GARY — Bishop Joseph Perry’s whispers of Latin echoed across the stretch of the sanctuary at Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary on Monday — accompanied by the small-yet-commanding choir in the balcony at the rear.
Since Pope Benedict XVI permitted all Catholic priests 10 years ago the ability to recite the Latin Mass without special approval, a once-forgotten tradition has steadily reemerged in churches across the world.
Monday’s Latin Mass, however, is reportedly the first spoken in the halls of the Tyler Street cathedral in a half century, according to Donald Taylor, Monday’s master of ceremonies and a member of the NWI Latin Mass Community.
“We can’t find any information about one having occurred prior to this, since the reforms,” Taylor said.
The traditional Latin Rite dates back to the Council of Trent in 1545 and was considered the norm in the Catholic church for centuries until being mostly phased out amid reforms by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
The service was held on New Year’s Day — the Octave Day of Christmas, or the day Jesus Christ was circumcised. The Gary church, established in 1906, is decorated with brilliantly blue stain-glassed windows, high-pillared ceilings and a marble-constructed altar.
“After the Second Vatican Council, the Mass changed for Catholics, but the traditional one never really went away. It just was forgotten,” Taylor said. “A lot of young Catholics, these days, they want to go back to it.”
With a cappella Gregorian chants, Renaissance polyphony and the interweaving of melodic choral voices with the sacred Latin text, the traditional Mass is often viewed as far more mysterious and beautiful that the typical Mass celebrated today.
“Some people find it a little more prayerful, more peaceful,” he said.
Bill Wendt, of Long Beach, was one of about 150 people in attendance for Monday’s service. He sat in the pews with his wife, son, his daughter-in-law and young grandson.
“It’s lovely to see. I’m very supportive of the restoration of the sacred liturgy,” Wendt said. “What’s wrong with a little tradition?”
Anne Marie Ahern, of St. John, said she and her husband have attended several Latin Mass services over the years, but this was the first at Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary.
“It was beautiful,” Ahern said.
For the ceremony, the NWI Latin Mass Community invited Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Perry.
In modern Mass, the priest typically faces the congregation, but during Monday's Latin Mass, Perry faced the altar — to be seen as leader to the people, facing God.
Perry's homily served as a reflection of what he described as a “chaotic” 2017 comprised of “ugly incidences of racism” and “deadly gun violence.”
“All while the world looked at us, amazed that we could not get a grip on this problem in a country like ours that considers ourselves enlightened,” he said.
And, yet, he said, tragedies like the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 people transformed "ordinary citizens (into) good Samaritans."
"When there was a call for blood, lines formed around blocks at hospitals,” he said. “Despite the sad, horrific scenes, one thing holds true, and it's that people are still good.”
At the start of each new year, people tend to see "how careless” they live their lives, Perry said. 2018 should be seen as a "new opportunity, another" chance to be disciples to Jesus, to give to others and share the gospel, he said.