Above: Bishop Fernandes at ICSKP Columbus. Photo by Allison Girone.
Now that I’ve been given the honorable title as one of the three “Venerable Trad Godmothers” by T. S. Flanders of onepeterfive.com in his recent article “The FBI is Coming after Trads”, due to my interview in the “Mass of the Ages: Episode II – A Perfect Storm”, I wanted the chance to explain in more detail why my husband John and I and so many others have loved and fought for the Latin Mass throughout the past number of decades.
My French Canadian/naturalized American citizen late husband John Lacroix was born in Toronto, the second of five children. He served as an altar boy in the early 1960s, and he loved the Latin Mass. But John left the Church in the late 1960s, as he was not happy at all with the changes to the liturgy of the Mass after the Council of Vatican II.
I was born in Indianapolis, the second of two children, and we soon moved to Cleveland. We attended Presbyterian and Methodist churches throughout my childhood, and I stopped attending services during my college years.
John and I met in Boulder, Colorado in 1983, and several years later when we were deciding to get married, John stated that he wished to marry me in the Catholic Church so that we would be married “until death do us part.” He received the Eucharist for the first time in many years on our wedding day, and his joy at being back in the Church was infectious.
It was not in my comfort zone to convert to Catholicism when we were married. I promised to raise our children in the Catholic faith, and even though I attended Mass each Sunday, I wasn’t fully connecting with the significance of the Mass at that time.
That all changed two years later in 1988 when someone told me the story of “The Miracle of the Sun” and Our Lady of Fatima. It annoyed me that no one had ever told me how very special the Mother of Jesus was, or that 75,000 people had personally witnessed this miracle in 1917. And once I was hooked on this story, Our Lady went to work on me. I saw Mary on billboards, in magazines, on TV, on book covers, and I heard songs about her on the radio. She would not rest until I walked down the aisle and received her Son in Holy Communion several months later. I like to tell everyone that Our Lady kidnapped me.
John was content to be back in the Church, and he also often told me that he longed to attend the Latin Mass again. He remembered from his childhood that everyone had attended the Latin Mass in Quebec, Canada at their neighborhood Churches, only to separate into French, English, Spanish and many other language churches after the Masses were changed into the vernacular. John really missed the universality of the Latin Mass, which enabled people to go to the same Mass anywhere in the world, and he felt that the Novus Ordo Mass had led to dividing Catholics into different parishes.
In the late 1980s Archbishop Stafford granted permission for a Tridentine Latin Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. It was the first Latin Mass in the Cathedral in several decades. And it was standing room only that day. I do remember that we were asked upon entering the Church to sign a petition stating that we believed the Novus Ordo Mass to be a valid Mass. In the early 1990’s, the Archbishop also granted an “Indult Mass” at a Denver parish, which took place late on Sunday afternoons and was offered by various Priests of the Diocese.
Archbishop Stafford continued with his generosity towards the Latin Mass attendees by inviting the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to send a Priest in 1996 to establish a Latin Mass Apostolate in Denver. Father Jose Maria Salgado arrived on July 16th, the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The first Masses were held in the basement of a parishioner’s home, while some of the 16 of us sat on barstools. Archbishop Stafford had already left for Rome to become President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Newly appointed Archbishop Charles Chaput had not arrived in Denver yet, so no plans were in place for the new Latin Mass Community. After finding no room at the inn in any of the Diocesan Churches, a home was found for our community in the Chapel of a small private Catholic school. Father Salgado and a handful of parishioners scrambled to find the proper articles to establish everything needed for the Latin Mass.
Some of us searched our address books for our fellow “Roaming Catholics” who had journeyed throughout the years with us to find a traditionally minded Novus Ordo parish to attend, to let our friends know of our new Latin Mass Apostolate. We quickly outgrew the school Chapel, and it was necessary to rent a Church or Chapel for Holy Week and Christmas. We had a literal “Sacristy in a van,” needing hours to set up and take down all that was required for our special Masses. I have fond memories of the Easter Vigil fire hibachi grill being extinguished by a snowstorm, and the electricity going out during a Christmas Midnight Mass at a rented Church, causing the choir to use candles and lighters to read their music sheets.
