Saturday, March 31, 2012

April Fools and Other Humans

About 8 years ago, my daughter Ruthie – then about 10 years old – decided she wanted to play an April Fool’s joke on her friend Dusty. I wasn’t in favor of the idea, but I didn’t stop it.

At the time, we had a horse – a mare that was well along in her pregnancy, and everyone was looking forward to the blessed event. The joke involved making Dusty believe that the foal was about to be born on March 31 (a day early for "April Fools", but what the heck).

Ruthie enlisted the aid of her dad, because she knew Dusty would be sure to believe the joke if she heard it from Jerry. So when Dusty made her predictable dinner-time phone call (neither girl had a cell phone or a Face Book account back then!), Jerry answered the phone, saying, “Ruthie’s outside with the horse. It looks like the mare is going to have her foal tonight, and it’s very premature, so I need to call the vet. We’ll call you later.”

Ruthie thought this was hilarious – particularly because Jerry told the story, and Dusty bought it, hook, line, and sinker. I suggested that Ruthie wait about 5 minutes, then call Dusty and admit it was a joke. But Ruthie wanted to wait longer so that she could call her friend and say that the foal had indeed arrived, describe it – milk the situation for all it was worth – and then say “April Fool!” I grew even more uncomfortable, but didn’t insist on curtailing the joke.

An hour or so later, Ruthie made the requisite phone call, built Dusty up to a fever pitch over the “new foal,” and then sprung the punch line. Dusty promptly burst into tears. Ruthie made a hasty apology and got off the phone. But that was not the end of it by any means.

Next came a call from the neighbor with whom were planning to board the mare when it really was time for her to foal. It turned out that Dusty had called a few friends to share the good news, and the friends had made calls, and the word finally got to our neighbor. The neighbor wondered if we needed help, if everything was okay, and just exactly what was going on. It was a little embarrassing. Ruthie called Dusty again; Dusty’s mom answered and angrily told Ruthie that the joke was cruel and that she “couldn’t believe” that Ruthie’s dad had consented to be a part it. Now Ruthie was in tears, too.

Ruthie made repeated verbal apologies to Dusty, and Jerry had her relay one for him. I excused myself from the apology department, refusing to take responsibility for any of it. 

For the bulk of the day on April 1st, Ruthie carried around a sign which read, “I hate April Fool’s Day.” I agreed with her. The whole affair just had a bad feel to it. We had all been made fools.

A week later, the pastor of our parish and the chancellor of our diocese played a late April Fool’s prank on me. I was the parish secretary at the time, and the priests were on their after-Easter retreat. My pastor had the chancellor call me at the office and tell me that the bishop was planning to move the chancery offices back to Baker City. (As I have explained elsewhere, the Cathedral of our diocese is in Baker City, but the chancery is 5 hours away in Bend.) I wanted to be ecstatic, but I was cautious, and I said to the chancellor five times, “You’re kidding, right? This is an April Fool’s joke, right?” He assured me five times that he was quite serious, and he needed me to provide him with some information about the physical space of the office building. I believed him; I bought the story hook, line, and sinker. Then, an hour later, a parishioner who was in on the joke came in to tell me “April Fool’s!” I was livid – not so much because the story wasn’t true as because I’d been made to look and feel like a fool, and my pride was severely damaged.

The parallels with Ruthie’s experience with Dusty were painfully obvious. Without help, the pastor would never have been able to fool me with a story about the chancery offices moving to the Cathedral, and he knew it. So he enlisted the aid of a credible authority – the Chancellor of the Diocese. As happened with Dusty, my emotions were built up to a fever pitch, and then rudely and crudely crushed. And as with Dusty’s mother’s incredulity about Jerry’s involvement, I could not believe that the chancellor would consent to taking part in the hoax.

The next day, I wrote a note of apology to Dusty and her mother, invited Jerry and Ruthie to add notes of their own, and put it in the mail. I knew that a written apology would carry more weight and sincerity than a verbal one received over the phone. My experience with the pastor and the chancellor helped me to acknowledge that I did owe Dusty and her mom an apology, because I could have – and should have – put a stop to that joke at any time.

