Joyfully Proclaiming the Word of Christ No Matter the Circumstances
On March 25, 2023, the Feast of the Annunciation, a group of 100 Catholics embarked on a pilgrimage of penance, prayer, and thanksgiving between the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, VA and the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. – a two hour walk – as part of the Second Semi-Annual Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage. In the pouring rain, we sang Marian hymns, prayed the rosary, and proclaimed the truth of the Catholic faith.
Very few causes could have inspired such devotion as to inspire nearly 100 people to walk two hours in the rain. And many of our pilgrims came a great distance to march with us.
The cause that united us was beauty and incomparable holiness of the Traditional Latin Mass, and our desire to proclaim our devotion to it even in the face of efforts to restrict its celebration. We know how the Latin Mass has touched our own lives, and has increased our own determination to grow in holiness and devotion to the Church. At a time of decline in Mass attendance, weddings, and infant baptisms throughout the United States and much of the world, we know that the Church needs the zeal, holiness and devotion that the Latin Mass inspires. And it needs the Latin Mass in the parish churches, to be celebrated alongside the Novus Ordo—to inspire the reverent celebration of the newer liturgy, to strengthen parish communities, and to renew the Church.
The rain falling upon us as we marched was a powerful reminder that we are called as Catholics to zealously proclaim the truths of our faith no matter the circumstances. There is plenty of cause for discouragement, as scandals both outside and inside the Church continue to mount, and more and more dioceses are forced to move Traditional Latin Masses off-site. But as we marched through the rain, I was tremendously impressed with how joyful and spirit-filled everyone was. No one complained. Everyone pressed on joyfully.
In that way, the pilgrimage served as a metaphor for the current state of the movement to restore Catholic tradition within the Church. We face great obstacles and hardships. But we are called to experience these challenges as opportunities to grow in joy, holiness and devotion. In this, we are guided by the example of the apostles. As the Roman Catechism states,
on the day of Pentecost, so great was the power of the Holy Ghost with which they were all filled that, while they boldly and freely disseminated the Gospel confided to them, not only through Judea, but throughout the world, they thought no greater happiness could await them than that of being accounted worthy to suffer contumely, chains, torments, and crucifixion, for the name of Christ.
We too should similarly should account ourselves lucky indeed to be able to suffer for others, to suffer for truth, to suffer for the Church, and ultimately to suffer for Christ, Who is made present so beautifully in the Traditional Latin Mass. In persevering, we are guided by hope for, as St. Paul reminds us, “in hope we were saved.”
Today, indeed, we continue to have great cause for hope. With God’s help, we have achieved tremendous success thus far in maintaining the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Arlington, VA and Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. even in the face of severe restrictions. In these two neighboring dioceses, decrees issued in July 2022 reduced the number of regular Traditional Latin Masses from 28 to 11. Prior to those decrees, Washington, D.C. and Arlington had served as wonderful examples of how the Traditional Latin Mass, when integrated into diocesan churches, can revitalize the Church, foster beautiful liturgy, and support vocations.
Despite this setback, we have established beyond any doubt that the Traditional Latin Mass can grow, flourish and sanctify souls under even the most difficult of circumstances. Despite being shut down at 13 different locations and moved offsite at five others, the recent census of the Diocese of Arlington showed that Latin Mass attendance remained at nearly 90% of its 2019 level, the lowest dropoff in attendance of any form of Mass. 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. Similarly, the Traditional Latin Mass in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., despite being severely restricted, has continued to be celebrated joyfully and beautifully thanks to the efforts of dedicated priests and laypeople.
And, in just the past six months, we have founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit with tax-exempt status, the Arlington Latin Mass Society. We have launched the Arlington Latin Mass Society speakers series with high-quality Catholic lectures, hosted weekly Rosary Rallies, and organized two beautiful Marian processions. We are also sponsoring a group to attend the Chartres pilgrimage. We chartered buses to take Catholics to Traditional Latin Masses for Good Friday, in the face of bans in Washington, D.C. and Arlington on Traditional Latin Masses during Triduum. And we will have a third National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage on September 9, 2023. In short, we are creating structures and efforts that will super-charge the evangelizing power of the Traditional Latin Mass and bring thousands of souls into the Church.
After the March 25 pilgrimage, I am more confident than ever that the Traditional Latin Mass will not just survive the current attempts to restrict it, but will continue to grow and flourish. The laity has been organized as never before. And the pull of the beauty and holiness of the traditional liturgy is simply too strong. Thanks to the help of our dedicated priests, we have been able not only sustain but continue the growth of the movement for Catholic tradition.
Latin Mass restrictions are a great call for the Catholic laity to get organized. As loyal sons and daughters of the Church, we have no choice but to respond. Placing our faith and hope in Christ and His Church, we mark ourselves fortunate to suffer. And we have no doubt whatsoever that, with God’s help, we will succeed.
Noah Peters is President of the Arlington Latin Mass Society, a 501(c) non-profit dedicated to supporting the Traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Arlington and the Archdiocese of Washington (latinmassarlington.org).