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Duluth parish to offer Latin Mass beginning in Advent

People nourished by the Latin Mass got some welcome news in July when Father Joel Hastings, pastor of St. Benedict Church in Duluth and director of liturgy for the Diocese of Duluth, announced that beginning in Advent the parish’s noon Mass on Sunday would be offered in Latin.

At least twice a month, it will be offered in the “extraordinary form” (the missal from 1962), and on the other Sundays it will be from the “ordinary form” liturgy celebrated in most parishes, but in Latin with Gregorian chant.

“I see this approach as a means to help serve as a bridge between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Mass as given to us after Vatican II, exercising in a particular way the very words of Vatican II regarding the retaining of Latin for particular parts of the Mass,” Father Hastings said in an email interview with The Northern Cross.

The other weekend parish Masses will remain in English.

In a letter to parishioners, Father Hastings noted that the parish is already known for more traditional liturgies, with most Masses celebrated “ad orientem,” meaning the priest faces the same direction as the congregation during key parts of the liturgy instead of facing the congregation. In recent years, the Traditional Latin Mass also has been frequently celebrated there, but usually outside of the parish’s normal Mass schedule.

Father Hastings’ letter said the change came out of discernment between himself and Bishop Paul Sirba on how to minister to Catholics who have been seeking the Latin Mass.

He also had to discern some things for his own part: He initially had little interest in offering the Mass as celebrated in 1962.

“I honestly did not want to even go down this road when I was first notified of my being assigned to St. Benedict’s,” he said. “I felt my ability with the Latin language was too weak to be able to rightly pray the Mass in Latin. However, over time, my heart was softened to it. I prayed about it, mindful of those who did not want it to disappear from St. Ben’s.”

He eventually became open enough to the idea that he signed up for a workshop at St. John Cantius parish in Chicago. The experience — “‘playing Mass’ for approximately six hours a day for three and a half days” and experiencing a beautiful sung Mass – moved him to praying more earnestly that if it’s what God wanted, he would be able to learn what he needed to know and have the courage to carry it out.

“While I still have much to do, I will say that prayer is being answered very swiftly,” he said.

That is going to mean new efforts for ministries in the parish. Servers will be learning new rubrics, deacons could soon find themselves chanting readings in Latin and the parish’s music ministry will be tackling a large repertoire of Gregorian chant on a weekly basis.

Parishioners also will have a lot to learn. That’s why there will be serious teaching happening before the first Sunday of Advent comes around.

“A large component of this endeavor will be catechesis,” Father Hastings said. That will include adult education on a variety of related topics, training in the parish youth programs and even multimedia aids, with recordings of sung responses.

The goal is to help everyone, even those who may be skeptical about the changes, to “greater practice of the faith in whichever form of the Mass they are drawn toward,” he said.

Father Hastings said the response so far among parishioners has been positive. In fact, some parishioners have put it in the context of the New Evangelization and Pope Francis’ call to “go to the margins.” Father Hastings sees the possibility that “a door is being opened” to some who are drawn to the Latin Mass but may not have a consistent parish home.

Some of the weekday Masses at St. Benedict will also be changing over to Latin. And the changes come along with changes to the Mass times. Noting that many of the surrounding parishes have basically the same schedule, St. Benedict is moving to Sunday Masses at 9 a.m. and noon, to give Catholics in the area more options. Those changes begin in September.

— By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross