By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
SUGAR CREEK — If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of St. Cyril Parish?
Not too many parishioners took that advice July 7 as they packed their church to overflowing to celebrate the traditional Feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, followed by an outdoor barbecue with live music and dancing in heat that well surpassed the 100-degree mark.
And in bit of an ironic twist, the parish celebrated the feast of the two brother saints with Solemn High Mass in the “extraordinary form” in Latin — exactly five years to the day that Pope Benedict XVI used his apostolic letter allowing more widespread use of the pre-Vatican II liturgy.
It was ironic, explained the parish pastor, Father Matthew Bartulica, because the two ninth century brother-saints received special permission from Pope Adrian II to translate and celebrate Mass in Slavonic, the vernacular language of the Eastern European people whom they were sent to evangelize.
“That was the only exception (to Mass celebrated in Latin) until the Second Vatican Council,” Father Bartulica said.
But Father Bartulica also said that the Mass celebrated by the church for hundreds of years was the Mass also most witnessed and celebrated by most of the saints, even Ss. Cyril and Methodius.
He also said that Ss. Cyril and Methodius in their mission to convert Slavic people, had a task before them that mirrors the task before Catholics today in many ways.
“The people they were sent to evangelize were completely ignorant of Christianity,” he said.
“The world we witness today is much the same — ignorant of the Christian message,” Father Bartulica said. “Is it one of doom and gloom? No. It is one of great hope and great joy. How much do we truly desire to be one with Jesus Christ?”
Father Bartulica noted that some younger parishioners who had never been to Mass celebrated in Latin, and even those who had but not for decades, might find the Mass at first to be confusing and difficult to follow.
That could be like life itself, he said.
“Maybe coming to this Latin Mass, we are admitting that we don’t have it all figured out. We don’t know what is on the other side waiting for us,” he said.
“We can only ask Christ for his forgiveness, and that he bestows his grace upon us,” he said.
Catholics can find models in Ss. Cyril and Methodius, and in all the martyrs — including one close to Father Bartulica’s heart.
The day before the July 7 parish celebration was the 110th anniversary of the murder and martyrdom of St. Maria Goretti, an Italian girl who was stabbed repeatedly when she refused to submit to a sexual attack.
As she was being murdered, St. Maria cried and prayed — not for herself, said Father Bartulica, but for the man who was taking her life.
“She cried and told him it was not because of what he was doing to her, but because of what he was doing to his own soul,” Father Bartulica said.
At a time when the church itself seems to be the focus of a lot of hate and scorn, it is wise to keep St. Maria Goretti in mind, the priest said.
“Do we condemn our persecutors, or do we pray for them that one day they may be one with us in Christ?” he said.