Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Report: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Solemn Latin Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Toronto, 7pm Dec 8, 2014


Hello Everyone,

What an Advent season miracle that has just happened this past day! The Archdiocese of Toronto, under the holy and considerate leadership of His Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins, was graced to have had not just one, or two, but FIVE Latin Masses on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two of these offerings were part of the daily Missa Lectae (Low Masses) offered by St. Lawrence the Martyr, Scarborough, and Holy Family under the Oratorians (11am and 1130am respectively).

But get this ... THE OTHER THREE WERE SOLEMN LATIN MASSES IN THE EVENING! THREE! We are talking three clergy, incense, acolytes with candles, perhaps even a boat bearer and torches at some of the offerings, and beautiful Gregorian Chant and hymns to celebrate this sacred mystery! One was the Oratorians at Holy Family for 6pm, and the other two at the same time, were: St. Joseph's in Mississauga, Ontario with the (likely direction) of the Toronto Traditional Mass Society, and the other, at St. Francis of Assisi for their centenary of the founding of the Parish with assistance from St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir! Both masses were 7pm!

This report will be detailing the efforts and what happened for the centenary Mass @ St. Francis of Assisi at 7pm, as I was involved in assisting the parish and St. Patrick's in the role of first acolyte for the Mass.

Primer: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Just what were all these Masses, including those in the Ordinary Form/Novus Ordo about today? Today in the liturgical calendars of both forms of the Roman Rite, was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When we talk about the Immaculate Conception, this is NOT the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to see where the confusion lies, as Jesus was "Immaculate" in the sense of being born without sin, and we refer to the moment the human gametes (semen/sperm and ovum/egg) in biology contact each other to begin becoming a new human life (a fetus) as "Conception," or just plainly that a newborn was "conceived" by giving birth. This is NOT the case here.

The Immaculate Conception actually refers to MARY's birth, in that she was born WITHOUT ORIGINAL SIN. Yes she was essential in Christ's birth, but this feast day celebrates her as the spotless virgin, sin-less, able to be the Theotokos (God-bearer), the perfect vessel for Christ.

This fact is of the utmost importance, that Holy Mother Church wielded her Divine Authority, Infallibly through Pope Pius IX, to declare that her Immaculate Conception is a matter of dogma, thus every Catholic MUST believe in this teaching, else they separate themselves from the Church. This was declared in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, which can be viewed here entirely: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9ineff.htm. The declaration is as follows:

"... by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."[29]

Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

Now that you get what this solemnity in the Church is all about, allow me to report on the preparation and the actual Mass that took place

Preparation for the Mass
Within a month before the date of this mass, word was spread about this Mass via the parish bulletin, the Archdiocese website, the SPGC associated Facebook page, as well as this blog, and perhaps word of mouth. In promoting this mass, members from St. Lawrence the Martyr's Latin Mass program, St. Francis of Assisi's altar servers, and I as an independent not affiliated with a Latin Mass parish, volunteered to assist the Lord in service at the altar, as well as another young man who was our the subdeacon, having the appropriate qualifications under the guidelines that exist for the EF.

November 29th, both the choir, and the servers met at St. Francis on that cold Saturday evening to do training for the Mass, via a run through of all major serving roles, as well as training for the subdeacon role for the young man. This training was undertaken by our veteran Master of Ceremonies with the Choir, who also co-ordinates the serving portions of each Mass that SPGC organizes. I was assigned the role of first acolyte, while others were given the roles of 2nd acolyte and thurifer. The practice went smoothly, as all individuals involved have had some or great experience serving in the EF, and/or extensive experience in carrying out those roles or the equivalent of in the Novus Ordo, making the transition quicker and easier in learning the EF.

It was also found out that of all the Novus Ordo Churches (that do not have a Latin Mass or people who come in and do them that) I have been to in assisting the St. Patrick's Gregorian choir, St. Frances of Assisi has been the most heavily equipped with liturgical items appropriate for celebration in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite!

The parish was equipped with: a gorgeous gold, "Gothic" style thurible (you might have seen this in one of my earlier posts) as well as a simpler silver one, both the complex three chain variety; a set of golden and ornate NEW altar candles which are gracious gifts from parishioners of the parish for the 100th anniversary, a Gothic style, framed set of EF altar cards, a complete set of liturgical clothing in white/gold for Solemn Latin Masses in all roles made by nuns from the 1930s (again, you've seen this in an earlier post), lantern-style torches for processions, patens with handles ... I could go on but this blew my mind to know this parish takes its liturgy with respectful seriousness and solemnity.

Save perhaps the 1962 Missal itself, little to no additional items would be needed to be brought in for this liturgy. In addition, the parish had set about to create the booklets for the Order of the Mass, in both Latin-English, and Latin-Italian.

