Monday, July 9, 2012

Goodbye Holy Trinity...

Boston Catholic Insider has posted the most recent status update on Holy Trinity Parish, the historically German parish in Boston's South End. The parish was also the original home church to the Tridentine rite after Vatican II in Boston. The story surrounding Holy Trinity's placement upon the parish chopping block has been replete with numerous odd occurrences. Around the time the initial list of church closings was announced, Holy Trinity had a parish committee review the books and establish that the parish was financially stable and self sustaining, contrary to the determination of the Archdiocese. Later, it was discovered that the former pastor of Holy Trinity had transferred funds from Holy Trinity to his other church, St. James the Greater, which contributed in no small part to the discrepancy between the parish's accounting and that of the Archdiocese. You can read additional stories detailing the Archdiocese's questionable handling of this church here and here.

I will not go into further details surrounding the history of this particular church closing - you can find that elsewhere. I only write about it because of Holy Trinity's place in my own formation. Holy Trinity was there when I realized there was an alternative to contemporary Catholic worship, whether done high or low. For several years, that parish had become my spiritual home, so to speak, and was the first and thus far only time I made it a priority in my life to attend liturgy every Sunday at that same parish. I learned much there, much that was irrevocably formative for me. I learned the old rite, I discovered the joy Latinists are prone to, I learned a new approach to prayer, liturgy, and silence. It was the first and last time I ever perceived liturgy as capable of occasioning contemplative prayer.

Times change. The church was put on the chopping block and suddenly the impulse for survival became most palpable. Pope Benedict lifted John Paul II's restrictions on the older rite and suddenly the Tridentine movement lost much of its original dynamism, becoming the preferred Mass-fashion for those conservatives who previously approached the rite with reserve and, at times, suspicion. And, of course, I've changed. I'm not the person I was then and I don't pray the way I used to, although there are times I feel an acute homesickness for it. Much as I may often think I've left that spirituality behind, the story of this church brings me back to that time, that experience, and invokes the pang of loss.

The church will likely be subject to the redevelopment plans for the South End. Demolishing and paving over sacred ground, rearranging the sacred landscape irrevocably. Meanwhile, the sterile suburban churches remain standing.

Goodbye, old friend. You, parish and stone, were there during the long formation of my soul and your image still lingers.

Introibo ad altare dei...