Some friends who were Novus Ordo Catholics and did not know the history of the Latin Mass would ask us if our Masses were valid, or if the Archbishop knew about us. This gave us the opportunity to frequently educate others about our community.
It was not an instant love affair for me with the Latin Mass. At first, I was completely lost and confused, especially during the High Mass. John remembered that I loved to sing, and he encouraged me to join the choir. And that is where it all connected for me. Early on the choir director asked a Priest to offer a Gregorian Chant workshop, and the incredible simplicity and order of the chant opened up a new world for me. Singing the polyphonic music and the chants of the ages was mesmerizing. And combining that music with the reverence, truth, goodness, and beauty of the liturgy helped me to forever completely fall in love with the Mass of the Ages. I was all in.
When John and I learned that the FSSP would build their new Seminary in Lincoln, Nebraska in the late 1990s, we were ecstatic. We attended the Cornerstone Ceremony in 1998, where we witnessed the larger-than-life figure of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz blessing the property, with his cope and vestments blowing in the brisk Nebraska wind. The cornerstone for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary had indeed been rejected by the builders in Lincoln, making it a perfect fit for the Seminary. We also attended the Blessing of the Seminary in 2000, and the Consecration of the Chapel of Ss. Peter and Paul in 2010. Whenever we visited the Seminary, we were treated like a visiting King and Queen by the Seminarians, who tended to our every need. In the 2000s, the OLG Seminarians began to visit our Latin Mass Community in Denver for their annual fall “Ausflug” retreat, and we were able to host some of these young men at our home. It’s been a joy to get to know so many of the FSSP Priests and Seminarians throughout the years.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church became a personal parish of the Diocese of Denver in July of 2009. Under the leadership of our Pastor a new Church was constructed in 2013. John served on the Building Committee, the Finance Council, and was the Knights of Columbus Grand Knight. We were both heavily involved with the life of the parish, and we lent our time and talents as restoration artists for statue repairs at OLMC and at other Churches.
In March of 2014 my dear husband John suffered a tragic accident during a home improvement project. He fell out of our attic and 25 feet down our stairwell and suffered paralysis and other significant injuries. During the last week of his life in the hospital he exhibited an amazing focus on God and an attempt at acceptance of either dying soon or living life as a paraplegic. He made it all the way through a surgery to fuse his vertebrae back together, only to have a blood clot stop his precious heart.
The sudden loss of my sweet spouse caused me to temporarily lose my will to live. I didn’t want to get out of bed, let alone try to dress nicely, drive almost an hour to OLMC, walk up the aisle with many watching me, and sit in our pew. The only thing that kept me going in those early days was receiving Holy Communion at Mass. That was the small flame of light at the end of the dark tunnel I was living in. The parishioners showered me with love and support, and ever so slowly I came back into life again.
During the lockdown of 2020 I was hired to assist artists Kevin and Laura O’Connor in finishing the restorative artwork in the OLMC Church Sanctuary. What an honor it was to work on the decorative painting that will hopefully inspire parishioners for years to come. Thanks to the work of all involved, OLMC reopened and became an oasis of peace and mental wellness during those difficult times. The livestreaming of the Latin Masses caused an explosion of growth for OLMC, and we worked hard to help the newcomers to feel welcome and to become comfortable with the liturgy.
In the fall of 2020, I was given the incredible honor of being interviewed for the “Mass of the Ages: Episode II” movie. The Episodes of this movie are timeless and immemorial, just like the Tridentine Mass itself.
My hope for the future of the Latin Mass lies with the young people. Their hope, their zeal, their reverence, and their passion for this form of the Mass is undeniable. It reminds me of the scene in the third of the Lord of the Rings movies, “The Return of the King,” when Aragorn gets off the ship with his small number of companions to face a huge army of evildoers, and they are laughed at. Then all at once a storm of dead souls comes out of the ship and sweeps across the villainous troops like wildfire. The young Latin Mass attendees are like that storm. And I pray that when I get too old to run with them, they will carry me on their backs towards a glorious future.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam