Consecration of Christ the King
(First diocesan church in Florida to
the Tridentine Mass)
On the Feast of the Epiphany, 1996, my wife and I were married at
the Church of St. William in Naples, Florida. The late, great Father
H. Marchosky offered our Traditional Latin Nuptial Mass for the
first time in Naples since Vatican II. In those days it was no
simple matter to obtain the needed permissions to have the
“outlawed” old Mass. In fact, after we’d just barely secured ours
(thanks largely to the efforts of my wife’s family—faithful Catholics and
residents of Naples for decades), it was rumored that our Nuptial
Mass would be the first and last Traditional Mass allowed in
that’s not quite how things have played out. In January of 2010 my wife
and I loaded up our six children and drove non-stop the nearly 1,800
miles back to Naples to visit family. What a
difference 14 years and the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI make!
Not only has the Traditional Mass been restored to Naples but it’s
actually spreading throughout southwest Florida.
Does this mean
the crisis in the Church is somehow over? No, the human element of
the Church has been losing its war against Modernism for over a
century, and the restoration is quite obviously not going to happen overnight.
Nevertheless, progress should be duly noted where progress is occurring.
There was standing room only inside St. Agnes chapel in Naples when
we heard the Traditional Mass there a couple of Sundays ago. Large
families with small children were on hand, as was a young
newly-formed schola; beautiful statues and traditional accoutrements have been
brought in, welcome indeed since the chapel is obviously the work of
a modern architect.
As I listened
to Father Brian Austin, FSSP, use a portion of his sermon to
patiently instruct his flock (many of whom are brand new to
Tradition) on how to follow the old rubrics, when to stand, when to
kneel (no dialogue Mass, please), I was filled with a sense of hope
for the future. The enthusiastic and prayerful young priest, the many children,
the manifestations of devotion, the careful attention to "doing it
right"--made it impossible to be anything
less than hopeful. And this is just one of the Latin Mass locations
in southwest Florida.
(ordained only a year or so ago) is the assistant to Fr. James
Fryar, FSSP, another impressive young priest who is currently pastor
of Christ the King Catholic Church in nearby Sarasota, Florida—the
first diocesan church in Florida to exclusively offer the
Tridentine Mass. (The Fraternity of St. Peter’s Christ the King
Church was dedicated April 19, 2009, with a solemn High Mass and a
traditional consecration conducted by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the
Diocese of Venice.) Christ the King offers the Traditional Mass
exclusively—twice on Sundays and Holy Days and on every weekday,
along with the Sacraments, daily confessions, rosary, devotions,
etc. From all appearances, this fully functioning traditional Mass
center is thriving as are its
satellite apostolates in Naples (St.
Agnes), Fort Myers (Resurrection of Our Lord) and Ocala (Our Lady
Queen of Peace).
always so. I remember the lean years when traditional Catholics in
southwest Florida had only one option if they wished to hear the old
Mass. A small chapel in Fort Myers that was (and still is) serviced
by the Society of St. Pius X. I often made the trip up to Fr. Carl
Pulvermacher’s (RIP) Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels
traditionalist refuge established by, among others, my own
father-in-law, Ronald Bruns (RIP), and his brother David Bruns
before they deeded it over to the SSPX in 1993. In those years, the
Society of St. Pius X held the Catholic ground in southwest Florida
virtually on its own, and simple justice demands that no one should
the many sacrifices of the priests and laity who kept Tradition alive in
the Sunshine State long before it was in any sense popular to do so.
Tradition is on the move in a growing number of churches and chapels
in Florida (both SSPX and FSSP) and even to some extent in the
newly-established “college town” in Collier County (just east of
Naples) known as Ave Maria. Established in 2005 by Roman Catholic
philanthropist, Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, Ave Maria
is still the talk of Naples.
has it that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I thus refrain
from rushing to foolish judgments where Ave Maria is concerned. Like
any ambitious project of this sort, Ave Maria has not been without
controversy and plenty of critics. It’s hailed by its myriad fans as
enthusiastically as it is bashed by voices angry at Ave Maria for a
whole host of reasons ranging from its founder’s desire to ban
pornography, contraceptives and abortion inside the town limits (the
ACLU is still hopping mad over that one!), to environmentalist whackos
worried that Ave Maria might scare off a Florida panther or two, to something called AveWatch.com which seems
hell bent on proving the whole world would be better off if Tom Monaghan
would just choke on a slice of pizza, to fans of Ave Maria’s former provost, Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, for…well for reasons outsiders such as this writer can
only guess at.
I visited Ave
Maria last month and found the place intriguing, to say the least.
The town sits on a 5000-acre tract of land not far removed from the
swamps and mangroves of the Everglades. At first blush, the place
seems almost like a sprawling Hollywood set with its six neighborhoods (thus far), a water park, fitness center,
golf course, ball fields, a Publix grocery store, a university, a
grade school, a Italian-style piazza complete with shops,
restaurants and cafes, and a massive Catholic church—the Ave Maria
Oratory, boasting a seating capacity of 1,100—in the very center of
town. Whatever its growing pains, the place is bustling with life as many families
now call Ave Maria
home, a handful of businesses seem to be thriving, homeschoolers are
plentiful, as are students of the Catholic K-12 school on campus.
