Rorate Caeli

We Report: Surprise Pontifical Mass in Washington, D.C.

We at Old St. Mary's were pleasantly surprised this morning as what was supposed to be a typical summer Low Mass turned into a Pontifical Low Mass -- celebrated by Joseph Cardinal Zen.

In town for an event at the National Basilica, he was long scheduled to say the 11:30a.m. Novus Ordo in Chinese but, upon request, accepted the invitation to say the 9a.m. Traditional Latin Low Mass at Old St. Mary's in Chinatown.

His sermon, of course, focused on the dire situation in China. He called the national church bishops "illegitimate" and said the entire national church "has no courage" and do not understand how great martyrdom is. He said they are selling out to the government now that it is flush with cash. As refreshingly hard he was on the above-ground church in China, he was equally praising of Pope Benedict XVI, and his efforts to stop the persecution of Catholics in China.

After the Mass, Card. Zen spent over an hour in the basement of Old St. Mary's with all the trads for our Sunday coffee and donuts, spending time with each and every person who approached him.

Now if only we could get our own Cardinal Wuerl to Old St. Mary's. It shouldn't be too hard for him, since this is still the only Sunday TLM in the city, even four years after Summorum Pontificum. At least there was one Pontifical Mass he couldn't cancel this year.

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  1. Anonymous6:31 PM

    Notice that the Cardinal incorrectly kept his zucchetto on during the
    Eucharistic Prayer and for the distribution of the Eucharist. A strange variation!

  2. Thanks for that comment! I am sure that was the first thing in everyone's minds, and is to this moment the very first of His Eminence's concerns.

  3. Anonymous7:54 PM

    That first comment makes me feel like I am reading the comments at the NLM blog.

  4. Hello Adfero,

    Now if only we could get our own Cardinal Wuerl to Old St. Mary's. It shouldn't be too hard for him, since this is still the only Sunday TLM in the city, even four years after Summorum Pontificum. At least there was one Pontifical Mass he couldn't cancel this year.

    1. I suspect you meant it this way, but I just want to be clear that while St. Mary's is the only parish to offer a Sunday TLM in the District, it is not the only one in the Archdiocese, since there are also Sunday TLM's at Old St. John's (Silver Spring), St. John Neumann (Gaithersburg) and St. Francis de Sales (Benedict).

    2. But we all know pretty well the local ordinary's reservations about the traditional mass, alas. He fears a "two church" division that might emerge from encouraging it too much. And now that he has his red hat...

  5. Anonymous8:27 PM

    To the annoying first commenter,

    I used to serve mass for a traditional bishop and it was incumbent upon me to know when to remove the zuchetto and put it back on. If I forgot I was quickly reminded after mass.

    I don't know what your point was but to criticize a cardinal over this is childish at best.


  6. Anonymous8:43 PM

    I didn't find out about the Mass until about the time it was scheduled to start but managed a tardy arrival. What a great blessing for all of us able to participate. It would be useful if people around the world could send the blog managers notifications of important events such as these. Far too often, people find out about them after the fact.

  7. If all people are going to do is look for things to nitpick over then they don't deserve the TLM.

  8. Hope Springs Eternal1:38 AM

    What a wonderful surprise for D.C.! I love to hear good news, so thanks for sharing!

  9. Anonymous1:57 AM

    No one has quite mastered the art of compromising and standing for nothing like Donna Wuerl.

  10. John McFarland1:58 AM

    The Chinese national church is, by virtue of being a "national" church, also a schismatic church.

    But since Vatican II, it's been treated as if it's not a schismatic Church, and bishops have certainly been consecrated without Vatican approval without the Vatican making anything much of it.

    Indeed, within the last few years ago, it certainly looked as if the Holy Father was prodding the underground Church to get more friendly with the Patriotic Church.

    But now all of a sudden we have denunciations and talk of automatic excommunication.

    What's this all about?

    Cardinal Zen's remarks are not much help.

    Is he calling upon the members of the national church to shed their blood sooner than accept "illegitimacy" that looks more or less like the Vatican's charge against the SSPX?

    Certainly the word "martyrdom" has not passed the Holy Father's lips so far, and I'm highly confident that it will not pass his lips any time soon in respect of the Chinese situation.

    As is not uncommon lately, one ends up recalling Bishop Fellay's remarks in his Winona ordination sermon last month.

  11. Anonymous2:15 AM

    Atheistane: yes, I know the other two that are not in the city. Only one new one since SP and it's nearly two hours outside DC.

    Wuerl has suppressed growth in his archdiocese on purpose, even refusing traditional confirmations. I pray he's gone before my oldest reaches that age.

  12. Gratias3:59 AM

    Gratias Cardinal Zen!

    Opprobium on Cardinal Wuerl for not allowing even a single new every-Sunday Extraordinary mass in D.C. under his watch.

    No priest should be appointed bishop until they have offered Latin Mass. Our leaders should be familiar with the entire liturgy of the Catholic Church. That simple litmus test would advance Tradition more than anything else.

