The Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Santa Clara, CA, on Sunday July 8 celebrated the event of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum (otherwise known as the Motu Proprio on the use of the traditional Latin Mass) as a “great occasion of thanksgiving.”
Since January 6, 2007, the oratory has been the only place in the diocese of San Jose allowed to use the traditional rite. The oratory’s Rector Rev. Michael Wiener (Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest) preached a sermon about the event, which was based almost entirely on a sermon on this topic by Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz, Vicar General and Provincial for the United States of America. Fr. Wiener intoned a Te Deum of rejoicing that was completed by the small choir and the congregation at the end of the 5:30 p.m. Sunday High Mass.
The sermon happily quoted Pope Benedict XVI,: “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”
The history of the Oratory is interesting in the context of current events. Before it was an oratory, the traditional Latin Mass had been celebrated at all Masses at the little chapel near Santa Clara University every Sunday without the bishop’s permission for several years. At one point, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath sent a letter to all churches in the diocese of San Jose admonishing Catholics not to attend the chapel’s services because he had not given it canonical status.
Then a turn-around took place. Perhaps responding to requests from Catholics who desired to worship in the traditional rite, the status of the chapel was raised last January 6 to an oratory. The care of the oratory was placed in the hands of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and Rev. Wiener was appointed rector.
A letter was sent out around the same time to another Santa Clara Church, Our Lady of Peace. The founding pastor, Monsignor John Sweeny, had long ago begun the approved-by-the-bishop practice of offering Mass in the Tridentine rite on First Saturdays along with Latin Novus Ordo Masses on the other Saturdays of each month.
Choir members from St. Ann choir sang the Latin Masses at Our Lady of Peace for years under the direction of Stanford Professor William Mahrt and choir member David Webb. The monthly Tridentine Masses continued when Monsignor Sweeny retired. and the bishop gave the care of the parish to priests from the IVE order, but the Latin Novus Ordo Masses dwindled away. The letter from the bishop to the parishioners at Our Lady of Peace put an end to the remaining once a month Tridentine rite Masses.
Above: Some St. Ann choir members and regulars attenders of the Our Lady of Peace Tridentine Mass (with some family members) after the last Tridentine Mass sung at the parish in January 2007.
As noted in a Q and A at The New Liturgical Order, one effect of the Moto Proprio will be to do away with the either/or principle. Having a dedicated chapel like Our Mother of Perpetual Help will no longer mean that the traditional rites will be forbidden at other parishes.
Fr. Wiener's sermon did not mention the backstory I have here at all. He ending by thanking both the pope and the bishop.
“We feel very blessed that here, at the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Diocese of San Jose our Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, in a profound pastoral understanding has anticipated the decision of the Holy Father by entrusting the oratory to the pastoral care of the Institute of Christ the King. ... Thank you, Holy Father! Thank you, your Excellency!”