Finding reverence in abundance with Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
Many Catholics are concerned about the state of reverence in churches today. This is especially evident in the summer, when, as one priest put it, half the people in church look like they are on their way to the beach, and the other half look like they just came back from it.
What is a serious Catholic to do amid casualness and malaise?
Some have sought refuge in the Latin Mass, with its traditional language, music, and postures (such as the priest and congregation facing the same direction during the Eucharistic sacrifice, and the faithful kneeling to receive Holy Communion on the tongue), not to mention the unofficial dress code that could not be mistaken for beach attire. Men are often in full suits, and women in suits, dresses, or skirts, some with head veils.
The Latin Mass has become especially popular since 2007, when Pope Benedict XVI promulgated his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which allows for easier access to what he called “the extraordinary form” of the Roman rite. While establishing that the “ordinary form” was found in the 1970 Missal of Pope Paul VI, Pope Benedict pointed out that many Catholics had been put off, not by the Missal itself, but by chronic deformations of it.
The faithful looking for fervor and authentic rites were often hardpressed to find them, so Pope Benedict brought the 1962 Missal of Pope John XXIII out of the shadows and into the light of any community seeking it. While there are various groups around the country that offer the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is the largest.
Thirty-one years ago Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the leader of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), consecrated four bishops in order to preserve the Latin Mass for devotees in his community. This was done, however, against the wishes of Pope John Paul II—and even some members of the SSPX.
Among those disapproving was Father Josef Bisig, who shared Lefebvre’s liturgical concerns, but not his method of addressing them. Two days after the episcopal consecrations, Father Bisig, 11 other priests, and 20 seminarians made known their exodus from the SSPX.
The former SSPX members expressed their “profound regret over the illicit consecration of bishops” and their desire to live as a religious society in full communion with the Catholic Church. This materialized three months later when, on October 18, 1988, the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, established the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (commonly known by its Latin initials, FSSP) as a society of apostolic life.
The group’s name was chosen to express filial devotion to the successor of St. Peter, the rock on whom Christ built His Church. Thoroughly Catholic and found in dioceses across North America and Europe, the FSSP has been gaining popularity since its founding. While the FSSP started with 12 priests and 20 seminarians over 30 years ago, today it counts over 300 priests and 150 seminarians worldwide, with 107 of those priests serving at 55 locations in North America.
Among the most impressive of the FSSP’s locations is the National Shrine of Saint Alphonsus Liguori in Baltimore, MD. The 19thcentury Gothic structure was the assignment for Saint John Neumann and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in the mid-1800s
Today the parish is staffed by Fr. Joel Kiefer, a West Point graduate, and Fr. Michael Cunningham, a former professional baseball player. They are overseeing the restoration of the shrine to its former glory and the expansion of nearby facilities to make retreats possible. This long-term project is only in the beginning stages, but the parish has been growing rapidly since Fr. Kiefer’s arrival in 2017, and Fr. Cunningham’s in 2018.
Another FSSP parish seeing growth is Saint Joan of Arc in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Currently staffed by three priests (plus a fourth who is chaplain for the nearby Carmelite sisters), this Latin Mass community is bursting at the seams. One of the recent additions to the parish is Don Haverkamp, a retired human resources director from Sysco Food Systems, and his wife Kathie. They arrived in Coeur d’Alene in 2017 after their daughter and son-in-law moved there from Sacramento with their own children.
The Haverkamps have witnessed at-capacity Sunday Masses since their arrival and are encouraged by the building project currently taking place. “The community has a relatively small church but has acquired an eight-acre parcel in nearby Post Falls, Idaho and is constructing a larger social hall that will serve as a temporary church,” Don said, adding: “This Phase One is scheduled to be completed in late September, with a future Phase Two construction of an even larger permanent church planned.”
Haverkamp has helped to coordinate the annual Sacred Liturgy Conferences in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon and was very pleased with the first installment of the conference in Spokane, Washington this year. Speakers included Cardinal Joseph Zen, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, and Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.
One of last year’s speakers was Nicholas Lemme, director of sacred music at the FSSP’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Lemme had actually left a burgeoning secular music career for the FSSP. After college, and while living as a “gigging musician, teacher, and composer” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he discovered the newly formed FSSP parish, Saint Michael the Archangel, in his hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota.
Lemme was impressed with the reverence he found, including the possibilities of singing sacred music for the Latin Mass. The foundational “ordinary” of the Mass—the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei—were all chanted at “High Masses.” (In contrast, “Low Masses” are usually offered early on Sundays or during the week and have little or no musical component.)
Lemme remarked that what most impressed him was that “the FSSP priests possessed a great sense of interior recollection emanating from their prayer lives and the celebration of the sacraments.” He then entered the FSSP’s seminary in 2009-2010 school year to discern his own vocation. Despite deep appreciation for the orthodoxy and structure found therein, Lemme realized he was not called to the priesthood. However, he remained at the seminary as its primary music instructor, and has since married and had children.
While Lemme was not personally involved in the recording process, the FSSP made news two years ago with its bestselling Requiem CD. This and other chant recordings are available from the FSSP’s publishing arm, Fraternity Publications, including the traditional Holy Thursday liturgy (In Cena Domini) and the prayers specific to the four traditional Christmas Masses (In Nativitate Domini). These recordings allow listeners to “take the Mass with them” when they are not in a church.
Lemme and Haverkamp are both grateful for discovering the reverence of the Latin Mass and want to continue to share it with others. Haverkamp prays the Latin Mass will be available in every Catholic community and he helps to advance this goal through things such as the annual Sacred Liturgy Conference. He said he wants “to educate others about the life-changing realities of the Mass, and to ensure that it is celebrated with dignity and beauty, including the use of truly sacred music. A reverent liturgy raises our minds and hearts to Almighty God, which, I am blessed to say, has happened to me since discovering the FSSP through my family.”
TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.