By Dr. Barbara Wyman
Although located at sea level, Lake Charles, on June 29, was the City upon a Hill.
If a passerby, anxious to escape the Louisiana heat for a moment, had slipped into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, he would have immediately known that something Extraordinary was occurring. What he would have seen is truly the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. On this particular day, the occasion was the Solemn Pontifical Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, D.D., M.A. (the 13th since his consecration as Bishop, and the sixth at his own cathedra). The passerby could, with one glance, identify that His Excellency was the celebrant, for he was vested in all his pontificalia, that is, the vestments and ornaments proper to the bishop. But this visitor would also understand by taking in the scene in front of him that not only was the Bishop attired in special garments but so too were the many clergy and seminarians, vested for the occasion. The sheer number of altar boys and the presence of the Pontifical Knights and Dames and the Knights of Columbus, with appropriate regalia, would perhaps surprise the visitor — he might wonder, is this 2017?
Indeed, his initial confusion at the scene in front of him points to that beauty, “ever ancient ever new” that St. Augustine so movingly wrote about.
One of the hallmarks of the Usus Antiquior, now called The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite — is the continuity it gives us to those saints who have gone before. It is quite moving to imagine that had St. Augustine himself, along with St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Francis De Sales, Blessed John Henry Newman, St. Josemaria Escriva, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Padre Pio, alongside St. Therese of Liseux … all these saints, from throughout time, if they were to suddenly slip in the side door, they would feel right at home, and their voices would blend with the schola, chanting the Mass, for these saints would know the ancient Latin words. And there was much cause for rejoicing this particular night! Not only is this the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, but also the 10th anniversary of His Excellency’s consecration and installation as third Bishop of Lake Charles, and the 42nd anniversary of his ordination to the sacred priesthood. His Excellency, not long after his installation, again allowed the Usus Antiquior to be celebrated in this diocese. It is all together fitting that at this particular Mass, newly ordained Samuel Orsot was the Deacon of the Mass; Deacon Orsot had grown up in the Tridentine Mass (as it was known at the time) celebrated for many years in this diocese under the Indult of St. John Paul II. We must be ever thankful to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for this Motu Proprio. Cardinal Sarah, writing on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, recalls the words of the great German liturgist Msgr. Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) who: “used the word Heimat to designate this common home or ‘little homeland’ of Catholics gathered around the altar of the Holy Sacrifice. The sense of the sacred that imbues and irrigates the rites of the Church is the inseparable correlative of the liturgy.” And so, our imaginary passerby, who stumbled out of the heat and out of time, along with all present on that night, were given a glimpse of the heavenly city.