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Church preserves the words

Queen of Angels Catholic Church continues tradition of celebrating Mass in the language of Latin

Posted: November 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Father Dominic Radecki sits in Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newhall on Thursday. Father Dominic Radecki sits in Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newhall on Thursday.
Father Dominic Radecki sits in Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newhall on Thursday.

Nestled in the heart of Newhall, a small, white building upholds a sacred designation. It is Queen of Angels Catholic Church, the oldest church constructed in Santa Clarita. This is where Father Dominic Radecki maintains a lifelong commitment to the tradition and practice of a full Latin Mass.

Queen of Angels is the only Catholic church in the Santa Clarita Valley that upholds the tradition of conducting a Mass entirely in Latin. As a result, many attendees travel far to take part, some from Orange, Ventura and Kern counties.


Language of the people

The practice of conducting a full Latin Mass is more than 2,000 years old. While many think the only difference between the new mass and the traditional Latin mass is the language, that is not where the differences end.

Radecki explained that the Latin Mass holds to a tradition of reverence to God in behavior and dress attire. The differences include receiving communion from the priest and not in the hand, and the practice of genuflection — kneeling and believing in Christ’s true presence instead of a symbolic approach.

“This is something very sacred,” he said. “It was a sacred trust from Christ since the Last Supper.”

Latin Mass has been held since the end of the second century. The idea was to hold the Mass in the language of the people. At the time, the official language of the Roman Empire was Latin.

“We believe this religion was revealed by God,” Radecki said. “That’s why so many people travel very far for this; they have found something truly special.”


Early commitments

As a child, Radecki grew up serving in the Roman Catholic Church. He attended traditional Latin Mass as an altar boy.

He recalls how a person could use a prayer book throughout his or her life, passing it down through generations. The Latin Mass has since been changed by the passing of Vatican II in the late ’60s. The prayer book has changed many times over the years.

Many Catholic churches have adopted the changes. Few churches uphold the traditional Latin Mass, he said.

Radecki grew up with the tradition alongside his twin brother. He was inspired to be a priest by a desire to help people spiritually and to carry on that tradition.

The two joined a seminary in Spokane, Wash., that taught its students the traditional Latin Mass and were ordained in 1973. They both serve parishes that conduct traditional Latin masses.


Preserving tradition

Radecki rejects the changes Vatican II brought to the Catholic church, involving practices such as the dress code and teachings, based on doctrinal reasons.

“We’re not old-fashioned,” he said. “We change with technology, but the worship of God shouldn’t be ‘improved’ on. We should leave it as God left it.”

He feels the two teachings are incompatible. Many called the changes a translation. Instead, it became what he calls “a complete rewrite,” changing the reverence of the traditional Mass into a casual service.

Radecki says his parishioners have no problems attending Mass in Latin. The prayer books offer side-by-side translations in many other languages. Yet, many come to learn the prayers in Latin.

“People tell me they feel like they are home again after coming here,” Radecki said. “We go to church because of our relationship with God. We find that relationship fulfilled with the traditional Latin Mass. It offers us peace, stability and prayer.”


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