The Solemn Latin Mass of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
And thus came the day for the EF Mass for the parish's 100th anniversary this past Monday, December 8th, 2014. Present in the clergy roles were: Fr. Jean-Marie Pilon from the diocese of Peterborough (now headed by former auxillary bishop of Toronto, +McGrattan) as celebrant, Fr. Steven Szakaczki, Latin Mass chaplain for St. Lawrence the Martyr in the role of deacon (of whom was requested by the parish to assist for the fruition of this EF Mass), and Mr. Bradley Black in the role of subdeacon, having the appropriate qualifications under EF ``customs`` as it were, to be allowed to carry out the role.

Prior to the start of the Holy Mass, the Parish had been set up appropriately for the liturgy. The liturgical objects, both of cloth and metal, had been laid our accordingly. Interestingly enough, our clergy role members has quite a ``welcome`` as can be seen in the layout of their vestments with name cards. It is lovely to see a parish give such organization and attention to our conduct of this liturgy. These might be small details, but every little bit helps, and shows the respect given to our clergy:

The Subdeacon's Vestments, for Mr. Bradley Black

 The Deacon's Vestments, For Fr. Steven Szakaczki

The Celebrant's Vestments with vesting prayers and biretta, for Fr. Jean-Marie Pilon

Close up shot of Fr. Pilon's card. 

In addition, the parish decided to provide ALL of the servers with Solemn Mass surplices, that had a diamond pattern woven in at the sleeves and hems. Further, a multitude of beautiful liturgical items lay awaiting to be used in the liturgy, reflecting the Gothic styled architecture and environment of St. Francis` tradition (albeit with some minor adjustments) as seen here in a couple of pictures:

There it is ... the Gothic style golden thurible. These are also the two tallish acolyte candles that I and the 2nd acolyte used in the Mass. 

Prior to Mass, the Chalice is fully prepared, the ciboria, and the cruets from a distance. 

Here's the cruets close up. Wow! Just look at that stunning detail! This must be brass or gold! They do not make cruets like this anymore!!! Interesting note: There are pegs that you put the cruets on to hold them steady. They have holes in their bottom for the pegs. 

The credence table prior to Mass, with a veiled Chalice.

These beautiful framed Gothic altar cards adorned the altar. This is a full set! Only the center card is pictured here. 

Does this scream majestic? Again I do not think they make altar Missals like this anymore. Even those you can purchase from FSSP/St. John Cantius are not as ornate as this missal. I think this one even has gold clasps on them. 

The altar before Mass Begins. Notice the Marian blue "accented" antepedium. White, however is the bulk of the colour. 

Prior to the Mass, the parish pastor of St. Francis, dressed in his Franciscan habit with a lacy surplice over his robes, explained to the congregation the difference between the modern Mass and the Extraordinary Form, in both English and Italian (e.g. direction of the priest as ``Liturgical East``, receiving communion ...) Dressed and vested, we then proceeded to do the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the 100th anniversary celebration of the parish.

Since the tabernacle was off to the left side of the body of the Church (personally, not in favour of this), we had to make a slight modification, where we genuflected to the tabernacle once we got out of the sanctuary to the left of the body. Afterwards, it was business as usual. During the Mass, all clergy and servers performed their roles reverently and respectfully, showing experience and devotion to the Holy Mass.

It was clear in certain parts (e.g. the Offertory chants) that a sacredness and an ``energy`` or "spiritual uplifting," to use crude modern terms for description, was ever-present during the EF liturgy. For me personally, that was one moment. Another that hit me was in the exit procession, when we all sung the closing hymn ``Immaculate Mary``, whereby at the chorus, congregation and others sang in unison in joyous commemoration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother. It was purely beautiful and I felt a sense of joy and encouragement, ready to go out into the world post-Mass.

As per my usual reporting, what great tidbits of wisdom was I able to glean from the sermon, given by the celebrant, Fr. Pilon? I will recount what I could from the sermon, albeit I am paraphrasing and missing important linking ideas as well.

