Holy Cross, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Holy Cross, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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Mystery Worshipper: LQ
Church: Holy Cross
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date of visit: Thursday, 11 June 2009, 7:00pm

The building

Quite plain from the outside, with a cross gable roof. On the inside, a golden sanctuary, reordered following the Second Vatican Council, contains a free-standing altar, which is covered in fair linen during the mass. The tabernacle is outside of the sanctuary.

The church

Holy Cross is the home of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, Toronto Apostolate. The Fraternity offers the mass and other sacraments according to the "extraordinary" form of the Roman Rite, including the 1962 revision of the mass in Latin. Sunday mass is offered at another parish in neighbouring Scarborough. Attached to the parish is an elementary school affiliated with the province of Ontarios publicly funded Roman Catholic school system.

The neighborhood

East York was, until its merging with the city of Toronto in 1998, the last remaining borough in Canada. It is home to a large concentration of the citys ethnic Greek population and a general hospital, and was a dry town until the 1970s.

The cast

I am assuming that the celebrant was the Revd Howard J. Venette, FSSP, chaplain, but I cannot state that with certainty. The mass was billed as a high mass but the celebrant was the lone sacred minister.

What was the name of the service?

High Mass and Benediction

How full was the building?

Perhaps about a third full. It was hard to estimate as the congregation were spread pretty evenly throughout the pews.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

No. A man came down the aisle shortly after my arrival to ensure everyone had leaflets. However, having left my fragile missal at home, I had to enlist the aid of a parishioner to help me find a booklet with the ordinary of the mass.

Was your pew comfortable?

Comfortable enough, but awfully close to the one behind it. I had to lower the kneeler behind me as I knelt, lest I kick it down with my feet.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was the height of quiet and reverential. Women in mantillas fingered rosary beads, and even the younger worshippers (including a small child and a pair of fellow 20-somethings) didnt make a peep. The organist rehearsed for the mass as people filtered in.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

Well, thats hard to say. The hymn was followed by the introit, and then the Kyrie and Gloria. The priests first words must have been the salutation "Dominus vobiscum" (The Lord be with you) before the collect.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A booklet with the ordinary of the mass was supplemented by leaflets with hymns, Gregorian chants for the sung parts, and translations of the propers (including the readings) for Corpus Christi. The Catholic Book of Worship was used for some of the music.

What musical instruments were played?

A pipe organ was played from a choir loft.

Did anything distract you?

There was a bit of confusion about posture – many, but not all, sat for most of the Gloria and Creed. There was some sort of commotion from the rear of the church during the canon of the mass. Afterwards, at benediction, one burly gentleman behind me insisted on shouting the Divine Praises (the only vernacular portion of the liturgy).

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

This was an authentic traditional Latin mass. The priest wore a biretta and maniple (save for the homily), and the server kissed his hand when passing and receiving objects. The "secret" prayer was indeed secret, as was the canon. Incense was offered in moderation, and the readings were chanted in Latin by the celebrant himself. The attempts to encourage the congregation to sing by providing sheets with the hymns and the ordinary were met with little enthusiasm. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was beautifully executed. After the liturgy, Father administered holy communion to a few people at the tabernacle.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 – The homilist had the richly toned voice of the priests of my childhood.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Jesus is the true bread from heaven, and he feeds our hunger both in his ministry and in his ongoing presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Although there are seven sacraments, all conveying Gods grace, the eucharist is called "the" Blessed Sacrament because the giver of sacramental grace is uniquely present under the appearance of bread and wine.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The chanting of the epistle and gospel (though the peoples acclamation at the end of each was omitted).

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The Lords Prayer was sung by the priest alone until the last line. The sequence was sung by a cantor, and I couldnt help thinking that in any self-respecting Anglo-Catholic church there would be lusty congregational participation at that point.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Not much. After loitering for several minutes, I slid my calling card into a donations box and went to find my bus.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

None was to be found.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

9 – If I were still a Roman Catholic, I would most likely frequent the Fraternitys apostolate. I will be returning as a visitor.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes. The mystery and reverence were appreciated at the end of a stressful academic year.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The biretta on the celebrants head.

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