Letter to the Ateneo Latin Mass Society (ALMS): We have a stable group

29 December 2009
Feast of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Ateneo Latin Mass Society Members,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Lord is gracious. We now have a stable group for the Traditional Latin Mass in Ateneo de Manila University.

In this letter, I would like to share with you two things: (1) a short history of our group and (2) what lies ahead for us at the start of year 2010.

I.  SOME BITS OF HISTORY

17 Dec 2008. Mr. Rene Raneses Jr. of the Political Science Department launched the Ateneo Latin Mass Society (ALMS) blog, http://ateneo-latin-mass-society.blogspot.com/ . He made two posts. The first is a call to join the ALMS. The second is a series of statements under the following headings: Who we are, why do we exist, what is the basis of our existence, what are our goals, does one need to learn Latin in order to assist in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass? There was not much response.

27 Jul 2009. My friend and I went to a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) at the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy (PLDM) in Sikatuna, Quezon City. The presiding priest is Fr. Michell Joe Zerrudo. In his homily, he announced that on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 31 July 2009, Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J. shall celebrate a TLM at PLDM at 8:30 a.m.

31 Jul 2009. The Feast of St. Ignatius. After the mass, I was able to meet Fr. Tim Ofrasio, S.J. I e-mailed him after and asked for a copy of his homily.

3 Aug 2009. Fr. Tim sent me his homily and I published it in my Monk’s Hobbit blog, https://monkshobbit.wordpress.com/.

28 Aug 2009. The Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. In my blog I made a call to form the TLM stable group in Ateneo de Manila University. There was still not much response.

4 Nov 2009. The Feast of St. Charles Borromeo. I was asked by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate to ask Fr. Tim if he wants to say a TLM in their convent in Novaliches. During our conversation in Loyola House of Studies lobby, Fr. Tim asked me if I have formed the stable group for the TLM. I told him I have about seven (7) who are interested to hear the Latin mass. I asked him if I can use his name in the Blueboard invitation for the TLM. He gave me his permission. But there was a problem with my Ateneo e-mail account. I was not able to make the announcement.

19 Nov 2009. I submitted a design proposal for the short-term renovation of the Manila Observatory Chapel to Mrs. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, the Director of the Manila Observatory. She asked me to lead the renovation committee a few months before. This chapel is 9.3 m x 4.8 m, which can accommodate only about 30-35 people. The design simply transfers the Tabernacle at the center on top of a platform where candlesticks may also be placed on the sides. The altar is movable so that it can be free standing for the New Mass or pushed to the wall for the TLM. The committee’s problem is to determine the costs—labor, varnish, pews, etc. Mrs. Loyzaga would still look for the money for the renovation. But she already gave me her permission to use the chapel for TLM.

23 Nov 2009. The Ateneo Latin Mass Society Yahoo group was launched:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ateneolatinmass/ . There were seven members in the group, mostly Ateneo students who are recruits of Enrico Villacorta (IV BS Physics). The group was not able to meet.

15 Dec 2009. My Ateneo e-mail account was finally fixed. I sent an invitation to form the TLM stable group in the Ateneo Blueboard.

29 Dec 2009. The Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury. Our Yahoo group now has 19 members, with about 13 from the Ateneo. Four (4) members of the choir of the Parish of Our Lord of Divine Mercy (PLDM) are with us and they are students from UST and UP. Some of our members may not be able to join our meetings or our masses, yet they support us in many ways. So even if we come from different schools, even if we come from different countries, we all share one thing in common: we want to restore the Traditional Latin Mass in Ateneo de Manila University.

There are others who are not officially members of our group, but are interested to join us during a TLM at the Ateneo. I think we can reach 30 for each mass, or even more. Let us spread the word.

II. WHAT LIES AHEAD

A. Long-Term Goals

We need to organize ourselves and create an institution that shall outlive us. We need to create a Constitution that shall define our Mission and Vision, our Organizational Structure, and our Laws and Regulations. We need to make a clear and transparent accounting system, because we will soon be handling money from mass collections and donations. We need to provide a continuous training program for the choir and altar servers who shall set the standard for solemn pontifical masses in the Philippines. We need to have a Center for Latin Language Studies. We need to have a stable group of Jesuit priests who can celebrate solemn pontifical masses. We need to increase the number of our members from our tiny group of nineteen (19) to the whole population of the Ateneo de Manila University.

