Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Bread Rather Than Stones


On this feast of the Nativity of Mary, I note that Rorate Caeli (here) associated itself with a French lay Catholic initiative by publishing in English an open letter to the Holy Father requesting that he take back Traditionis custodes and restore peace to them and their families in the enjoyment to live the tradition and celebrate the Mass of the Ages in all freedom. 

Coincidentally, yesterday I shared with a rather rabid, neo-con contemporary the account of a glorious Solemn High Mass for the Assumption celebrated in England. I almost got a blush out of him by underlining the satisfaction of the organizers of the event at which nearly 500 people participated. Despite this gentleman's own difficulties with the tradition, even he could understand that the motu proprio and the way some bishops are choosing to implement it with a scorched earth policy is nothing short of overkill. Where is the solicitude for the least of the brethren, for God's little ones?

We entrust ourselves to the Mother of God on this her birthday and insistently importune her as her children to grant us a birthday wish and intercede for us before the Throne on this her day!


Friday, September 3, 2021

Demographics and Net Loss

At the Ascension, the Lord Jesus gave His disciples the mission to go forth and preach to all nations, to baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That mission to increase and multiply the new creation in God's grace is defining for what the Church is and must be, faithful to the Lord's command. Sadly, we seem to be far from Apostolic zeal, sort of static or perhaps even stagnating as messengers of the Gospel. I think it is a fair assessment of a situation looking for culprits to bear at least a part of the burden of blame for the Church's contemporary failure to fulfill the apostolic mandate. Maybe the fact that the soul-searching seems to have begun is a hopeful sign?

In that sense we need to look at these days post covid lockdowns where people tend to do a lot of what ostensibly seems to be soul-searching but in reality amounts to a paltry apologetic to explain away the decrease in Sunday Mass attendance, which might amount to an evident 20% loss of pew occupants in not few parishes. People are eager to describe this loss of attendees as something new and attribute this net loss to people's covid fears, which have drawn them out of society and not just away from the practice of the faith. Some people will blame the church lockdowns and the hierarchy for having eviscerated the Church Precept binding us under pain of mortal sin to assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. TV masses are supposed to be the popular alternative, not just for shut-ins but for perfectly able-bodied folks as well. Try and verify this new faith practice or find another excuse for the empty pews! The point is that the hemorrhage is not new, but that covid mania has given many people permission to address what just might have been the elephant in the room for well over a generation now. The downturn in the practice of the faith has been noted already for decades and not just two.

It is into this malaise that many interject the rising phenomenon of the traditional Latin Mass. Some gladly point to it as the future or hope for the Church. Others rightly observe that the matter is not so easy to describe and sort out despite the life and growth, despite the youth associated with your average TLM community or parish. An article  I just read in Crisis Magazine may have either confirmed in part my own assessment of the situation or given me pause to think about just where we are as western Catholics when it comes to the propagation of the faith. For years now, in talking about the eclipse of the Catholic Church in France, for lots of years people have pointed to the growth of traditional Catholicism in France as a sign of hope for the future in the midst of falling numbers of vocations and church closings in that country. The blossoming of the tradition in France, both in terms of the return to the sacraments and of traditional vocations to both the priesthood and the religious life, most notably to the monastic life in France, cannot be said materially to offset the losses to the faith since the 1950's. Is this where we quote Cardinal Ratzinger's prophecy about the Church of the future being a smaller one and for the most part at odds with the dominant culture?

The article I mention speaks of the hallmark of traditional Catholicism today of being its staying power within the family. Traditional parishes, religious orders and communities grow because it is there that generous big families stay Catholic and beget the vocations which will assure the divine praises and the celebration of the sacraments into the coming generations.  It appears to me, however, that the author describes the phenomenon of growth in traditional Catholicism as more demographic than missionary. I don't think he sees the Church of today harkening back to the mount of the Ascension and the mission thereon imparted.

To say, as the author seems to, that the traditional movement within the Catholic Church is demographic, even to say that it is principally demographic, is of course folly. All of us know stories of young people won over by the Mass of the Ages, who have then proceeded to find their home in this kind of integral Catholicism, which prays, which educates itself in the eternal truths. The parish communities and the institutes born of Ecclesia Dei are indeed people on mission whose Catholicism may be anchored in Sunday, but which pervades their whole lives and gives them their reason for living (see the first part of the Mass of the Ages trilogy).