I learned quite a bit from these two jokes. Some of the things I “learned” were simply reminders of things I already knew. I was reminded that April Fool’s jokes are funny primarily to the perpetrators, and not at all to the victims. And both of the “jokes” I have described here amounted to nothing more than lies. When a friend lies to you, you feel betrayed, not amused. It doesn’t matter that the friend gleefully announces “April Fool!” after the fact. It still feels like a betrayal. And even though it’s often one’s pride that takes the biggest hit, I think that even a humble soul is dismayed by the betrayal of a friend.

Similar feelings of betrayal result when the perpetrator of the prank is someone who holds a position of authority, and uses that position to promote a deception. I did not have a personal friendship with the chancellor of our diocese; I barely knew him. I accepted the authority of his position as chancellor as confirmation of the veracity of his statement. He used that authority to fool me, and in the process taught me a lesson he certainly did not intend: I “learned” that the title “Chancellor” has no meaning in terms of the bearer’s credibility, honesty, or integrity. I hope that I can “un-learn” this lesson. However, every person in a position of responsibility and authority should remember that misuse of one’s office can lead to mistrust by the very people over whom one has authority.

At any rate, I was so angry at those two priests that, for a time, I did not want to have anything to with any priest. For a while, I was inclined to judge all priests as rotten liars who were just out to hurt me. It helped me understand why some people leave the Church over a single bad experience with one priest.

When we are fooled, the tendency is often to seek revenge – to play a bigger and better joke on the one who “got” you. Believe me, I came up with a number of “inspirations” calculated to return the favor to my pastor and the chancellor. But Jesus taught us the Golden Rule for a reason, and my understanding of that rule precluded my seeking revenge. If I had tried to redeem my pride by playing a joke on them, I would not, in the long run, have made myself feel any better. I would have simply escalated the distrust that we had of each other. If I succeeded in “fooling” them in some way, I would increase not only their distrust of me, but my distrust of them: I’d be waiting and watching vigilantly for their attempt at revenge. Frankly, I didn’t need the stress.

A final lesson – or maybe it’s another reminder – to be taken from these “jokes” and their consequences is that, because we are all human, any of us can make an error in judgment. This can happen whether you are a priest or a chancellor, or the director of a 911 Center (my husband’s job at the time), or the parish secretary. And so, forgiveness is the order of the day.  It’s not an easy order to follow. But it was the only solution, the only resolution to the tension that had come to exist between these two priests and me. 
I pray God always gives me the strength to forgive those who hurt me, and the insight to understand why it is so difficult…because I really want those I hurt to forgive me, too.

And remember: Just say no to “April Fool’s” jokes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

New Mass, Old Mass, and Charity

My post “The Bad Ol’ Days According to a Deacon” has generated a little discussion.

Let me say right off the bat that I welcome comments from those who disagree with me, if they are willing to support their points with evidence and if they are willing to argue from the facts. Especially where the Novus Ordo (NO) Mass and the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) are concerned, the sooner we all come to some sort of understanding, the better.

That said, let’s look at the discussion. (I’ve abridged some of the comments; you can read them all in their entirety at the original post if you wish.) One commenter told me that (my emphases, and with some minor corrections to facilitate readability):

You belong to the dark ages. Nothing can be said to change your mind... you are too puffed up with your "knowledge". There are a lot of us that adhere [to] and actually like Vatican II and the changes that [it] brought about for a much needed spiritual revival that still needs more enlightenment. … Jesus said "Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, soul and mind and thy neighbor as thyself". He wasn't concerned with liturgy but with the attitude of the heart. You cause division and [are] on a personal crusade with your gift of words which gives me a headache and heartache. You appear to be as a pharisee which Jesus encountered who were bent on rules and rituals and never "got" the presence of God who stood in front of them. Jesus was of the heart and not of the mind in its vain glory.

