In the wake of restrictions against the Traditional Latin Mass, and now the new rescript from His Holiness, it is easy for traditional Catholics to feel discouraged. But as Catholics, we are called upon to joyfully evangelize in even the most difficult circumstances. Taking the example of our risen Lord, we see persecution as an opportunity to grow in holiness and zeal, as a test that makes us stronger, and as a chance to witness to our faith and shine even brighter. This obligation is ever-greater in an atomized, alienated, and secular world that cries out for the beauty of Catholic tradition.
Indeed, we should rejoice in the difficulties of the present moment, because it means that we cannot be passive. Everyone has something to do, urgently. Catholics devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass must use the restrictions as a call to draw closer to each other, to support our priests and bishops, and to continue to bear witness to the timelessness and beauty of Catholic tradition.
That is just what we have been doing in the Washington, D.C. area. In the Diocese of Arlington, VA and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., decrees issued in July 2022 created severe hardships for those devoted to the traditional Latin Mass. Of the twenty-seven regular parish TLMs in the two dioceses, only three remained in parish churches, each in Arlington Diocese, with permission only lasting two years. Five other TLMs in the Diocese of Arlington were moved in non-parish locations like small chapels, gyms and social halls. All three regular TLMs in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. were moved to non-parish Mass centers and limited to Sundays, with weekday Masses being eliminated. Sadly, the restrictions split up many thriving TLM communities.
In the face of these harsh decrees, however, the community has banded together. Parishioners worked hard and contributed their time and money to make the new Mass spaces beautiful. Banned from using parish bulletins to announce the times of Latin Masses, we formed the Arlington Latin Mass Society and created a website that contains a complete listing of all Latin Masses from Washington, D.C., Arlington and neighboring dioceses. We organized weekly Rosary Rallies each Saturday morning to pray for an end to the restrictions. These Rosary Rallies have been a powerful force in raising awareness and building community.
As a natural outgrowth of the Rosary Rallies, we planned and executed the extraordinarily successful National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage on September 17, 2022. A group of 300 Catholics marched between St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, Virginia and St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, D.C.—a two hour walk. We carried beautiful Catholic banners, flags, and processional crosses, chanted the Rosary, and sang Marian hymns. It felt like a great spiritual army moving through Arlington and Washington, spreading the truth of Christ and His grace into the world. The pilgrimage came together in a very short period of time, and it was only by the intercession of the Holy Spirit and the help of so many in the community that it was a tremendous success.
On March 25, 2023, we are holding the Second Semi-Annual Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage, where we will again march between St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, Virginia and St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This pilgrimage will serve as a witness to the beauty and timelessness of the traditional Latin Mass, its evangelistic power, and the reverence and piety that it fosters to the faithful. It also serves a public act of reparation, prayer, and sacrifice for irreverence and scandal, and for the harm done by Latin Mass restrictions. And, as Catholics, it is good and necessary for us to pray and sacrifice for our cherished intentions—in this case, the preservation of the Traditional Latin Mass.
Moreover, there is no better way to evangelize and make reparation than to process through city streets, holding Catholic banners, Rosaries, and statues of Our Lady, and praying and chanting Catholic prayers and hymns. Holding pilgrimages and Marian processions is a great Catholic tradition that our modern world cries out for more urgently than ever.
We invite everyone to attend, or donate to support our cause. Regardless of whether you can attend or not, and regardless of whether you have been affected by restrictions or attend the TLM, know that there is much grassroots activism you can do. Catholicism is meant to be lived and practiced within a community, and having strong Catholic communities is more necessary now than ever during a time when so many are falling away from the Faith. Taking action creates momentum, and you can be confident others will come out and support you.
Here are some practical steps:
- Organize a Rosary Rally in your area. Having a weekly public rosary is a great witness to faith and spur to evangelization. It also builds strong Catholic communities and serves as a powerful source of prayer and reparation.
- Organize a Marian procession. Whether for Marian feast days or some other occasion, the traditional practice of holding pilgrimages and Marian processions is more necessary now than ever. Taking to the streets with Catholic banners, processional crosses, icons of the saints and statues of Our Lady and prayers and chants demonstrates the vibrancy and beauty of Catholic tradition and honors Our Lord and Our Lady.
- Organize a weekly Sunday vespers. Even if your Latin Mass is taken away, you can keep your community alive by holding a weekly Sunday vespers in the Old Rite. Old Rite Vespers has powerful theological content and striking beauty, and it can be chanted by laypeople. It is very much worth learning, and helps revive an important Catholic tradition.
- Get to Know Your Fellow Traditional Catholics. In the United States, too often we rush out after Mass and never take the time to meet others in the pews. Build strong communities by organizing a potluck or coffee and donuts after Mass each week, and make an effort to get to know your co-parishioners. It also helps with evangelization when your parish has a thriving after-Mass social.
- Pray and Sacrifice this Lent. The prospect of looming restrictions is a call for all of us to make this Lent especially meaningful. Consider praying, offering penance, and giving alms with the intention of the preservation and growth of Catholic tradition.
Ultimately, we cannot control what new restrictions or decrees are issued. But as Catholics, we are called to use setbacks and obstacles as spurs to grow in faith, hope and charity. We must not use restrictions as an excuse to despair, but as a call to live our faith more vigorously, build stronger Catholic communities, and pray ceaselessly. Throughout the ages, the Church has been saved by the zeal and piety of laypeople who weathered persecution and setbacks to proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ. So too in this era.
Noah Peters is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and President of the Arlington Latin Mass Society.