Praesta, quaesumus, Domine, ut anima famuli tui Caroli sacerdotis, quem in hoc saeculo commorantem sacrismuneribus decorasti, in coelesti sede gloriosa semper exsultet. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum...
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the soul of Thy servant Charles, Priest, which whilst he was sojourning in this world, Thou didst adorn with the graces proper to the sacred ministry, may evermore rejoice in the glory of heaven. Through our Lord...
I began serving the “old Mass” as an altar boy in 1927. I am now 88 years old, 62 years as a priest. As a lad, knowing the perfect recitations of all the Latin Mass responses, I dealt with priests of every age and devotion and I do not recall any who deliberately mumbled their prayers. The churches were not air-conditioned in those days and in the hot summer days it was not uncommon to omit the sermon; Low Mass might last for only 20 minutes, and Communions were much fewer in those days. Now with the Novus Ordo, I have attended Mass in 10 minutes. A possible scandal.
The only scandal I can recall in the old days was people sleeping during the sermon. Nobody complained about the Eucharistic fast from midnight; nobody complained about Communion on the tongue or about the Latin. In fact, we were proud of the Latin we knew. Non-Catholics marveled at the piety and the reverence of the congregation and the head-coverings of the women. Those were the glory days of the Church when our Catholic faith was a family thing, a treasure we prized. Our faith was so much a part of our life that it colored our moods, shaped our social activities, influenced our style of dress, and flavored our conversation. How many families can make the same claim today?
Last Sunday I experienced what perhaps was the greatest joy of my priesthood. I could scarcely contain myself. Indeed, my cup runneth over. I celebrated the Tridentine Latin Mass with a congregation of two hundred people. It was like a repetition of my First Holy Mass 56 years ago. It was a Missa Cantata — those sacred Gregorian melodies so fitting for worship: the solemn Trinity Preface, the solemn Pater Noster, the Holy Gospel, and the Orations.
My daily vernacular Mass has been a joy in my life, but there was always something about this Tridentine Latin Mass that went beyond all telling. I’ve found something that I had lost some 35 years ago. All those years my heart ached for the Latin Mass that I had lost, always hoping that some day, please God, I would find it. Last Sunday I found it. And like the widow of the Gospel who found her lost coin and who called in her neighbors to rejoice with her, now I was the one who wanted to call in the whole world to share in my joy. It was like being away from home all these years and always hoping that some day the permission for me would arrive to return home and share again with my dear ones the joys of long ago. It was home sweet home again. My joy knows no bounds.
My humble and ineffable thanks to our good Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, the Good Shepherd who went out looking for all those abandoned sheep to lead us back home again — to Rome, sweet home.
Would I go back to the new Mass? No way!
Rev. Charles Schoenbaechler, C.R.