Restoring St. Mark’s

The news that St. Mark Church in the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati is being sought by a local group called Una Voce that promotes and preserves the Latin mass brings mixed feelings.  The website for the project, restorestmarks.org, includes a glowing letter of endorsement from Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.  The former St. Mark’s was consolidated with several other urban parishes earlier this year due to declining numbers.

It’s definitely good news when an historic and beautiful building is preserved, especially in the urban core, but I can’t help feeling sad for the former parishioners who are now traveling to Bond Hill on Sundays.  The archdiocese is not funding the project and presumably Una Voce will purchase the building from the consolidated parish for a fair price, but still, if St. Mark’s had been my parish home, I’d feel resentful, maybe even bitter, if my richer relations took over the place I couldn’t afford to keep.

I’m very curious about what this increasing presence of the Latin mass bodes for the church generally.  Dare I hope that a movement toward increased variety of liturgical style could be a positive thing?  Perhaps one day (soon) there will be a “1969 Society” promoting and preserving the post-Vatican II rite in the vernacular?  Strikingly, Una Voce was founded in 1964, before the Second Vatican Council even ended, by lay people “in defense of the Church’s liturgical heritage.”  Begun in Norway, it is now in 30 countries, and the international federation’s website reports growing interest, not surprising given recent papal support for the Latin rite.

I find myself pondering these developments against the Pentecost story in the Acts of the Apostles, that momentous event now called the birth of the church.  The Holy Spirit descended and suddenly the disciples could speak in different languages.  Scripture does not say that the ability to understand only one language brought them together.  Rather, unity within their innate diversity was created, if only momentarily.  Perhaps one day we can be united around diverse liturgies.

Copyright Peg Conway 2010

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