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Issue 15 – Lent 2023

The Jungle

La Messe du Mercredi

On the Traditional Latin Mass in Paris.


La tradition, c’est la jeunesse de Dieu. “Tradition is the youth of God.” These are the words of Dom Gérard Calvet, founder of the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux in the South of France. One can interpret Dom Gérard’s words not simply as a statement about the being of God but also as a sociological observation. In France and elsewhere in the secular West, the minority of young Catholics who practice their faith are often particularly visible among the ranks of traditionalists who seek to preserve the form of the Mass and the other sacraments as they were celebrated before the Second Vatican Council. For younger generations, an attachment to older expressions of the Christian faith is not a form of nostalgia reflecting a desire to recreate a world they never knew. On the contrary, this attachment shows a desire and a need for stable reference points that help young people to live as Christians in the twenty-first century and to transmit their faith to future generations. In one of the great paradoxes of our time, what is often called “the old Mass” is particularly popular among young Catholics.

One of the places where I have experienced this reality firsthand is the Church of Saint François-Xavier, located in a relatively quiet Parisian neighborhood nestled between the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides. Saint François-Xavier can be considered a “normal” parish, one where most Masses are celebrated according to post–Vatican II rites. Nevertheless, for many years the parish was also home to the “Messe du Mercredi,” a Mass in the old rite celebrated on Wednesday evenings from September to June by priests of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, a traditionalist group in communion with Rome. Begun in 1989 in a smaller chapel nearby, the Messe du Mercredi moved to Saint François-Xavier in 2009 in part to accommodate the ever-growing crowd who regularly attended the Mass. The Messe du Mercredi was distinctive insofar as it was intended specifically for young adults, particularly university students and young professionals. In recent years, the Messe du Mercredi attracted as many as two hundred young Catholics each week, with long lines for confession, a volunteer chorale singing Gregorian chant and polyphony, and a large group of altar servers. At the Messe du Mercredi, the experience of worship flowed naturally into fellowship as many lingered after Mass for drinks or a meal at a nearby brasserie. Over the years, the Mass also produced an important number of vocations, not only to the priesthood and religious life but also to Christian marriage: for many, the Messe du Mercredi was an ideal place to meet a future spouse with a similar commitment to the Catholic faith in its traditional expression.

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About the author

Amaury de Vallon

Amaury de Vallon lives in Paris. He writes under a pseudonym.