It’s a Friday night on a college campus. Students walk out of their dorms in the dead of winter, their breath billowing out in puffs of steam, greeting friends with nods and handshakes, hopping into cars and convoying over 30 minutes to a nearby city.
It’s a typical scene on many college campuses across the country, but these aren’t your typical college students. These are members of the Latin Mass Society at Belmont Abbey College, preparing to attend the candle-lit Solemn High Mass at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Charlotte.
“It shows the power of God,” Belmont Abbey College student Anthony Perlas told The Cardinal Newman Society. ”Twenty-three people on a Friday night going to Latin Mass. Wow. It’s amazing.”
This is something students from the burgeoning society do once a month. In fact, their weekly on-campus meetings often have about 80 students in attendance.
You wouldn’t guess it, but not so long ago, the Latin Mass Society at Belmont Abbey College seemed to be in danger of disappearing. Now it’s growing rapidly, mainly because of new media. “There’s certainly enough bad stuff on the internet,” said Perlas. “Maybe it’s time for some good stuff on the internet.”
That’s right. The old Latin Mass is being embraced by college students and celebrated in the new media. “Ironically, a lot of the older generation are against the Latin Mass,” said Perlas. “But a lot of college students are very interested. It’s something new to them.”
Joanna Ruedisueli, a sophomore at Belmont Abbey College and a member of the LMS, said the group’s embrace of new media “plays a vital and colorful part” in presenting the LMS on campus. She said that in addition to short, easy-to-watch informational videos about the Mass, they also make use of Facebook events pages, posters around campus, and an email newsletter to spread news. She said their methods have proven effective. But she added that in the end it’s all about the people. “Because of the close-knit community of the small campus of Belmont Abbey, word gets around fast,” she said. “If someone had a neat experience attending a Latin mass, they will tell their friends who will, perhaps, join them at the next LMS event.”
But it was only this past September when the group which had only five members seemed on the verge of extinction. Perlas told The Cardinal Newman Society that he had joined the tiny group as a recent revert who was interested in the Latin Mass only after he wondered why a priest he knew was facing away from the parishioners. “But nobody wanted to take the presidency of [the group] this year,” Perlas told The Cardinal Newman Society. “I didn’t want to let this club die out.”
So he had a decision to make. He knew that his senior year would be a busy one. His father even advised him against taking on added obligations. There was every reason in the world not to do it. But there was one reason to accept it. “I felt called to do it,” he said.
“There’s nothing like the Latin Mass,” Perlas said. “I wish I could have it every Sunday.
So Perlas accepted the leadership position. And Perlas doesn’t do things halfway. Or the old way. He almost immediately began creating ads for the society like this one for the group’s website and Facebook account:
Ruedisueli said that during her first year with the group they attended a few Latin Masses but this year the group has become far more active. ”After a Latin Mass we like to go out to dinner with a guest speaker who shares insights and traditions of the Latin Mass, the new Mass forms, and the increase in the Latin Mass’s popularity,” she said. “We also pray a Latin Rosary every week as a group.”
The society also ran the religious freedom rally on campus and often prays the Rosary at abortion clinics. Perlas along with a number of other students also created instructional videos with fellow students explaining the Mass and extolling its beauty. They can be viewed here.
Ruedisueli joined the LMS as a freshman. She told The Cardinal Newman Society that she’d attended her first Latin Mass in high school and was curious to learn more. ”I was so intrigued that the Mass used to look and sound so differently than it does today,” she said. “Of course I wanted to join a group of young adults my age who had the same curiosity, or knowledge to share, about the history of the Catholic faith.”
Ruedisueli predicts that students will continue to be interested in the Latin Mass. “Besides and beyond social media, at Belmont Abbey and friends I know at other schools, young adults, I think, are finding in themselves a curiosity towards their faith and its past,” she said. “By exploring how the Mass evolved from the traditional Latin Mass to the New Order of today the faith becomes more their own.”
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