Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg Catholics able to worship in Latin again

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IT might seem extraordinary, but 21-year-old Kateri Muys longs to celebrate the Roman Catholic mass in the traditional -- and official --language of Latin.

"There isn't anything really like it," explains the Oak Bluff resident, who first experienced the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite while studying at a Catholic liberal arts college in Barry's Bay, Ont., north of Ottawa.

"Once you worship in Latin, you don't want to go back."

On Sunday, she'll have that opportunity again at the inaugural 10 a.m. Latin mass at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church, 271 Hampton St.

Until now, the St. James area church -- a mission of St. Paul the Apostle Roman Catholic Church -- only had a 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon mass, and so the building was available on Sunday mornings, says Rev. Jeffrey Burwell, the Jesuit priest who will celebrate the Sunday morning Latin mass.

Extraordinary Form is the term used for the traditional Latin mass, last revised in 1962. After the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965, Roman Catholics were granted permission to celebrate the liturgy in the vernacular, called the Ordinary Form.

"The church's language is officially Latin. Other religions have sacred languages -- Islam has Arabic, Judaism has Hebrew, and Hindu has Sanskrit," says Burwell, 36, who teaches Catholic studies at the University of Manitoba and studied Latin during his undergraduate days at the University of Regina.

"There's something about the sacred language. It roots us in our tradition."

Winnipeg's first official Latin mass in nearly five decades comes about with the co-operation of its two Roman Catholic dioceses, Winnipeg and St. Boniface, after Pope Benedict declared that those who want to worship using the traditional Latin liturgy should be given the opportunity, says Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber.

"We've been encouraged to expose them to that, to continue this tradition of the church," Weisgerber explains.

"Archbishop (Albert) LeGatt (of St. Boniface) and I are co-operating on this because we want to make it accessible to the whole community."

Dozens of Winnipeggers have already expressed interest worshiping according to the Extraordinary Form, including John Cortens, who has attended Latin masses in London, England and St. Louis, Mo.

"It is very, very moving and prayerful and reverent in those places," recalls Cortens, 51.

"We're just sort of a ragtag group trying to do the same in a small way."

For Anselm Ragelti, worshiping in Latin also means an opportunity to learn the liturgy in a new way, since he'll be serving as an altar boy at St. Ann's. Unlike the Ordinary Form in which the people respond to the priest in the liturgy, the six altar boys recite the responses in the Latin mass.

"I found it really beautiful," says Ragelti, 14, of his previous experiences with the Extraordinary Form while attending a Catholic boys' camp in South Dakota. "Latin is very beautiful, and it translates into music easily."

While some may wonder if a Latin mass last revised half a century ago might indicate a backward movement in theological thinking, Burwell says his weekly sermon, to be delivered in English, will respond to current culture and times.

"Even though we're celebrating the liturgy of 1962, we're not theologically the same as 1962," says Burwell, currently completing his doctorate in educational administration.

"My homily will take in all the developments since 1962."

And even without a complete understanding of Latin, the traditional mass provides an extraordinary, mystical experience of worship, says Cortens.

"Maybe there's no way to describe it but if you experience the Latin mass, the first time you're confused and it is unfamiliar. Then you're drawn into it," he explains.

"It's coming from confusion and being drawn into it in this new way. It's sort of eternal."

After two years of weekly college chapels using the Extraordinary Form, Muys looks forward to celebrating mass in Latin again, this time in her home province. She says Latin has another advantage of bringing together Roman Catholics in worship, no matter where they are.

"If Latin was the universal (language), you could understand it wherever you went," explains the University of Manitoba student.

"It is bringing back part of the universality."

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2011 J13

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