007.
Don't be fooled, though; it's no easy process. To qualify for that workshop, a person must first demonstrate mastery of the Latin language.
'There's not a lot of priests out there who can do it,' Hanks said. 'But the interest is there.'
Brother Chambers agreed.
'The 'Summorum Pontificum' renewed the passion for it,' Chambers said. 'All sorts of seminars and workshops started to spring up.'