After a good length of time since Immaculate Conception 2014, for St. Francis of Assisi's centenary celebrations, the esteemed St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir, (SPGC) operating within the Archdiocese Toronto, began it's 2015 season of organizing higher level Latin Masses for the lay faithful of the Archdiocese. Of course, yours truly once again served alongside this awesome choir in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
For SPGC's first Mass in 2015, to commemorate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the choir was welcomed back to St. Paul's Basilica in Toronto, a real treasure of a parish/worship site. The last Solemn Mass that the choir held at this site was for the Feast of Divine Mercy/Low Sunday, back in 2012.
Having had artistic renovations in the last decade, the basilica is what I like to describe as, a "mini Sistine Chapel." Let the pictures below tell the tale, even though this is only a sampling of this gorgeous site:
The exterior, in classic church design with a functional bell tower.
A snapshot from the back of the Body of the Church. Look at all the painted frescoes on the ceiling!
Close-up of some of those frescoes. I am not sure of the top and bottom, but the middle is a depiction of either Peter's thrice-fold denial, or the wagering of Christ's clothes by lots (dice).
This must be the Holy Family, with the Holy Spirit in classic dove symbolism, atop a standard, classic style confessional.
In addition to the lovely space for the Holy Mass, we were blessed to be in the presence once again, of the Archdiocese of Toronto's most experienced Latin Mass priests: Fr. Russell Asch, associate pastor of St. Joseph's ("Streetsville") Catholic Church in Mississauga, and Fr. Steven Szakaczki, who is responsible for St. Lawrence the Martyr Scarborough's Latin Mass program, and other Latin Mass inquiries in the archdiocese. Fr. Steven took over after Fr. Howard Venette of the FSSP left Toronto in 2010. Both priests have been veterans in the Latin Mass circuit for High/Solemn Latin Masses in our Archdiocese, and have been a blessing in assisting the needs of those seeking the Extraordinary Form without prejudice or bias.
Preparation for the Mass
After making arrangements to secure the necessary serving and clerical roles, a practice was arranged for servers and those needing additional practice work for their roles, on Tuesday, June 9. The practice was held at St. Lawrence the martyr, with Fr. Szakaczki generously allowing for the practice space. Unfortunately, the basilica was not able to be booked for a practice.
During the practice at St. Lawrence, our Master of Ceremonies (MC)/Instructor went over the necessary parts for all servers, and assigned roles accordingly, with your author being assigned Acolyte 1. In an additional blessing and bonus, a full contingent of 6 servers were acquired for this Mass, with the optional roles of crucifer and boat bearer being fulfilled too! In addition one new server joined us, who had not assisted with the choir's Masses previously.
With this new server, and new attendees partaking in the choir's offerings, I've come to discover, that positive word is being spread about efforts in the Latin Mass via St. Patrick's Gregorian choir! I am sure my blog has played a portion in this on social media, and I am glad to serve the Lord in this way, by promoting those efforts whose modus operandi aligns with the Mind of the Church, and true obedience to its Magisterium and its Holy Fathers, past and present.
Our practice was successful, and smaller arrangements for Friday were taken care of.
Setup for St. Paul's Basilica
Arriving in considerable time, the choir and servers set about in preparing the altar for the Solemn Latin Mass. Latin to English translation booklets, with the order of the Mass and appropriate cues for the laity, were provided, though we will need to increase the quantity that we produce in future!
Anything last minute to go over was re-freshed and dealt with, and the altar was promptly set up for Holy Mass. Pictures below, as usual, display how the altar and credence table were set up for this Mass:
Alb, supplementary notes, and the Evangelarium opened, last minute things for our Sub-deacon to chant his reading properly.
Credence table, rear view, setup for Mass. The cruet set pictured here is NOT property of the basilica. This is actually an addition to my serving hauls that I splurged some of my earnings on, as a gift for whomever I have the pleasure to serve with. Let's just say they don't make cruets like these anymore, with a serving dish to house them.
Frontal view of the credence table..
The Altar set up prior to the start of the entrance procession. Beautiful.
The Mass, Including Homiletic Notes From my Memory.
