Letter 52
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This week’s letter revisits the interview that Father Timothy Davison, pastor of a parish in Oklahoma, gave to Alberto Carosa, the Remnant’s Roman correspondent. Fr. Timothy Davison has been celebrating the Extraordinary Form for less than two years and will lead a group of pilgrims during the next people of Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage in Rome.

For three high-profile cardinals to celebrate the three Extraordinary Form pontifical Masses that are planned for the next pilgrimage of the people of Summorum Pontificum --populussummorumpontificum.com-- should not be surprising in itself. Cardinal Pell will celebrate in the personal parish of Santa Trinità dei Pellegrini on Friday 24 October; Cardinal Burke, at St. Peter’s Basilica on 25 October, and Cardinal Brandmüller will say the homily on Sunday 26 at the Benedictines’ of Nursia for the Feast of Christ the King. Several vaticanistas, among whom Sandro Magister (see here) have underscored the importance of the participation of one of the foremost Cardinals of Pope Francis’s “new” curia, Cardinal George Pell, the prefect of the Holy See’s brand-new Secretariat for the Economy. In fact, the former archbishop of Melbourne—who didn’t shrink from taking a stand in favor of the indissolubility of marriage during the debates before the October synod—has always been well-disposed towards the traditional liturgy, which he celebrates every so often. His fondness for the International Juventutem Federation, an international association of youth attached to the traditional Mass, led him to agree to celebrate this pilgrimage’s first Mass, which will be said in thanksgiving for Juventutem’s tenth anniversary this year. Likewise Benedict XVI joined in this tenth anniversary when, last 1 September, he received one of the association’s founders, Cosimo Marti, along with Giuseppe Capoccia, the delegate-general of the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage.

Benedict XVI with Cosimo Marti (Juventutem) and Giuseppe Capoccia
('Populus Summorum Pontificum' pilgrimage)
, on 1 september 2014.

It is noteworthy that an ever increasing number of priests from the English-speaking world, including prelates, feel attracted to the traditional Roman liturgy. In this respect the United States may even appear as the spearhead of the upswing of the traditional Mass. This is borne out in the interview Father Timothy Davison, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul parish in Oklahoma, gave to Alberto Carosa.


1) Father Tim, your motivations to join the third SP pilgrimage?
A. I have only been celebrating the traditional Mass for about one and a half years, not much time and when I was invited to join the pilgrimage to Rome as chaplain of the US group I had to think about it, because I have a parish, I have a school, it’s busy but after thinking about it I decided I need to go, I need to be with other people who are experiencing this liturgy and its riches and that’s basically the motivations behind my acceptance of the offer to go along as a chaplain. I wanted to be with people to celebrate this event in the life of the Church and have been interested in the traditional liturgy for a long time.
So, in a nutshell, I decided to come along in this pilgrimage to find support and to also support those who are celebrating the traditional liturgy.

2) What are the circumstances which led you to the decision to start celebrating the traditional rite?
A. My spiritual director for a time was a Benedictine, Father Mark Kirby (1), who is also known for having written the book Abuse Of The Holy Eucharist Is A Cancer At The Heart Of The Church! He had a big influence in my appreciation of the liturgy and its history, and the traditional liturgy especially. So through that influence and that of the monks in a monastery in our diocese, I decided that I would like to learn this liturgy and to celebrate it and also another motivation was my mother who is ninety four years old and who has asked me to do the traditional liturgy for her funeral.
All those reasons came together and then I asked the fraternity of Saint Peter to teach me, they taught me and as I started celebrating I became more interested and very happy to learn it because it has given me a much deeper understanding of our catholic liturgy and its tradition that I could not really have had from the Novus Ordo, even though I have been celebrating the Novus Ordo only for my first seven years as a priest. But the experience of the traditional liturgy has deepened my appreciation of the mystery involved in the Eucharist, of the reverence and respect that naturally goes along with the gestures and so forth.

3) Can you also tell us something about your parish and how your decision to start celebrating occasionally the extraordinary rite has impacted on its life?
A. My parish has three distinct groups, starting from the English speaking group served by priests celebrating the Novus Ordo in English. These parishioners tend to be older people, not too many young ones among them, and they are not too interested in the traditional liturgy; then we have the Hispanic portion which makes up the majority of the parish, but there is not a whole lot of interest there either; and then we have the third group which comes to the Latin Mass, but they were already going to another Latin Mass before and so when they came over I ended up with servers, schola and everything I needed for the High Mass. So, I have these three distinct groups, so far they have been staying pretty distinct. Some of the first two groups occasionally went to the traditional mass, but not too many seem all that interested.

4) Unlike what many detractors of the old rite claim, it does not seem that your parish is experiencing a particular “spirit of division”…
A. Not at all, everything is very peaceful and there is no problem or anything. The only problem is trying to stretch myself to take care of the three groups. And celebrating the Latin Mass, two low Masses a week on Mondays and Fridays and the High Mass every Sunday, takes more energy and time because it requires more work to celebrate it well, and learning the calendar, because they are two different calendars, the traditional and the ordinary form of the Mass

5) And what does the bishop say?
A. Our Bishop, Bishop Edward Slattery, is very traditional and as far as is known is the only bishop who celebrates the ordinary rite ad orientem and celebrates himself the traditional mass. So, he is very open and favourable, I would say. Suffice adding that, for example, on April 24, 2010, he celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in the extraordinary form to honor the fifth anniversary of the elevation to the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It was the first Solemn High Mass to be celebrated at the National Shrine in more than forty years, before a reported audience of 3 500 including dignitaries like Cardinal William Baum, as well as nearly 100 priests and seminarians. Moreover, Bishop Slattery brought in the diocese the Fraternity of St. Peter, who are based in the Most Precious Blood Parish, formerly known as the Parish of St. Peter.

