Rorate Caeli

Pontifical High Mass: Washington, D.C.

A pontifical high Mass will be offered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, 14 August 2021 -- the vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This will be the fourth pontifical high Mass there since 1969:  2010 with Bishop Slattery; 2018 with Archbishop Sample; and 2019 with Archbishop Cordileone.

This year's (rescheduled from last year) celebrant will be His Excellency Thomas E. Gullickson, JCD, an American who recently retired as papal nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein after several years in the Vatican diplomatic service.  Archbishop Gullickson was ordained for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The pontifical high Mass, like the other three offered since Summorum Pontificum, will be at the high altar in the great upper church (although the portable table in front of it is not allowed to be removed from the sanctuary, except for concerts).  EWTN will broadcast the 1 p.m. 14 August Mass, like it has done for the other three pontifical Masses.  It will be sponsored by the Paulus Institute for the Propagation of Sacred Liturgy, which sponsored the 2010 and 2018 Masses at the basilica shrine (the 2019 sponsor was the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship).  Thanks must be given to sponsors, as it is an understatement on just how difficult it is to fund and organize such a liturgy -- and fill the pews in the largest church in North America.  In addition to the above website (through which a donation may be made), the Paulus Institute also has a Facebook page for updates.

The Mass will be a teachable moment for those who think a "vigil Mass" is an "anticipated Mass" -- the latter being a 1967 invention by Paul VI where Sunday magically turned into a 36 hour liturgical day for the reformed liturgy.  The vigil of the Assumption is celebrated in violet vestments, with the common preface, and has neither a Gloria nor a Credo.  Its character is distinct from the actual feast of the Assumption celebrated on 15 August.

A little inside information for our readers on the music: the basilica shrine choir will sing sacred polyphony for the pontifical high Mass, including Palestrina's six-voice "Missa Assumpta est Maria" and its corresponding motet.  Under the direction of Peter Latona, the choir will also sing John Taverner's "Quaemamodum" and Pierre de Manchicourt's eight-voice "Vidi speciosam."  The propers of the Mass will be Gregorian chant, sung by a schola of men based at Saint Mary Mother of God church in Washington, D.C. (disclosure: this writer sings in that schola), with additional men joining from throughout the region.  Dr. Latona will play the basilica shrine's magnificent pipe organ.

Tell your friends, tell your family, arrange a weekend in D.C. (for real, not COVID-era virtual).  This is a Mass not to be missed in-person.