We need to extend our vision farther. We need to establish ALMS chapters in all Ateneo schools in the country and help other schools establish their own Latin Mass Societies. The more universal is our mission, the more we give greater glory to God.

B. Short-Term Goals

We need to meet as a group and divide ourselves into committees: choir, altar servers, publications, and finance. Please email me your free times for the second week of classes (11-16 January 2010); the deadline for submission is 6 January 2010. In this way, I would have sufficient time to reserve a venue for us at the Ateneo de Manila University. Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J. will be back at the Loyola House of Studies on 3 January 2009. I shall also ask his free time, so that I can formally present you to him as the Ateneo Latin Mass Society.

Agenda for the Meeting:

1.Introduction of Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J.
2.Introduction of each member of the Ateneo Latin Mass Society
3.Target date for the first TLM in Ateneo de Manila University
4.Break-up into committees

These are the tasks of the committees:
Choir

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a music director, vice- music director, and secretary
3. Decide on the Gregorian chant pieces for the mass
4. Decide on the days and times of practice
5. Determine the availability of an organ for the practice and for the mass

Altar Servers

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a head sacristan, vice- head sacristan, and secretary
3. Choose a manual for altar servers and determine its purchase or reproduction cost
4. Decide on the days and times of practice
5. Determine the complete set of vestments for each sacristan and the cost to purchase each set.

Publications

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a head writer, assistant. head writer, and secretary
3. Choose a photographer and blog manager
4. Decide if Mr. Rene Raneses Jr.’s blog,
http://ateneo-latin-mass-society.blogspot.com/, will remain as his personal blog or will be adopted as the ALMS official blog/website.
5. Decide on a blog/website layout.
6. Determine the purchase/reproduction cost of 50 missalettes that contain the unchanging parts of the mass.

Finance

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a treasurer, accountant/bookkeeper, and secretary
3. Decide on a bank where the Ateneo Latin Mass Society can open its bank account
4. Determine the signatories required for withdrawing money from the bank account
5. Describe protocols for counting the mass collections and depositing them in the bank account.
6. Describe protocols for fund or refund requests from choir, altar servers, and publications committees
7. Determine how the Acknowledgment Receipt (for mass collections and donations) and Payment Receipt (for priests) will be made with Ateneo Latin Mass Society’s name.

Please choose a committee that you want to be part of and prepare for the meeting. Our meetings would accomplish much in a short time if we have our notes and materials on hand. I would like also to ask the committee secretaries to send me the minutes of their meetings within a week after our general assembly, so that I can write a summary of our proceedings.

PRAYER

May the holy Lord, almighty Father, and eternal God vouchsafe to send His holy Angel from heaven to guard, cherish, protect, visit, and defend the Ateneo Latin Mass Society. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Mary for you! For your white and blue!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

St. Thomas a Becket, pray for us.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Dr. Quirino M. Sugon Jr.
Coordinator
Ateneo Latin Mass Society

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Frank Chow of the Vancouver Traditional Mass Society visits the Manila Observatory’s Chapel

I.  A Mysterious E-mail

I received an email from a certain fjch1 with a title “Best Wishes”.  I thought it was a spam.  But I opened it anyway.  And I read:

I’m an Ateneo alumnus (BS Bio 1976) who lives in Vancouver, British
Columbia. My wife and I attend Holy Family Parish, a Traditional Mass
parish in the care of the FSSP, and I am also on the board of the
Vancouver Traditional Mass Society. We come to Manila every December and
I’m excited to learn about your efforts to bring the Traditional Mass to
the Ateneo campus. It looks like you may already have found your stable
group, if the number of members of this Yahoo Group is any indication.

I would be interested in meeting you sometime (I’ve been following your
blog for a number of months). What will your schedule be like during the
Christmas holidays? We’ll be leaving for Vancouver on January 11, so I
could also look you up on campus when classes resume in the new year.

Yesterday he gave me his phone number and I gave him mine.

