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What On Earth Is Juventutem and Why Is it Spreading So Fast?

Jeffrey Bruno

Regina Magazine - published on 07/11/14

While one foiled Black Mass at Harvard grabs all the headlines, young Catholics at Harvard (and in Chicago, Miami, DC, Michigan and beyond) have been busy introducing thousands to the Traditional Latin Mass.

They are a young organization of young people and growing super-fast. The first American chapter of Juventutem began in Michigan in 2012, and since then 11 additional chapters have been formed all over the United States.

A big highlight in their short history so far has been a Solemn High Mass in Boston in the Spring of 2013, celebrated by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. Over 200 people attended this first “TLM” in decades,  illuminated by the artistry of the Choir of St. Paul—boys from the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School—and a professional male schola, which sang beautiful Renaissance polyphony by Victoria and Palestrina.

If Juventutem has their way, such beauty is just the harbinger of things to come. Recently, four members—three Harvard students and one alum—sat down with Regina Magazine to tell us about Juventutem in the United States. Jim is a History major from New Jersey. Evan is studying mathematics; he’s originally from the San Francisco Bay area. Eileen is a freshman from Staten Island, New York. Finally, Paul is a Harvard alum and a lawyer who is the Group Coordinator of the Michigan chapter of Juventutem and the Secretary of the Fœderatio Internationalis Juventutem.

How did you first discover the TLM?

Jim: I had never even heard that the traditional Mass existed before starting college. Two years ago, I attended one for the first time at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I wouldn’t say that I immediately fell in love with the Latin Mass, but I kept coming back and learning more about it. It wasn’t long before I was altar serving and doing whatever I could to promote the Latin Mass among my peers.

Eileen: I attended my first Latin Mass when I was ten years old, because my father preferred this style of the Mass and we found a parish nearby that said the TLM. Although I was resistant at first, I soon grew to love and prefer the Mass.

Paul: I grew up in a Lutheran family. In summer 2002 I attended a Traditional Latin Low Mass at Old St. Mary, Chinatown, DC. I hated that first Latin Mass. I hated that the church was so hot. I hated that I arrived late and couldn’t sit near my friend. I hated that I didn’t have a worship aid of any kind. I hated that I couldn’t even hear the Latin that was supposedly being whispered at the front of the sanctuary.

By the time the liturgy was over, I was nearly ill with the strength of my perverse anger at these Catholics that I took to be idol worshipers violating the First Commandment.

But this visceral response ultimately led to good. Having seen a church full of Catholics behaving like It Was True—that there really was the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ on that altar—I would ultimately have much more fruitful conversations with my pro-life friends the next Fall (particularly with one who is now a deacon) and would be received into the Church and become a weekly TLM attendee before nine more months had passed.

What was it about the Mass that drew you?

Jim: I was born and raised Catholic, and as I began college, I knew that I wanted to make my faith a priority after leaving home. I wasn’t sure at first how I would do that, but discovering the traditional Mass provided an answer.

What I like best about the traditional Mass is the way it emphasizes participation through prayer.  It can be a lot like Adoration, in a way, but centered on receiving Communion as the focal point. The general tone of reverence, the natural, built-in periods of silence, and the way every item and action points toward the Eucharist and to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross: all of this, in my experience, makes it very easy to pray with the traditional Mass.

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