Save some minor difficulties of navigation of the sanctuary space, due to not having the basilica for practice earlier in the week, the Mass was done in a beautiful and solemn manner. The servers carried out all their roles in holy reverence to our Lord, from our newest servers as crucifer, to our stalwart MC, who ensured the liturgy was carried out with dignity and order. This was accomplished from the very start of the procession and prayers at the Foot of the Altar .....
Thurifer and boat bearer in sync, followed by crucifer, flanked by acolytes 1 (me) and 2.
Our clergy, sub-deacon, deacon, and celebrant.
``Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam ....``
..... to the end of the Holy Mass. Our choir, sang quite beautifully, pulsating their sacred music throughout the echoes of the basilica.
Surinder S. Mundra, leading the St. Patrick`s Gregorian choir in chanting the music for the Sacred Liturgy.
Their effect was so powerful, that as one attending lay member described to me, that the moment the choir began to sing it's beautiful Gregorian chant, his whole self became filled with calm, and a euphoria at being elevated to the Holy Mass thorough our choir's prayerful music. I have no doubt that this happened to the majority of those in attendance as well. The effect a well-carried out Latin Mass can have on a person`s soul is magnanimous.
As always, the preaching contained in the Latin Mass never ceases to disappoint, nor fail to teach those in attendance something new and true of our Faith, while addressing the needs of the faithful.
Fr. Steven Szakaczki, delivered quite a homily that spoke to our "hearts: as it were, about Christ's Sacred Heart. That is, the Love of His heart, and even, our love, or reason for lack thereof, for Him.
Of the points (that I could remember,) Fr. Steven spoke about these topics as such:
- When we speak about the Heart, we often speak about love. What were Christ's two greatest commandments? To love the Lord your God above one another, and to love your neighbour as God loves you.
- Often when I give homilies, I ask those in the congregation, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love God, though our Lord?"
- God is loved above all other things, because what God provides is necessary to our salvation, to our being, to our locution ....
- Now, on a scale of one to 10, how much do you love others, including our Lord?
- One reason that we find it so hard and challenging to love the Lord, is due to justice.
- We must emphasize that both Justice and Mercy go hand and hand. You cannot be merciful if you are not also just.
- When we see depictions of Christ`s Sacred Heart, such as the Divine Mercy, there are two rays radiating from His heart. These rays represent Christ as being both infinitely Merciful, but also infinitely Just.
- When it comes to justice, we want to punish one who transgresses or causes an injustice. For humanity, when we want to resolve the injustice, we have ourselves or the person commit some form of action in reparation, either equivalent to the harm caused by the injustice, or beyond.
- With us, we feel that when we sin, we feel that God loves us less, that we are insufficient, and not worthy of God's love because of guilt and our sense of justice [editor: that is, that we have committed an injustice against Him.]
- Now, Christ, the Word of God Made Flesh, came down from Heaven, for us in the human state, and in our injustice, he suffered through such depravity and torture in His Passion. They beat Him, bruised Him, slashed Him already though He was badly bruised, mocked Him, crowned Him with thorns, all ending up with Him being crucified in agony on the Cross at Calvary.
- The Roman soldiers, being experts at what they do .... their "job," as the Roman Empire's military force, ensured that those men who were on the Cross, including Christ, were truly dead. They purposely aimed with their spears at the crucified men, piercing their lungs and heart to ensure that they would be truly dead in their entirety.
- Christ, suffering all He did, gave himself in the ultimate sacrifice of Love from God, for all men, for all time, regardless of one's sins they have and would commit. Christ's redeeming act, truly shows that God loves us that much to have done so. [Editorial note: again I'm paraphrasing. Yes, you need confession for mortal sin. Fr. Steven OBVIOUSLY knows that, but his point is that he is countering this reason that people, including numerous Catholics, hold erroneously, via what lies within Christ's Passion and Death on Calvary.]
- When we attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we participate in his ultimate act of Love for us, represented by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
- ..... We also see example in St. Margaret Mary, when she was presented with the vision of Christ for the Sacred Heart, He was present holding his most Sacred Heart in His hand, extending his heart in hand out to St. Mary....
