Drawn to the Latin Mass

In an effort to raise $9 million to build a new church, Father Daniel Nolan, an associate pastor of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), played a bagpipe as he skied down the slopes of a nearby resort while wearing a traditional black cassock. Father Nolan was transferred to a Denver fraternity parish in January, but the fundraising efforts have been successful enough that construction on the new church is anticipated to begin later this year, reported St. Joan’s pastor, Father Dennis Gordon.

While Father Nolan’s bagpipe run down the ski slope certainly was eye-catching, church building campaigns are ordinary enough. However, what makes St. Joan’s unusual is that it is a traditional Latin Mass parish, the only one in the entire State of Idaho to offer daily Latin Mass with the permission of the bishop of Boise (the diocese spans the whole state). The success of the drive is an indication of the enduring popularity of the so-called “Tridentine Mass” among some Catholics.

‘Good, true and beautiful’

“We’ve found that the popularity of the Latin Mass is not limited by generation, culture or societal background,” said Father Gordon, noting that many of the parish’s young families — either children or parents — hadn’t even been born when the Mass of Pope Paul VI, the ordinary form of the Mass today, was introduced in 1969. “Our parishioners recognize what’s in the Latin Mass as good, true and beautiful, and it resonates with them.”

Two FSSP priests of the parish serve 650 people with four Sunday Masses, up from 400 and three Sunday Masses when Father Gordon was appointed pastor in 2012. The parish also has seen significant growth in its summer camps and youth group, Father Gordon said, and he’s aware of four parishioners who are FSSP seminarians and another two who have entered religious life.

St. Joan’s currently leases space to operate in a former Protestant Church; the parish will relocate to Post Falls, Idaho — about 10 miles west of its current site — when a sufficient portion of the new parish has been built. The new church will feature traditional Romanesque architecture and will have seating for 500.

Father Dennis Gordon of St. Joan of Arc Church in Idaho speaks with children. Courtesy photo

Father Gordon looks forward to relocating, because “the size of our current church is limiting our growth. We’ve had to open our choir loft to accommodate all the people who come.”

The priests of the northern Idaho deanery have been supportive of St. Joan’s efforts, Father Gordon said, as has Boise Bishop Peter F. Christensen. In fact, he noted, the bishop recently invited a traditional community of eight Carmelite nuns to Post Falls, which is served by a third FSSP priest.

Canon Matthew Talarico is provincial for the United States of the Institute of Christ the King and is rector of the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago. The institute celebrates Mass in the extraordinary form according to the missal of 1962. The institute came to the shrine in 2004 at the invitation of the late Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, the former archbishop of Chicago, to restore the historic parish, which had closed, and to “restart Catholic life” in the community. Canon Talarico came to the shrine in 2008.

“We serve a wide range of people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, ages and walks of life,” Canon Talarico said. When the shrine opened in 2004, it had two parishioners. It has since grown to 200. Similar to St. Joan of Arc, the liturgy has a special attraction among the young, he said, “who find the extraordinary form an authentic form of spirituality that benefitted our ancestors who prayed this Mass.”

Need in the Body of Christ

Established in 1990, the Institute of Christ the King brings the extraordinary form of the liturgy to 12 countries with 110 priests, 20 of whom are Americans. In training are 90 seminarians, one-third of whom are American, in Florence, Italy. The institute also has a small community of brothers and a small community of sisters.

In the United States, the institute serves in 14 dioceses, with Canon Talarico in discussions with other bishops to bring the institute to their dioceses. Its priests often are tapped to revitalize historic churches in city centers, as was the case with the Chicago shrine.


Matthew Arnold is a Catholic convert who is part of a Latin Mass community at St. John the Baptist Parish in Costa Mesa, in Southern California. The Mass is celebrated weekly by a priest of the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey. It has been of enormous spiritual benefit to him, his wife, Betty, and their six children.

“The traditional liturgy gives us a regular encounter with the sacred that doesn’t end with the final blessing but goes forth into our lives with the proclamation of the Last Gospel,” he said. “The impact of assisting at the Traditional Latin Mass as a family is that it has brought us closer to Christ and each other.”

Arnold is a prolific Catholic author and speaker who launched Pro Multis Media, an apostolate that promotes the Catholic faith, and recently released “Confessions of a Traditional Catholic” (Ignatius Press, $15.95), a book about his experience with the Latin Mass. He believes the growth in such organizations as the FSSP and Institute of Christ the King “can be taken as a sign that God is fulfilling a genuine need in the Body of Christ. If traditional priestly societies are growing, it is not just about personal preferences, it is a powerful sign of hope for the future.”

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Canon Talarico said: “We work alongside other communities to bring an authentic Catholic identity to the people today and for generations to come. People come to us looking for that love and peace that only Christ can bring.”

“I think we’re seeing many young people come to us because they’ve tried the worldly life and found it wanting,” added Father Gordon, noting that on its 30th anniversary, the FSSP was enjoying robust growth worldwide.

“They come to us and see our beautiful churches and hear Latin and beautiful Gregorian chant and realize that there is a heaven of beauty above us.”

Jim Graves writes from California.

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