Latin High Mass returns to Mission Santa Clara Church for an evening

Sung Mass celebrated on mostly-unused main altar at historic church on Santa Clara University campus

High Mass in Latin at Mission Santa Clara

California Catholic Daily exclusive by Roseanne T. Sullivan:

Forty-nine years ago, on the first Sunday of Advent of 1969, the new Mass was introduced to Roman Catholics, and the traditional Latin Mass was virtually banned. Although Pope Benedict XVI freed up its use in 2007 and it has since been celebrated more widely under the name “extraordinary form,” it is still rare to find such Masses celebrated at most Catholic colleges and universities.

Who could then imagine a day would come when an extraordinary form High Mass would be celebrated again at Mission Santa Clara on the Santa Clara University campus? On November 21, 2018, that day did come.

On the evening before Thanksgiving, Canon Raphael Ueda, chaplain of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory in San José, celebrated a Missa Cantata, a sung High Mass, at the Mission Church’s otherwise mostly-unused main altar.

Restored Mission Church on campus of Santa Clara University

The Mass came about because, for the past 10 years, a group of lay people has organized an annual commemoration as close as possible to the death anniversary of Father Magin Catalá. Father Catalá is the wonder-working missionary who served at the Mission Santa Clara for 36 years; he died on November 22, 1830.  (You may remember the article about last year’s Mass, “The Holy Man of Santa Clara,” published by California Catholic Daily.

The Mission Santa Clara Church now serves as the Santa Clara University Chapel. Five years ago, the Jesuits who run the university granted permission for one traditional Latin Mass a year. For the last four years, the group arranged a Low Mass, and then finally this year was able to arrange for the first High Mass.

Usually, masses in the chapel are celebrated in the round, with chairs with kneelers arranged around a simple altar in the middle of the nave, and the homily is given at a podium with a microphone. Those who set up the High Mass on November 21 needed to redirect the chairs to face the high altar and the liturgical east, and they needed also to bring in candles and altar cloths and Mass cards.

Canon Ueda preached from the usually unused pulpit.

Two choirs — from Thomas More School and from Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory — joined to sing the Proper chants for the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady. Especially fitting for the occasion, the combined choir also sang polyphonic (multi-voice) settings for the Ordinary (unchanging parts) of the Mass which are from a collection of actual music that was taught to the converted native Americans by the Franciscans. The music for the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus, which the choir sang November 21, may well have been sung at the Mission Santa Clara back when Father Catalá was alive.

The Catalá altar (altar of the crucifix) at Mission Santa Clara

Afterwards, attendees moved to a side altar called the Catalá altar, which is also called the altar of the crucifix, where they prayed for Father Catalá’s canonization using a prayer that has been approved by all the bishops — from Archbishop Sadoc Alemany when the Mission was part of the San Francisco Archdiocese, down to the present Bishop Patrick McGrath of the Diocese of San José, which was divided from the San Francisco Archdiocese and was formed from Santa Clara county.

Father Catalá was known for praying many hours at that very same crucifix, sometimes all night long. Witnesses at the hearings for his canonization (the cause for which has stalled since 1909) reported seeing Fr. Catalá levitating in front of that crucifix and that the figure of Christ detached His arms from the cross and embraced the holy friar.

After a fire burned down the church in 1926, Father Catalá’s remains were saved from the ashes and so was the crucifix. Father Catalá’s remains were re-buried in the reconstructed church, at the Gospel side of the rebuilt side altar where the crucifix now hangs. A marble grave slab, which used to have gold filling in the letters carved in it and was on the floor in the previous church, is on the wall to the left of the altar.   

It’s easy to imagine that Father Catalá rejoiced along with the rest of those who were there on that night when, through the efforts of a persistent few of his devotees, the reverence and sacred music of the traditional sung Latin High Mass returned for one evening to the beautiful Mission Santa Clara Church.


