Rorate Caeli

National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage draws hundreds to DC: “Tradition cannot be cancelled! We have found the Faith, and we are not going backwards!”

 This past Saturday, Sept. 17, between 250 and 300 Catholics from across the country prayerfully marched five miles from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, VA, to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C. as part of the first-ever National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage for the Restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass. The pilgrimage was organized, in a span of hardly over a month, in response to the cruel and unjust restrictions placed on the celebration of the ancient rite of the Mass in the Diocese of Arlington (effective Sept. 8) and the Archdiocese of Washington (effective Sept. 21), as well as in many other places throughout the world. Providentially coinciding with the 15th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, the pilgrimage—attended especially by young people and families—was above all a demonstration of the undying vitality of the Traditional Latin Mass in the life of the Church and the love of the laity for the Faith it inspires.



Below is an abridged version of the speech given by lead pilgrimage organizer Noah Peters upon arrival at the steps of the cathedral in D.C. The National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage intends to become an annual event, and plans are already underway for next year. Just like the March for Life brings people from all over the country to our nation’s capital, the hope is that this pilgrimage will do the same—as long as is needed—for the cause of Catholic Tradition.




Traditionis Custodes, and these unjust local decrees, have done what hundreds of synodal listening sessions and ecumenical councils could not—they have activated the laity! They have emboldened us to leave the quiet of the pews and venture into the street, to proclaim what Popes and tradition and the Church teach to be true—that “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”


This pilgrimage came together in the span of a month because of the power of the Traditional Latin Mass and the faith that it inspires. We had no money, no organization, no one backing—nothing! All we had was Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Traditional Latin Mass—and it was more than enough! We formed this movement out of nothing. We could never have done this without the support of dozens of good Catholics who emerged seemingly out of nowhere for this cause. Thanks to all who helped put this together!


As Pope Benedict XVI said, the Traditional Latin Mass, the form of the Mass that the nourished countless saints and martyrs, “was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.”  Indeed, it is beyond any human power to abrogate the immemorial Roman Rite. To quote Summorum Pontificum again, “It is well known that in every century of the Christian era the Church’s Latin liturgy in its various forms has inspired countless saints in their spiritual life, confirmed many peoples in the virtue of religion and enriched their devotion.”


We are among those people! Most of us were born decades after the Novus Ordo was promulgated.  We know that those years of the 1970s were painful years, for the Church, for society, and for many believers. As Pope Benedict XVI described: “Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.  I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion.  And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”


We too have seen the destruction wrought by casual and irreverent celebration of the Mass. We have seen loved ones, children, parents, friends, fall away from the faith. And we have all experienced how our faith has been deepened by the Traditional Latin Mass. We have seen, in Arlington, how celebration of the TLM enriches and complements celebration of the Novus Ordo. We have so many reverent Novus Ordo liturgies and beautiful churches in Arlington and Washington, D.C. because of the influence of the TLM.


We cannot go back to the dark days of the 1970s—to irreverent liturgies, to the sexual abuse crisis, to predator priests and predator bishops and predator cardinals. In the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., we witnessed one of the very worst abuse crises- the man entrusted with leading the diocese, Theodore McCarrick, was himself a serial sexual abuser who used his position to prey upon many. The Church covered up his behavior at the highest levels—including a man who was recently named a Cardinal. We have seen the devastating impact that this has had on the Archdiocese. 


And yet in the midst of this darkness, we saw a miraculous revival of Catholicism in the many locations within Washington, D.C. and Arlington that celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass. Places like St. Francis de Sales in Benedict, MD, which was declining rapidly until Father Cusick brought the Old Mass back. Within a span of 7 years, the TLM turned a dying parish into a vibrant, growing one—one which recently financed a beautiful new high altar, unveiled at Easter. Now, Cardinal Gregory has crushed this parish and scattered the flock, leaving faithful Catholics spiritually homeless. Places like St. Francis de Sales in Northeast D.C., where a once-dying congregation is filled each Sunday with large families and the cries of infants- another community that is being scattered and torn apart. Places like Old St. Mary, where so many discovered the Old Mass, where a dying church in a blighted neighborhood was transformed by the TLM into a source of strength and refuge. And now, to our shock and disbelief, the TLM is being ended Old St. Mary after more than three decades, and the community split apart.