6) It's a grace to have such a traditional bishop. Could you tell us a bit more about his background?
A. Yes, you are perfectly right. He is seventy four and soon approaching his retirement age of 75. He originally comes from the diocese of Chicago and it’s no coincidence that this city has played and is playing such a prominent role in the development and spreading of the extraordinary rite thanks to the presence there of the parish of St. John Cantius under the guidance of Father Frank Phillips, who in 1998 founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, a Roman Catholic religious community of men dedicated to the restoration of the sacred in the context of parish ministry.

7) Could you elaborate on this?
A. One may not be aware, but St. John Cantius stands as a unique parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It’s here where the above Canons Regular are based, helping many Catholics discover a profound sense of the Sacred. As one can read in their website, their mission is precisely that of helping Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred through solemn liturgies in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the mass in Latin and English, devotions, treasures of sacred art, and rich program of sacred liturgical music, thereby permeating their lives with a renewed faith. Its mission is reflected in the community’s motto: Instaurare Sacra (Restoration of the Sacred).
In particular they are also offering training to those clergy wishing to celebrate the extraordinary form and it’s here where my parish comes back into the picture, in the sense that we have here a Mexican priest and when he came to my parish to be my assistant, he saw that we were saying the traditional Mass and asked if he could learn it, so I sent him to St. John Cantius to Chicago and he was number 1000 that they trained. If we consider that the Fraternity of St. Peter has probably trained another thousand, there may some two thousand priests who are saying the traditional mass in the US.

8) Has the extraordinary form also influenced the way you celebrate the ordinary rite?
A. Yes, certainly. The biggest influence is the spirit, the silence, the reverence, the extreme care with which everything has to be done, to make sure for example that no particle of the Eucharist fall on the ground and/or remain on the celebrant’s fingers, or the need for him to keep his index finger and thumb together until these have been rinsed. I don’t think it would be a bad idea for the new rite to recover traditional discipline in this matter, a discipline fostering reverence and awe at what we are privileged to do. In a nutshell, the whole traditional rite from the beginning to the end draws you into the transcendent mystery of God.

Bishop Slattery visiting Fr. Davison's parish
(Fr. Davison is first on the left).


1 – It would be difficult to do better than Fr. Timothy Davison in expressing the attraction that the traditional Mass has for a great number of priests. Priest are “made” for the celebration of the holy sacrifice and in the new liturgy they end up feeling like they are short of rite—in the noblest sense of the term, i.e. the visible and invisible expression of the sacred event whose ministers they are at the altar. Fr. Tim, like a good number of diocesan priests who begin celebrating in a traditional manner, also reports that the attraction to the extraordinary form is contagious: other priests can see with what joy they celebrate Mass and the fruits they receive from it, and wish to follow suit.

2 – According to Fr. Tim, ever since the publication of Summorum Pontificum in 2007, 2000 American priests who used to celebrate only the ordinary form have learned to celebrate the extraordinary form. One cannot overestimate the importance of Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio in the slow but profound movement it has launched. Nor can one ignore the remarkable role played by those communities that are in a position to give a sound liturgical training, in this instance the Canons of St. John Cantius and the Fraternity of Saint Peter (one could also mention the Institute of Christ the King and the traditional monasteries). The importance of this kind of transmission in any process of restoration through teaching is well known.

3 – Fr. Davison’ s bishop, Bishop Edward Slattery, is particularly well disposed. Remember that the situation in the USA is quite different to that on the old continent, especially to the French situation, since ideology doesn’t have the same grip over there. Whereas in Europe, which Pope Francis has just depicted as an aging periphery that no longer has any priests or religious (2), many bishops would rather see the number of vocations and of the faithful decline than open their hearts and their churches to the extraordinary form, on the other side of the Atlantic most bishops, even those who are not traditional, remain pragmatic. And since the traditional liturgy attracts the faithful and begets vocations, they have no qualms about granting it room to maneuver as needed. What an example! 

4 – As for the peace that Fr. Tim describes in his parish, in the first place it obviously stems from the liturgical peace in this priest’s own heart. Doubtless he doesn’t have to contend with lay-committees-turned-substitute-clergy in the new liturgy. In any case, the traditional form is quite naturally taking its place in the life of the Church, of which this parish in Oklahoma is, so to speak, a little microcosm.

(1) Dom Mark Kirby is the founder and prior of Our Lady of the Cenacle, a monastery dedicated to the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was originally erected in the diocese of Tulsa following the Year of the Eucharist promulgated by John Paul II (2004-2005), and is now located at Silverstream, in County Meath, Ireland. The extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is its ordinary liturgy.

(2) During his meeting with the new bishops of the Propagation of the Faith, 20 September 2014.