These days I am inclined to see Traditionis custodes as a scythe or a winnowing fan, which will further bring to light that good seed, which like the proverbial mustard seed will come to fruition and shelter a new world in its branches. Pacific, tranquil demographic growth does not fit the bill. Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Facing Goliath in any Form and Hoping against Hope


Subversive Catholicism

Papacy, Liturgy, Church

Martin Mosebach, Angelico Press, 2019

One more small victory for retirement! I got my Mosebach book read, this being an English amplification with a couple additional and important essays added to the German original from 2012, which highlighted the ultramontane. The editors of the English edition have done the author a great service from the choice of title to the additional content.

While all the talk of Marian shrines and of Lourdes, in particular in Part III, headed "Christians in the World", must per force be to key to what the book is all about, I did much prefer the first two parts on the Papacy and on the Liturgy. In Part II, the chapter on "Prayer" (pp. 41 ff.) is most deserving of attention and the chapter "Christmas Every Day" (pp. 55 ff.) is a must read.

I will leave you with just one quote (p. 89), to my mind striking because it was set down almost a decade before the infamous Pew Survey pointing out the dreadful loss of faith among Catholics and particularly of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament:

"When the inhabitants of Gaul, England, and Germany became Catholic, they understood no Latin and were illiterate; the question of the correct understanding of the Mass was entirely independent of a capacity to follow its literal expression. The peasant woman who said the rosary during Mass, knowing that she was in the presence of Christ's sacrifice, understood the rite better than our contemporaries who comprehend every word but fail to engage with such knowledge because the present for of the Mass, drastically altered, no longer allows for its full expression."

Mosebach is a novelist first and foremost, without any degree in theology to my knowledge. The man demonstrates a clarity of expression and depth of thought in matters of the sacred, which would gain my vote for classing him a doctor of the Church. 

This book does not disappoint. Tolle et lege!


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Where your Heart lies


13th Sunday after Pentecost

Commemoration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

22 August 2021, Canton, SD

Gal 3:16-22
Luke 17:11-19

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Our Sunday Mass today takes place against the backdrop of a very beautiful teaching about our Blessed Mother, as today we commemorate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

There is much that we can gain in life from focusing on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Above all, our appreciation can grow of what is meant not only by Christ’s love, but also concerning what is at the heart or center of the Christian life, especially as we contemplate the mystery of the Heart of Mary. Today, primarily, I want to attempt a reflection on your hearts, our hearts, on the heart of any believing and practicing Catholic, as the center of gravity in Catholicism and of our life as Catholics. The Blessed Virgin Mary, with her Immaculate Heart, is an incomparable witness to aid us in our reflection.

“Heart language” personalizes our discussion of the faith and of Church life. It takes the practice of the faith off the institutional plain and takes it where it should be, namely to where it is alive and thriving at the center of people’s lives. As St. Paul explains to the Galatians in today’s epistle: the law is at the service of God’s promise, of the covenant God made with Abraham. St. Paul speaks of the promise to the offspring (singular), Who is Christ. The promise made by God to Abraham looks to Jesus, the Messiah. He is what makes sense of the Old Covenant. Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. To use “heart language” is to go about this reflection as Christ wills and as St. Paul teaches. We might rightly quote St. Augustine and say, “Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you!” (Think of the many images of the great saint with a flaming heart in his hand or somewhere in the picture.

Talking this way about the heart, especially about the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, I am telling you something more than what I was taught in seminary. Back then, at some point we were taught that the value of focusing on the Heart of Jesus or on the Heart of Mary is literary or poetic. It is a case of the use of the classical literary figure named synecdoche, that is, taking a part for the whole, as in “My heart aches for you!” Do not misunderstand me. The notion I was taught in the seminary is not wrong, as we can understand from the traditional artworks which depict the hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is clear in the artwork, however, that a part stands for the whole mystery of Christ’s love, of the love of the Virgin, and of the love of St. Joseph. “Heart language” has multiple implications. There is more to be considered than just the literary figure and the love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for me personally, as important as it is. The spectrum of what we are talking about here as love of the heart is very expansive.

