A Pastoral Approach to the Traditional Latin Mass

I pray for a generous approach to those who love the Traditional Latin Mass

The Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota
The Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota (photo: Jeremy Noble / Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / BY 2.0)

“If it snows 18 inches on Friday, will they still have the Confirmations on Saturday?” my mom asked me over the phone as she considered rescheduling her flight from St. Louis to Minneapolis-St. Paul to arrive before the winter storm hit.

“Yes,” I said, “they will have plenty of time to clear the roads before then and weather will not stop them now.” My daughter’s Confirmation had been an unsure thing since July 16, 2021, when Pope Francis release Traditiones Custodes, restricting the Mass of the 1962 Missal. And little did we know, that if the Confirmations of the Extraordinary Form had been scheduled for even a week later, they would have been disallowed under the newly-released responsa ad dubia, clarifying Traditiones Custodes.

Since the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in 2007 my husband and I have found a spiritual home in the celebration of the liturgy, and all our children have received their sacraments of initiation according to the Extraordinary Form. We find that it brings us closer to God and helps us enter more prayerfully into the Mass than when we attend the Ordinary Form, which we do multiple times a week. Like most families who go to the Traditional Mass, our children all know how to follow a missal and are learning Latin for its liturgical and classical value. In the archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul we have found a beautiful tolerance for the form of the Roman Rite we pray with, and even unity with those who attend the Ordinary Form.

When the Extraordinary Form Confirmations were uncertain this summer, our pastor recommended we continue preparing our daughter for Confirmation. Our archbishop was studying the motu proprio to determine if an archdiocesan-wide Confirmation was allowed under it. In the meantime, priests in our archdiocese complied with the motu proprio, sending in letters to the archbishop requesting permission to say the Extraordinary Form Mass. Things seemed to have settled down — our archbishop was supportive of us attending the liturgy we love and we felt united to the archdiocese as a whole. The Confirmations looked like they were going to happen.

Then on Oct. 18, our auxiliary bishop, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, was appointed by Pope Francis to become the bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, a diocese that truly needed a spiritual leader like him. He was to be installed Dec. 4, just a week before the scheduled confirmations. The Extraordinary Form Confirmations were up in the air again, for Bishop Cozzens was the one scheduled to do them. He had done them in the Extraordinary Form in previous years and has experience celebrating the Extraordinary Form Mass. We wondered if there would be a bishop who could confirm the children who had been preparing and longing for this sacrament.

As it turned out, our own archbishop, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, decided to learn how to confer the sacrament in the Extraordinary Form. His pastoral heart reached out to his suffering flock, who felt misunderstood by our pastors in Rome and gave us the balm of his loving care.

On Saturday, Dec. 11, after snowfalls ranging from 12-22 inches in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, nearly 100 confirmandi from six churches, their sponsors and their families converged on the Cathedral of St. Paul. Perhaps some of them were like us, wondering if the sponsors would be able to make it through the blizzard into town and waking up extra early to shovel the snow and curl the confirmand’s hair.

The snow sparkled in the sunshine as we alighted the steps to the side door. As we opened the doors, the warm and beautiful cathedral made us welcome. The joy in the church was clear as the confirmandi sat with their sponsors in the center sections and the large families filled in the sides. Archbishop Hebda processed in lead by servers and the pastors of the represented churches, intoned the Veni Creator Spiritus. He gave a beautiful sermon on the gift of being confirmed during Advent, emphasizing how Christ will come into the world through us. He also explained, how he was happy to “come off the bench” to do the confirmations since Bishop Cozzens had been assigned elsewhere.

Then one at a time the confirmandi lined up to kneel before the archbishop while he signed each of them with the sacred chrism. The music from the choir loft filled the cathedral and we all prayed for those being confirmed. From where I sat, I could see Archbishop Hebda’s genuine care for each of the children being confirmed as he looked them each in the eye, a gentle smile on his face. And I felt an immense gratitude toward him. He truly seems to understand the love and devotion for the Church and the liturgy. He does not see us as bringing division to the Church, but through his welcoming, caring heart, he keeps his diocese united with two forms of one Roman Rite.

Archbishop Hebda’s approach to both forms is one that would be preferable to see coming from Rome — an openminded, tolerant approach that does not see the two forms of the Roman Rite as a source of division. I truly hope that those in Rome see the pain they are causing so many devout Catholics so that the Church can move forward in unity embracing both forms of the Roman Rite.

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Mississippi River are seen from East St. Louis, Illinois, on June 27. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on June 24, abortion is now banned in Missouri. The nearest clinics to St. Louis are across the river in Illinois, including a Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights that was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Welcome to Post-Roe America

Every year on the anniversary of Dobbs, Catholics will be able to deepen their understanding of God’s role in the conception of every child, his care for the child’s growth, his knowing each by name, and the future for which he has given each child life.