With priests freer to celebrate in Latin, more Masses may follow older tradition
By James Dowd
August 6, 2007
The recent decision by Pope Benedict XVI to relax restrictions surrounding the Latin Mass is a welcome return to tradition, some local Catholics say.
And while the Latin or Tridentine Mass is celebrated in only two parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, if enough Catholics express interest, other congregations may soon follow suit.
At Bartlett’s Church of the Nativity, the Latin Mass is celebrated every Sunday, except for the third one in the month. On that day many parishioners travel to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Midtown for the Latin Mass that’s celebrated there.
"There’s a group of us that goes to Latin Mass wherever it’s celebrated. It’s the way we worship," said Joseph Lenzi, 94, after Sunday’s morning service at Church of the Nativity. "There’s a reverence to it and a mystery. It just seems to bring the holiness of our faith alive."
On July 7, the pope issued a directive freeing priests to celebrate the ancient Mass without first having to obtain a bishop’s permission. That requirement had been in place since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, when the Mass was modernized to be celebrated in local languages.
Bishop J. Terry Steib will discuss the pope’s directive at a quarterly series of meetings with all priests in the diocese this autumn.
"So far I haven’t been approached by any parishioners wanting it," said Father John Geaney, diocesan spokesman and priest at St. Augustine Catholic Church in South Memphis. "But it’ll be easier to add a Latin Mass now if people do want it."
The Latin Mass differs from the modern version in ways other than language. The priest faces away from the congregation for much of the time and during Holy Communion the consecrated Host is placed in a communicant’s mouth, not on the palm.
"The Latin Mass is so pure, it’s so reverent, I just feel more spiritual when I worship this way," said Drew Sill, 30. "And I like the fact that the Latin Mass is the same in every culture in the world. It brings us all together in community."
On Sunday at Church of the Nativity, more than 75 showed up for the Latin Mass, which sometimes attracts more than 100. The crowd included a large number of young families and children and at least 10 percent of the women wore head coverings during the service.
One of them, Delores Ryan, 71, believes the traditional ways are best. And she said folks who don’t understand Latin aren’t at a loss—a printed translation of the service makes it easy to follow.
"The Bible speaks of women covering their heads and our way of worship was the same for hundreds of years until it was changed after Vatican II," said Ryan. "I want to continue those practices. It’s more meaningful to me this way."
Father Michael Morgera, who’s served at Church of the Nativity for three years, said response has been growing. He’s considering offering a morning Latin Mass during the week.
"Latin has been the universal language of the church and it’s the same, whether in Bartlett or in Hong Kong," said Morgera, 56. "In the Latin Mass there’s very much a sense of the awe of God and how we stand before Him and need His mercy and care. The prayers are profound."
—James Dowd: 901-529-2737
The Latin or Tridentine Mass is celebrated at two parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Memphis at various times:
Church of the Nativity
5955 St. Elmo 382-2504
Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church
2564 Hale 452-1543
Traditional Latin Mass Schedule in Memphis
Blessed Sacrament - Sundays 8:30 am
2564 Hale Avenue
Memphis, TN 38112
St. Michael's - Wednesdays 12pm (Noon),
First Fridays 6:15pm,
First Saturdays 7:00am
3863 Summer Avenue
Memphis, TN 38122
St. William's - (None at this time)
4932 Easley Avenue
Millington, TN 38053
For any questions or comments related to this site, please email us at memphisLatin@gmail.com
Last Updated: April 18, 2017