II.  Where Have All the Jesuits Gone?

Today, at 7:30 a.m. he texted me that he dropped off something at the Jesuit Residence.  He wondered whether I am already in the office.  I told him that I will be in school in an hour.  I was still riding the jeepney to Guadalupe then.  I thought he already left.  But at about 8:30 a.m. he texted me that he is touring around grade school.  He wondered if I am nearby.  I informed him that I am already on in Katipunan.  I shall be at the Observatory in 5 minutes.

When I arrived at the Observatory, I met Frank at the entrance door of the Observatory.  We shook hands.  He told me that he went to the Ateneo Grade School to visit the Chapel of the Holy Angels where he once served.  He said that there was once an altar attached to the wall there aside from the new altar.  The Tabernacle is still at the center, but the old altar is gone.

We went to the third floor of the Observatory to see the chapel. The third floor used to be the Residence Hall of the Manila Observatory’s Jesuit scientists.  But the Jesuits are gone and the community there was dissolved.  The remaining Jesuits at the Observatory is 86-year old Fr. Sergio Su, S.J. who studies the focal mechanism of earthquakes, and the 70(?)-year old Fr. David Skelsky, S.J., who made possible the transfer of many Standards equipments from the U.S.   He is currently assembing and fixing them.   But Fr. Skelsky is only on a loan; he will be back to the U.S. soon.

At the end of the stairs, a lattice of woodbeams barred our way.  Who locked this?  There is no knob.  Frank suggested to look for a latch or something on the opposite side.  I can find none.  Hmmm… I moved the woodbeams to the side.  It moved.  Welcome to the mines of Moriah!

We entered the chapel and knelt.  The chapel was bare.  There are no pews yet.  A small table served as the altar table.  Behind it is a chair.  On the side is the tabernacle.  It was veiled.

We entered the sacristy door beside the altar.  On the left are three small rooms for private masses that can accommodate only one priest and one server.  Each room has an altar pushed to the wall.  At the back is a small cabinet as big as two shoe boxes.  The cabinet contains some small candles and others.  Pasted on the cabinet door are the Latin prayers for each vestment.  Beside the small cabinet is a large cabinet.  It contains chasubles in different colors.  But they are old and dusty.  Frank took some pictures.

“It is sad that this place is dilapidated,” said Frank.

I accompanied Franck to the last room.  On this room was stacked the kneelers.  Each kneeler can accommodate only one priest.  The kneelers are stacked neatly now, unlike before when my friend and I saw them.  A week before she entered the convent, we cleaned these kneelers.  We removed the dusts with a Good Morning towel soaked in soap.  We cleaned each kneeler thrice.  It was her first time to handwash towelettes, so I laughed when saw her did it.  “What are you doing?” I asked her.  And I gave her a lecture in Laundry Washing 101.  I pity her sweet little hands.

III.  A Frank Conversation

Frank and I left the sacristy and went back to the chapel.  He took a picture of the main altar.  Seen through the tall windows on the left are the Observatory’s sprawling green fields.  There is the white solar building that jutted out like a rock of marble.  I pointed to the Grade School buildings beyond it, covered from view by a row of mango trees.  I pointed to my brick building towards the east, beside the big black sphere.  A thin mist shines in the morning sun.

Frank told me that in their parish in Vancouver, they have a regular Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday.  For seven years, they shared the church with a parish.  They petitioned the bishop to have their own personal parish.  Nothing happened until 2007, when a sympathetic auxilliary bishop came and Summorum Pontificum came out.  The Bishop found a church for them.  It was the parish church of a German community.  But the community dwindled.  They cannot anymore support the maintenance of their parish church.  So their parish was fused with the other parish, and the German church was given to the TLM community.

Today, this community has two FSSP priests: during Sundays, one priest says the mass while other hears confessions.  On special feast days, two FSSP seminarians goes to the parish and a high mass is celebrated.  Frank hopes that we can have something similar at the Ateneo de Manila University.  I agreed.

I told Frank that the new Church of the Gesu here at the Ateneo could not have masses every Sunday; it has only two Sunday masses per month.  The reason for this is that there are about three churches along Katipunan Avenue: Monasterio de Sta. Clara, Our Lady of Pentecost Church, and Our Lady della Strada Church.  If the Jesuits offer two more Sunday masses at the Church of the Gesu, these other churches would lose financially.  On the other hand, if we offer a TLM every Sunday, I think nobody will protest.  We are such a tiny group.