  • This EF liturgy has many things happening visually, though we might not understand everything. 
  • To accept or embrace what we are experiencing in the sacred liturgy, implies Faith. 
  • Last year, it was deemed by then Pope Benedict XVI, that the 2013-2014 liturgical year would be the "Year of Faith" 
  • Faith, allows us to believe in that which is a mystery or beyond full comprehension. 
  • ...... (some linking points I've forgotten )......
  • In this Liturgy, we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We mistakenly might think it refers to the birth of Christ. It is actually the birth of Mary being conceived without sin. 
  • Sin, while there is temptation, or influence, or our weaknesses, present, always involves our will to make a choice to do sin. 
  • .... (some linking points) ...
  • When we undertake studies in theology, one area of theology is that of "Speculative Theology." In this branch, we deal with items or concepts that are hard to prove with evidence, but we can use our existing knowledge of the faith or otherwise, to speculate on plausible parts of it. 
  • We can look at then, Mary`s parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. As parents of Mary, having such devout faith to our Lord, they would have desired that their daughter would be without sin or temptations in her life, imploring on the Will of God (or perhaps, for his graces???)
  • In the throes of love in conceiving the Blessed Virgin Mary, their love would have been pure at the moment of conceiving, susceptible to God's graces and His Will. 
  • As part of God's Will ... [here Fr. recounted a story of a sermon he gave to nuns in a crowd, habited traditional nuns ...] I uttered three latin words: potuit, voluit, fecit. When it came to Mary's Immaculate conception, He was able to, He wanted to, and He did it. This was referring to making Mary sinless as the Theotokos (God-bearer). 
  • God so knew the value of Christ suffering for us on the Cross as the Word Made Flesh. Thus, he wanted the sinless woman's flesh, to be a part of his own, via Christ's birth. 
  • .... (other linking points I forgot) ......
  • We should follow, likewise in the obedience and devotion to our Lord, like that of our Blessed Mother, on this the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception.
Once again, another beautiful Solemn Mass, alongside others held yesterday, was done in our Archdiocese of Toronto for this important Solemnity. 

Generally, while the congregation did have a fair share of more senior people, it was a age mosaic! I saw a number of families come for this mass, moms and dads with daughters/sons in tow, some teen, some children, others adult children. I also saw a few young adult men in the crowd on glance, plus old friends! Furthermore, it seemed that many in attendance were not the usual regulars, but St. Francis parishioners! Visually, I'd say that we had over 200 to close to 300 in attendance, maybe a little more. While the bodies were spread out a bit in the pews in the body of the Church, they reached back to the rear of the body of the Church!

The congregation also had the added aids of Latin-English and Latin-Italian translational booklets of the whole ordo of the Mass to help assist them in their prayer and worship. There were also brief descriptors of what was happening on the altar at parts, and cues for standing, sitting, and reverences. Here are snapshots of the beautiful booklet created by St. Francis of Assisi:

Afterwards, I got to speak to a few of those in attendance who were hanging around. They were joyful and happy, after coming away from what we experienced here this evening. One young couple with babe in tow, whose first EF this Mass was for them, described the event as "solemn," even saying it would be good to pass word of these Masses onto their Mother next time one happens! Hopefully they will scour the internet and find this blog, for future listings in our Archdiocese. 

Once again, another Mass, with the aid of St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir, was brought to fruition in the Archdiocese of Toronto. This ends their 2014 run of Masses. I was blessed and am thankful to have served in such a reverent liturgy, and look forward to the new year. I do hope we can return to St. Francis of Assisi. What a gem this parish is Little Italy (College St. Area)! Oh if only there was a parish with such beauty AND leadership in my area where I live. 

As a final note, I give a huge thank you to St. Francis of Assisi, its current pastor-ship, administration, and all those who helped to make this liturgy possible. I will never forget this, and hopefully, neither will all those who were able to experience this on a winter night. What a liturgically appropriate way to dive into the season of Advent, into the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord on Christmas Day. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel .....

Hope you have enjoyed this report. Due to the amount of photos I took, I will follow up and post the rest when I have time with a separate photo post. 

Pax Tibi Christi! Julian Barkin.  


  1. Great post Justin, I left a comment, but it seemed to have disappeared. Like I said, I love the beautiful ornate cruets and Missal. These pieces are actually a living piece of the actual Tradition of the Church. Thanks for sharing this with us and exposing the beauty to others. BTW, did you join Taylor Marshalls Institute yet?
    In JM+JT,
    Lee @ www.canadiancatechist.com

    1. Lee! Great to see you on here. loL! Ah, it's usually either Justin or Adrian oddly enough I get called, though it's Julian. No worries.

      While my understanding is that "T"radition is doctrine, dogma, theology, etc. and small "t"radition is the mechanical/physical parts, thanks for sharing that comment about the pieces being part of the tradition of the Church. You are drfinitely right about that.

      I didn't just join the institute, I am actually a Charter Member! Thanks to Fr. Z I got first word when it opened up so I'm locked in at its cheapest price ever with full access to certificate programs! I plan on getting back in future to the theology certificate I was working on, and want to do the apologetics one too!

      BTW, if you live in, or are close to the Toronto area, you should come and join myself and others who go to these Masses when we have offerings. Pax!

    2. Sorry Julian, I do know your name. It may have been an auto spell error, or just a mistake on my part.. Oops. Have a Holy and Merry Christmas ! Btw, Im a little bit jealous of you being a member of NTSI. I think its great though

    3. Oh, and by the way, I recently read an excellent little book about Tradition by Father Chad Ripperger, called The Binding Force of Tradition. It is a jewel for sure.

  2. Thank you for this lovingly detailed report. I myself was just around the corner at St Mary Mag's (there being no Solemn Masses in Montréal on the day, I came in by Megabus for the occasion!)