Bishop Joseph Strickland has been Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, since 2012. He is considered a “conservative.” Ordained a priest in 1985, he celebrated Tridentine Mass for the first time on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on June 11, 2020. He was deeply moved.
In a July 16, 2020 interview with the National Catholic Register, Bishop Strickland recounted how and why he came to celebrate the traditional rite.
Born in 1958, he did not experience the ancient rite as a child. At least he has no clear recollection of it. Entering the seminary in 1977, he knew only the Novus Ordo during his formation and his first years of priesthood. “I only really began to understand the desire for the traditional Latin and the liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum.”
Bishop Strickland was intrigued by the attachment to the Tridentine rite of priests, seminarians, and young families. His predecessor had accepted the prescriptions of the motu proprio of Benedict XVI. He adds: “I found myself, more and more, becoming aware of the Latin Mass and the draw of the people to it, that it wasn’t this antiquated, negative thing that needed to stay buried.”
He then began to make inquiries, through various books, about this liturgy of which he knew nothing. And he admits that these readings, associated with a cult towards the Holy Eucharist which attracts him more and more, were decisive. “Praying before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament drew me to this rite…I have seen how much this rite is centered on Him.”
This attraction has driven him to make 2020 a “Year of the Eucharist” for his diocese. He especially promotes processions for Corpus Christi Day. He himself “wanted to do something to honor Jesus Christ. I kept thinking about trying to learn the traditional Latin Mass for the traditional Corpus Christi holiday.”
He then learned the celebration according to the Tridentine rite from one of his priests. He admits his difficulty with Latin, but says, “It takes concentration and effort at first, but you will find there is so much grace involved. It’s so worth learning.” And he adds: “this liturgy is all about Him, about worshipping God. It’s about the Son of God coming down from heaven.”
Bishop Strickland continues: “I have to say, I could hardly say the words of consecration because I became so filled with emotion, so deeply struck by those words. Thank God we only must whisper them in this rite, because I am not sure I would have been able to speak above that whisper, so struck I was at the profundity. It was the first time in my life that I had ever said those words in Latin, and I could hardly get them out. It’s indescribable, really.”
He concludes this interview with these words: “After what I have experienced, as bishop, I cannot help but encourage everyone towards meeting Jesus in wonder, within the beauty of the extraordinary form of the Mass.”
It should be noted, however, that the Bishop of Tyler, Texas also encourages those who attend the traditional Mass to attend the New Mass “to bear witness to reverence to the liturgy and to Our Lord in the Eucharist.”
One can hope that more frequent contact with the traditional Mass, and more detailed information, will enable him to understand how far the new rite is from the true liturgy, and how much its toxicity prevents its absorption.
His testimony, however, remains precious to show the strength of Tradition, incomparably conveyed in the liturgy of the Mass which was developed during the first centuries of the Church and codified by Pope Saint Pius V.