Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, South Carolina
September marked the sixth anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the motu proprio of
Pope Benedict XVI that provided juridical recourse to Catholic laymen interested
in receiving regular access to the traditional Latin Mass and the sacraments. Since
the document went into effect, what results can be seen in the United States
and Canada in terms of the availability of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form?
in Support of Ecclesia Dei
comprehensive list of locations in which the traditional Latin Mass is
available. At last count, in the 191 dioceses in North America, there are about
485 parishes that offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form with some frequency
(monthly, twice-per-month, or weekly), with 335 parish locations offering it weekly.
North America there are 75 parish locations that offer daily access to the Extraordinary
Form. Of those locations, 38 are in the care of the Priestly Fraternity of St.
Peter and 13 are provided for by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign
Priest. That leaves 24 locations run by dioceses or religious communities (such
as the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago) where the Mass in the
Extraordinary Form is offered daily.
such parish is thriving in what may seem to some to be the least likely of placeswhat
is often referred to as “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” Greenville, South
Carolina. Prince of Peace Catholic Church, located in Taylors, SC, is a
diocesan parish with nearly 2,000 families and an evangelical liturgical approach
that is beginning to draw national and international attention.
only is this parish attracting families interested in regular access to traditional
liturgy and the sacraments, it is beginning to be recognized by even the non-traditional
Catholic audience as a beacon of the “New Evangelization,” due to the number of
converts and reverts it draws into the Catholic Church.
of Peace also has a burgeoning school, a round-the-clock adoration chapel, and
numerous other flourishing apostolates.
Christopher Smith has been the pastoral administrator of Prince of Peace since
December 2011. A native of nearby Easley, he is a former Baptist who converted
to Catholicism as a teenager. He is a graduate of Christendom College in Front
Royal, Virginia, and he holds both a licentiate and a doctorate in dogmatic
theology. He recently spoke with CWR about parish life at Prince of Peace and
the parish’s approach to the liturgy.
Editor’s Note: Since this
interview took place, Prince of Peace ceased offering daily Mass in the
Extraordinary Form until a second priest is assigned to the parish. The Latin Mass
is currently offered on Sundays, Holy Days, and special feast days, and it is
expected that the daily Latin Mass will resume when another priest is assigned.
CWR: Why did you decide to offer
access to Mass in the Extraordinary Form daily?
Parishioners embark on a candlelight rosary procession in solidarity with Pope Francis's consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Oct. 13.
Father Smith: We had a community dedicated to
the Extraordinary Form for about 10 years prior to my arrival, and the
community has grown and has really begun to expect to live its daily life
around that liturgy. Because we have had two priests who are able to celebrate
both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Forms in a parish large enough to
warrant two daily Masses, it made sense to have both forms daily.
it has both consolidated the community of those attached to the Extraordinary Form
and has provided the opportunity for those who want to attend daily Mass the
opportunity to consistently experience the Extraordinary Form Mass at noon.
Some people come more because it is at noon Mass more than because it is the Extraordinary
CWR: What reactions have you
received from parishioners?
Father Smith: There was a little bit of
concern at the beginningespecially because I was coming in newfrom people
thinking we were going to completely change it over into an Extraordinary Form
parish. But when they saw that we were not taking away anything, but just
adding more opportunities to go to Mass, I believe that that helped alleviate
CWR: What did you expect when
you began this assignment leading a parish, and what have you learned over the nearly
two years since?
Father Smith: When I first started, what I
thought was those who are already going to the Sunday Traditional Mass might
choose to go to daily Latin Mass. We have a lot of homeschool families, so I
thought they might go to that Mass.
didn’t expectbut which has been very, very wonderful in our parishis that a
lot of people who swore two years ago they would never darken the doors of the
Latin Mass now go every day because it is a Latin Mass at noon and they have
grown to respect it, appreciate it, and love it. Also, we have members of the
Latin Mass community who would previously never go to an English Mass, and they
now go periodically because it is celebrated according to the mind of the
Church and it is celebrated in the same manner as the Extraordinary Form.
didn’t expect that to happen and I certainly didn’t think it would happen that
CWR: Not many diocesan parishes
in the US offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form at all, let alone daily. How
does this serve to build the Church and aid in the salvation of souls?
Father Smith: I think that children who grow
up with both forms of the Roman rite offered daily will recognize that as
completely normal. They don’t have any baggage against one or the other forms.
there won’t be any kind of animus against either the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary
Form because they have had frequent experiences of the proper celebration of
both forms. So when they go into other parishes in other locations, they will
bring with them a much broader understanding of the “little c” catholic view of
the liturgy because it hasn’t been weighed down by any psychological baggage
from the past.
CWR: What kind of
responseeither positive or negativehave you received from other priests in
the diocese or elsewhere?
Father Smith: A lot priests, when they hear
about what we doit may perhaps sound very strange to them for some reason. But
when they actually come and visit and experience firsthand how both forms are [celebrated
as similarly] as possible, while still respecting the unique differences, and
they see the participation and the faith of the peoplewhen they see all of
this in action, then it makes more sense to them.
else in our diocese is doing it the way that we are, but we also have a history
in our parish that other parishes have not had. There are places where they
would love to have the Extraordinary Form more often, but they don’t have the
same level of desireas shown over a period of 12-plus years nowthat our parishioners
CWR: What would your advice be
to other priests considering a similar approach? There are lots of logistical
challenges and practical considerations. How would you answer those practical
challenges and considerations?
