Mar­ry­ing in an­cient, sa­cred Catholic rites

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON - By Maricar Cinco San Pe­dro, La­guna

THE BRIDE, wear­ing the tra­di­tional baro’t saya and a long veil topped with a tiara of sam­pa­guita flow­ers, ar­rived in a horse-drawn car­riage at the San Pe­dro Apos­tol Par­ish Church in San Pe­dro town in La­guna.

The groom, who sported a black suit that matched his bowler hat and cane, waited for her at the church’s doorstep.

With­out the usual wed­ding fri­vol­i­ties, they ex­changed vows—in Span­ish—in the Mozara­bic Rite of Toledo held on their 14th an­niver­sary as a cou­ple.

The an­cient Catholic wed­ding lasted for an hour and only then were the new­ly­weds al­lowed to en­ter the church.

No pompous en­tourage or large crowd of well-wish­ers greeted the cou­ple as they walked down the aisle, side by side with the priest for the Tri­den­tine Mass, which lasted for an­other hour.

The Tri­den­tine Mass, also known as the ex­tra­or­di­nary form of the Ro­man rite, is the tra­di­tional Latin Mass held in a few Ro­man Catholic churches in the Philip­pines. At least in the south­ern Lu­zon re­gion, “the last time it was held here was in 1956,” ac­cord­ing to the groom, Jose Mario “Pepe” Alas, who claims him­self to be a tra­di­tion­al­ist Catholic.


It was no sur­prise for some­one like Alas, a 34-year-old na­tive of Lucena City in Que­zon, to marry in the tra­di­tional rites.

For years, he has been study­ing Philip­pine his­tory and ac­quainted him­self with the Span­ish cul­ture and lan­guage. He was com­mis­sioned to write a cof­fee-ta­ble book about La­guna and the bi­og­ra­phy of this town’s al­caldesa (fe­male mayor), Lour­des “Baby” Cataquiz, who with her hus­band and for­mer mayor Cal­ixto, stood as the cou­ple’s padrino and mad­rina (wed­ding sponsors).

Lit­tle did Alas know that his fas­ci­na­tion with his­tory would trans­form his be­liefs. “We are a Catholic cre­ation and whether we like it or not, we are not who we are now with­out the Span­ish fri­ars,” said a con­fessed for­mer athe­ist.

His “trans­for­ma­tion” to the Catholic faith hap­pened in 2003 when his wife, Jen­nifer,

‘This is her­itage that we should pre­serve’

37, was preg­nant with their sec­ond child. Young and job­less at that time, the cou­ple had wanted an abor­tion.

“We were al­ready de­cided, but that night, I thought: if God was real as they say, he’d give me a sign and stop us,” Alas re­called. “In the mid­dle of our sleep, my wife sud­denly woke me up. She was cry­ing, telling me she changed her mind. She wanted to keep the baby even if we had to beg for alms,” he said.


Alas’ faith deep­ened as his in­ter­est in Church his­tory broad­ened. He stud­ied the old church prac­tices that were long ban­ished by the Sec­ond Vat­i­can Coun­cil.

“Many priests be­lieve it’s bawal ( taboo), I don’t know why, but it was al­ready Pope ( now Pope Emir­i­tus) Bene­dict XVI him­self who said it was not when he is­sued the Sum­mo­rum Pon­ti­f­u­cum ( SP),” said priest Mitchell Joe Zer­rudo, who of­fi­ci­ated the wed­ding.

Zer­rudo, 45, was re­fer­ring to the 2007 con­tro­ver­sial apos­tolic let­ter that al­lowed the restora­tion of the pre-Vat­i­can II rites, in­clud­ing the Tri­den­tine.

He said the wed­ding of the Alas cou­ple was timely as it was held a day be­fore the Church cel­e­brated the an­niver­sary of the SP’s en­force­ment on Sept. 14.

“He (Bene­dict) re­ally wanted the new rite to be en­riched by the old rite,” Zer­rudo said.

As for Bene­dict’s suc­ces­sor, Pope Fran­cis, “( he is) re­spect­ful and said he would not touch the de­cree of Bene­dict al­though their tastes are dif­fer­ent,” Zer­rudo said.

Her­itage, faith

Zer­rudo, a dioce­san priest at the Holy Fam­ily Par­ish in Que­zon City, is one of the four priests who reg­u­larly of­fi­ci­ate the Tri­den­tine Mass in MetroManil­a, and the very few in the Visayas and Min­danao.

He may be the only Filipino priest at present who sol­em­nizes a Toledo wed­ding.

Since 2007, Zer­rudo noted “a steady in­crease” in the num­ber of peo­ple, even the younger gen­er­a­tions, at­tend­ing the Latin Mass, pop­u­larly known for the priest fac­ing the al­tar.

‘Ordo Mis­sae’

“Its dif­fer­ence (from the novus Ordo Mis­sae or the new Or­der of Mass) is ba­si­cally the lan­guage and the di­rec­tion the priest faces. But the parts of the Mass are the same,” he said.

In his par­ish, the Gospel dur­ing the Tri­den­tine is read both in Latin and in English for peo­ple to un­der­stand, Zer­rudo said.

He said he did not mind be­ing branded by other priests as “old-fash­ioned.”

“This is her­itage that we should pre­serve. What’s sa­cred be­fore re­mains sa­cred now,” he said.

But it should not only be about the “nos­tal­gia” that the Tri­den­tine brings but its “solem­nity, de­vo­tion and si­lence,” Zer­rudo pointed out.

“Ad­mit­tedly, it seemed we’ve lost that sa­cred­ness. (The Mass) is about wor­ship­ping God and that’s what we some­times tend to for­get,” he said.


COU­PLE Pepe and Jen­nifer Alas tied the knot in a rare, an­cient Rite of Toledo, fol­lowed by a Tri­den­tineMass.

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