Now, we see a concerted push by some to restore the 1970s— to suppress the traditional liturgy and encourage doctrinal confusion. “Too rigid,” they say of us. Guess what: in a sinful and fallen world, we will never apologize for the fervency and liveliness of our faith, for the beauty and reverence of our liturgy, and for our relentless, unstoppable quest to live holy lives.  We have found the Faith, and we are not going backwards—backwards to irreverent clown Masses, backwards to bad catechesis, backwards to predator priests, backwards to loose morals and confused teachings, backwards to a lukewarm beige Catholicism, backwards to dying churches, backwards to a dead faith that cannot sustain itself, much less convert souls to Christ.


We are walking forward, together as Catholics, together with the Church—towards holiness, towards sanctification, towards packed parishes, towards active parish life, towards a vibrant and lively faith, towards the full beauty and holiness of Catholicism.


Tradition cannot be cancelled! The Latin Mass cannot be censored! The riches and treasures of the Church will live forever!


We pray for our Bishops, who allowed us to experience the riches of the older form of the liturgy for so long! We do not question their intentions. We pray for their souls, that they may see the error and futility of the path they are pursuing. To understand that, in order to effectively evangelize, the Church must be united to itself, to its own highest and holiest traditions, to the saints and the martyrs who revered the Mass, and ultimately to Christ himself who instituted the Church and transmitted the deposit of faith.


In the year plus since Traditionis came down, we have been meek and docile. We sought to pursue the synodal path, to pursue dialogue. We pleaded with our Bishops not to destroy our parishes, not to marginalize us, not to take away the Mass we love. We told them stories of conversions, of marriages, of reversions, of a deeper faith, all fostered by the Traditional Latin Mass. But our pleas fell on deaf ears.


We will continue to work with our Bishops, pray for our Bishops, with the confidence that these restrictions will not and cannot last. We know that, “In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.” The TLM has sustained the Church for thousands of years, and it will be alive and thriving after we are all long dead. We will continue to be involved in our parishes and the Diocese, more actively than ever. We will continue to pray for our Bishops.


Let us underscore the gravity of what has happened. Pope Francis has said, “Wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the well-being of society as a whole is endangered, and each one of us must feel affected.” Our freedom to worship at the Traditional Latin Mass is sacred. If we can be forced out of parish churches, marginalized, mocked and scorned, this can happen to any other group within the Church.


Again, we invoke the words of Pope Francis: “Let us remember that in our communities we are all disciples of the Lord. We are all disciples, each of us is essential, and all are of equal dignity. Not just bishops, priests, and consecrated persons, but each of the baptized. We have been immersed in the life of Christ and, as Saint Paul reminded us, each is called to inherit and embrace the promise of the Gospel.” We are part of the baptized, we have rights within the Church, and we have the right and obligation to protest when our rights are violated like this. We will not allow the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic Apostolic Church that we love to be captured by a dead, rigid, ideological Catholicism that lacks the power to inspire or convert, but merely buttresses worldly ideologies.


We must not be seduced by false notions of unity. As Pope Francis has said: “Unity does not imply uniformity; it does not necessarily mean doing everything together or thinking in the same way.” True unity demands that there be a place for us within the Catholic Church, the universal church—not just to celebrate Mass in fear and squalor, but to experience and share the Traditional Latin Mass in its full glory and dignity, as befits the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the saving power of the Eucharist. As Archbishop Cordileone stated, in explaining why he would continue to allow celebration of the TLM in his diocese: “The Mass is a miracle in any form: Christ comes to us in the flesh under the appearance of Bread and Wine. Unity under Christ is what matters.”


Finally, we must appreciate the enormity of the task that lies before us—and the fact that we are up to it. We have a Church to restore, and a fallen world to convert! Our mission is to save souls for Christ! We were given five non-parish spaces for Latin Mass in Arlington Diocese. Already, those spaces—school gyms and social halls—have been miraculously transformed, almost overnight, into beautiful, holy spaces. And that was just in the span of a couple weekends!


The Traditional Latin Mass converted the world to Catholicism and sustained a strong, vibrant faith for thousands of years. It will do so again! We will make sure that the spaces we have been given for Mass are filled to the brim each week with faithful Catholics who cannot get enough holiness in their lives. We will make sure that the 2.5% of Arlington Diocese that prefers the TLM doubles to 5% and then to 10%, because our families and the converts we win will fill those eight locations to the brim for each and every Mass. And then we will take our experience in Arlington and D.C. and use it as a template to allow for the continued flourishing of the TLM everywhere, and usher in the Catholic revival that the world cries out for. We will use Traditionis and these restrictions to further an unstoppable force that will bring thousands into the Church—the power of Christ and the Church He founded!



Note: You can follow the National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage on Twitter @tlmpilgrimage.