Amid rumors that the traditional Latin Mass will soon be banished from every single parish in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., about seventy-five parishioners from Saint Francis de Sales Church met for a prayer vigil on May 14 outside the local Synodal Listening Session with Wilton Cardinal Gregory. There, it was hinted, our fate would be decided. Mothers, fathers, and children stood for long hours in a gray drizzle, praying rosaries and singing Latin hymns: especially Veni Creator Spiritus, which we have sung after every Sunday Mass as a votive prayer for our community’s survival since Traditionis Custodes was issued. Some parishioners held signs with phrases like “T.L.M. Please,” “Prayer, Not Politics,” and “Cardinal Gregory: The Lord Be With You, Please Let us Pray.” At the front was a small girl who insisted on waving a Sacred Heart banner larger than herself for the better part of the afternoon, undaunted by the rain. All of this was plainly visible to the cardinal and synod delegates inside.
To our surprise, when the session ended many delegates came over to greet us and to offer their thanks, saying that the traditional Mass was an important topic. It had been brought up by many from other parishes and had drawn overwhelmingly positive comments. As in so many places, the old Mass is booming in D.C.: filling pews, drawing the young, nourishing vocations. These fruits had not gone unremarked inside, and the solidarity from fellow Catholic was obvious. We were told that delegates strongly favored keeping traditional Catholics and their liturgy within parishes in the archdiocese rather than exiling us into some “Mass Center” bereft of pastors. For those listening, it was suggested, the Spirit had spoken.
Among others who intervened was the mother of seven small children whose husband had died that very week. She pleaded powerfully with the cardinal before the whole assembly: “I just buried my husband two days ago, please don’t make me lose my parish.”At the beginning of the synodal process, Cardinal Gregory called it an opportunity “to listen to each other’s joys and sorrows, and share our hopes and dreams for our parishes.” The “hope and dream” of Washington’s traditional Catholics for “our parishes” is simple: that we not be ejected from them. We stood in the rain as sons and daughters asking our spiritual father for bread. The best “accompaniment” the Cardinal could give us is continued permission for our communities to exist and not to be disbanded over the prayers of children and the pleading of a widow. Veni Creator Spiritus.
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