Father Smith: There are many priests in our
diocese who regularly offer five or six [Novus Ordo] Masses every weekend, and
often times, at different locations. And all of those are necessary. In
situations like those, with one lone priest, it is difficult for the priest to
celebrate the Extraordinary Form on a regular basis. It is simply not feasible
when they are by themselves. Where there are two priests in a parish covering
only one location, then it is a little bit easier.
also think it is important that the people don’t feel that it is being forced
upon them in any way. So altar rails, ad
orientem worship, and the things that are normally associated with the Extraordinary
Formslowly a kind of modus vivendi
between the two forms begins without constantly having to redo the sanctuary
space. There are all kinds of variables that exist depending upon the parish.
some places, it can work very easily, and in other places, it takes a lot of
CWR: Wouldn’t the music
considerations alone be quite daunting for the average parish?
Father Smith: Right off the bat with the Extraordinary
Form, you can build as much as your resources allow. Now, how can that have a
positive gravitational pull on the Ordinary Form? That is a little more
difficult. What are the resources in your parish? But also, what has the music history
of the parish been?
the things I would offer is to provide regular, ongoing catechesis on music in
the liturgy at Mass [for the Ordinary Form] and then introduce the propers and
ensure there is some kind of coherence in a parish between one liturgy and the
the things about Prince of Peace is that when we have sung liturgies, when we
have hymns, the propers are included in all the Masses as well.
believe you must create a consistent way of worshipping in the parish rather
than catering to everyone’s individual taste, because that never really works
to unify a parish around the liturgy.
CWR: How do you answer common objections
from people who don’t appreciate the Prince of Peace style of liturgy due to
their experiences in American parishes since 1970?
Father Smith: People have to understand that
the liturgy is not primarily about the externals nor about creating an
interesting experience, as many people tried to do after the Council. Nor is it
about just fixating on lace, vestments, and the smells and bells. We need to
understand the liturgy is not principally about something we do.
put the emphasis on the externals, then some people will say, “I don’t like
that,” and they will reject it.
if you understand what is actually happening during the liturgyand it’s not
just what is happening at the altar, but it extends into one’s daily life, then
all of a sudden the beauty and the majesty and transcendence of the liturgy is
something the people can take with them to their daily lives.
example, I often speak about reverence for the Body of Christ and that the [way]
people receive Holy Communion…shows a specific internal disposition as well as
an external disposition.
important, but also that same reverence we have for the Body of Christ in the
Blessed Sacrament should also be had for the Body of Christ in the Church. We are all fellow members of the Body of
Christso the life of charity flows from everything we do in the Eucharistic
celebration. And I think when people begin to realize that is where you are
coming from as a priest, not just kind of re-arranging the furniture, they
begin to understand that this all has a deeper meaning rather than conclud[ing],
“Father just likes to do things this way and is forcing it upon everyone.” It
is a natural outgrowth from a vision of the liturgy that emphasizes its
transcendence, but also its relationship to daily liferather than just making
it up according to what is someone’s particular taste.
Francis has said that the Church cannot be shut up in the sacristy. Some people
take that as some type of implicit criticism of traditional liturgy. But it
really is not at all when it is understood properly.
all of the beauty of the liturgy is not just something that “people in the
know” kind of do as a hobby; it is something that is to be a school of
Christian service so that we can go out and evangelize and perform acts of
service and charity in the world.
that doesn’t happen in the life of the faithful, it is not the fault of the
liturgy; that is the fault of the Christian world not making that link between
liturgy and life that is the essence of Christianity.
CWR: What has been your
experience as far as reverent liturgies performed according to the mind of the
Churchboth the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Formregarding its attraction to
younger or older Catholics?
Father Smith: It has been my experience that
every place where the liturgy is celebrated according to the mind of the
Church, whether in the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form, younger people tend
to be those who gravitate toward it.
at Prince of Peace, a lot of the older Catholics who lived through the changes
following the Second Vatican Council just don’t want to go back again. And for
some of them, it is very difficult. When they were in their formational years
and they were exposed to all of these things, they were systematically taught
to hate them. I understand and I respect
that, and I think pastors have to take this into consideration because it is
not those people’s fault. You really cannot undo that even with all of the best
will in the world.
with the younger generation, they have no psychological baggage attached to
traditional liturgy. When they see it, they don’t automatically think, “Oh my
God, they are trying to undo Vatican II!” They think, “Wow! This is really
interesting and beautiful. How can I learn more?”
that is true whether it is the Extraordinary Form or the Ordinary Form done
generations that have survived the liturgy wars have often closed themselves up
into these trenches and they are not going to come out except for some kind of
work of grace. But the younger people seem to gravitate toward the
transcendental you can see within ittruth, goodness, and beautybecause they
are not distracted by what these things supposedly mean if you view them
through a hermeneutic of rupture.
would encourage pastors to find a place within their parishes for the Extraordinary
Form, but [do] so as gently as possible, and to focus on the solemn celebration
of the liturgy in both forms and to get the younger generation to really
understand it and participate in it and to love it. I would focus on that.
is why schools and religious education programs are also so important, because
once the parish sees you are getting their children involved in the liturgy and
they understand the propers and the reasons behind the vestments, as but two
examples, it works like spiritual leaven through the families and the parish.