by Victor Fuentes
“And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Mark 16:15, DRV
For any student, the college years are a time of growth. For most, this is the first time they leave home, independent of parental influence. Many flock to a variety of organizations to meet like-minded friends: Greek life, service clubs, and religious organizations. Students can find any flavor of club imaginable, from anime to robotics to intramural sports. However, there exists one group of students lacking formal representation — traditional Catholics.
To anyone familiar with the plight of the traditional, or Latin Mass-attending, Catholic, the story reads like a tired record, repeating endlessly the same somber melody from tinny speakers, a solemn cry for help. It is the traditional Catholic who finds himself driving long distances to Mass and enduring ostracization from his contemporaries merely for wishing to worship at the same liturgy that his great-grandfather would have. Nowhere can this be more evident than on the campuses of our colleges and universities.
Universities, long known as a bastion of free thought, discourse, and exploration, have sadly become mired in politicization and polarity. Unfortunately, this has seeped into the culture of many campus ministry organizations, compounded by the developments and subsequent restrictions of the COVID pandemic. Despite the plethora of clubs available at the average college, there exists one group of students lacking formal representation — traditional Catholics.
I, regrettably, have firsthand experience dealing with these phenomena.
Upon arrival to campus in August, Catholic students at Penn State were greeted with an announcement assuredly similar to what countless other groups of Catholics experienced:
Communion was to be taken only in the hand.
To the Catholic aware of the Real Presence, this practice is well-known to involve serious danger of sacrilege. St. Thomas Aquinas writes that only what is consecrated should touch what is consecrated, and the unconsecrated hands of laymen should not touch the Body of Christ. This is a reality reinforced most ardently in the Traditional Latin Mass, and thus, those who love Our Eucharistic Lord find much solace there.
After much struggle with the campus ministers, my friends and I sent a letter with 8 signatories to their immediate ecclesiastical superior. Then, we decided that it would be best to organize a formal group for traditional Catholics–an unprecedented move at our school–to create a community for those Catholics who have no home on campus.
We created the Penn State Latin Mass Society.
Previously, there had been a group of Catholics who attended the Latin Mass regularly at a parish an hour away. I, as the de facto head of this group, tried to recruit as many students to come with us as possible. Our numbers were not insignificant — on some Sundays, we had up to 10 people come, mostly from the campus Newman club. We had existed as a group of traditionalists, problematic yet allowed to persist, in a club where there exists no possibility of there ever being a widespread embrace of traditional Catholicism due to intense opposition from the campus priests.
Where previously this group of traditional Catholics represented an even smaller subset of an already small club at a large university, the advent of the Latin Mass Society has seen this group blossom from a few kids with cars into a full-fledged organization and community. Where previously we were happy to have 10 students driving an hour away on Sunday, we now have more than 25, and are hoping to increase to 30 or more in early February. Additionally, our formal organization as a group has given us the opportunity to reach out to parishes across the state, ensuring that traditional Catholic families that frequent these churches can now send their children to Penn State with full knowledge that there exists a group where they may find a spiritual home.
Forming a Latin Mass Society has allowed us to do tremendous things we never would have thought possible; next semester, we anticipate forming a Purgatorial Society attached to the Latin Mass Society, attending monthly Requiem Masses at a parish 35 minutes away on Friday evenings. We plan on holding a retreat, led by local diocesan clergy who celebrate the Latin Mass. Our club continues to grow. It is not unlikely that we have 40 or more students come to the Latin Mass by the end of the spring semester.
This growth is something that should not be limited to Penn State. Though I have no way of knowing for certain, I highly suspect that groups similar to ours exist on other college campuses. These groups, as informal organizations, lack the ability to recruit and advertise themselves to the general student population. With formal organization, this becomes more possible than some may realize. Therefore, it is imperative that students who attend the Traditional Latin Mass form societies to increase devotion to this liturgy and lifestyle.
Forming the Penn State Latin Mass Society was not difficult — it just required the determination to do so. Those interested in forming Latin Mass Societies at their universities can take a page out of our playbook:
- If you have a core group of Latin Mass-goers, float the idea of formally creating a student organization through your university. If you are part of a Newman or other ministry organization, approach the leaders and share your idea with them. They may be opposed, but do not let this deter you.
- Notify the campus priests; in charity, you should let them know of your existence. Perhaps they may be amenable and/or supportive. If they are not, recognize that you have a right, if not a duty, to take part in the restoration of Christendom by bringing others to come to know the Tridentine Mass.
- Begin spreading the word about the existence of your LMS. We advertised in the Newman club and with flyers in the commons. Additionally, we reached out to Latin Mass parishes throughout the state, asking them to share the information of our existence with any relevant parties.
- Hold informative, interesting, and exciting events. The ideal Latin Mass Society is not just a group of students who go to the Latin Mass- the ideal Latin Mass Society should strive to create a cohesive community of students, dedicated to traditional Catholic spirituality and the works of mercy. Do not let your club be a one-day-a-week event.
- Lastly, if you want more advice/support/information and to become part of the National Collegiate Latin Mass Society, you can fill out our contact form.
In an age of online classes and meetings, Catholic students crave authenticity and that which is transcendent — the Latin Mass. For those worried about dividing existing Catholic communities, remember that Latin Mass Societies need not function outside of mainstream Catholic groups. Make them a part of your Newman club, or work with mainstream clubs to evangelize together. By capitalizing on the situation of the present day, Latin Mass Societies can give students an outlet for faith and friendship. After restrictions which see “essential” stores such as Walmart and Target remain open, but “non-essential” churches closed, the time is now to go forth and evangelize the world, using the Mass by which the world was previously won. Fellow college students, now is the time to start a Latin Mass Society at your school.
There is nothing less than the salvation of souls at stake.
Victor Fuentes is a junior in Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College majoring in political science and philosophy. He is the president of the Penn State Latin Mass Society.
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