By Traci Osuna
DENTON, Nebraska, 8 JUNE 2010 (ZENIT)
Since the Second Vatican
Council, Catholics have been attending Mass said in their native
tongue. Today, Latin references are completely foreign to some,
and lingering memories to others.
But then there are those who are dedicated to keeping the Latin
liturgy alive, and included in this group is the Priestly
Fraternity of St. Peter, a growing community of priests that are
devoted to celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass.
As many religious orders are desperately praying for vocations,
this community has young men waiting to get into their seminary
program at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton.
This relatively new society of priests
founded in 1988
has garnered the attention of, not only those who seek to go
back to the Latin Mass, but also those who want to share in the
beauty, the reverence and the piety of the traditional Latin
Mass for the first time.
ZENIT: The priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is a relatively new
established in 1988
that has as one of its characteristics the sole use of the
liturgy of 1962. Could you explain what drew you to this
traditional priestly fraternity?
Father Goodwin: We are a community completely gathered around
the Church's traditional liturgy. It really is at the heart of
our vocation. As to what drew me to the fraternity, it wasn't my
idea; it was God.
I was a member of a large religious community for a number of
years when I stumbled upon a church where [the Traditional] Mass
was being celebrated. I don't think I could really say that I
knew in a conscious way, but something in me knew that, after
this, my life was going to be different.
One day, an elderly gentleman who had been asking for permission
for a [Latin Mass] in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, received a
letter from the bishop, explaining why they did not offer the
traditional Mass. The gentleman said to me, "I guess I have to
resign myself to dying without having access to the old Mass."
I stuck a little note on the letter that said "I'm sure your
Excellency will do whatever you can for this gentleman," and I
About 6 months later, I received a letter from the chancellor of
the diocese, explaining why they didn't have the Latin Mass. At
the end of the letter was written, "The bishop is wondering if
you would be willing to do something on an ad hoc basis for some
of these people." So I called and told him I'm willing to do
whatever the bishop wants me to do.
Of course, I had to learn how to say the Traditional Mass. My
own spiritual director taught me how to do it over one weekend.
On Sept. 16, 1991, the Diocese of Portland celebrated its first
Traditional Mass in about 20 years. It just went on from there.
I was saying the Traditional Mass more and the newer form of the
mass, less. After a while, I began to realize that my whole
spiritual life as a priest was centered on this Mass. One of the
priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter came to do a lecture on
the traditional Mass and he [invited me to their] district house
I thought, "If God has led me in this direction, then I should
take responsibility for this grace." Rather than wishing that
everything around me would change, I'm the one who has to
change. That's what brought me to the Fraternity of St. Peter
and I've been here since .
ZENIT: Why do you feel that following the traditional Roman rite
is vital to "re-Christianizing" our world?
Father Goodwin: The Traditional Mass is a very important element
in the re-Christianization of the world because it so clearly
and fully embodies the faith of the Church. The whole notion of
Christ's sacrifice is the central point of the Mass.
Of course, the primary objection that's most often offered to it
is "Why would you want to celebrate the Mass in a language that
people don't understand?" But that makes the assumption that the
relationship of people to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is
primarily one of comprehension; that the Mass is a piece of
information to be learned and understood.
Today, Mass is most often celebrated in the world where people
can see everything that is going on and understand everything
that's said. Can we honestly say that the result of this has
deepened their appreciation for what's going on? When pollsters
tell us that 80% of Catholics under the age of 59 have a
non-Catholic idea of what the Blessed Sacrament is, the whole
communication thing may not be so successful. That should not be
the primary goal. The primary goal is the worship of God.
The Mass is not a bunch of jumbled elements that we put together
or we construct in order to make something that is meaningful to
us. The Mass is something that exists in itself, to which we
conform ourselves, so that we can more perfectly unite with God.
I think that's what young people find in the Traditional Mass.
They're not looking for an explanation; they're looking for the
presence of Christ. This is, in a very primary way, about
reverence, piety and devotion.
ZENIT: While priestly vocations are waning in many other orders
in the United States and around the world, ordinations within
the Fraternity of St. Peter are increasing. What do you think
draws these men to the Fraternity?
Father Goodwin: We have seminarians who have grown up with the
Traditional Mass. We also have seminarians who have come to us
after seeing the Traditional Mass two or three times before they
entered. One found it on the Internet and said, "As soon as I
saw it, I knew that it was for me."
The vocations come from God. He is sending them to us. He picks
[these men] and he points them toward that perennial treasury of
the Church. Prayer and faith, having spoken to human hearts for
2,000 years, is hardly likely to become a dried-up, unusable
source just over a couple of decades. The human heart does not
change and God's appeal to it does not change.
We started the seminary here about 10 years ago. We've had, more
or less, 12 or 15 candidates a year. This year we have more than
25 coming in. We could take more if we had the room and the
staff to take care of them.
ZENIT: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Benedict XVI, has
been supportive of the society since the very beginning, has he
not? What has this meant to the Fraternity?
Father Goodwin: There wouldn't be any fraternity if it weren't
for the Holy Father. Our founders, and particularly Father Bisig,
went to Rome without any expectations or any guarantees of help
whatsoever. But when they got there, Cardinal Augustine Meyer, a
Benedictine cardinal, led them to Cardinal Ratzinger.
Cardinal Ratzinger really was the lynch pin, not only in the
founding of our priestly fraternity, but also in obtaining for
it a papal status, which means we're directly under the
authority of the Papal See. This gave us a lot of freedom to act
within certain restrictions and really established us on a good
canonical foundation right at the beginning. It usually takes
years to get that status of being a society of papal rite, and
we got it in a matter of weeks.
The Holy Father has been incalculably helpful and supportive to
us, as was his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, under whom our
society was founded. Without his support, it would not have been
ZENIT: In July, it will be three years since the publication of
Benedict XVI's letter "Summorum Pontificum" on the traditional
form of the Mass. What effect has that letter had on the
Father Goodwin: It has made possible a relationship between our
community and other entities in the Church, such as dioceses and
other religious communities. We've been able to conduct our
training program, in which we train priests in saying the
We can pass this grace, this resource that we have, on to other
priests and that's very important in two ways. These priests
will be able to offer the Traditional Mass to members of the
faithful for whom it is helpful. It also reflects the fact that
the Traditional Mass movement is almost principally a movement
of priests rather than a movement of the faithful.
It's true that many of the faithful have asked for the
restoration of the Traditional Mass for a long time. But it's
also a very strong movement among a number of priests who have
been looking for a way of entering into liturgical prayer that
is more nourishing to their relationship with God and their
desire for God.
We've probably trained several hundred priests, at least, in the
last three years since "Summorum Pontificum," just in our North
American district. A large number of those priests have said to
us, "This mass has saved my priesthood." When you hear something
like that, you know you're on to something good. God is making
use of you.
But it also means that the Holy Father's instinct is very
soundly grounded and he has the needs of priests so profoundly
at the center of his work and his service in the church. He
knows that there are priests who need this Mass to nourish, and
even preserve, their priesthood.
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On the Net:
Fraternity of St. Peter: http://fssp.com/press