Today I had the pleasure of attending the celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin at one of the few FSSP churches in the Netherlands. The St. Agnes in Amsterdam is a monumental building where priests of the Fraternity of Saint Peter offer Mass according to the Missal of 1962, the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite. Today, they hosted a special guest: the Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands, Archbishop François Bacqué. This was the first time in many years that a bishop presided over a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and I can’t help but wonder if some gentle nudging from Rome didn’t play a part in that. After all, Pope Benedict XVI is keen to promote the celebration of the Eucharist in this form, and the visible support of local bishops is important to achieve that. To have the Vatican ambassador presiding at this occasion could be considered a further step along that way. I can help but wonder (although sources at the St. Agnes reveal that it is just idle thought. It seems the nuncio himself expressed the desire to preside).
The celebration itself was striking in its solemnity and beauty. The organic progress from the official welcome of the Nuncio, via Mass, a procession around the roundabout in front of the church, to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, struck me specifically. The basic structure of Mass is the same in all its forms, but today it visibly amounted to a whole.
The procession I mentioned was something special. All processions are of course, but this small tour around a rather busy roundabout in Amsterdam (of all cities) stands out for me. First were two men bearing a statue of our lady accompanied by acolytes, then followed some 200 faithful and the clergy with the nuncio closed the procession. The pealing of the bells of the church did drown out our prayer and song, but I’d like to think we gave a powerful little witness of the faith in Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin who leads our way to Him.
A few photos of the preparation for today’s celebration are available here. More photos may appear in the coming days.
EDIT: A few more photos are available here.