And as far as the eye can see there is room for vast expansion.
pretend to have the inside scoop on Ave Maria. Like most
outside observers, I have no idea if the massive venture
will ultimately fail or succeed. It is true that Mr. Monaghan is partnered with
Barron Collier Companies—businessmen who surely know their stuff.
The project has also been supported by men of considerable influence and,
it must be said, some controversy, including Jack Donahue, Michael Novak, Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano (who despite a recent controversy
involving his position on the life issues, has
released an uncompromisingly pro-life
statement to the media), and
Fr. Joseph Fessio, to name a few. In addition, some faculty
members at Ave Maria University are without doubt world renowned
scholars. Still, whether Ave Maria—the University, the Law School,
the grammar and prep school, the town itself—will survive and at
what level, is anyone’s guess. It’s obviously still very much a work
in progress, and there are lots and lots of opinions on how the work
should be done.
ongoing criticism of the Oratory—the very heart of Ave Maria and the
town’s most prominent structure, conceptualized by Monaghan himself.
It’s been described as a “modern-styled building with some
traditional and Frank Lloyd Wright influences.” Though it has an
unmistakably monastic feel to it, the Oratory isn’t everyone’s cup
of tea. But then again, it too remains unfinished. As one student at
the University told me “the only thing about the Oratory that’s
complete is the tabernacle. Everything else is under construction.”
Seems rather premature, then, to render final judgment on this or
any other aspect of Ave Maria.
certain is this: A town dedicated solely to the Mother of God has
been established on the outskirts of one of the wealthiest cities in
America—something not likely to garner Mr. Monaghan many popularity
points with the politically correct elites either in politics or
academia. The main street running through La Piazza
is called Annunciation Circle. Children play in parks and walkways
dedicated to saints, as wholesome-looking university students walk
to and from Mass and classes.
campus has single-sex dorms only, and every residence hall
will have a chapel. Images and statues of Our Lady and the Angles
are plentiful. There’s a large home-school store (By Way of the
Family) located just across the street from the 104-foot-tall
Oratory. Visitors are apt to see (as we did) nuns in traditional
habits ushering little flocks of students about town. The master
plan for Ave Maria calls for the construction of a 55-foot crucifix,
the largest in North America. And Ave Maria University president
Nicholas Healy raised not a few eyebrows when he told the press: “We
make no apologies for seeking to uphold Catholic moral teachings,
particularly when it comes to relations between men and women. We
would not approve of or facilitate something that is very common,
I’m told, on college campuses today, hooking up and sleeping around,
and … binge drinking.” Seems pretty sound to me!
What also sets
Ave Maria apart is its liturgical life. Every Sunday, Tuesday and
Thursday the high altar at Ave Maria is used for the celebration of
the Traditional Latin Mass (something that should cause the good
folks at my alma mater, Christendom College, to rethink their own rather
liturgical schedule). The new Masses offered at Ave Maria (which is
designated a “quasi-parish”) are reportedly reverent and without liturgical shenanigans. There is no Communion in the hand,
for example, and no altar girls, which is why Ave Maria already
enjoys widespread acclaim for a serious commitment to implementing Pope Benedict’s
Is Ave Maria
still something of a mixed bag? I suspect it is. Rumor has it, for
example, that a charismatic clique of students on campus would like
nothing better than to turn Ave Maria into yet another Steubenville
(God help us!). On the other hand, there’s obviously a significant
contingent of traditionalists on campus. Who will carry the day?
For the time being, let's take solace in the fact that
the Oratory was packed out with worshippers (mostly students) at the
Tridentine Mass we attended on a Sunday morning last month. Hundreds
of young people were on hand, modestly dressed and many wearing
chapel veils. At the altar a priest offered the Traditional Mass to
perfection—no dialogue Mass, the Gospel and Epistle were read first
in Latin at the altar and then in English from the pulpit, and the
sermon was Catholic straight through. It was encouraging to see so
many young Catholics
being exposed to the Traditional liturgical life of the Church in
this way. No matter what happens in the future, this routine
exposure to Tradition can never be undone, and there’s no telling
how many souls will benefit from it or how many graces will be
showered on Ave Maria because of it.
I went to Ave
Maria not expecting to be favorably impressed. As it turned out, I
was pleasantly surprised. As “Catholic” institutions of higher
learning continue their freefall into the depths of secularism, it
was fun to see one, whatever its shortcomings, swimming rather
manfully against the rising tide. It’s also rather gratifying to know that at Ave Maria, Florida,
at the very least someone is trying to pick up the Catholic baton long since
discarded in the ditches of lost-cause wastelands such as South
Let's hope and pray for the best!