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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is it Possible to be More Catholic than This?

Image from the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny.

Permit me to answer that question: No, especially when the Mass is the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Latin), celebrated, as it has been every Sunday (10 A.M.) since 1988, at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine on East 115th Street in East Harlem. Your Bloviator had the pleasure of attending Low Mass (server only, no deacon) there this morning and was awestruck by it all. The church is in superb condition and while the attendance was low, it was heartening to see a contingent of about thirty teenagers, students from the church's nearby school who, it was explained to me, are brought to the Latin Mass twice a month by their teacher (may God richly reward that man for what he is doing). Considering their age and attendant energy, they behaved like lambs; they even got the kneeling, standing and sitting right. The only thing lacking from this exquisite scene was a nun in traditional habit wielding the clicker.

Following the Mass, your Bloviator had the additional pleasure of meeting Professor William Tighe and the celebrant, Fr. John Halborg. Over coffee, the three of us did damage to a box of donuts and discussed matters churchy and theological although your Bloviator felt a bit out of his league among those two learned men.

It would be a good thing if more people attended the Tridentine Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Fr. Halborg told me on a good Sunday around fifty people show up but the Church can probably accommodate twenty times that many. The neighborhood, formerly Italian, went through a wretched stretch from the 'seventies through the 'nineties and fear of crime may still keep people away; indeed, I was last in that part of town a dozen years ago and it was a scary experience. That is no longer the case, nowadays things are considerably improved. I walked a good part of the way to the church and found a peaceful, stable Hispanic neighborhood with mothers and fathers and kids in strollers enjoying the fine May morning. Former Mayor Giuliani's war on crime has reaped rich dividends for the good people of East Harlem.

So if you live in the New York area, take in the Tridentine Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel (and while you're at it, drop some bucks into the basket, I'm sure they can use it). The experience of praying the Mass in the proper language, in such a glorious and inspiring venue, was a precious gift to this newly-minted Catholic. For those veteran fisheaters who rightfully feel discouraged at times by the banalities of modern worship, I urge you: go be refreshed by Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

(To learn more about the shrine visit this marvelous site.)

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