On Friday, June 15th, starting at 1:00 pm, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis will be the site of a church event not seen in St. Louis in decades -- ordinations to the priesthood in the Traditional Latin Rite. The Most Reverend Archbishop Raymond L. Burke will be presiding at this ceremony, in which two deacons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will be ordained Roman Catholic priests.
The Institute of Christ the King is a society of priests dedicated to Catholic tradition, founded in Italy in 1990. Priests of the Institute were assigned the historic St. Francis de Sales Oratory in July 2005 by Archbishop Burke. Once known as the Cathedral of South St. Louis for its size and magnificence, this church is now home of the Latin Mass Community of St. Louis. A vibrant community has grown at St. Francis de Sales since the Institute arrived almost two years ago, attendance increasing from 300 to nearly 800 each Sunday. Here the Classical Latin Mass is offered every day, and twice on Sundays, along with several traditional Catholic devotions throughout the week.
The “Latin Mass” has been the focus of much media attention in the past months, since rumors surfaced that Pope Benedict XVI plans to issue a document granting a wider use of the Classical or “Traditional” Latin Rite. This millennial liturgy was substituted in 1969 by the “New Order of Mass,” now celebrated in most Catholic churches. However, Pope Benedict and other high ranking officials of the Catholic Church see an important role for the Classical Latin Rite, and recognize the ever waxing interest and desire for the traditional Mass in Latin.
Unlike what many would think, the Traditional Latin Rite is not a subject of nostalgia. Anyone attending one of the now hundreds of churches in the United States where the Latin Mass is celebrated, will immediately note the youthfulness of the congregation, and the vibrancy of the community. Young adults and young large families with many children skew the average age to the mid 40s if not lower. The reverence, beauty, timelessness and transcendence of the venerable Rite are often cited as the points of attraction. And it is the general experience of the clergy who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass that their congregations are growing very steadily. All the churches staffed by the Institute of Christ the King demonstrate this phenomenon, St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis being a particularly striking example, were the congregation has nearly tripled in size in two years.
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest itself is evidence of this growth factor. It was founded in 1990 by two French priests, Msgr. Gilles Wach and Fr. Philippe Mora, who sought to establish a seminary that would train young men for the priesthood desiring to be formed and educated in the tradition of the Catholic Church -- theological as well as liturgical. While at first established as a mission seminary in Gabon, Africa, in a matter of months the Institute was invited by the Archbishop of Florence, Italy, to relocate to the village of Gricigliano in his archdiocese. Two heiresses had left property to the Archdiocese of Florence to be used by any Catholic order or community dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass. It was to in this property, the Villa Martelli in Gricigliano, that the Institute established its motherhouse and seminary.
After only sixteen years the Institute of Christ the King now has more than 50 priests stationed in over 40 locations in Europe, Africa, and the United States, where all the sacraments of the church are offered in the Traditional Latin Rite. In the United States the Institute is present in Chicago, Rockford, St. Louis, Kansas City, Green Bay, Wausau, Oakland, and Santa Clara. It receives several inquiries on a weekly basis from young men who wish to become priests in the Institute. As its seminary formation program is nearly filled to capacity with 70 men at the different stages of preparation for the priesthood, the superiors of the Institute of Christ the King have the rare problem of having too many aspirants to their seminary.
The ceremony on June 15th, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis will mark the first time that priests of the Institute of Christ the King are ordained in the United States. Usually, the ordinations take place at their seminary in Florence. Members of the Institute will be providing the Gregorian Chant and filling the several liturgical roles of the intricate and strikingly beautiful Ordination ceremony and Pontifical Solemn High Mass, which will be presided by the Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis.
Father Karl Lenhardt, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory operated by the Institute of Christ the King, commented: “All the members of the Institute and faithful who attend our several churches around the country are very much looking forward to this special event. We are especially grateful to His Grace, Archbishop Raymond Burke, for having the ceremony at his own Cathedral Basilica, and above all for his kindness to the Institute throughout so many years.”
Update: The ordination has taken place and there were between 1,100 to 1,200 people in attendance as Archbishop Burke ordained Fr. Avis and Fr. Talarico. A few images are available on the blog Saint Louis Catholic. More photos are at The New Liturgical Movement. More excellent photos are available on the Fish Eaters Forum.