February 17: Second Sunday of Lent
Parish: St. Louis Catholic Church
13 St. Louis Place
Batesville, IN 47006
Number of families: 1515
Church capacity: 750
St. Louis is one of the oldest churches in the diocese. It’s some good German workmanship, lots of flying buttresses, and a wonderful central spire. It was probably was the tallest building in town for decades. Over the years, I think there’s been some additional construction to add east and west wings and connecting corridors to other buildings.
The interior, unfortunately, was ravaged by Vatican II. The ceiling has been covered up by a white acoustic drop ceiling. The pews are arranged in regular rows, but are a little too close together. There are also a few rows of pews in the wings, along with some chairs for the choir.
The altar used to be spectacular, but it was broken down into three segments over the years. The main altarpiece is still in the church (One of them is in their adoration chapel). The crucifix is large, but garish. The furniture that was brought in after Vatican II does not match at all, and it shows. And the most tragic part is that the tabernacle doors are frosted glass. Apparently, that is actually an improvement; when the priest arrived two years ago, these doors were clear glass.
This was a Latin Mass, and normally the priest stands directly in front of the altar. However, there is almost no room on the ledge on the front of the altarpiece, so the priest had to use the new altar table, which is about six feet in front of the altar, and about three feet from the front edge of the sanctuary. Absolutely not the best way to say the Mass.
My ranking: 3 out of 5.
This was a low Mass. No music, no musicians, no problem.
Father Dennis Duvelius – my favorite priest, bar none. He’s in his mid-40s, has been a priest since 1996, and has been at this parish since 2006. Fr. D (his nickname for himself) was a member of the FSSP (Fraternal Society of Saint Peter) for nearly ten years, and I have rarely met a man with a greater love of the traditional liturgy. At this particular Mass, there was maybe a dozen people in the congregation, but Fr. D would have happy saying the Latin Mass even if he was the only person there.
Unlike other priests, I look forward to his homilies. He doesn’t talk just for the sake of talking; he really wants to get God’s message across to the people. Tonight, he was honest and funny (this was his fifth Mass of the day, so he didn’t repeat the readings in English; he was getting “kind of tired” of reading them again, and we all had them written out in front of us anyway), uplifting (Jesus’ transfiguration is a foretaste of our own glorious resurrection to come), and giving God’s message in a nutshell (God wants us to join him in heaven). Normally, when priests put their homilies on their parish website, I look at it as nothing more than an ego trip, but in Fr. D’s case, I would really enjoy reading them. He’s had some great ones.
My ranking: 5 of 5. He is the standard by which I judge all other priests.
It’s the Latin Mass. There is very, VERY little room for variation. It was a simple, reverent low Mass, exactly what I wanted. Still, it wasn’t perfect. Having to use an overgrown card table as an altar instead of the beautiful carved wood altarpiece was a significant distraction.
Another distraction was the altar servers. One of them was Kat’s boyfriend J, another was Kat’s best friend E, and a third was another of Kat’s friends, A. In this Mass, I think a better set of aliases would be Larry, Moe and Curley. Moe (A) has served at English Masses for years, but doesn’t have a lot of experience serving at the Latin Mass. Larry (J) has never served at a Mass, in either rite. Curley (E) is the most experienced of three, having served at Masses for years, and even studying to be a priest. However, he is a little out of practice, not to mention being as sick as a dog. All of this combined to slightly comical effect. Bells were rung prematurely, altar objects were not moved at the right time, and there was more than a little bit of…shall we say “stage direction” from the priest. Still, even with that, I can’t hold it against them too much. They were willing and eager to serve, and that’s more than I would be able to do.
My ranking: 3.5 of 5.
I saw more than a few familiar faces from Holy Rosary at this Mass. I suspect that if more people knew Fr. D was saying the Latin Mass on a regular basis again, and if he could somehow arrange for a high or even solemn sung Mass, there would be a lot more people down from Indy.
Fr. D was good enough to hear my confession before Mass. It’s a strange experience to talk to your confessor as an old friend as you are walking to the confessional, then kneel behind the screen to maintain the illusion of anonymity during the confession.
My overall ranking: 4 of 5.
Would I return: Absolutely.
This Mass meant a lot to me. I enjoyed seeing some old friends, and hearing the traditional Mass said by someone who has a genuine love for it. The answer to my question "Was it worth it?" A heartfelt "Yes."
Now if they could only do something about that stupid altar table…