- Another reason that we find it difficult to the love the Lord is because of a lack of that which allows us to Love.- Therefore, on a scale of one to ten, now, how much does God truly love us? He loves us infinitely. It is this love, expressed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, that we focus on today for this Feast, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
- For some people, this could be exemplified in actions or circumstances which happen to them in one`s life. This can range in anything from one`s environment, being burdened more than other people, or some form of trauma or bad actions happening in the world, perhaps even bad actions that other people have inflicted onto you. Such actions are not inflicted because you are loved less than others by the Lord.
- Also part of this reason is comparison to other people, such as the Saints. We often feel that God `made them special` or bestowed special graces onto them, making them more favored in God`s eyes, yet we are not.
- This is actually not true in the sense that they were favored. In fact, the saints often times suffered quite harshly and were not ``favored`` this way, yet were highly capable of expressing such Love of Christ.
- E.g. 1: St. Paul: Prolific in spreading the Church, Paul was jailed a number of times, not well received in every town he preached in, got abandoned or shipwrecked twice [Êditorial note: One of those times being shipwrecked on the isle of Malta], and he eventually was brought to final imprisonment, and then even martyred by [necessary edit 19/6/2015] beheading as Christian tradition holds.
- E.g. 2: Highly important to Canada's patron sainthood, the primary saint is St. Joseph. Second most important, would be the North American Martyrs. St. Jean de Brebeuf is a prime example of Christ's Love, and being able to Love Christ, despite the most awful of circumstances and inflicted abuse and pain and suffering.
- The Jesuits in doing mission work in North America, attempted to spread the Gospel to the Native Canadians. One group they were not received by was the Iriquois nation.
- The Iriquois was a war-nation. They detested the white man, and any associated allies. This included the Huron tribe of Native Canadians, who did assist and accept the company of the Jesuit missionaries.
- The Iriquois attacked the Jesuits and Hurons, and took many of them captive.
- With Jean de Brebeuf, they saw him as a "leader" of the group, and wanted to make an example out of him to instill fear in the Hurons and other white man followers.
- With St. Jean, they of course physically assaulted him. Of other tortures they inflicted upon him [warning .... extreme depravity and grotesque acts, but they were true and documented!!!!!! .....], they ripped out his finger nails and toe nails, forced him to walk back in the frigid cold with his fellow Hurons back to their village, made him run the gauntlet which is two rows of Iriquois at each side and you get beaten with clubs while running through the center, etc.
- After that they attached him to a post, and while he was there, they scalped him alive. They boiled water and poured this scalding water over the scalp-less part of his head. They even performed acts of cannibalism, eating parts of his flesh while he was alive.
- Finally, to kill him, one or more of them, took an awl, and stabbed him repeatedly to finish the job.
- Yet, even while experiencing these extreme torments, he pleaded and encouraged his tormentors to repent and believe in the Gospel and to believe in the Lord. Most of all, he forgave them and loved every single one of them, despite what they were doing to him and his Huron companions.
After the homily, the Mass proceeded accordingly in the second part, the Mass of the Canons. Provided below are digital photographs from that portion:
Preparations of the Altar, at the Offertory. Boat bearer and thurifer assist in the preparations for the incensation of clergy and laity, while Acolyte 2 awaits to remove the missal, next to our Master of Ceremonies.
Incensation of the celebrant by the deacon, with thurifer next to the deacon.
``HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM`` - The consecration of the Sacred Host to His Body.
``HIC EST ENIM CALIX SANGUIS MEI ...`` - The Consecration of the Sacred Wine into His Blood.
``Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi.`` - Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world.
Myself as Acolyte 1, waiting for the return of the cruets, while the post-communion ablution takes place.
With the cruets in my hands after the ablutions, I bow to the clergy.
The Last Gospel.
``Ita Missa Est. Deo Gratias.``
Once again, it was an honour and divine pleasure, to serve at the Lord's altar through the most holy and charitable works of the St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir. Each Mass involves much preparation and arrangements, not to mention dealing with other behind the scenes issues that pop up. Satan tries his best to throw curve blocks in our path of various forms, but every time, SPGC has over come these barriers, and the result is epic Masses that inspire the lay faithful, and the choir, clergy, and servers that partake in them.
