Tridentine Latin Mass Returns to Campus

by Ethan Starr


After several years of absence from the on-campus Mass schedule, the Tridentine Latin Mass returned to Boston College at the beginning of Lent. Students can now attend Masses celebrated in ecclesiastical Latin on Fridays at noon in St. Joseph’s Chapel.

The Tridentine Latin Mass is the pre-Vatican II liturgy. Derived from the Latin Tridentinus, meaning “related to the city of Trent,” this word references the 1570 Roman Missal disseminated following the Council of Trent. Latin continued to serve as the dominant liturgical language of the Mass until the Roman Missal was revised by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Later, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum designated the 1962 Missal in ecclesiastical Latin as the Forma extraordinaria, or “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite, practicable by trained and approved clergy. The Tridentine Latin Masses—such as those now found at Boston College—use this 1962 Missal.


Fr. Gary Gurtler, S.J., and another Jesuit priest have alternated as celebrants since the return of the extraordinary form to Boston College’s campus. Una Voce Boston College, the on-campus Latin Mass society, was reestablished in 2018 after remaining largely dormant since 2012. This group can be credited with the return of the extraordinary form to campus.


The organization’s president, David O’Neill, MCAS ’21, stated, "Celebrating the Mass as it was normally celebrated from the time of St. Gregory the Great to 1962, connects us with our heritage as Latin-Rite Catholics. This is the Mass that was celebrated by and formed the early Jesuits­­—such as St. Ignatius­­— so it is particularly beautiful that we are able to celebrate it at a Jesuit, Catholic University.”


O’Neill believes the traditional Mass is attractive to college students. “Many young people find the silence and reverence of the liturgy to be a refuge from the noise and constant stimulation of our age."


“Our goal,” said O’Neill, “is to provide a unique encounter for students to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and to love His Church. Campus Ministry and the Jesuits do a great job of making many Mass times and other liturgies available on campus to students—over 70 a week—and so we hope to contribute to the liturgical life of the campus in our own way.”


Una Voce Boston College believes the celebration of a more ancient form of the Mass on campus may present educational opportunities for young Catholics who are unfamiliar with ecclesiastical Latin, or for those who take an interest in the history of the Church. Even for those who do not understand Latin, the extraordinary form presents an alternative method of worship whereby modern believers may forge both a stronger understanding of Catholic faith and greater unity and connection with their forebears. For O’Neill and other participants, the weekly Masses provide campus Christians with an opportunity to explore their faith through a form of worship that is, for many, unfamiliar and even experimental.


If students are interested in the Latin Mass here on campus, it is recommended that they follow the Una Voce Boston College page on Facebook or join the email list. For those who would like to learn more about the Latin Mass, Una Voce Boston College published a short guide online.

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