Let me limit myself to reflecting upon what that “more” means in terms of our placing ourselves under the Kingship of Christ. No doubt many of you have read the same articles on the internet I have, which bemoan the loss of a sense of Christ’s Kingship in the Church and in our world. There is a lot to that lament, but an essential part of what is lacking in the Church and the world, or maybe let us say in the average Catholic parish, has to do with a clear awareness of the call for us to let Christ take up His Throne in our hearts. I better repeat that. An essential part of what is lacking in the Church and in the world, or maybe let us say in the average Catholic parish, is a clear awareness of the call for us to let Christ take up His Throne in our hearts. The absolute top priority for the Church in the world is that the Lord Jesus should reign as King. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world”. The Kingship of Christ, His Rule, must be first and foremost in our hearts. Jesus says as much today and illustrates His point in the Gospel account of the healing of the ten lepers. Were not the ten made clean? But where are the nine? Has no one been found to return and give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

Christ rules where He is given His due, where He is recognized as the be-all and the end-all of our lives. Christ rules where hearts are subject to Him and His Will. Christ rules where He is recognized for Who He truly is and loved above all else.

“Were not the ten made clean? But where are the nine? Has no one been found to return and give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

On Friday August 20, we celebrated the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot, father and doctor of the Church. He died in 1153 and is counted as the last of the Latin Fathers. He taught that we should take heed of what we love, what we fear, wherefore we rejoice, or why we sorrow. We must understand that where our heart lies is what is primal. We should love God alone or love others only for God’s sake.

Here is where Mary and her Immaculate Heart enter the picture. You and I may be somewhat conflicted in our choices and in our preferences. We need to learn from the Mother of God and come to appreciate her undivided Heart. Just as nothing and nobody took preference over her Divine Son, so we need to form our hearts like hers.

To return to St. Paul and the Galatians: the Commandments, the Precepts of the Church are there to help us to examine our consciences well and so worthily confess our sins in the Sacrament of Penance. These rules of life cast light on the matters of the heart which will lead us to Christ. The Blessed Virgin Mary was thoroughly formed in the Law, in the Commandments, but her Heart carried her farther. You and I do not have her perfection or beauty of soul, but through our obedience to God’s commands and uprightness of heart we can come to love God alone and to love all creatures like ourselves only for God’s sake.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!


Friday, August 20, 2021

Priorities and Focus - St. Bernard of Clairvaux


BENEDICTUS, the traditional Catholic Companion, offered a great quote from the saint of the day, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153)

"Would you wish to know if you are really devout? Then take heed of what you love, what you fear, wherefore you rejoice, or why you sorrow. Love God alone, or if you love, love the object, for His sake. Fear only to displease God, or if you have any dread of anything, refer all to Him. Rejoice only in God, or if you rejoice in any other object, look upon it only as an attraction that draws you closer to Him. Let the loss of God be your only sorrow, whether your sorrow is occasioned by past sins or by those of your brethren; or if any other loss worries you, look upon it as a proof that He intends to chasten you, in order to make you more united to Him.
    The grace of true devotion is an unction that instructs us in all our duties; he alone who has proved it by experience knows it, and he who is willfully ignorant of this cannot possibly know it, because no one can feel it but he who has received it as a precious gift from heaven. Devotion is the grace that influences the heart, and that alone. After one has tasted the joys of the Spirit, those of the world and the flesh seem to be distasteful. He who yearns for the blessings of heaven cannot relish earthly pleasures, and he who sighs after eternal things will feel only a contempt for fleeting things." (p. 232, Benedictus for August 2021).

    The profound wisdom and teaching of Bernard impresses me, but the man's sanctity bore fruit in an incredible vocation boom, which gifted the Church countless saints. His fruitfulness in calling forth vocations leaves me speechless. How badly our Church could use another Bernard and companions!

    St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us!