Clearly, there was a good response from the Laity to our Mass. One prosperous sign, is that we only made 70 Latin-to-English booklets for the Mass. All were taken by those in attendance! We surpassed that number at least 2x fold! By my visual estimate, we had about 130-160 in attendance. This was quite a marvel considering the urban location for the basilica, cloudy/rainy weather, and a Friday evening after a long work-week!
In the crowd, I say a number of people of varying ages and cultural demographics. Aside from the usual baby boomers and seniors who would have been familiar with the EF Mass, there were other types of people of note. I saw a few young people in attendance on their own at the Mass. I saw a young couple or two as well. I am quite positive I even saw a home-schooled, traditionally Catholic family of 4 or 5 children from youth to teen to young adult in the pews! (I might be wrong on the homeschooling part, but usually their presence is quite obvious in dress, disposition, and family size. By the way, homeschooling or not, if you read this, thank you graciously for coming! Sorry I could not speak to you and introduce myself to you!). I think I might have even spotted a familiar face from when I used to attend and assist another Latin Mass group`s offerings. Overall, the mix of ages and attendees was a great sign! The Latin Mass is for all peoples, of all ages and backgrounds!
Every time these Masses are held, they contribute to the New Evangelization, and the liturgy is one of the most powerful means of the Church to (re-)educate its Body of members, renew their hearts and souls, and truly FEED them spiritually in its direct, visual, and powerful ethos and operation.
In addition, allow me to share a personal sentiment about St. Patrick`s. I have remained with the choir for the longest time, of 3.5 years, since October 2011. My first ever Latin Mass I served was a Missa Solemnis/Solemn Mass at St. Patrick`s Catholic Church Toronto, as a torch-bearer. I have remained with this choir, because all its members exude a true, fraternal love and charity, with boundless joy for Christ and His Church.
Intra-Church or Intra-liturgical politics, critical harshness thinly veiled as `fraternal correction`, or liturgical self-policing by chastising other priests and organizations publicly, are not present here with this fine group of men, women, and young adults. Rather, they express the very joy and love of Christ, qualities that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is encouraging the Church to express, in order to show the world the Church`s beauty and life. Because SPGC does so, I remain with this group of loyal sons and daughters of the Lord, and will continue to do so until the Will of the Lord absolutely prevents me from doing so. What SPGC does, brings justice and truth to what the Latin Mass truly is all about ..... the Love of Christ that emanates from His Sacred Heart.
To all of you reading this report, if you attended the Solemn Latin Mass at the basilica, thank you dearly and honestly for supporting St. Patrick`s Gregorian Choir, but more importantly, for loving your Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
For those of you who live in the Toronto area or close by, and did not attend, I hope that after reading this report, you will be intrigued about the Latin Mass, and will seek to attend a future offering of the High/Solemn level Latin Mass, offered by parishes and/or the St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir.
Should anyone wish to attend the next offering, SPGC annually organizes a Mass in October, for the Feast of Christ the King, which takes place in the EF calendar, during the last Sunday of October. Traditionally, this has been an afternoon Mass, which when at the higher levels, will include the Asperges (holy water) rite prior to the beginning of the actual Mass. This year's anticipated date is Sunday, October 25, 2015. The choir also holds this Mass annually in commemoration of their formation in 2006 on that feast day in the EF calendar. Please keep this specific Sunday in mind, by looking for the next offering on social media such as my blog (but also Facebook, and occasionally, other websites.)
Whether you are looking for more information for future offerings such as Christ the King, or be a young man, aspiring (as in seminarian), or ordained cleric (Deacon, priest, or higher) interested in assisting in the EF, via SPGC, please feel free to contact Surinder, choirmaster and head of the Choir. Contact information is in my Latin Mass offerings tab, or you can look at the opening picture above in this post for his phone number.
Finally, I would like to extend due credit and thanks to Emad Alfred, one of the attendees at our Mass, who offered out of kindness to share with the choir and I, the pictures he took at the Solemn Mass, which are posted here in this report. While the pictures prior to the start of the Mass are my personal property, all other pictures are those of Emad. Thank you!!!
We hope you have enjoyed this report of the St. Patrick's Gregorian choir's Sacred Heart 2015 Mass.
PAX TIBI CHRISTI! Julian Barkin.