Rorate Caeli

Guest Op-Ed: What a Pastor and his Curate have been doing during this pandemic: What else but offering the Traditional Mass?

To Readers of Rorate Caeli:

I am pleased to offer to you a guest piece by a young priest, Father Timothy Iannacone,  from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  It is priests like Father Iannacone that are real evidence of the love of the Traditional Roman Mass among our young priests.  He is certainly is not alone in his diocese nor in the neighboring dioceses in New York and New Jersey in his understanding of and love for the Mass of the Ages.  This must give us hope and joy even as Rome issues questionnaires about the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. Please pray for young priests like Fr. Iannacone. They are an integral part of the future of the Catholic Church.

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla


What have the Pastor and his Curate been doing amidst the
Covid-19 pandemic? Why, the Traditional Latin Mass of course!

It is hardly conceivable that many people expected that this pandemic would reach this level of magnitude.  But it has.  It has reached us and has forced many, especially within the Tri-State area of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey where I live, to reassess their lives and their priorities, whether Catholic or not.  As a curate, I have seen the lives of my parishioners change drastically, especially in regard to their sacramental life.  Many who crave some sort of spiritual nourishment from the Holy Eucharist, either daily or weekly, have had to do without. In addition, many infants still await Baptism, while many of our loved ones who have died in the Lord have not been afforded the Funeral Mass that they as Catholics deserved.  Instead they have been given a direct burial or what the Church calls a “Funeral Liturgy outside of Mass”.  With real sadness I have offered all too many of these services these past few months.  These are sad times, very sad times in the life of our Church.  And yet, the words of Christ to his beloved Peter continuously echo throughout time and space:  “You are Peter, and on this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.

Precisely! The Church and her faithful continue to do the work that needs to be done in time of pandemic or not.  We, as the Body of Christ, are called to constantly do the work of the Church as each of us is able to do by giving alms, voluntary fasting and other acts of penitence, and of course by unceasing prayer. We continue our mission this during this pandemic just as the Church’s priests and the faithful continued their militant and loving mission during the several times of terrible plagues in the history of the world.  We see shining examples of what it means to respond to these crises in men like Pope Gregory I and St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Charles Borromeo.

I have seen great hope during this pandemic, not only within my own parish, but from my brother priests as well.  Many of my brother priests continue to hear Confessions, either from the windows of their rectory or from the sidewalks of their parishes. These brave souls are keeping alive an important part of the sacramental life of the Church at the same time as they observe physical distancing. Physical distancing, yes! Social distancing, no!  Fortunately, my pastor and I have had the luxury of hearing Confessions from our large Community Room, with the following stipulations in place:  One person at a time and at least six feet away from the priest.  Oh, how I yearn for my confessional once more with its screen and the lights that let the penitents know when the confessional is free!  

I was assigned to my current parish a few years ago, knowing that my pastor, who is a few years older than I am, was interested in learning the Traditional Latin Mass not merely for himself but also looking to introduce this Mass of the Ages to our parishioners.  I have a deep and profound respect for my pastor.  He was one of the few and brave priests who attended and supported me at my First Mass after my ordination, which was a Solemn Traditional Mass in my home parish of Saint Mary’s in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The introduction of the Traditional Masss had a slow and gradual process.  We began with a Solemn Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi.  Many had questioned:  “Why not start with a Low Mass?  Wouldn’t you want to keep it simple at first?”  My response was:  Absolutely not!  I wanted my parishioners to hear the music, the chanting, to see the plethora of young men who would serve at this Mass commemorating Corpus Christi.  I wanted them to experience this great feast in all of its splendor using all of the senses:  the bells, the smells, the color, the beauty. The Mass certainly caught the attention of our parishioners.  The reaction was as expected:  many loved it, many did not.

The Mass was soon incorporated on Holy Days of Obligation at a time that we usually do not offer Mass.  The Mass was held at this special time each Holy Day.  The invitation to attend was not confined to our parish, but to the whole diocese and beyond.

We have been offering the Traditional Latin Mass on Holy Days and some other feasts for about three years when something unexpected happened: the Covid-19 pandemic. We asked ourselves:  in this situation what should we do?  Thankfully, my pastor is a “wiz” on social media (I am not).  He said that we would begin to start livestreaming Mases.  But something more wonderful also happened.  He asked me if I would be opposed to offering a Low Mass every day at noon in addition to our morning Mass at 8:30 a.m. How could I possibly be opposed to offering the Traditional Latin Mass every day? For I am a priest who was trained by a man who has trained so many priests to learn this Mass, the eminent Bill Riccio, and by my pastor at that time, Father Richard Cipolla, both who made me understand the deep beauty of this Mass.  My pastor and I agreed that we would livestream this Mass on our Facebook page as well.  My pastor then really surprised me by asking if he could serve my Mass and if I would serve his Mass.  This struck a deep chord within me.  Two priests:  one offering the Mass, the other serving for him.  I know how blessed I am, for as a realist I know that if my pastor had been of a certain age making him a product of the 1970s and 1980s, this blessing could never had occurred.

I have seen many of my brother priests around the world offering the Traditional Latin Mass via livestreaming.  But I have at least so far never seen priests serving for one another.  I believe that my parish of St. Pius X in Fairfield, Connecticut may be one of the only parishes in which one priest offers Mass and the other priest serves.  I may seem to be belaboring this point, but I believe that it is so important and such a beautiful thing that says so much about priestly fraternity: that two priests who each love the Mass dearly can humble themselves, don a surplice, and serve Mass for a fellow priest, from the prayers at the foot of the altar to the responses of the Mass itself.

We have loved offering the Traditional Latin Mass every day at noon, and, dare I say, we have had a bit of fun learning new things about the Mass each and every day.  Many have tuned into these Masses from as far away as Washington state and Australia.  The Lord only knows how these souls are discovering our Masses.  I encourage my brother priests who are offering the Traditional Latin Mass via livestreaming to serve for each other especially at this time.  It is important for our parishioners and Catholics everywhere to not only know that their priests are supporting them through this pandemic crisis, but also that to see the unity of priests who show their love for this Mass of the Ages by serving for each other.

“Let us go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to our youth”.