Dominus vobiscum and the Latin Mass are making a comeback.
The traditional Mass in the ancient language that once mesmerized Catholics and mystified non-Catholics may be easier to find on a Sunday morning under a ruling expected soon from Pope Benedict XVI.
The pope's "indult" would allow the Tridentine Mass, as the Latin Mass is called, to be celebrated without special permission.
Now, a bishop must approve use of the Latin Mass in public, although priests always could do it privately.
Only the shrinking population of Catholics over age 50 can recall the hallmarks of the Tridentine Mass, celebrated almost entirely in Latin by the priest and worshipers, including seven Dominus vobiscums (The Lord be with you) and seven answering Et cum spiritu tuos (And with your spirit).
The priest faces the altar, his back to the congregation, which spends most of the service on its knees. Worshipers also kneel to take communion on their tongues from the priest or a deacon. No lay Eucharistic ministers or lay readers are allowed. The Mass includes long periods of silence as the priest prays almost silently in Latin.
But it's the Gregorian chant and the singing of the Kyrie, the Credo and the Agnus Dei that attracted Catholics to St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Jensen Beach last Sunday for the only Latin Mass in the Diocese of Palm Beach, which includes Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee and Palm Beach counties.
"You get the sense of being holy and spiritual," said Jon Bell, director of the seven-voice choir, who drives from Fort Pierce for the Mass. "The language lends that feeling."
About 60 worshipers attended the 3 p.m. Mass, but later in the season the Mass draws 150, said the Rev. Thomas Rynne, pastor emeritus of St. Martin. He began saying the Tridentine Mass in 1993, a year after some parishioners approached him and wrote then-Bishop Keith Symons for permission.
"They like the solemnity and the depth of some of these prayers in Latin that is irreplaceable," Rynne said.
"It's a link among Catholics all over the world," said Lisa Buscher, 44, who attends with her husband and two school-age daughters. "You have the same Latin Mass everywhere in the world. It's the language of the church."
Most of those in the St. Martin pews were older, and many of the women wore head coverings, a requirement before the Second Vatican Council in 1962. The council led to revamping the Mass and revising its liturgy, requiring it to be said in the vernacular, the language of the people where it was being celebrated.
"I like knowing that Catholics have used these same words for hundreds of years," said Brian Garland, 26, of Jupiter. He and his fiancée, Ramona Copceac, 25, of Delray Beach like what they said was the more intensely spiritual feeling the Latin brings.
The Latin Mass has been approved by more than two-thirds of American bishops, and at least 220 Latin Masses are celebrated each Sunday nationwide, according to the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei, a Catholic group that prefers the traditional Mass.
But there has been no groundswell of requests for the Latin Mass, say Rynne and other clergy in the diocese.
"I haven't heard of anyone asking for it," said the Rev. Michael Driscoll, pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church in Boca Raton and director of liturgy for the diocese. "I think to some people it's nostalgic. But some want to go back to the past. They're beating their heads against the wall" since the church is unlikely to abandon the vernacular Mass.
The current Pauline Mass, established in 1969 and named for Pope Paul VI, was designed to be better understood by worshipers and to encourage participation.
The Latin Mass, with its silence and ancient tongue, led people to say the rosary or other prayers during the service, instead of the prescribed prayers.
"They prayed in spite of the Mass, not with the Mass," Driscoll said.
The new Mass and other Vatican reforms also led some to break away from the church, including the late ultraconservative French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated in 1988 after consecrating four bishops without Vatican consent.
His Society of St. Pius X continues to use the Tridentine Mass.
Papal observers say the loosening of restrictions on saying the Latin Mass is an attempt by Benedict to show goodwill toward the traditionalists.
A traveling St. Pius society priest says a Latin Mass at 11:30 a.m. Sundays at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel in Lake Worth for a small congregation.
While some are nostalgic for the Mass of their youth, "others are caught up in the mysteriousness of the Latin Mass, the language they don't quite understand," said the Rev. Thomas Skindeleski, pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach and the diocese's director of spiritual life. "They aren't distracted by guitars or drums or the handshake of peace."
The church is encouraging more use of Latin hymns and Gregorian chant in the Pauline Mass, he said, to maintain a connection with the church's universal tongue.
"People come to me and say they want the Latin Mass, and I ask them if they understand it. They say yes, and I say, 'Since you understand it so well, I'll give the sermon in Latin,''" Skindeleski said with a laugh.
Even after the pope eases restrictions on the Latin Mass, it's unlikely Catholic churches will need to install the old-style communion rails or to require 10-year-old altar boys to begin memorizing Latin responses.
Besides that: "An awful lot of priests have never said the Latin Mass," Rynne said. "It would be new territory for them."