Juventutem Looks to Build on WYD Panama’s Traditional Latin Mass Celebrations

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass “connects young people with previous generations and the saints who have come before us.”

ABOVE: Photo by Quintinus Collier. BELOW: First and third photos in series by Quintinus Collier. All others courtesy of Juventutem.
ABOVE: Photo by Quintinus Collier. BELOW: First and third photos in series by Quintinus Collier. All others courtesy of Juventutem. (photo: Multiple)

The popularity of the extraordinary form of the Mass in the Latin Rite among young people is well-known, but it was especially visible during World Youth Day in Panama earlier this year.

The three Traditional Latin Masses during the event were “very well received,” said WYD participant Monica Clarke from Philadelphia in a recent interview with the Register.

One reason, said Monica, a member of the Juventutem International Federation that organized the traditional Masses in Panama, is because “many people” told her a “similar story of how they long for reverence, solemnity, beauty and silence in the liturgy.”

“One person I spoke with described the Thursday Mass afterward as ‘an oasis of calm,’” said Monica.

One of the Masses was a Solemn High Mass during which Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, preached the homily. About 350-400 people were estimated to have attended that Mass.

WYD participant and Juventutem member Aramis Perez from Miami told the Register that many young people experienced this form of the Mass for the first time in Panama, and they “received it with great gratitude.”

“They had often learned of it from the internet and wished to be able to worship the Lord with celebrations of the Mass in their own parishes,” Aramis said. “Pilgrims remarked on the strongly prayerful character of the Mass as well as its great beauty.”

Aramis predicted that bringing the traditional Latin Mass to their countries “would nourish the faithful and be a great boon for their churches and for evangelization.”

He also said others at WYD who were regular TLM Mass-goers said the traditional Mass “deserved such a place” at World Youth Day, as “many young people had a particular love for the traditional liturgy that was being beautifully expressed.”

Monica said what also appeals to a large number of young people is that the extraordinary form of the Mass “connects them with previous generations and the saints who have come before us.”

Asked why the TLM is important to her personally, she said not only was it the “solemnity and reverence,” as well as the “beautiful music and silence” but also the “sense of continuity with the past” with both ancestors and saints who attended the “very same form of liturgy.”

She also observed that although the world young people like her are being born into is “scientifically and technologically advanced,” it is also “plagued by self-centeredness.”

“I am certain that all of us, some perhaps without realizing it, crave something with a meaning that is beyond ourselves,” she said. “That is why young people ‘dream big,’ because they want to be part of something important, but too often we choose things that aren’t really important after all.”

“The TLM gives a tangible answer to this desire in that it is unmistakably and incontrovertibly God-centered,” she added. “Whether you are Catholic or not, there is something about the Latin Mass that immediately communicates the gravity and timelessness of what takes place on the altar.”

She added that essentially, “like all the great truths of our faith, it is a mystery we may never fully understand” what truly attracts people to the TLM. “But what we can be sure of is that it is inspiring young people to live their faith radically and is giving us an answer for our longing to be part of something truly significant.”

Aramis said he discovered the traditional Mass “simply by seeking to deepen my knowledge and love of the Lord.” The Mass has challenged him “mightily to allow my heart to be made tender so that I might love and serve others with that radical love from the Gospel.”

“It has refreshed my own spiritual life,” he said, “filling me with joy and a deep desire for friendship with Christ.”

And he observed that every Mass has been “something like anchoring in a safe harbor to grow in love of home and family, and then casting out into the deep with a great zeal for exploration, mission and adventure.” 

“For many young people I know, the traditional Latin Mass is a clear call to the Christian life with all its joy and challenges, as well as an encounter with God's splendor and mercy,” he explained.

“It is a key that opens the treasury of the faith ever wider, through which they come to know the Lord ever more deeply. For many it has been the central point of their conversion or reversion to the Faith.”

He also said that discovering the traditional Latin Mass had strengthened his Catholic identity “in both the particular and universal dimensions,” helping him to appreciate non-Roman Rites.

“All these classical expressions of Christian belief and prayer bear witness to the apostolic faith and liturgy in striking ways, reinforcing my own place as a follower of Christ united with the rest of his Church across the world and through the ages,” he said.

Looking ahead to the next WYD in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2022, Monica said she hoped each World Youth Day becomes an “opportunity to bring the beauty and timelessness of traditional liturgy to new places and people.”

She said Juventutem is hoping to “definitely” establish connections with other dioceses and movements so the “Extraordinary Form Pontifical Mass like those that were offered in Krakow in 2016” could take place, as well as other events like a “holy hour or sung Vespers in the extraordinary form.”

Aramis, who noted that Juventutem has been present at every World Youth Day since 2005, wanted to express his gratitude to the “generosity and openness” of the staff at the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, as well as the Panamanian Local Organizing Committee, and trusts that support will continue in 2022.