Much of this is an ad hominem attack: I’m in the dark ages, I’m puffed up, I’m a Pharisee, I cause division, and I am on a personal crusade. In addition, I don’t “get” the presence of God. These are not valid arguments against the TLM or for the NO. They are simply personal attacks.

Asserting that Jesus “wasn’t concerned with liturgy” strikes me as odd, and unfounded Scripturally. Jesus instituted the Mass at the Last Supper. I think he was definitely concerned with liturgy! But the reader is surely correct in emphasizing the importance of “attitude of heart” as well. However, it is difficult to judge the “attitude of heart” of others; that’s called “being judgmental” most of the time.  We can observe others’ words and actions, though, and these overt, observable elements can certainly be “judged” to be right or wrong.

My husband Jerry responded to the first commenter with this (abridged) statement:

Gee Klink how very open-minded you are when you describe others as being in the dark ages. I experienced the liturgy prior to Vatican II and, of course, continuously ever since. You have a preference for post V II liturgy and I, along with many others, find the Traditional Latin Mass far more reverent and meaningful. I don't know any of us who prefer the TLM that would deny you your right to worship under the present liturgy. Unfortunately many of the post Vatican II advocates argue vehemently against our right to the TLM....and it is a right, by the way, per the current Pope's direction in writing. …[I]n this Diocese (and others) not only is the TLM not offered on any regular basis even when there is a group of the faithful requesting it, but it has been actively suppressed by the "can't we all just get along" folks. "Can't we all just get along" seems to only apply if “getting along” means doing it their way.

...Frankly, my experience has been that Catholics who prefer the TLM are among the most giving and loving of their neighbor to be found anywhere. It is that group which ridicules the TLM and fights so vigorously against it that often does anything but love their neighbor...particularly if that neighbor is a TLM advocate.

This is a criticism that I think holds some water: I have heard many stories and experienced myself that when a TLM gets started in a parish, those who dislike it begin to attack and try to subvert it. In our parish, one woman said she would do everything she could to stop it. This was in spite of the fact that the TLM was being celebrated at a time that did not interfere with the existing Mass schedule, or anything other event at the parish. In another diocese, a priest told me that he started to offer the TLM on Saturday mornings when no other Masses had ever been scheduled in that parish; but the outcry against it was so great, his bishop told him to stop. Why do those supporters of the NO desire to squelch the legitimate spiritual desires of their neighbors? Is that charity?

Another reader chimed in:

I've heard this same tripe bandied about ever since Vat II. I grew up with the Latin Mass and most of these things they are saying are just not true. I never saw anyone confused. Everyone had a missal and followed along quite well. As a matter of fact, I still "hear" the Latin while Father Hardy-har-har is saying the English. The only people I ever saw with a rosary instead of a missal were usually older immigrant women (Italian) who couldn't read English very well, but that certainly didn't preclude their participation in the Mass - with or without a rosary.

…If it is so dang difficult, explain to me why boys as young as 10 can reel off the Latin responses as servers. 

And we might wonder why the TLM seems to be growing in popularity among young people (see Michael Voris’s comments here).

Yet another reader added:

Well we've been attending a TLM church now for a bit over a year, and in that time my girl has been catechised to the extent where she could take her first Holy Communion, she goes to Confession of her own free will, and if something comes up where we can't attend our usual Solemn Mass on a Sunday morning, she asks to go to the early Low Mass rather than another church with a Novus Ordo.

She's already spoken to Father about why girls can't be altar servers, and we're thinking of ways she can help with the Church.

All this has come about through going to a TLM, where she never had any desire to participate at any other churches we went to. (long story short, we went to a baptist church for quite a few years).

My girl will be ten in a few months' time, so don't say it confuses the kids. She pays attention, loves the Asperges Me at the start of the Mass, and loves to take Communion.

And yeah, she's picking up a bit of Latin, too.

The experience of people who want to learn the Latin responses, who want to attend a Mass where the priest “has his back to us”, and who want Gregorian chant have no problem embracing any of those things. And while it is their right to have the TLM, per Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae, there are vehement voices speaking out against them, telling them they’re from the dark ages, etc. Clearly the Holy Father has said that the two forms of the Mass – the ordinary form, or NO, and the extraordinary form, or TLM – can and currently must coexist. The TLM crowd seems not to object to this; it is the NO crowd who protests, even though they are not required to attend a TLM!

