I have just returned from the Latin Mass Society's Priest and Server Training Conference, which was held at Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire last week. A total of about 60 people attended part or all of the conference, which extended over five days.
The main purpose of the conference was to provide training to both priests and servers in the older form of the Mass. On this occasion, the first two sessions, on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, were given over to the teaching of basic Latin. Whilst this could only be a very brief introduction to the subject, it proved useful to those who had little or no knowledge of ecclesiastical Latin.
For the main part of the conference (Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thurdsday), the participants were divided into small groups, and tuition was provided to suit the needs of each group. There were three groups specifically for priests, two covering Low Mass and one Missa Cantata. For the servers, there were also three groups covering Low Mass and Missa Cantata. A further group, which included both priests and servers, studied Missa Solemnis.
Each day, there was a programme of liturgies, which included Lauds, the conference Mass, Vespers, Benediction and Compline. In addition there were several private Masses early each morning. With such a range of liturgies, both priests and servers had opportunities to put what they had learned into practice.
The highlight of the conference came at the beginning of the week. Bishop Malcolm McMahon kindly agreed to celebrate the opening Mass on the Monday, which happened to be the transferred feast of the Annunciation. After the Pontifical Mass, Bishop McMahon stayed for a meal and then addressed all the participants. The theme of his address was an attempt to heal the rift that exists in the Church between supporters of the usus antiquior and those who see no special value in it. One suggestion that he made was that enthusiasts for the extraordinary form should stop describing it as the traditional Mass, as this description was a source of great irritation to many people. I will deal with this issue in a later post.
Besides home based priests, the conference attracted one priest from South Africa, three from Poland and three from Scotland. It was also very pleasing to discover that, amongst the servers, there were four that were intending to follow a priestly vocation.