RIPON – It’s 6:30 on a Sunday morning. Inside St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on East Highway 120 at the corner of Carrolton Road are grandparents and young parents with their young children, a few of them infants in baby carriers. They nearly fill up the old section of the church.
Despite the number of young children present, the atmosphere inside the relatively small church is dominated by silence filled with reverence. It is so quiet that when the bells ring, the sound resonates all over. There is no music from a cantor, choir, or organist either.
At the altar, church pastor Father Peter Carota is flanked by two altar servers. One of them is Alvaro Hernandez, 28, a graduate of University of California at Santa Cruz and a 1999 Ripon High School alumnus. The pastor’s vestments and the robes worn by the altar servers are more elaborate than the ones usually seen at a regular liturgy service. And instead of the presider facing the congregation, he and the altar servers face the altar.
Welcome to the Traditional Mass or Latin Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church which serves the communities of Ripon, Farmington and Escalon but is referred to as the Ripon Catholic parish.
The Mass in Latin, which Father Carota started offering five years ago, is held every Sunday at 6:30 a.m. While many of those who attend the Mass are parishioners, quite a number of people are from other parishes. Jason Poteet, his wife Linda and their four very young children, drive to St. Patrick’s from their church in Lodi to attend the Latin Mass on Sundays. Others come from the Manteca and Lathrop area.
All parts of the Mass, with the exception of the homily, are all in Latin – the scripture readings, the prayers during the service, and the communion service. During communion, members of the faithful line up and kneel on the communion rail just like in the old days before Vatican II. The faithful attending the service – at least, the majority of them including some of the young children – also come to church wearing veils on their heads as was the practice also during the pre-Vatican II era of the early 1960s.
Father Carota gives his homilies both in English and Spanish.
Hernandez, who works for the Youth Ministry at St. Patrick’s, says he likes “the solemnity” of the Latin Mass. He also treasures the silence during worship which, he says, “is the highest form of prayer.”
Among the few parishioners who remember going to Sunday Mass before the Second Vatican Council were Jose de los Angeles and his wife Maria. The two have been married for 48 years. They were among the many parishioners who attended the recent Feast of the Corpus Christi procession in downtown Ripon, another pre-Vatican II tradition that Father Carota has started at St. Patrick’s in recent years. But while the De los Angeles couple like this traditional procession celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Jose de los Angeles said he has “had enough of the Latin Mass,” but, he quickly added, “I like Father Carota.”
St. Patrick’s is not the only church in the Diocese of Stockton that offers the Traditional Mass or Latin Mass. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Oakdale Road in Modesto has two Latin Mass services scheduled during the week: Fridays at noon and at 9 a.m. on Sundays with the church pastor, Father Joseph Illo who previously served at St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca, and Father Benny Kottarathil presiding.