Here is a report, with some observations and reflections on the event, which can only be called a huge success. In no particular order:
1. Every seat was taken (The Cathedral seats just under 700), with some people standing at the back. It was packed. Many factors contributed to this situation, not least the press coverage: a huge article in the Press-Register, with photos; a front-page article in The Catholic Week; an half-hour interview on the local Catholic radio station; two posts, in advance, at The Chant Cafe, an internet blog by the Church Music Association of America.
2. In addition to the two principal servers (father and son from a very prominent Mobile family who are regular servers at the monthly TLM at St. Brigit's), there were approximately ten current seminarians, home for the summer, in the procession and assisting in the sanctuary. The Father Judicial Vicar of the Tribunal, complete with biretta, was also in the procession, assisted in Choir, and helped distribute Holy Communion. In addition, seminarians for other dioceses from Notre Dame seminary in New Orleans, came over to assist in the congregation.
3. Archbishop Rodi arrived, unannounced, and said a prayer with all in the Sacristy just before Mass. Nevertheless, he did beautifully. The Archbishop remained in the Sacristy for the first hour of the Mass. Personally, I am so grateful for the Archbishop's support and warmth for the event.
4. The Mass having begun at 7:30 p.m., by 7:00 the Cathedral was already three-quarters full, at which time it was announced that confessions were being heard. Well! The line was so long that a visiting priest in the congregation, travelling with his trusty small violet stole, jumped into a second confessional, yet both lines were still long. Glory be to God. Later, an elderly lady told me, "It reminded me of Saturday afternoon when I was young."
5 I had also worried about the comfort of the congregation, especially the many who would have their first experience with the TLM. Again, I needn't have worried. Very early, a large, young, traditionalist family (wife with a chapel veil) arrived and sat near the front. They unconsciously led all the sitting, standing, and kneeling.
6. As to the music: The choir of twenty-one confident and experienced singers did a wonderful job, as did the organist, who performed his virtuoso part, that Durufle has set for him, with aplomb and inspiration. Several choristers told me that they noticed a number of people turning around to look at us. Later, an old friend told me, "I knew in advance that it was a small number of singers, but I had to turn around to make sure, because it sounded like fifty." I responded, "Well, thank God (truly) for the laws of physics (acoustics) because they work when we let them." However, the individual singers deserve abundant thanks that they have been faithful in developing their talents and in preparation of this music.
The chant (gradual, tract, and sequence) went very well, well-beyond competent. But since the choir sings mostly motets and Viennese Masses, they aren't thoroughly schooled in chant; I wish I would have had more time to add more nuance, especially concerning the 'target of the phrase, the rounding off of the phrase, and the space between phrases.
7. The response was overwhelming. I talked to many people on the Portico after Mass, and to others later. Not a few tears of joy. Not a few ebullient effusions. I haven't heard or heard of a single negative reaction, though of course there may have been some, probably mostly by people who weren't there. I wish I could relate all the wonderful responses I've heard, but I'll choose just one, one of my favorites: A young man, twenty-something, who was one of the 'standees,' said, "I only came because my mom was singing; I wouldn't have sought it out on my own. And I figured I'd stay a respectable amount of time and then go across the street and get a beer until I saw people leaving. But I was glued to the spot. I couldn't leave. I was flooded with something; I'm not sure what. It was one of the highest religious experiences I've ever had. I wouldn't have missed this for anything. I really had no idea of my Catholic heritage." And he went on, and on.
8. In the days following, Archbishop Rodi received "many" letters thanking him.
9. The catafalque, built by the intrepid Sally McKenna, Musica Sacra president. The pall is from the Archdiocesan archives, which we were allowed to search.