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 Mass of the Ages

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) — A Miami newspaper last week highlighted the city’s growing Latin Mass community and the traditional liturgy’s appeal to younger Catholics.

In a cover story published on August 28, the Miami Herald profiled Catholics attending the Latin Mass at Our Lady of Belen Chapel in West Miami, which serves a rapidly expanding congregation that includes many young people and families. 

“One look around the picturesque Belen chapel and it’s clear that this Mass, though grounded in tradition and conducted mostly in Latin, is not just for older Catholics,” the Miami Herald said. “Amid the sacred chanting and echoing organs, babies fuss and parents distract their toddlers with toys and coloring books.” 

Around 350 people attend Sunday Mass every week at the chapel, up from an average of 112 regular Latin Mass goers in 2017, according to Frank Andollo, who has attended the Latin Mass for 10 years.

“People drive from as far north as Palm Beach County and as far south as the Florida Keys to make it to Latin Mass at Belen on Sundays,” the Herald said.

The Latin Mass is widely known to attract young people, even as the Church hemorrhages younger members, and has continued to attract Catholics despite a series of harsh restrictions imposed by Pope Francis in recent years.

In Miami, the Latin Mass community “has steadily grown, relocating to five different chapels in the past 10 years to accommodate the growth,” according to the Herald. 

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‘They don’t want something watered down or compromised’

The Herald spoke with several Catholics who attend Our Lady of Belen Chapel, including Eleonora Cacchione, a mother of four and a “lifelong Catholic” who said that “she did not fully understand what was happening during Mass until she started attending Traditional Latin Mass.”

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“People wearing their Sunday best, seeing the priest facing the altar rather than the congregation, the solemnity and reverence of the liturgy — including the way people receive Jesus in the Eucharist — reminds one that something special, something supernatural and beyond human explanation is taking place,” Cacchione said. 

Jose Ballon, 28, the choir director at Our Lady of Belen, told the Herald that the Latin Mass is “bound to attract people because I believe they are attracted to authenticity.”

“They don’t want something watered down or compromised.”

“There’s peace, there’s quiet, there’s moments of silence” in the Latin Mass, Ballon said. “Whereas maybe in other churches, I’m not trying to presume, but it would be more about ‘Let’s have everyone sing along,’ or where everything has to be a big show to keep you awake. They think it’s necessary to follow the trends of the moment … I love pop rock music, but I wouldn’t like that at church.”

“I remember I had a chance to go to confession before Mass, then receive our blessed Lord in the sacrament. And that was such a wonderful experience. Like you really feel something move in you,” he recalled. “It was like a sense of inner peace, especially after receiving communion. So I was just completely enamored by it.”

Another Our Lady of Belen congregant, Juana Maria Correa, grew up attending the English-language Novus Ordo Mass but “prefers [the] Latin Mass because she sees it as more connected to God,” according to the Herald.

“When you find out about Latin Mass, you cannot go back,” said Correa, whose daughter sings in the chapel’s choir. “The first impression is that it’s so holy, that you are not the center of the Mass, the priest is not looking at you. … What’s important is that he’s talking to our Lord, representing us, giving him our prayers and our needs. He’s praying for us.”

Ballon, who was raised in Lima, Peru, also pointed to the unifying nature of Latin. “There’s a deep connection to know that people all over the world who don’t even speak the languages can pray together by using the common language, that’s why the Latin is important,” he said. “It’s a way to unify.”

‘Deeper, more authentic Catholic community’

Catholics interviewed by the Herald repeatedly cited the draw of the Latin Mass community.

“I was at the point in my life where I was looking for a deeper, more authentic Catholic community. And that’s what I found when I started going to the Latin Mass,” Andollo said. He added that “people don’t dash to their cars” after the Latin Mass, but stay to talk with each other about their faith, which he found appealing.

“They were having conversations about their faith and lifting each other up in their spiritual lives and giving each other advice,” Andollo related. “That was very inspiring to me. I love being there for that and seeing that.”

Ryan Ramos, 24, a firefighter and paramedic with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, “found out about Latin Mass in January through an Instagram post that caught his eye,” the Herald said.

Though he grew up Catholic, Ramos told the newspaper that he eventually drifted away from the Church. “I wasn’t living a Catholic life. I wasn’t active in my faith. I was kind of dormant,” he said.

“After his first visit to Latin Mass, Ramos was approached by one of the younger members who invited him out to lunch. He’s now a part of a larger group of Latin Mass members in their early 20s, whom he calls his family,” the Herald noted.

“Making all those friends and family, it creates a stronger bond in the faith …. having that camaraderie. It’s a support group,” Ramos said.

The Miami Herald, however, also spoke with Ana Maria Bidegain, a left-wing professor of religious studies at Florida International University who falsely claimed that Latin “became Western Europe’s standard language for church communications” when Pope Pius V codified the Tridentine Mass in the 16th century. Latin overtook Greek as the language of the Roman liturgy and became the official language of the Church in Rome in the fourth century. 

The Herald further stated that the Second Vatican Council “decreed that altars should be turned around and priests face parishioners when celebrating Mass,” which is false. The texts of the Second Vatican Council did not discuss the position of the altar or whether the priest should face parishioners during Mass.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, declared that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” and that Gregorian Chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy.”

READ: What Vatican II said—and didn’t say—about the liturgy