Philippine Daily Inquirer
Marrying in ancient, sacred Catholic rites
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.
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.
“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.