The first commenter returned to rebut Jerry’s comment:

…this is beyond the preferences of Masses and goes to the heart of Christianity. I see by this website, there is plenty of criticism that is going around and that your "love" is preferential. Bishop Skylstad is just one example by being slammed through such charmed poetry and other such thoughts. How disrespectful towards a man of God, who through his years, has been esteemed and regarded for his wisdom among peers and secular alike… By the way, we Catholics do not hold the key to heaven; it is there for all believers of varied faiths who love their Lord and experience relationship with Him. He is an awesome God with arms big enough to hold all his children from the past, in the present and for the future. Simply put, His Love is limitless and His judgment tempered with mercy and grace. He is found in the heart.

If this goes “beyond the preferences of Masses”, then why is it an issue for the anti-TLM people? The “heart of Christianity” would seem to allow those who want the TLM to enjoy it; this would be the response of charity and also of justice, since the TLM is valid and the Holy Father has encouraged it.

There may be plenty of “criticism” on my blog, but I try – really I do! – to make it constructive. I try to base my criticisms of liturgical abuse on the facts, using the GIRM, Canon Law, and other Church documents to support my postion. This is the case with Bishop Skylstad. My personal experience of him (and I have met with him in a face-to-face meeting, and have had email correspondence with him) does not lead me to believe that he is a particularly holy man. As for Bishop Skylstad being “esteemed and regarded for his wisdom among peers and secular alike”…well, let us say that I beg to differ. I could write a scathing blog post using quotes from all manner of newspaper articles and past situations the bishop has found himself in, but that would be quite uncharitable. Yes, he is human. Yes, he deserves the respect of his office, which I have tried to give him. But he is also more accountable to God than the laity because of his office; he is to be a shepherd, which means he must know and follow what the Church teaches. It is not charitable to let his persistent liturgical and canonical errors go by without comment, because God will judge him for scandalizing the faithful.

Finally, our first commenter is sadly mistaken when he downplays the importance of the Church for salvation. The Catholic Church has the fullness of the Truth; that cannot be denied. Those who are exposed to that full Truth and reject it do so at the risk of their souls. It is not charitable at all to encourage them in their belief that they’ll be “saved” because they believe they have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. That relationship is not one that we can define for ourselves; the Church teaches us infallibly what that relationship must entail.

And part of that “personal relationship with Jesus” concerns the liturgy, the proper worship of God.

And that brings us back to our starting point…

Save the liturgy, save the world.

Chrism Mass: Diocese of Baker

The Chrism Mass is a very special event, of course. When I experienced my first one, I was overwhelmed and encouraged at the sight of all those priests together in one place. I especially appreciated it as a reminder of the maleness of the priesthood; it was nice to see all those men where we usually see so many women milling around the sanctuary as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or as readers, announcers, or cantors.

Last night the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Baker was celebrated at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral (due to the long distances priests are required to travel in our diocese, the Chrism Mass is held the week before Holy Thursday). It was supposed to have been extra special, as our Bishop-Elect, Fr. Liam Cary, was to be there to preach. Unfortunately, but understandably, he had to change his plans due to his full schedule, and he was not in attendance at all.

I know from personal experience that many people are involved in the planning of the Chrism Mass, and they all work hard and with sincere desire to provide a good liturgy. They also provide a meal for the priests, help with finding them lodging, etc. And of course, distributing the oils is quite an undertaking, as the oils have to be carefully poured into containers for transport. The Chrism Mass is no small effort for this little community!

That said, I offer some photos with commentary. I hope any of my comments that can be construed as overly critical will instead be taken in the spirit in which I intend them: as constructive criticism. 

Before Mass: the antependium is floor-length and the table is well-covered. Still, there are nicer fabrics that would make a more appropriate vestment for the altar; perhaps someday I will be able to make some suggestions for fabric and design. I'd be happy to sew it, too.

