May 4, 2018
It was a day of immense gratitude for all those who flocked to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on the bright spring afternoon of Saturday, April 28th, 2018. Gratitude for the gift of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter which encouraged the wider celebration of the Latin Mass, and gratitude for the grand event held in D.C. to celebrate the Letter’s 10th anniversary. There at the Basilica, the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and one of the ten largest in the world, His Excellency the Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample, Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Throne in the presence of 4,000 faithful.
The clergy, religious and altar servers alone numbered about 100. Four FSSP priests assisted at the Mass, Fr. Gregory Pendergraft as Deacon, Fr. Zachary Akers as 1st MC, Fr. Gregory Eichman as 2nd MC and Fr. Josef Bisig as one of the Deacons at the Throne. The Mass was a Votive Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to whom the Basilica is dedicated and whom we honor as the Patroness of the United States. The Mass setting was Victoria’s Missa Salve Regina, sung by the choir of the Basilica, who were accompanied by the Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble. Two visiting choirs performed the preludes before Mass, the scholas of the Lyceum School in South Euclid, Ohio and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Allentown, New Jersey, with the men’s schola from St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in D.C. singing the Propers of the Mass.
The event was hosted by the Paulus Institute for the Propagation of Sacred Liturgy, and the Mass itself was coordinated by the careful efforts of Fr. Akers, the FSSP’s Director of Development, and Fr. Eichman, pastor of FSSP Harrisburg. Fr. Joseph Lee, Dean of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, was in the control room, assisting the camera and media crew with the video aspects of the Mass, which was broadcast live by EWTN. If you were not able to attend in person, you can watch the video below.
The Archbishop preached an eloquent and powerful homily on the theme of Summorum Pontificum, thanking Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the name of all gathered at the Basilica for his wisdom and generosity in publishing the Letter, addressing the particular draw of the Latin Mass for young people, who attended the Mass in large numbers, and discussing how the older form of the Mass relates to the newer. The homily begins at 54:20 in the video above.
To the young people gathered before him, he said:
“You are a sign, a great sign, of encouragement and hope for the Church tossed about these days on the troubled waters of secularism and relativism. As they say, ‘You get it.’ You understand your place in the world and in the Church to help rebuild a culture of life in society and a renewal of Catholic culture within the Church herself.”
He discussed the especial affinity that young people display for the Latin Mass and addressed the question of why young people should be so drawn to a liturgical form that they did not grow up with. Perhaps, he said, they are drawn to it because of the sense of mystery and wonder that it offers to them. The Archbishop drew from the Letter to the World’s Bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum, quoting Pope Benedict’s words regarding the attraction of the Latin Mass for the young (see the full Letter here).
The Archbishop then reflected upon the place of this Mass in the experience of the older generations.
“This is the Mass that has produced saints,” he said.
He also quoted what he considers one of the most important phrases in the Letter to the Bishops.
“‘There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.'”
Archbishop Sample continued by discussing the relationship between the two forms of the Roman Mass, referencing the Letter to the Bishops and his own discussion with Pope Benedict when he visited Rome for his ad limina visit in 2012. The Archbishop emphasized to his listeners that there should be no rupture between the two forms, and that the old Mass, with its reverence and sacredness, can inform and enrich the celebration of the newer Mass.
“I believe this is a key to interpreting Pope Benedict XVI’s desire. Namely, that the flourishing of the more ancient form of the liturgy with its beauty, reverence and sacredness will cause a natural development and enrichment of the way in which the newer Mass is celebrated. As he says, there cannot and should not be a rupture between the two forms. One must be able to recognize the older form of the Roman Rite in the newer.”
At the end of Mass, after processing out and offering his pastoral blessing to the thousands that filled the basilica, the Archbishop generously greeted all the faithful who waited patiently in a receiving line that stretched from the front steps of the grand basilica into the vestibule. The day could not have been a more pleasant one, the late afternoon sun shining warmly upon the crowds and reflecting the joy evident among all on an occasion of thanksgiving and celebration for the gift of the Latin Mass. As the Archbishop said at the conclusion of his sermon:
“Let us thank the Lord for Pope Benedict’s gift to us, the greater celebration and availability of the usus antiquior of our common heritage in the Roman Rite.”
Our thanks to Mr. Joe Vitacco for the photographs used in this article.