Rorate Caeli

Restoring the Mass to an ordinary parish

A parish in Alexandria, Virginia, in the U.S. has been slowly introducing the traditional Latin Mass to its congregation and beyond since Summorum Pontificum, starting with one-time High Masses on certain feast days, then expanding to weekly Thursday evening Masses, and now with weekly Tuesday and Thursday evening Low Masses. The goal, many there would agree, is a Sunday Mass added to that schedule.

The parish, Saint Rita's church, is in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood and survived almost all of the building wreckovations of the late 20th century. A former parochial vicar there, the Reverend Father Paul Scalia, restored the traditional Latin Mass, and the current pastor, the Reverend Father Daniel Gee, expanded its now-regular schedule.  Father Gee, who previously offered the TLM at Christendom College while chaplain there, has also worked with Saint Rita's clergy, including former and current parochial vicars and the parish's deacon, to offer several Solemn High Masses in addition to the Tuesday and Thursday Low Masses he rotates with the parochial vicar, attracting an impressive number of young adults from the area.

Saint Rita's will mark two important events on Thursday, 22 May, with -- fittingly -- a traditional Latin Missa Cantata.  The first event is the feast of Saint Rita that day, and the second is the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the original church (a larger, beautiful, stone church was subsequently built in 1949: the dedication Mass is pictured below).  What better way to commemorate Saint Rita (who died 22 May 1457) and a centennial than offering the Mass that would have been recognized by both Saint Rita and the church's first congregation?

The High Mass on 22 May will begin at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a half hour of polyphonic motets beginning at 7 p.m.  The pastor has hired a local, all-male polyphonic choir, the Suspicious Cheese Lords, to sing.

The Suspicious Cheese Lords (a vernacular play on the Thomas Tallis motet "Suscipe Quæso Domine") will sing Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's "Missa O admirabile commercium" for the Mass ordinary and Gregorian chant for the Mass propers.

A week later, on 29 May, a local schola of men will sing Gregorian chant for another High Mass there on Ascension Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.