2019 annual trip to Gatchina: the first Tridentine Mass in 80 years

In 2019, the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus again set off on its traditional annual trip, for the 9th time in its existence. The destination of this trip was the largest settlement of the Leningrad region - the city of Gatchina. The first references to Gatchina’s predecessor, the village of Khotchino, date back to 1499 - 1500, and the status of City was assigned to it by Emperor Paul I in 1796.

Ежегодная поездка 2019: Святая Месса в полуразрушенном храме

For one hundred and thirty years, when the Russian emperors owned Gatchina, from the estate it turned into the most comfortable of the small towns of the Russian Empire. The Grand Palace was built and then rebuilt several times, a unique Priory Palace was built, a beautiful park ensemble was created, educational institutions and hospitals were opened, a railway was laid, and electric street lighting was built. The palace and park ensemble and the historic city centre are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The existing Gatchina Catholic Church was consecrated in 1911, although Catholics appeared in Gatchina much earlier: the first official mention of them was recorded in 1794. The last traditional Mass was served in Gatchina in the late 1930s.

(These and many other photos of Catholic churches in Russia are also on our website in the section "The Greatness of Pre-Reformed Catholicism")

Like the whole city, the Catholic church was seriously damaged during the Great Patriotic War: a German bomb fell into it and destroyed the building almost completely, after the war, a garage and a carpentry workshop were placed in ruins. However, the local Catholic community of Our Lady of Mount Carmel restored the apse of the church (where the altar is contained), and since 1997, services have been held there. The church is not fully restored.

Until 2017, when Fr. Arkady Grabovsky, arrived, Mass was held two to three times a week, now divine services are held daily.

Surrounded by residential five-storey buildings are the ruins of the church, from which the voices of teenagers who have climbed inside are heard, and in the fenced part of the temple, lights are on, they are preparing for the Holy Mass.

This time, the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus again organised the Tridentine Mass, and hosted lectures by Father Reto Nay from Switzerland, a famous priest, doctor of theology, philosopher, and founder of the Internet portal gloria.tv, who took part in the previous trip of the Society (Kazan, 2018), and since then had been longing for a new trip to Russia. He was accompanied by the head of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Gregor Huber, inspector of the schola in Moscow Anna Shumakova and translator Doina Buzut, who also sang in the schola.

Even on Friday, when very few people usually come to Mass, and sometimes there are no parishioners, there were three people, not counting the priest, the delegates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Society and the organist. On Saturday, since this is still a day off, there were more people. After the Mass, almost all of them stayed for a one and a half hour lecture by Gregor Huber, in which he spoke in more detail about the Tridentine Mass, its structure and symbolism, and also answered questions from parishioners. During the lecture, Gregor Huber often referred to the Ordo Missæ, a pamphlet with unchangeable parts of the Mass published by the Society. The parishioners had the same brochures: during every trip, these are given by the Society to those who come, in order to enable them to get acquainted with the Tradition of the Catholic Church. As often happens, they asked questions about the last Gospel and Holy Communion: why do we receive communion only on our knees in our mouth and only under one form. Answers to the most common questions can be found here. On Sunday, the church was filled with parishioners. On all three days the Masses were served by Petya, accompanied by the organ on which - for the first time at the Tridentine Mass - the organist of the Gatchina parish in Gatchina, Lyudmila Avdonina, played. Thanks to her experience, talent and diligence, Lyudmila Avdonina provided a brilliant organ accompaniment to the Mass.

Also during these three days Gregor Huber served at the Masses, and on Sunday Stanislav Tolstobokov acted as the second minister, serving as a censer, as a rule, every Sunday at the Masses in the Gatchina Parish. He, like Lyudmila, had no previous experience of participating in the Tridentine Mass, but he coped well with the duties of a censer at the traditional liturgy with virtually no prior training. Stanislav had seen the Tridentine Mass on one occasion while traveling around Italy, and was very glad that he had the opportunity to serve it in his native parish.

Since the purpose of the Society is not to show people something mysterious and incomprehensible, but rather to make something mysterious and distant a little clearer and closer, in his sermons Fr. Reto Nye told parishioners about the Mass, and debunked popular misconceptions, such as those that parishioners cannot participate in the Mass, because the priest is standing with his back to them, or that the readings are incomprehensible to the people, and that this, of course, is unfortunately the point of view of most modern Catholics, not only in Russia, that it is very bad and alienated from God, while in reality everything is exactly the opposite. Oratory, the subtle feeling of a wise preacher, as well as teaching experience played a role: according to the reaction of the parishioners, it can be said with confidence that now more people see in the Tridentine Mass a sincere and perfect expression of reverence for the Lord, offering a perfect Sacrifice, and not a ritual of ritualists. It should be noted that the sermons of Father Reto were a great success, because they were very accurately and qualitatively translated by Doina Buzut, who was greatly helped by good theological education received in Austria. Many parishioners sincerely thanked Fr. Reto, and the servers, and the choir for the opportunity to visit Tridentine.

After this triumum, parishioner Madeleine Kolkhidashvili noted in a conversation with Gregor Huber: “When I’m in Moscow next Sunday, I’ll definitely come to your Mass.” Of course, it was flattering to hear that.

As part of the trip, representatives of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also visited the largest German military cemetery in Russia, located near the village of Sologubovka, 80 km from Gatchina. According to various sources, up to 55,000 German soldiers who found peace in Russian soil are buried there, and the burial is still ongoing. Fr. Reto consecrated the cemetery and blessed the graves of the people buried there. Everyone prayed for the repose of their souls. On these November days when we commemorate the deceased, all the participants of the trip received complete indulgence, observing the three conditions: confession, visiting a cemetery and prayer in the intentions of the Holy Mother Church.

We are grateful to Alexander Shcherbak, who took several photos. The Society of the Sacred Heart Society of Jesus thanks Fr. Arkady Grabovsky for the opportunity to bring these Tridentine Masses to his parish. For the whole Gatchina parish, we wish God's blessing.

Gregor Huber Postscript:

On each trip, there are not only holy moments when many parishioners receive communion on their knees by mouth and you can really feel how people are filled with grace. There are difficulties. The devil never sleeps and did everything to hinder the fulfillment of our holy mission. Shortly before leaving at night, a cable caught fire in the kitchen; Despite the concentrated fees, at the last moment we remembered the camera (and still did not forget it in Moscow); On the morning of departure, the alarm did not work for 5 hours. With God's help, everything was decided.

After 9 years of work, we can say that our Society has a “vocation” to continue to serve God, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Traditional Mass, because we see that our activities are bearing fruit, and people are interested in this. And we, in turn, trying to serve the Traditions of the Catholic Church in Russia, all the time we learn to do it better and grow in faith ourselves.

Other travel stories for the Society can be found here.