“Does the Director of the Manila Observatory approve the use of the chapel for the TLM?” asked Frank.

I told Frank that Mrs. Antonia Loyzaga is supportive the TLM initiative.  She has heard Latin masses in her youth.  She wants the chapel renovated to make it a real chapel with pews.  That is why she asked me lead the design for the chapel.  I submitted to her a simple design that I posted in the Ateneo Latin Mass Society Yahoo group (It is also available in my Padre Faura’s notebook blog in pdf).  My next problem is to make the costing.  Her problem is to find the funds for the renovation.  She said that the chapel, because it is a Jesuit chapel like other chapels in Ateneo de Manila University, should have its own budget from the Jesuit community.

“But the Jesuits are having financial problems,” said Frank.  “They have this property in Sta. Ana which they are thinking of selling.  But they may find it difficult to do so, because the property is being considered as a historical landmark” (see Inquirer article here).

I told Frank that I envision that the TLM mass collection will go to the purchase of vestments for priests, altar servers, and vessels.  I told him about the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.  They make these vestments.  I saw some of their chasubles–they are exquisite.  The cost is about PhP 5,000 per set, because the chasubles must match in design with the coverings for the vessels, for example.  I am not sure if one set means one liturgical color, and there are are about five colors–green, white, red, black, violet.

Frank said that if it is only P 5,000 per set, that is only about a $ 100, which is not big for those in Vancouver.  There are also Filipinos there who may like to help, even if they cannot be here at the Ateneo.  Frank ask me to canvass this soon and inform him of the amount.

We thanked each other and left the chapel.

When we closed the chapel door, we read a sign: Chapel of St. Joseph.

“Joseph is my middle name,” said Frank.

This explains the riddle: fjch1 means Frank Joseph Chow… I don’t know what h1 means.  I did not anymore ask him.

Monk’s Hobbit Notes: Frank sent me the pictures of the Manila Observatory chapel.  You can find them here.

Pre-Renovation Survey of the Manila Observatory Chapel and Sacristy

A Survey of the Chapel

At the third floor of the Manila Observatory is a chapel, located near the stairs.  From the outside, all you see is a series of vertical planks designed in such a way that you won’t see what is inside directly.  The air flows past these the spaces between the planks and the screen wall near the ceiling.

There are two doors, left and right.  If you open one of the doors, the first thing that you will see is a series of tall windows allowing a good view of the Observatory’s green fields, which stretches out to the Ionosphere building towards the East, the Solar Building on the South West, and the Grade school building beyond it.  And then you see the heavens.  “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

But the chapel is empty.  There are no pews.  But this is where we hold our First Friday masses.  Instead of pews we use chairs, ideal for office use, but not for a chapel.  We sit, we stand, but we never kneel, even during consecration.  Sitting masses is becoming very common here at the Ateneo de Manila University. I’ve attended one in the Jesuit Infirmary. And I saw another one in the Theology Department, even though it is not a chapel.  As long as there is a table to serve as the altar and people have chairs to sit down, we can have a mass.

I sat on one of the three white monoblock chairs.  My friend brought it there, because she loves to stay there to read her Liturgy of the Hours.  Actually, I bought the book for myself a year ago to teach myself how to pray like medieval monks, but after reading for a week, I get lost.  When she saw my book, she asked if she can have it; so I gave it to her.

I gazed at the altar wall.  On the left side is the Tabernacle.  The front face is plated with gold (probably brass).  The other faces are painted gray-green.  A red lamp is burning beside it, which means that Jesus is there.  Mrs.  Tony Gonzaga, the Director of the Manila Observatory, told me that the Father Provincial, Fr. Jose Cecilio “Jojo” Magadia, S.J., was surprised that we keep consecrated hosts there.

Above the tabernacle is  a white bas relief of Mary carrying the Infant Jesus, probably made of resin.  The bas relief of St. Joseph the Worker is on the right corner.

