Rorate Caeli

Persecution in DC: One Young Catholic’s Journey in the Faith, and His (Now Eliminated) Parish Mass

I attended my first Tridentine Mass at the age of thirteen (I am now twenty). My new, young pastor convinced me to come, challenging me to kneel on marble for an hour (I had to prove my physical strength—he certainly understood the psyche of the teenage boy). This experience ignited a love affair with Christ and the liturgy that revolutionized my entire life—in the faith and otherwise.

I would say I had never been pious before this moment, but that would be a lie; I was barely religious at all. Little did I believe in Christ, or His Church, or even His Resurrection. Youth group was uncomfortable. some kids were excited to jump around to praise and worship music, but I just wanted to go home and play my Xbox (Eli Manning was still the quarterback of the Giants, and there were Super Bowls to win).

That first Mass allowed me to embark on a long journey of coming to know and love Christ and His Church (and putting the Xbox aside). After seeing a Solemn High Mass, it was not difficult to believe that there was a God, almighty and omniscient, who created the world and this Mass. How could you hear Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, and smell incense, and not believe in the divinity of Christ?

I was introduced to a wonderful community—full of youth and families. I found friends my age, and experienced all of the normal life events of a young man coming into adulthood. I made friends, lost a loved one, and felt the emotions of heartache and betrayal. The difference between me and my peers (I am not the usual image of a Traditional Catholic—I went to a public school and watch professional sports) was that I experienced all of this grounded in the beauty of the Tridentine Mass. Instead of turning to the usual vices of young people in our times, I found serenity and peace in the liturgy. Instead of turning to nihilists, I turned to Plato, Augustine, and Msgr. Benson.

The Tridentine liturgy did not just ignite my love for Christ and the Church, it allowed me to cultivate my love of thought and contemplation of the higher things of life. I could go on about my experiences with the Traditional Mass and its community—trips to Rome, Clear Creek, and Gower, Missouri only begins this list. But what I know for sure is, that without this Mass and my parish community, I would not have the faith, intellect, and passion of a sinner such as myself; I would be dead in my sins.

After graduating from High School, I began studies at The Catholic University of America (pray for us, with our new Chaplaincy and President). Here, I have made numerous new friends and relationships, all who have helped me further my love and devotion to the Church. They have challenged me to think deeper about the faith, and have made me smarter and more pious in these short years. One of the main places where I have grown is through the parish Tridentine Mass that I attend, and the community of students around it.

Today, a lot of attention will be spotlighted on the Parishes of St. Mary, Mother of God and St. Francis de Sales. This is well deserved: these parishes have been historic bulwarks of the Tridentine Liturgy and traditionalism over many years.

However, I want to take a moment to talk about my small parish in the city: St. Anthony of Padua. We are located in Brookland, a small community down the street from the campus of the Catholic University of America, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Headquarters of the USCCB. Our Mass at St. Anthony’s began in September of 2020. Initially, it began as simple feastday celebrations of High and Solemn High Masses (we were never much for Low Mass—the youth want to bask in the fullness of the Roman Rite). It was mostly attended by students from the local University, and young adults in the community. The Mass was organized by students—one of these friends has already entered priestly formation. Since we could not find access to the Mass on campus, we sought out the next best situation.

The turning point of our Mass occurred on Ash Wednesday in 2021. A Solemn High Mass was planned, and the attendance was a jaw-dropping 250 people—the vast majority of whom were under the age of thirty. Our priestly celebrant welcomed all to the “Youth Mass” that evening! It was the largest attended Mass in the parish’s recent history. This provided the momentum for the glory to come.

Sunday High Mass began on Palm Sunday of 2021, followed by the Solemn Celebration of the Sacred Triduum (for the past two years, these were the only Solemn Triduum Celebrations in the city). This Mass was run totally by young people—joyful young people. College students and young adults would serve, sing, and even contact (and sometimes train) the clergy needed for Mass. Indeed, it was even funded by college students, who purchased the vestments and vessels for the altar at great personal and financial sacrifice.

We faced plenty of adversity, even from unlikely sources. We often joked that the existence of the Mass at St. Anthony’s was the Sixth Way of proving God’s existence (we are all Thomists, after all, except for the one Scotist among us). The faith was vibrant in the young people I worked with, and was a great personal inspiration to myself. We legitimately thirsted for the Roman Rite, in its authentic beauty. This was our highest priority, and we acted accordingly. An esteemed Bishop addressed a group of my friends, saying “You are a small light, in the springtime of the Church.”

I like to think my personal story, and the story of St. Anthony’s, needs to be told, in order to expose the folly of this last-ditch effort of a minority of powerful clerics in the Church in order to secure their failing liturgical (and, therefore doctrinal) experiment for Christ’s Bride. It does not take a person of deep faith to realize the absurdity of these aggressive and merciless (in the Pontificate of “Mercy”) tactics employed against the young, pious individuals who represent the future of our Church.

The people I know who are (as yet) outside the bosom of the Church, observing these restrictions, often remark that “they make no sense.” Why, they wonder, would anyone restrict young people from the worship they are drawn to? If the Latin Mass is working, why stop it? The next time Rome, or the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Washington asks: “How do we get young people interested in going to Church?,” I will only be able to laugh. They were there—you forced them out, in a fit of mercy. The hardest part is what these restrictions do to the faith of my friends whom I try to bring to the Church. They struggle to believe in the divinity of our institutions, when the same institutions act so recklessly, so mercilessly, especially toward the young.

I will always treasure St. Anthony’s. One day, when these persecutions are over, I hope to attend the next Solemn High Mass at that parish, organized by the next generation of young Catholics at my University. Because, despite the efforts of Diocletian, Robespierre, the Communists, and occasionally even some ecclesial authorities themselves, this Mass will never be stamped out. Until then, I will stay close to the Bride of Christ, offering my prayers for the Church and her authorities. In the words of Augustine: Sing then, but then keep going.

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Patron of Those Ridiculed for Their Piety

Gregorius is a young Catholic from Northeast, studying at the Catholic University of America.