Sunday, July 03, 2005

Theatines and Byzantines.

My liturgical travels today brought me to two very different Denver parishes, mostly Mexican St. Cajetan in the southwestern corner of the city and St. Elizabeth of Hungary on the Auraria Campus downtown. St. Cajetan is Denver's oldest Mexican parish, but I was drawn there not so much byits history but by the fact that the parish is run by the Theatines, an order much discussed in histories of early modern Catholicism and of the early Jesuits but fairly thin on the ground today. Approved by the Holy See sixteen years before the Society of Jesus, the Theatines were in some sense both forerunners and competitors of the early Jesuits. Given the apparent similarity between the apostolic aims of the two orders, some mid-16th century churchmen - including the Theatines' co-founder Cardinal Gianpietro Carafa - suggested that the nascent Society of Jesus merge with the slightly older and better-established Theatines. When Carafa became Pope Paul IV in 1555, some Jesuits feared that he would force a merger between the two communities. This never came to pass, and in subsequent centuries the Society of Jesus grew in size and prominence while the Theatines decreased in numbers and visibility. Today the Theatines number about 200, heavily concentrated in Spain and Latin America and almost exclusively focused on parish work. One of two Theatine parishes in Denver, St. Cajetan has six weekend Masses evenly split between English and Spanish. The 9 am Spanish Mass I attended this morning was packed to the gills and featured lively mariachi-style music. Though I enjoyed the liturgy, I was hard-pressed to detect anything distinctively "Theatine" about the experience. Then again, as a Jesuit novice I'm perhaps ill-qualified to hold forth on the Theatines' unique charism or its modern expression.

Like St. Cajetan's, St. Elizabeth of Hungary has a unique place in Colorado Catholic history, having been only the second parish established in the Colorado capital. And yet again, as with St. Cajetan's, I was drawn to St. Elizabeth's for different reasons. St. Elizabeth's is home to the Russian Byzantine Catholic Community of SS. Cyril and Methodius, one of only four such Catholic communities in the United States; I discussed my experiences with one of the other three, San Francisco's Our Lady of Fatima, in this May post. Though my worshipping experiences with the Our Lady of Fatima and SS. Cyril and Methodius communities were very different from one another, I found both to be quite powerful and I wish there were more Catholic parishes grounded in the Russian liturgical and spiritual tradition. Speaking particularly of SS. Cyril and Methodius (though I could say identical things about Our Lady of Fatima), the quality of the liturgy and preaching and the evident dedication of the small but loyal congregation were nothing short of outstanding. If I had more time to spend in Denver, I suspect I'd return to St. Elizabeth's and its SS. Cyril and Methodius community quite regularly. At the very least, I'll be sure to return there next time I'm in Denver, whenever that is. AMDG.


At January 23, 2012 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

please help me understand how to correctly phonetically pronounce Cajetan. Thank you.

At January 23, 2012 7:49 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

I think the most usual way of pronouncing it in English is "kah-zh-tahn," though I've also heard "kai-etan." I'm not sure which is normative.


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