He’s here with us’
(Please note the ages of the congregation members who are interviewed. Please note, too, that my age is not given and not even my name mentioned as the once of month fill-in celebrant--in line wth my true humility!)
Mass with ‘mystery’ has been around 10 years at cathedral since use of Latin was reapprovedBY LESLIE MOSES Special to the Savannah Morning News
The hour-plus drive from Metter each Sunday is trivial compared to what Christy Kimsey finds when she arrives.
The transcendence, the reverence, the beauty, the real presence of Jesus, she says — it’s what she’s been missing her whole life.
“It brings me to tears almost every time,” she says, holding her hand to her chest after the 1 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist one recent Sunday.
And to be clear, she’s speaking of the Latin Mass, or “extraordinary form” mostly in Latin.
She attends the ordinary form in English, “new Mass” to some, closer to home throughout the week.
The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s approved use of the liturgy in the language of the people.
Then 10 years ago in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the extraordinary form was officially accessible to the church’s faithful, too.
“This just gives people another option,” says cathedral parishioner Felix Maher.
In 2002, the service was already held at Nativity of Our Lord Church in Thunderbolt after Maher pushed for it.
The dentist enjoyed the Mass while working out of town in bigger cities like Atlanta and Chicago. He feels that the new liturgy lacks a bit spiritually in the sense of sacredness, and that the Latin Mass is more mystical and spiritually fulfilling.
Compared to the new Mass, the Latin service has longer periods of silence, offers Gregorian chant and the priest faces east with the congregation, his back to them, praying with the people.
And of course, much is in Latin.
The priest’s sermon is in English, and Maher read twice from Bible passages in English. Otherwise, “amen” may be the only familiar part for newbies.
The extraordinary form is often met with resistance from the clergy, Maher says.
“Certainly, it was a struggle to get started,” he says.
He tried to convince the bishop of the Diocese of Savannah to have the mass locally, finally asking, what harm is it?
“We’re all worshiping Christ,” Maher says.
The attendance grew after the service moved from the Thunderbolt church to the beautiful, downtown cathedral, recalls Father Daniel Firmin.
Latin Mass attendance has about tripled from a decade ago to roughly 160 attendees, though still well under the roughly 700 typically at the cathedral’s earlier 11:30 a.m. ordinary Mass.
John Brenton, 35, is among the Latin Mass faithful. About a decade ago, the Pooler resident attended the service hoping it would suit his Latino wife.
But it wasn’t a Hispanic service; it was a holy one that astounded Brenton, a new Catholic.
“And it turned out me being just floored,” he says. “I knew I wanted more and wanted to connect with it.”
He likes that it is ancient, beautiful, has incense and Gregorian chanting.
People get hung up on the Latin part, he says. And it takes about seven services to be able to follow along, according to Brenton.
But there is enough beauty in the service to absorb that people don’t need to understand every word.
“The point is that Jesus shows up,” he says.
Jared Seff, 26, also attends. The fine arts painter grew up Jewish, and converted to Catholicism after moving to Savannah and attending Savannah College of Art and Design. Like other Catholics, he goes to ordinary Mass throughout the week.
Yet Seff finds the Latin Mass a better fit.
“It allows me to get into my transcendental space,” he says.
The artist believes that creating art relies on inspiration, and is a spiritual matter. He mentions the link between the words “inspiration” and “spirit.” Some matters, however, are less defined.
Attendees mention “the mystery,” and appreciate complex spiritual matters, such as Holy Communion. Not knowing the service’s Latin language is just one part.
Firmin, who presides over the afternoon service, thinks unfamiliarity may actually help people pay attention versus hearing familiar English each week with a temptation to zone out.
And language is just one tool besides art, music and others; the Lord touches souls regardless, according to Firmin.
Kimsey is one soul-touched witness.