  1. Marie Gauley says

    What a beautiful story! I was filled with mixed emotions! Joy that our Traditional Catholic culture and customs have been kept alive! And sad that it is reserved to once a year! May Our Precious Lord have mercy upon us!

  2. To think that the Italian Bishops want this banned, they are traitors to Christ

  3. Wonder why this wasn’t publicized by the Diocese of San Jose?

  4. Kudos to Fr. Ueda and everyone who helped. It’s a real delight to see Mission Santa Clara used this way.

  5. Robert Lockwood says

    Rather unbelievable the Jesuits removed all the pews turning the worship of our Savior into some sort of meeting hall for fun and games

    • Joe in San Jose says

      Oh, you don’t know the half of it… I’ve been there for Mass when the Jesuits arranged the chairs with a portable “altar” in the middle of the nave, completely ignoring the church’s architecture and sanctuary. I think that’s the normal weekend arrangement. The chairs are rearranged to face forward for weddings, which use the proper sanctuary. For regular Masses for students and others the seating is reorganized in the round.

    • Kathy Fleming says

      The change from pews to chairs happened while we were in college there — we missed the pews at first, but the chairs lend themselves to rearrangement for larger crowds, smaller groups, multiple aisles for Holy Communion, etc. They are rustic-looking, comfortable to sit in, have integrated kneelers. In short, the Mission Church is a beautiful example of its type, a sacred space available to all, at any time. For us, a beautiful setting for our Nuptial Mass.

      • West coast says

        Kathy, I went to SCU and got married there too. The Church originally had pews, as you admit. But why were they removed? To accommodate every Mass distortion possible, including the notorious devil-masks on the altar in the round Mass in the late-70s. The Jesuits will do any Mass except the TLM. That’s why this is news. SCU now reflects the feminist-homosexualist-Marxist ideology of the Jesuits who have paid a quarter billion in homosexual abuse settlements. SCU is now proud of its vagina monologues heritage including drag shows, gay proms and lavender graduations, all following the dropping of football in 1993.

  6. Attend the Mass, but do attend that University!

  7. Furniture does not set the tone of a worship space.
    Does not look like too big a crowd of worshipers.

    • West coast says

      Unfortunately it does set the tone, and that’s the problem at Santa Clara (and innumerable other places). At SCU, it sets a tone of kick-back, relax and spectate at a Mass in the round, Freemasonry-style. I have actually attended a Mass there where a Jesuit was seated (slumped) in the chair next to me, in a sport shirt, tassel loafers, no socks, with his legs crossed, who didn’t bother to move an inch during the Consecration, kneelers in the chairs or otherwise. It’s a tragic commentary that some people think comfortable chairs are a badge of honor for a church, but heck, they probably were educated at SCU, so it’s tough to fault them.

  8. St. Christopher says

    It is problematic, at the very least, that this post celebrates a single annual TLM, when a regularly scheduled weekly TLM would show at least some commitment to religious liturgical “diversity.”

    • St. Christopher says

      {To Censors} Please note that my post was edited. Yet, it was not, in any way, uncivil, and did not contain anything that was “offensive or libelous language.” What it did suggest, however, and I repeat it again, is that the Jesuits are content to reject Church Tradition in the liturgy. The “once a year” grant of a TLM is insulting to Catholics and is intended to display ecclesial power over the laity. Nothing to celebrate here.

  9. FogBeltBoy says

    Although acknowledging the abuses at modern Jesuit Masses (I attended SI and remember whole-wheat crouton “hosts”), I recall reading that pews were a Protestant innovation, along with the board announcing numbered hymns, and the Advent wreath. I think most Catholics welcome these contributions, while they certainly do not outweigh the cataclysmic “Deformation” of 1517 onward. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in days long gone by, able-bodied Catholics stood and kneeled at Mass on stone floors which often had Biblical stories represented in tile. At any rate, a combined nave and sanctuary in a roundabout like a Rogerian therapy session is sincerely off-putting.

  10. Yes, and where did cushy chairs come from? Oh, that’s right, the “spirit” of V2.

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