  13. The task of removing the zuchetto is of the MC, not of the bishop.

  14. Anonymous12:26 PM

    Of course, McFarland always finds an opportunity in this blog to heap his usual tirade and snide remarks at the Holy Father and the Bishops in communion with him. How arrogant. How sad...

  15. Notice that the Cardinal incorrectly kept his zucchetto on during the Eucharistic Prayer and for the distribution of the Eucharist. A strange variation!

    Does he do this regularly?

    Pope Paul V granted to priests in China the privilige of wearing the biretta all through the Mass, even during the consecration.

  16. A former student of mine, Kyle Maginnis, died in 2003, age 20.

    He attended the TLM at this Church every Sunday w. his family. He was a devout, smart, incredibly joyful person.

    His Requiem Mass was held at St. Mary's. It was perhaps the first TLM I attended, and I don't remember a whole lot of it. (I have since, in the last two years, attended about 20 TLM's, and have a deep love for it.)

    Anyway, Kyle might be a good intercessor for more TLM's in the DC area, along with your own personal favorites.

    He was called early from this life, and I know personally many favors that have come from devout prayer for his intercession.

  17. Mr. Ortiz -- I remember singing for that Requiem High Mass. It was quite impressive to see so many of Kyle's friends attend it. And it was perhaps the only TLM I have ever heard of offered by an Opus Dei priest. (Father William Stetson said the Mass at the request of the family.)

    Know that the repose of his soul remains in the prayers of the parish.

  18. John McFarland4:08 PM

    Anonymous 12:26,

    Please advise as to any errors in what I had to say.

    If you're interested in the doctrinal ambiguity and contradiction that underlie the practical ambiguity and contradiction, see the SiSiNoNo reprint in the March 2011 number of the Angelus.

    I could indeed be less ironic.

    But I can't very well pretend that any of this is not ambiguous and contradictory.

  19. Ken,

    That's really great. I'm sure you remember more clearly than I, the old Mass was so new to me then.

    Fr. Bill Stetson, a wonderful priest. I remember a few days before Kyle's Funeral, he told me an old Mass was being offered. I asked if he had to brush up on his Latin...I still remember the kind look he gave me, combined with a "what are you serious" glance too.

    That's also so good that your parish remembers to pray for Kyle.

    Though I didn't know him extremely well, all I remember, and all I have heard about him, tells me he was a truly exceptional soul who loved the Lord with all his being.

  20. Samuel:

    No, as far as I know he hasn't done that in the other TLM's that he's celebrated.

    Perhaps the Chaplain was thinking of so many things that he forgot to remove the zucchetto. It happens. I once served a TLM offered by a priest who often committed mistakes, and I was so intent on making sure that he said the words and did the accompanying gestures of the consecration correctly that I forgot to raise his chasuble and to ring the bell.

  21. Surprise? This was announced on the list serve days beforehand. What's "surprise" supposed to mean here?

  22. While this is encouraging to see is it not just another one-off that is scarcely likely to be seen again in the same place for a long time to come?

  23. Anonymous9:55 PM

    I would like to offer some comments towards several people. First, towards the availability of the TLM in Washington DC. People who do not live there may get the impression that it isn't readily available, not knowing that the Diocese of Arlington, which includes the bulk of Washington's suburbs, is just across the Potomac. There are ELEVEN every Sunday TLMs in DC and its suburbs, including FOUR in the Archdiocese itself. One of the twelve is offered regularly by an Opus Dei priest so now you have heard of two Ken. And yes, LeonG, it is unlikely that a Cardinal from China will regularly come to DC and celebrate a TLM. What is your point other than to complain?

  24. Anonymous @ 21:55, who is the Opus Dei priest, and where does he offer the traditional Mass?

  25. Anonymous2:18 AM

    Petrius, it was not announced days before, as he accepted just the day before. The earlier announcement was him saying the Chinese Novus Ordo.

    Please try to find something useful to contribute.

  26. Anonymous3:41 AM


    My mistake. I confused two similar names, one of whom is a priest of Opus Dei. The priest I had in mind is a diocesan priest.

  27. Anonymous12:29 PM


    The Pope and the Vatican have repeatedly condemned the illicit episcopal ordinations in China, and as a consequence, and have begun the process of excommunicating the illicit Chinese bishops.

    Pope Benedict XVI said in May 2007: “It must not be forgotten that many Bishops have undergone persecution and have been impeded in the exercise of their ministry, and some of them have made the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood,”?

    So what's your problem?

    I hate to bring this up, but since you have love injecting the SSPX (which I respect) into almost every discussion in this blog, let me refer you to His Grace Archbishop Lefebvre's letter to the Holy Father Pope John Paul II dated 8 March 1980. Ambigous? Contradictory you say?

    God bless you!

  28. Anonymous1:35 AM

    Is this the same Cardinal Zen who, in the late 1980s, was responsible for bringing the Novus Ordo to the Chinese Church?


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