At the center of the altar wall is a crucifix.  I am glad that it was a traditional sculpture and not that of the mummified Christ I saw at the Church of Our Lady of Pentecost along Katipunan Avenue.  Jesus Christ hangs on the cross, eyes downcast. I like this better than the highly stylized, clean-shaven Christ at the altar of the Church of the Gesu.

The altar is simply a four-legged table with mantle.  I don’t think there is a relic embedded on the table.  Relics of saints are usually placed in little boxes and embedded on church altars.  The priest kisses this relic before saying the Holy Mass.  In the olden days, when a church is about to be destroyed, one of the first things the priest will get is the relic on the altar (and the blessed hosts, of course, lest they be trampled underfoot by the enemies of the church).

Mrs. Loyzaga gave me a task.  She wants have the chapel renovated to make it as a permanent chapel of the Manila Observatory.  My job is to make suggestions on what needs to be done.

I measured the chapel area: it is 15.5 ft x 27 ft.  The raised altar area is 8 ft x 7 ft.  Thus the space for the pews is only about 15.5 ft x 20 ft, which is 310 sq. ft.  If the aisle is about 5 ft x 20 ft or 80 sq. ft, then the remaining floor area for benches is 230 sq. ft.  If each person requires a 1.5 ft x 3 ft space or 4.5 sq. ft, then the number of persons that can fit in a 230 sq. ft area is about 50.

A Survey of the Sacristy

On the right side of the altar wall is a door.  I opened it.  There are two cabinets attached to the right wall.  The first cabinet contains sacred vessels, linens, and albs–many of them are starched, though spotted with little yellow marks.  I guess it has been a long time since these were used.  Maybe decades ago.  I saw about twenty Mompo wine bottles.  They have to be thrown away.

The second cabinet contains chasubles.  They are new and well kept.  It is common for priests to just wear the chasuble on top of their ordinary clothes, then don the stole.  I know Fr. Tim Ofrasio, S.J. will not be content at this.  Fr. Tim is a professor in liturgy at the Loyola House of Studies.  He was invited to say mass there several times, but he refused: he will only agree provided he is completely vested.  I saw him took off his priestly clothes weeks ago when he said a Traditional Latin Mass in Sikatuna in the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola: he was wrapped in layers of sheets and tied with cords before he donned his chasuble.  Fr. Ofrasio, S.J. celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass everyday in his private chapel in LHS.  Fr. Tim asked me to form a stable group for TLM so that he can celebrate it publicly in Ateneo.  So far, I have only blogged about it.  But I shall form this group soon.

There are three little rooms on the right side, each of them a third of the size of the chapel.  These are probably dressing area for priests.  I think a a priest can say his mass private mass there, in the days when the priest faces the altar.  If I am not mistaken, all priests are required to say mass everyday.  A recent option is to concelebrate.  In large masses at the Church of the Gesu, it is common to see ten priest concelebrants.

There is another little room straight ahead.  To my dismay, all the kneelers are stacked there.  Each kneeler, which can accomodate only one person, is attached to a stand where a priest can put his breviary or rest his elbows as he prays in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  I once saw Pope John Paul II praying in a similar kneeler.  I wiped the dust from one of the kneelers with my bare palm.  It turned black.

I looked around and saw a Saint Andrew Bible missal.  which was published in 1962.  So this must still be the missal of Pope John XXIII, the one used in the present Traditional Latin masses.  I did not take it at first, because it looked all English to me.  But my friend took it later and showed to me the Order of the Mass in Latin.  And I said, “Ah” and “Oh”.  She had bought her Baronius missal last week in Our Lady of Victories Church.  That was P 2,000.  Since I do not have money, I shall content myself with St. Andrew’s.  I don’t think anybody else in the Observatory will use it.  The Manila Observatory once gave away lots of its books to have more room for research.  So I shall consider this missal as part of this give away.  I shall bring this missal every mass, even in the present Novus Ordo Masses (Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite).  The text of the 1962 Roman Rite (extraordinary form) is very conducive to full and active participation in the mass, by helping me meditate on the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In this rite, the priest becomes filled with holy fear in approaching the altar to offer the Most Holy Trinity the most perfect Sacrifice of Christ in Calvary.  Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. may describe this as Mysterium Tremendum and Mysterium Fascinosum.  Unbelievable.  It is only now I truly learnt what the mass is.