The resonant sound of a bugle captured my attention. Dressed in the woolen uniform of a Pennsylvania regiment, Roy Wulf sounded the call to gather in a large field tent. Gentlemen in woolen nineteenth-century uniforms and ladies in hoop skirts convened to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg by attending a traditional Latin Mass.
Civil War reenactors and spectators assisted the ancient Catholic liturgy that, as the celebrant, Fr. James Smith, FSSP, stated in his sermon, was the Mass offered at the time of the battle and can be traced back many centuries to the times of the Apostles.
Accompanied by the singing of Gregorian chant hymns, the Mass reminded the crowd of over a hundred of a rare but increasingly popular spiritual and liturgical link with the Civil War and our spiritual and cultural heritage. Fr. Smith offered the Mass with all solemnity as if he were in the magnificent neo-Gothic St. Lawrence Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he serves as pastor. He used authentic red velvet and gold vestments from the Civil War period. Even the chalice he used was from the Civil War.
Many curious tourists, mulling around to visit the various reenactor tents and venues, paused to take pictures and soak in a little of the solemn atmosphere that radiated from the tent. During the reception of Holy Communion, a nearby artillery battery fired multiple canon volleys, its booming providing a dramatic accompaniment to the Adoro Te Devote and Sub Tuum Praesidium chants of the choir.
As Fr. Smith offered to speak with any attendees interested in knowing more about the Catholic Faith, a sizable line formed to talk with him after Mass. The solemnity and reverence of the Mass clearly hit a chord with the people. Speaking with Mr. Douglas Wulf and his son Roy, the bugler who also helped sing the Gregorian chants, they glowed with enthusiasm. “This is what we have been hoping and praying for, to have the Mass here,” Mr. Wulf said.