It has been a red-letter week for some of us who love pre-conciliar rites. Last weekend, my chapter had a visit from our religious assistant, Fr. Vincent Kelber, O.P., and he gave us sung High Mass for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in the Dominican Rite. Yesterday, we had a visit from our dear friend, the Inimitable Fr. Andrew Szymakowski of the Baker Diocese, on vacation from canon law school, who gave us sung High Mass of St. Thomas More in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Although yesterday was the feast of Thomas More on the new calendar, on the preconciliar calendar it falls on July 6th -- the actual date of his martyrdom -- so this was a votive Mass. This was our contribution to the Fortnight for Freedom: this Mass was offered for the intention of religious freedom in our country, and the crushing, humiliating defeat of the Church's enemies.
Here, then, appropriately enough, is our battlefield altar -- an actual, collapsible altar for use on the battlefield -- at our temporary chapel in the big room at Chapter House in Homedale, prepared for Mass. Though this was not an actual battlefield Mass, our conditions are nevertheless pretty primitive: we don't even have matching candlesticks, and we have to borrow supplies anytime we have Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Fr. Joseph Levine, also of the Baker Diocese -- and who, by the way, preaches a rocking homily and celebrates a beautiful TLM -- was kind enough to lend us the altar cards, altar missal and a set of red vestments.
We tried to get Father to pose for a nice picture in those beautiful vestments, but unfortunately, he wasn't cooperating. He does love to clown around...
...but once Mass starts, he's all business. I have to say that Fr. Andy is a character and a half and has as much personality as any priest, or indeed, any human being I have ever known. He is highly intelligent, gifted, a great conversationalist, a talented speaker (in no fewer than three languages), and loves to laugh. But not one iota of any of this shows while he is at the altar. When he celebrates Mass, Andy Szymakowski is totally hidden -- as he should be, as Holy Mass is not his work or indeed the work of any mere mortal. Here is a priest who gets out of God's way, and he does it by the simple expedient of saying the black and doing the red.
Which, frankly, he finds it much easier to do in the Extraordinary Form than his inexperienced little congregation, which made many mistakes. Here we are. The best part of this pic is you can't see me in it. But I'm there!
Father says the words of institution.
The Bread of Life.
And the Chalice of Salvation.
Here is a close-up of that image embroidered on the back of his chasuble.
And Holy Communion on the prie-dieux.
Incidentally, one thing that is not captured by any of these pictures is the howling dust storm that began raging during Mass. The ferocity of the wind outside, while the August Sacrifice proceeded calmly inside, seemed a perfect analogue of the world's wrack and turmoil as the forces of hell vent their fury on the Church, which nevertheless enjoys the peace the world can neither give nor take away.
The time has come for America to decide where she prefers to be during the storm: outside or inside? May she choose wisely. St. Thomas More, pray for us.