He Didn’t Need To Learn How To Veil a Chalice

Reverend Leonard R. Klein is the pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s been hard at work restoring beauty there — both in the liturgy and in the church’s architecture.

Q. You are a convert, Father. We understand that you were once a Lutheran minister?

A. As I have told some of the people here at St. Patrick’s, my hope in entering the Catholic priesthood from the Lutheran ministry at the age of 60 was to be able to play a role in cleaning up the Novus Ordo wherever I might land — getting rid of the worst hymns, chanting more of the liturgy, enriching the ceremonial and the like.  At my first assignment as a part-time associate my capacity to do that was limited, but I was rather successful in ‘saying the black, doing the red’ and celebrating Mass with reverence.  I was certainly well received.

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My hope in entering the Catholic priesthood from the Lutheran ministry at the age of 60 was to be able to play a role in cleaning up the Novus Ordo wherever I might land — getting rid of the worst hymns, chanting more of the liturgy, enriching the ceremonial.

 Q. What has been your experience with the Latin Mass?

A. I was never particularly drawn to the EF, though I had no principled objections to it.  Indeed, I was supportive of the rights of those who sought it.  I once explained the high attendance at the Latin Mass here at St. Patrick’s to a diocesan official by pointing out that there was not a single Novus Ordo solemn Mass on the entire territory of the diocese.  

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I once explained the high attendance at the Latin Mass here at St. Patrick’s to a diocesan official by pointing out that there was not a single Novus Ordo solemn Mass on the entire territory of the diocese.

Q. What has been your experience of Latin?

A. I have long loved the Latin language, which plays an important role in Lutheran tradition and theology.  I grew up with a hymnal that had the Latin names for the Sundays of Lent clearly printed.  I also have a deep love for serious church music and considerable choral experience and have sung the occasional solo. 

I also was from the “high church” movement in Lutheranism and so much of the ceremonial and even the rationale of the older form of the Mass were familiar and comfortable to me.  I did not need to learn how to veil a chalice. 

So I like to joke that my Lutheran background prepared me well for the Latin Mass, and I have developed a deep affection for celebrating it.

asperges me mons. rebman st. mary

So I like to joke that my Lutheran background prepared me well for the Latin Mass, and I have developed a deep affection for celebrating it.

Q. How did you train for the TLM?

A.  I had the advantage of a strong Latin background; I can read the rubrics without much difficulty.  The previous pastor, knowing something of my background, had provided me with an instructional DVD.  I have availed myself of materials from St. John Cantius in Chicago and keep Fr. Schmitz’ “Mastering the Rubrics of the 1962 Missal” on my desk. 

Because of my liturgical and Latin background I was able to celebrate my first Low Mass about six weeks after arriving in the parish.  The assistance of Steve Girone and Fr. Michael Darcy was invaluable, as has been the occasional tip from a parishioner.

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I have availed myself of materials from St. John Cantius in Chicago and keep Fr. Schmitz’ “Mastering the Rubrics of the 1962 Missal” on my desk. 

Q. We understand that you have undertaken quite a renovation scheme at St. Patrick’s?

A. Yes, early on my arrival I organized a building committee, and we came up with a plan.  We chipped away at a few things.  We shortened the old wrought iron pulpit, which was too high for the small building.  The bathrooms, which were in horrible condition, were repaired.  A year or so ago we replaced the ugly plywood doors to the sacristy. 

My predecessor had begun the repainting of statues; I moved on to St. Joseph, but we needed to replace that statue, which we did.  I replaced the over-sized free-standing altar with something more suitable to the building. We painted the front walls a classy yellow and people were thrilled with the improvement. 

After receiving the enthusiastic support of the Parish Council and permission from the diocese, we then really  moved ahead.  The ceiling was replaced with something more attractive; a wood laminate floor was installed; the pews were reoriented to face forwards and the old platform demolished.  An altar rail will be installed tomorrow.  The whole interior is repainted; the remaining two statues are being painted by a skilled young artist who has also gilded the marble arches on the face of the altars, and the sound system is being updated.  Repairs are also being made to the organ.  The project will take about a quarter of the parish’s reserves but our portion of the Capital Appeal will restore a decent percentage of that.  My goal is to restore the beauty of St. Patrick’s and to ready it for future service to the diocese.

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My goal is to restore the beauty of St. Patrick’s and to ready it for future service to the diocese.

Q. Tell us about your parish and your homeschooling community.

A. St. Patrick’s counts about 170 households over all.  Perhaps a quarter of those are regular Latin Mass families.  There are also a number of regular worshipers who are not registered in the parish. Our homeschoolers are deeply concerned about Catholic identity and integrity and they find that in the EF Mass.  Because they are concerned with classical education, they value the use of the Latin language.  Some are musically sophisticated and find the situation in too many local parishes unsustainable.  The EF Mass also helps them sustain their community.

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Homeschoolers are deeply concerned about Catholic identity and integrity.

Q. We understand that that the local Regina Coeli Society has kept the Latin Mass alive in Delaware.

A. Like many such groups, the Society formed in reaction to the clumsy introduction of the Novus Ordo and the devastation of sanctity and sacred music that came with it.  One of our widows says that they began attending years ago when her husband turned to her and said he was tired of the ‘comedy hour.’  Such attitudes could, I suppose, be called reactionary. 

But people were reacting in fact to things that are indefensible.  I remember well as a Lutheran shaking my head with fellow clergy about what the Catholics were doing to themselves, even as we were following a comparable but more prudent path of liturgical renewal. 

The liturgy at my Lutheran parish in York, PA, would serve well as a good example of reverent and serious Novus Ordo Mass.  The Regina Coeli Society have hung in there and given each other wonderful support.  I should also add that their presence has been essential to maintaining this church and its downtown mission over the last eighteen years that they have been here.

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People were reacting  to things that are indefensible.  I remember well as a Lutheran shaking my head with fellow clergy about what the Catholics were doing to themselves.

PHOTO CREDITS: Allison Girone


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