On Tuesday evening, I attended a Solemn Mass for the feast of St Pius X at the church of St Mary in Louth. Louth is an interesting old market town in the heart of rural Lincolnshire. It is the sort of place that few people visit because it is so much off the beaten track; but it is well worth a visit, and next time I go, I will find time to explore the place.
Unlike the C of E parish church, which is medieval and huge with a very high spire, the church of St Mary dates from the late nineteenth century and is a relatively modest building. Nevertheless, I found it very attractive, and it has a modern parish centre next to it.
The Mass was celebrated by Fr Dominic O'Connor from Brigg, also in Lincolnshire, with a permanent deacon from a neighbouring parish as deacon, and Fr John Cahill, who travelled from Leicester, as sub-deacon. A schola, sang plainchant propers and the congregation was encouraged to join in for the ordinary parts.
I estimate that there were about 40 in the congregation and everything went well. Refreshments were provided afterwards in the parish centre.
The interesting thing for me was that this particular church would seem a very unlikely place for a solemn Mass. Not only is it a very small rural parish, but it has a reputation as being modernist and hostile to the traditional Mass.
However, there is evidently a small group within the parish which does appreciate Latin and the usus antiquior. They have managed to reintroduce sung plainchant kyrie, Gloria and agnus dei into the regular parish Mass on one Sunday each month. Now they have gone further and arranged for a solemn Mass, and this is something that they wish to repeat from time to time.
What has happened in Louth seems to me to be a perfect example of the way that Pope Benedict expected summorum pontificum to work. It is up to any small group to request the usus antiquior and it is the duty of the parish priest to do what he can to provide it. In this case he felt unable to celebrate it himself, but was happy to allow clergy in from outside who were willing to help. The group then went on to make the arrangements.
Let us hope that more groups emerge like the one in Louth.