The procession was just beginning here, and the Knights of Columbus were taking their stations.

The procession continues and the priests take their places. You can also see the "Folk Group" (choir) in the right hand of my pet peeves. The choir loft was empty, save for me, my friend Doc, and about 4 other people. 

Here is another shot where you can see the choir in their place next to the sanctuary. 

There are very good musicians in the "Folk Group", and a number of very fine voices. When this group sings a  cappella at the beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass, it's beautiful. (Go here for an interesting discussion of the correct spelling of "a cappella"!). 

While these folks can play their guitars quite well, I find that particular instrument to be such a distraction - not to mention the poor, idle organ that has "pride of place" and is available in the choir loft! If only this group would be encouraged to learn and sing the Gregorian chants proper to each Mass! They could start with the Simple English Propers, for example. 

The "Gloria" sung at this Mass included an oft-repeated refrain, so the choir has obviously not received the memo about that prohibition.

Attendance seemed adequate; I estimated about 125 people, but I'm not really all that good at that sort of estimation. I counted 29 priests in attendance. (That's about the limit of my patience for counting actual bodies!)

Everyone is seated...

Here's the procession to the ambo for the reading of the Gospel. 

Now I will take the opportunity to rant a little about female altar servers. The Cathedral has quite a few instituted acolytes - read, adult males - but seldom uses them to full effect. What better place to put all of them into play than at the Chrism Mass? The bishop is there...all those priests...the deacons of the diocese...and if we then added the laymen who serve as instituted acolytes, we would have a wonderful picture of the hierearchy of the Church.

There are instituted acolytes throughout the diocese, and often at least a few of them are willing to travel to the Cathedral. The diocese even boasts a couple of instituted lectors; it would have been great to have used their services rather than using female readers for the first two readings.

Below: case in point. Is it just me? (Some will say yes, but others will agree with me.) Here we have the deacon reading the Gospel, flanked by three young women. There is just something inherently wrong with this picture!

Again, I know that  the people at the Cathedral worked hard to make everything go smoothly and reverently, and I appreciate that. Still, I would also appreciate it if they would be open to making the Mass(es) of the Cathedral even more closely aligned with the rubrics and the traditions of the Church. 

The Cathedral is, after all, the mother church of the diocese, and should set the highest standard for liturgical excellence!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Bad Ol' Days" According to a Deacon

California Catholic Daily  recently ran this story about Deacon John Ashmore’s homily of March 11, which pointed out all the “failings” of the Church that were “corrected” by Vadican Too. You can read the news article here, and the entire sermon here.

A personal note: Deacon Ashmore’s parish is Christ the King in Pleasant Hill, California – the very parish where I had my first experiences of the Catholic Mass, as a non-Catholic. It’s the parish where our marriage was “blessed” after our annulments, and it’s the parish where our daughter was baptized. It’s also a parish where the pastor went on to celebrating clown Masses (after we moved to a new city, thank God!).

Here are some excerpts (my emphases throughout):

…I think over the period of a couple thousand years, the church developed some institutional “money changers.” The “rites,” that’s R-I-T-E-S, became failings in some ways. Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with the old rites, Latin or the Tridentine Mass. They were beautiful and mystical, but sometimes they were so mystical that they cut us off from the immanent reality of Jesus with us and in us.

“Nothing inherently wrong” with the “old” rites….what a relief! It would be quite disconcerting to find that what the Church had been doing for centuries, with minor changes that evolved organically, was somehow “wrong”. And every fiber of my being wants to scream that “beautiful and mystical” does not “cut us off from the immanent reality” of Jesus!

In my little world of limited choices for liturgy here in Eastern Oregon, I see a few priests who take a minimalist view of the liturgy, and the first thing they want to minimalize is the beauty and mysticism of the Mass. They say things like “This isn’t Rome!” when asked to implement some required element of the liturgy that has been long neglected in our parishes. They want to emphasize the humanity of Jesus to the detriment of our appreciation of his divinity. Their homilies focus on how Jesus was “just like us” – which is surely important to ponder, but I am wearied by the mundane diatribes that result. Sometimes Jesus is reduced to the level of a sinner like me! Those “beautiful and mystical” rites help us to lift us up, to “be perfect” as Jesus told us to be (Matthew 5:48), and to appreciate the spark of divinity in our own souls.

