Friday, November 12, 2010

'Printers Mass' Returning to Pittsburgh?

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
When the Rev. Carmen D'Amico tells people he is pastor of Epiphany parish, some ask if the "Printers' Mass" is still offered at the red brick Romanesque church in Uptown.

The answer is no, not since 1991, but that may change soon in this city where nostalgia for doo-wop music, the Steel Curtain and muscled mill hunks still rules.

Earlier this year, members of the parish worship committee agreed that there's a cushy spot in people's hearts for traditions like a weekly Mass that starts at 2:30 a.m., just after the bars close early Sunday morning.

At parishioners' suggestion, Father D'Amico is going to offer a pre-dawn liturgy at 2:30 a.m. Sunday to see what kind of crowd the special service draws. The church, at Centre Avenue and Washington Place, stands in front of the new Consol Energy Center.

First celebrated on April 30, 1905, the printers' Mass attracted employees from seven daily newspapers who opened the church doors and lit the candles. Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph workers wanted to take Communion after finishing their shift at 2 a.m. Pittsburgh Press truck drivers often served on the altar, then began delivering papers at 3 a.m.

With two main daily papers left today, there are far fewer printers, but Father D'Amico hopes to attract local college students who are up late and looking for a quiet alternative to the raucous night life on weekends in some parts of the city. As the administrator of three parishes -- St. Mary of Mercy, Downtown; St. Benedict the Moor, Hill District; and Epiphany -- the priest already ministers to many people.

But he's eager to help a few more, so fliers about the liturgy have been distributed to local colleges.

If enough students turn up, the weekly printers' Mass may be revived. The priest also hopes young people will be interested in organizing an informal coffeehouse before the Mass.

Since 1966, Pittsburgh Catholics have been able to fulfill their Sunday attendance obligation by attending Mass early Saturday evening. But what if you're getting showered and glamorous for that big night out?

Italians -- who enjoy parading in their finest fashions around the piazza on Saturday nights in what's called the passagiata -- understand this dilemma. Especially an Italian night owl like Father D'Amico, who is often up until midnight.

He attended the printers' Mass with his late Aunt Alice Semplice, who regularly dined at 10 p.m. at a Downtown restaurant called Naples, which used to be in the vicinity of BNY Mellon Center. The restaurant stayed open until 2 and she stayed until then. When Father D'Amico accompanied her one evening to the restaurant, he saw local wrestler Bruno Sammartino. That kind of celebrity sighting was a big deal for a teenager from Brookline, the priest recalled.

When the early morning Mass was held, ink-stained printers typically sat in the polished oak pews to pray beside well-dressed Saturday night revelers who decided to get sanctified on their way home. Uniformed police officers, streetcar motormen, firefighters and steelworkers showed up, too. All of them, thanks to Pope Leo XIII, then enjoyed a late Sunday morning slumber. (Before then, church rules required that all Sunday Masses be celebrated between dawn and noon.)

Pope Leo, who granted special permission for the liturgy, died in 1903, but he's alive in parishioners' memories because his marble bust still stands in the church vestibule.

This is a great idea!! My husband and I just might attend the 'Printers Mass'.

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