On December 13, 2008, the Defensores Fidei Foundation (DFF) marked the graduation of the students of its 4th Annual Apologetics Seminar with a Pontifical Mass offered by Msgr. Angel Hobayan D.D., the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Catarman. DFF Associate Fr. Abraham Arganiosa concelebrated while one of the DFF’s spiritual directors, Fr. Carlos Estrada, served as MC or Master of Ceremonies. Gregorian chant was sung during the Mass by a small schola, who sang from the “Graduale Romanum” of 1974, the Vatican-approved official book for Gregorian chant. Communion was received kneeling, and only on the tongue.
The Pontifical Mass was celebrated in Latin, with the celebrants facing the altar and the crucifix on the apse wall of the church. In liturgical language, this is called “ad orientem” or “facing the east”, which in many churches also entails celebrating Mass facing the tabernacle. In practice, since it is not always possible for churches to be oriented eastward, the altar and the apse wall of the church (preferably with tabernacle located there) normally function as “symbolic” or “liturgical East”. This was the second time that the DFF Apologetics Seminar graduation Mass was celebrated in Latin and “ad orientem”: the first time had been in December last year, when Mass was offered by Fr. Abraham Arganiosa in the St. Ignatius Chapel of Mary the Queen Parish in San Juan, Metro Manila.
In choosing to have its annual graduation Mass in Latin and facing the east, the Defensores Fidei Foundation was by no means rejecting the normal way of celebrating the Mass: in the language of the people, and with the priest facing the congregation. This normal way of offering Mass is without doubt fully Catholic, approved by Rome and loved by the faithful. Most members of DFF routinely attend Mass in the vernacular, with priests facing the people.
The motive behind this singular celebration was entirely positive. Since the Apologetics Seminar had exposed many of the participants to the great variety of the riches of the Catholic faith, it seemed good to the organizers to also expose them to a rarely-encountered form of the Holy Mass. So that the participants would not be “lost” during Mass, they were provided with Latin-English missalettes. In this way the people could actively participate. Most importantly, the Mass was marked by prayerful reverence and silence.
Carlos Antonio Palad