Monday, September 25, 2017


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 reapproved


What: Latin Mass
Where: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 222 E Harris Street, Savannah
Info: 912-233-4709 or
Hear: The Latín Mass Schola SavannahLatinMass Community/videos/vb.1514066975480911/1995261054028165/?type=2&theater


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.


Joseph Johnson said...

A great article. I am still convinced that there is some interest (yes, a minority) in the Extraordinary Form throughout the Diocese of Savannah sufficient that there would be "stable groups" throughout the Diocese. As we know, the threshold number for a "stable group" is VERY low (certainly less than ten people). That minimal criteria could justify its presence, at least on a limited basis, in most parishes.

The sad and disturbing truth is that the single biggest obstacle to the further implementation of Summorum Pontificum in the Diocese of Savannah Georgia (which is all of the southern half of the State of Georgia--just for information) is (most charitably stated) clerical apathy or (more truthful in many cases) outright clerical opposition. Both are often veiled under a public clerical claim of too little lay interest or "higher" priorities demanding the time of overworked clergy.

This past weekend, my pastor and a lay speaker spoke on stewardship. It was mentioned to the assembled laity that we always find time for the things that we really WANT to do. I would say the same thing to many of our clergy . . . they should learn the old Mass and take the initiative and offer it and see how much interest there really is.

TJM said...

Tradition is for the young. The doubleknit dinosaurs pining for the 1960s and 1970s, don't get it. This is why I believe the EF may become the dominant form of the Mass in 100 years. There just isn't any real enthusiasm or commitment for the OF. Pope Francis is really out of sink in this regard.

Seeker said...

Fr Winchel was excellent for his first EF at St Joseph yesterday. Hoping this to continue. A Blessing!

If you offer it, they will come...

ByzRC said...

-“The point is that Jesus shows up,” he says.

Jesus shows up at the Novus Ordo too. However, with the EF, Jesus wins. With the Novus Ordo, I often feel as though Jesus takes second or, third place depending on the attitudes of the priest/presider and the music ministry.

-Yet Seff finds the Latin Mass a better fit. “It allows me to get into my transcendental space,” he says.

Couldn't have said it better. The EF, like the Divine Liturgy feels other-worldly. The NO feels like it would prefer to just be a commemorative meal where they "Gather Us In" to a closed circle around a low table with simple or, no embellishments.

Joseph Johnson said...

We need more of our priests to do as Fathers McDonald, Firmin, Winchell, Kwiatkowski and Knight have done. Bishop Sample of Portland once said that he learned the EF because when he became a bishop he knew he was a bishop of the Roman Rite and he felt he should know his Rite--in both Forms.

Priests of the Roman Rite should know their Rite in both Forms and they will be better equipped to more fully serve the people of God and His Church.

Joseph Johnson said...

I see Auxiliary Bishop Perry while celebrating the recent EWTN Pontifical Mass is depicted now at the heading of this blog.

Wouldn't he make a great successor to the current Archbishop of Atlanta?

rcg said...

FrAJM, you commented in an earlier post that you were no longer young enough to push the EF for this parish. Has no one in the parish expressed interest? It seems that you could find a some 'stable group' that would be energised enough that they would do most of the work and help get the word out. Even at St Joseph's I think the best way to make it successful was that you cultivated the people who already had the desire. Put another way, if you pushed it yourself then it would probably collapse soon after you left. But if you help the parish come to love it and understand it on their, then it would be a local tradition the parish would happily sustain.

Anonymous said...

Joseph, are you not satisfied with the current archbishop of Atlanta? He still has a few years to go before he hits 75........

TJM said...

Ironic that Bishop Perry is a huge proponent of the EF. In lefty world, he shouldn't be doing this because he should be promoting "inculturaton, Gospel music, etc."

Henry said...

"Wouldn't he make a great successor to the current Archbishop of Atlanta?"

Undoubtedly. And from afar, it looks like he would have been a better successor to the previous Archbishop of Chicago.

Perhaps someone closer to the scene there can comment, but I wonder whether Bp. Perry--as a holy and erudite black bishop of conspicuous personal stature and integrity--might now be a prominent bishop of an important diocese, instead of still a "lowly auxliary bishop" (as he referred to himself in his Philadelphia sermon), were he not an orthodox EF advocate.

ByzRC said...

Bishop Perry would make a great bishop anywhere. Unfortunately, I would not have had enough time to have driven to the EF mass he recently celebrated in Philly however, having watched the mass, it looked plenty vibrant to me without the usual expected pandering found within larger NO masses. The mass was free to be the mass.

TJM said...


I live in the Archdiocese of Chicago under the disgusting "leadership" of Cardinal Cupich. The Archdiocese continues its slide into oblivion. Bishop Perry is far more erudite and impressive figure than Cupich, so I doubt Bishop Perry will move up in the hierarchy, particularly with Pope Francis, an intellectual and liturgical lightweight.

Joseph Johnson said...

Anonymous at 8:47:
I would feel better about the current Archbishop of Atlanta if he thought it important to know both forms of his Rite and show it by celebrating the EF from time to time. I would feel even better if he would encourage his priests to learn it and foster its celebration throughout his diocese rather than appearing to quarantine it at the FSSP parish in Mableton, Ga. I feel similarly about my bishop.

When it comes to the EF, I am like Fidel Castro, I want to "export the revolution"!

ByzRC said...


So true.... At least the Canons Regular continue to model sanity with your archdiocese.

TJM said...

ByzRC, yes the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are a beacon of light in the darkness.

christy kimsey said...

Thank you Father McDonald for celebrating the Mass for us when Fr. Firmin is not available. Thank you for everything that you do to advocate for the Mass of the ages! God Bless you Father!