Well, here is my first blog post from the Conference:
Tonight, though, I treat the matter of the Mass. St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston has a gorgeous chapel (pictured above). The beautiful mosaics conveyed a sense of the divine. I had gone in to take a picture prior to the Mass and I almost felt as though I had violated something by indulging in the typical tourist reaction to photograph something. But, one of the staff members patiently let me indulge.
The Mass was celebrated by His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston. The 12 or so priests in attendance were the concelebrants and the seminarians were the servers.
It was glorious to hear the chapel’s beautiful pipe organ for the entrance hymn, “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”. The conference attendees robustly sang the hymn, including your intrepid blogger. All of a sudden, I started feeling this incredible sense of joy overcome me to the point that I smiled broadly, something that I have not done during Mass for a good while. There was this incredible sense of awe as I saw the entrance procession make its way down the aisle. The smoke from the incense wafted as the seminarian swung ther thurible. We went through all the verses of the hymn as Cardinal DiNardo incensed the altar.
My experience was not some fleeting joy. As the Mass progressed, the joy intensified. The Kyrie was sung, as were the responsorial psalm and the Alleluia. Cardinal DiNardo preached an excellent homily, weaving St. Thomas Aquinas’s works with today’s readings (the ferial ones were chosen as opposed to the ones for the memorial). The organist played the instrumental version of the Tatum Ergo. The cardinal chanted the preface and used the Roman Canon, which he chanted. We sang the setting that the late Richard Proulx wrote, “A Community Mass”. It was majestic. We also chanted the Pater Noster (and there was no hand-holding).
The Communion hymn was Taste and See; it was the actual psalm. For the final blessing, Cardinal DiNardo chanted the dialogue and then the actual blessing. As the recessional hymn began, I thought that I was going to just burst out (in a good way). Something had touched me and touched me rather profoundly. The full beauty of the Mass pierced me. During his visit to the Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka, Fr. Lang had talked about beauty in the liturgy. Cardinal Ranjinth also treated the subject back in 2008 when he talked about Ars Celebrandi. One thing is to read about it and wonder if such beauty can be a concrete reality, especially when our liturgies are permeated with things that do not belong there. However, quite another thing is to experience this beauty and this majesty for oneself and realize that Fr. Lang and Cardinal Ranjinth were not merely presenting a theory, but, helping us to realize a very concrete reality.
Furthermore, my experience was not one of being star-struck because Cardinal DiNardo was the celebrant and Fr. Lang was there. Cardinal DiNardo could have been Fr. DiNardo; it was not who he was, but, what he did and how he did it that also added to the experience. The fact that quite a bit of the dialogue between the celebrant and the faithful was chanted also added to the degree of solemnity. The quality of the preaching and the fact that Cardinal DiNardo let himself decrease and Christ increase during the Mass also played a major role. Even the bell choir added a particularly majestic dimension to the Mass. I had never heard a bell choir before and for me, it was simply incredible.
This afternoon’s Mass was exactly what I needed. I was able to experience for myself the solemnity, the majesty and the dignity of the Mass. I do not know if I will ever have that grace again, but, I thank God with my whole heart for today.
Your intrepid blogger is learning a lot. In the coming days, I will report on some of the talks at the conference. This has been an incredible experience for me.