Sunday, August 1, 2021

It is all about Violence


In my post of the other day (here), I reflected on the summary cancellation by the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, of a Pontifical High Mass long planned for the Vigil of the Assumption on August 14, in the National Shrine. He claimed to do so, exercising his ordinary authority in response to Traditionis custodes, the Pope's motu proprio against the Traditional Latin Mass, ever more frequently now being dubbed the UA (Usus Antiquior). Meantime,  it has become public knowledge that the Cardinal has also rejected the request of the Paulus Institute that he reconsider his action.  

In my previous article, I mentioned Ross Douthat's comment in a NYT article, about another author writing in favor of the strategy of TC, who claimed that yet today it should be possible to revolutionize society and the Church on the pattern of the successive stages of the French Revolution. I must agree with Douthat and hold that what happened in 1848 in France to consolidate the supposed gains of the "Reign of Terror" does not represent a universal and cannot simply be applied as described in our historical context, certainly not so many years later and on the world stage. Moreover, who in their right mind would every strive for a revolution like the French one within the Catholic Church? There do not seem to be any Catholic precedents for the use of the guillotine to achieve genuine church reform.

Douthat expressed clear skepticism regarding his colleague's thesis that the present motu proprio, just like in 1848 in France, could accomplish what no amount of violence in the 1970's was able to attain in its attempt to eradicate the timeless liturgical patrimony of the Roman Church. Part of Douthat's argument, at least, was that the hierarchical principle has been so undermined in the last 30-40 years that legislation like Traditionis custodes, apart from its many flaws, is deader in the water than was Veterum sapientia back in 1962.

Notwithstanding Douthat's incisive commentary, the situation is still terribly worrisome for me. This is not a tempest in a teapot. We need but take a closer look on the political side here in the United States at what the radical left seems to be achieving in undermining the family. People are not being convinced or even seduced by the left's dystopic propaganda, no, rather the little ones are being cowed by threats and violence, too often supported by bureaucrats and even elected officials at city, state and federal levels. They are being victimized and things are just being torn down, basta. It is all very sad.

What has brought on this violence today in the Church? It is the same deep-seated hatred of the Apostolic Faith which was at work back in the 1960-70's and which still perdures among an ever diminishing old guard and their clueless recruits. They seem to have imbibed that same hatred, which "wreckovated" churches and burned books and vestments, with no respect for the devotion of a generation now mostly gone to their eternal reward.

This kind of violence cannot be met by counterviolence but rather by the steadfast adherence to the truth and the love of the Old Mass which has captured the love and imagination of not few young people in our own day and time. The revolutionaries, the violent are kicking against the goad, so to speak.

When we were children, one of my mom's ultimate arguments against younger siblings throwing temper tantrums was to tell them to go look at themselves in the mirror and be covered with shame at their ugliness. It was an argument suited to a child, a very simple call to introspection, based on a fundamental conviction concerning the goodness of that child who stood before her stamping his or her little feet. It is a dialogue without much sophistication, but one shot through with love.  At some point the fuming and railing against us and the UA will subside or stop altogether. It has to, for we have a world to claim for Christ. All else is less than to the point.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Brief Musing about Rejection and Conflict


The Paulus Institute made a measured declaration about their disappointment over the DC Cardinal's prohibition of our Vigil Mass of the Assumption planned for our Country's National Shrine. They did well to do so and their statement fits the bill. My own disappointment over this bureaucratic dismissal of good people's best efforts has no real importance. I do not see myself as a man on a mission somehow stymied by whomever. I would have loved to enjoy this gathering of good and believing people in Mary's "house" in Washington. It was not to be. For me personally, that sort of sums it up.

As such, I have nothing to say beyond the statement of the Paulus Institute, but as I ponder this picture from the Corpus Christi procession at the Sacred Theology Conference back in June in Spokane, I wonder why some are so taken up with trying to "scatter the sheep": Quare fremuerunt gentes... Why would anyone pretending to be of Christ's Church lash out at the lambs?

In his NY Times article of yesterday, Ross Douthat seems to think that those who, regarding the motu proprio, prognosticate the "success" of this latest attempt at suppression of the Mass of the Ages do not have all of the present variables in hand, which make our world different from that of France in 1848. I think he knows what he is about.

Another day is coming. Be of courage, little flock!