Deacon Ashmore goes on to mention the Missal he received as a Confirmation gift:

I was now, at the age of ten, responsible to take my missal to every mass I attended, and follow the reading and prayers as they were said by the priest. There was just one minor problem, and it began like this: “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.” (That means, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I will go in to the Altar of God. To God, the joy of my youth.”)

This is not a problem with the “old rites”, Deacon Ashmore. Latin is the official language of the Church. Canon law requires seminaries to teach Latin to the seminarians; our rite is called the Latin rite. And every “old” hand Missal I’ve seen includes the Latin prayers and an English translation. I’ve learned a lot of Latin just by making the comparison between the two translations. No, the problem is not with the “old rites” or the language; the problem is with one’s attitude toward them.

The mass was celebrated entirely in a language that none of us understood. The priest stood with his back to us saying words that, even if we could hear them, which we seldom could, we didn’t understand. Missals had Latin and English translations, so those who had them tried their best to keep up, eyes darting back and forth between the Latin and the English. This language confusion caused some people to just give up. People often spent their time at mass in personal devotions like the rosary.

I fail to understand why people want to hold on to the idea that they can never, ever understand Latin! Nor can I understand why they want to hold on to the idea that the priest “turns his back to us” at a Mass celebrated ad orientem. I think this is willful ignorance. And puh-lease! “Eyes darting back and forth” between translations? “Language confusion”? I think the real problem here is a lack of catechesis and Catholic identity confusion.

My eyes dart back and forth between translations when I attend a Mass said in Spanish. I don’t find it a problem, really. For one thing, I know what the priest is saying…not because I understand Spanish, but because I’ve been to Mass a few times. It’s really not that difficult. The priest does tend to say the same prayers at every Mass, ya know! The Mass is “universal” because it’s (supposed to be) said the same way all over the world. So even if travelers find the language unfamiliar, they still know the rite. They should know what the priest is praying.

The deacon goes on to complain about a variety of things. He says that the existence of “side altars” encouraged “the idea that any mass was more about the celebrant than the people” and that this was “one of the pre-Vatican II failings of the church”. Hello! The Mass is more about God than anyone else! And I maintain that the talk-show-host mentality of the Novus Ordo has led to far more focus on the personality of the priest than any of the rubrics of the extraordinary form.

Deacon Ashmore also complains about that pesky communion rail that was a “physical barrier” between the altar and the people back in the bad ol’ days before Vaddican Too. Never mind that nowhere in any Vatican II document was removal of that “barrier” mandated! Frankly, I see no problem with this “barrier”. It helps us to remember that there is a difference between us and God. It helps us remember that the priesthood is a special ministry, and that priests are set apart from the laity…intentionally, and for our benefit.

Too "ornate" for God?
We see the deacon’s minimalist leanings, too, when he complains about the “ornate carvings” on the altar, and the number of candles, altar servers, and even (gasp) steps to the tabernacle! Such excesses! (eyes rolling) And of course, there’s the usual complaint about how there were only altar boys and no altar girls and how we can thank God that now we are more inclusive. Never mind the dwindling vocations and the fact that female altar servers were not mandated by Vatican II, and special permission had to be given for their use.

But to me, the most egregious thing in his whole presentation (and this homily was given as a slide show, apparently), was this statement:

Only the priest and bishop had thumbs and forefingers consecrated so they could touch the host. To me the idea that only consecrated fingers could touch the Blessed Sacrament was a bit silly. Why is any finger more sacred than any other?

Apparently this deacon does not understand priestly ordination. He doesn’t understand that the priest’s hands are anointed.

