Conversation with Fr. Daniel J. McNamara S.J. on the Tridentine Mass

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara is going today to Mirador Jesuit Villa in Baguio City to give an eight-day retreat to some of the graduating undergraduate students of the  Ateneo de Manila University.  He is now assigned as the Physics Department chair at the Ateneo de Davao University, but is considered as a Professor-on-Leave at the Ateneo de Manila University.  He only comes here in Manila once a month for a day or two for meetings.  It is difficult to catch him.  It is said that if you want him to be the officiating priest in your wedding, you have to schedule it one year before.

Yesterday, we had a privilege of having a supper with Fr. Dan at Pancake House in Katipunan, Quezon City. We were a group from either the Manila Observatory or the Companions in the Journey or both—nine of us in all.

We talked about many things: possible detection earthquakes from ionospheric data, establishment of an environmental physics course in Ateneo de Davao University, the dynamic relationship between research and teaching, Fr. Dan’s flight schedules, the Ateneo Center for Educational Development, poverty and disaster risk mapping, and the government-MILF war in Mindanao—to name a few.

Soon our conversation turned to the Traditional Latin Mass.  The first one to open the topic was Dr. Gemma Narisma, a climate change modeller in Manila Observatory.

“Father, in University of Wisconsin, we have this priest who says the 5:00 p.m. mass in Latin,” Gemma said. “Even with a missal, I can hardly follow the mass. That is why I avoid that mass and go to the 12:00 noon schedule instead.  Is the Latin Mass allowed, Father?”

“The Latin mass is allowed,” Fr. Dan said.  “For two thousand years, the mass was done in Latin.  There was a sentiment that the change from Latin to the vernacular was too fast.  What Pope Benedict XVI did was to accomodate those who want the Traditional Latin Mass.

“There are many kinds of masses.  Some are short; some are long.  I once went to a Russian Orthodox mass.  It was three hours long.  The consecration, for example, was done behind these large icons.  You can’t see anything happening.  Then you see a smoke rising.  And that’s it.”

“Do you know how to say the Latin mass, Father?”  somebody asked.

“Yes,” he said.  “I know how to say it.  That is the mass I grew up with.  The mass for Lent, for example, was very solemn.”

“There is a Traditional Latin Mass in Sikatuna, Quezon City,” I said.  “It is a sung mass, with Gregorian chants.  There is also a similar mass in Roxanne’s convent, with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches.  We went there last Sunday.”

“Roxanne is blushing,” Raquel said.  And everybody laughed.

Roxanne is thinking of joining the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate before March ends, possibly after her special eight-day retreat with Fr. Dan (though she is not anymore a student).  She is a Management Information Systems graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University and works as a programmer and map-maker at the Manila Observatory.