Masses Begin at Veritatis Splendor
With the debut of daily and Sunday Masses at Veritatis Splendor, the idealistic community up in Winona has sprung back onto the radar screens of east Texas Catholics. For a while, people wondered if the intentional Catholic community would die a quiet death from having bitten off too big a bite. Neighborhoods, schools, recreational facilities, a High Italian Gothic-style church… I mean, really! Somewhere north of nowhere?
But a steady tide of building activity has been going on all year, and there are some days that the property looks like a giant anthill, trucks and flatbeds plying back and forth as pipe is laid, foundations poured and building materials delivered. Infrastructure to support the first phase of neighborhoods is near completion, and lot owners have begun constructing and living on their properties. And now, the opening of the Chapel for public Mass is a major milestone in the life of Veritatis Splendor.
The Holy Family Chapel was completed last month, and the first Mass was celebrated on September 29, the feast of the Holy Archangels, with Bishop Strickland present. The chapel is small, to tide over the worshipping community until the magnificent Oratory on the Hill can be built, still some years in the future. The chapel seats around 50, with overflow seating for another 50. It’s a church-shaped building, constructed within a larger metal barn. It reminds me of the Holy House of Loreto, the tiny cottage where the Virgin Mary was said to have conceived of the Holy Spirit, which is now enclosed within a much larger basilica.
The Chapel is very much a “country church” with stained pine walls and aged wooden pews, with elegant highlights in the trim of the roof beams, the lovely fixtures reclaimed from older churches, and of course, the tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament. It is a humble and amiable atmosphere in which to celebrate the Mass, including the Ordinariate Use of the Roman Rite.
The Ordinariate has captured my imagination. Ever since Pope Benedict’s expansion of the use of the Latin Mass in the 2007 Summorum Pontificum, and especially the constriction of it by Pope Francis in Traditionis Custodes of 2021, interest in the Latin Mass has blossomed. What is this rite by which nearly all our saints and ancestors were saved? What drove the process that changed it? Have we lost something we ought to preserve?
More and more people want to find out for themselves, but the Latin Mass can be intimidating for those who came of age after the 1960s. It is different, and requires a bit of orientation and practice to feel confident in its celebration.
The Ordinariate Rite is like a stepping stone to the Latin Mass. It is a beautiful liturgy with its own rich history, whose roots in the Catholic past have not been disturbed. I sometimes explain it to people as “the traditional Mass rendered in English.” The Fathers of the Pious House, who make their home at Veritatis, readily agreed to train and offer the Ordinariate. It is a new leaf in the folio of Catholic worship opportunities in east Texas.
Generically, “ordinariate” refers to an ecclesiastic organization led by someone other than the local bishop. When Anglicans began to embrace the Catholic Church in large numbers several decades ago, dialogue began between Pope Benedict and Anglican clergy. Whole Anglican congregations and dioceses wanted to become Catholic, without losing the rich patrimony of the Anglican church. They had preserved beautiful architecture, music and liturgy for their worship, and many could not bear that it be lost, to be replaced with stick-figure art, singsong music and modernistic architecture, the puerile aesthetic that had taken over many Catholic parish churches.
Then Pope Benedict issued the exhortation Anglicanorum Coetibus in 2009, which allowed for the full communion of Anglicans with Rome, while retaining their own hymns, art and liturgy. These formerly-Anglican congregations were known as “ordinariates” and their liturgy, as the Ordinariate Use.
The Anglican and Roman rites have a common ancestor, of course: the traditional Mass which was largely unchanged from the 3rd century until the 1960s. The Novus Ordo created some new things and jettisoned some old ones when it was promulgated in 1969, but of course, didn’t affect the Anglican Church at all. So the liturgy permitted to the Anglican Ordinariates, even after full communion with Rome, is essentially the Traditional Mass, rendered in English.
The Mass schedule of the Holy Family Chapel gives us ample opportunity to explore our heritage in the Mass, both in Latin and in English. The Ordinariate is celebrated on Sundays at 8:30 am. Other Masses available during the week are Sundays at 10:30 am, Monday – Friday at 12:05 pm, and Saturdays at 9:00 am.
The drive from the Cathedral in downtown Tyler to the Veritatis chapel is 25 minutes into beautiful rolling hills and stands of pine. When you’re there for Mass, take a look around at the vision-becoming-reality of the Veritatis project. Remind yourself that, with perseverance and God’s grace, even dreams that people scoff at, that stumble on obstacles, that seem too good to be true, can indeed be realized, bringing something new and fresh into our lives.
Holy Family Chapel
16711 County Road 356, Winona