Deacon Ashmore concludes:

Fifty years since the beginning of Vatican II, I think the reforms instituted have made our church into a much better place. The people of God are the worshiping community, not a community separated from the clergy. While we praise and worship our mystical God, we are more in touch with the immanent God who sits with us in our own skin. There is still much work to be done. There are still too many ignored and silenced voices. But let us rejoice during this anniversary in the strides that we have made, and ask our good and gracious God to be with us as we strive to chase the money changers out of the temple and become the people and church that he wants us to be.

“Much better place”?! Then why is attendance at Mass so dismal?

“Separated from the clergy”?! You betcha! That’s why we ORDAIN priests. Duh.

“Too many ignored and silenced voices”?! I couldn’t agree more! Mine is one of them - along with everyone else who would like to have a regular celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass, and who would like to see a “reform of the reform” – or even those who just want a faithful following of the rubrics for a novus ordo Mass.

“Become the church God wants us to be”?! YES! We had some explicit instructions about that, and liturgical worship. Still do. But people like Deacon are either unaware of the rubrics – even of their precious Novus Ordo! – or simply wish to impose their own interpretation.

Well, go and read the homily for yourself if you want to see a picture of what seems to be a willful misunderstanding of the extraordinary form of the Mass. You can read about the dark, scary confessional, and the exclusion of girls from altar service, and how “terrified” the young people were at confirmation (and they were SEGREGATED, too!).

I am running out of patience with people who spout this kind of nonsense. Especially clerics who do so.


For the other side of the coin, see yesterday's post "The Vortex: Latin Anyone?"

Also related: 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Vortex: "Latin Anyone?"

Once again, Michael Voris has some great insights – actually, some evidence from his own experience – about the value of the Traditional Latin Mass. His premise in this episode of the Vortex is that the “incredible need to evangelize and spread the Faith” that we are hearing so much about, is actually happening in Catholic communities where the Traditional Latin Mass is offered. (Tantum Ergo has comments on this Vortex, too.)

From the script for the “Latin Anyone?” episode of the Vortex:

We do a lot of traveling, around the US and the world. We meet thousands of Catholics in dozens and dozens of different settings, from every race and nationality you can imagine.

In just the past six months alone, we’ve been invited to speak to parishes and other groups in Denver, Colorado; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Toronto, Ontario;, Ottawa Ontario; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Lafayette, Louisiana; Manila, Cebu, Bacolad and Davao City, The Philippines; Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Abuja, Nigeria; Washington DC; Sacramento, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New Jersey; Rome; Evansville, Indiana; Rome, New York; El Paso, Texas; San Diego, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Clearwater, Florida; and Toulon France.

… In the next months, we’ll be adding to those numbers traveling to Auckland, New Zealand, as well as Melbourne, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, and Sydney in Australia.

…[T]he near constant thread we see running throughout all these locations and people is a great love for Tradition, especially the Traditional Latin Mass.

Michael Voris notes, too, that even if the TLM is not readily available in some of the places he’s visited, there is still “a great curiosity about it and a desire to know more about it”. And when he attends Mass with his hosts, it is often a TLM, and when it is, he says:

What strikes you almost instantly is the large proportion of young people, especially young males, as well as young families. Sure there are old people there, but the more liberal party line coming out of chanceries across the Catholic world that the Traditional Latin Mass is like a senior citizen home is pure hooey.

I know. I’ve been to these Masses on three and soon to be four continents, multiple countries, and dozens and dozens of cities across the United States. London England, for example has a splendid and lively group of young Catholics called Juventutum, which is Latin for “youth”.

…What’s curious about all this is this. When you look around the Church these days, practically anywhere, this is where you see all the growth and excitement and energy.

The parishes that are “emptying out and closing” are not those that have the Traditional Latin Mass. Rather, they are:

[t]he parishes that are mired in their stale, boring lives of dull liturgies complete with lifeless unchallenging homilies or even worse, Protestantized emotional liturgies – which is to say the large number of Catholic parishes in the west…

…The average Catholic knows little about his faith and cares even less. That’s why parishes are closing. Sure the other factors have some impact. But the number one reason is lack of Catholic identity.

Oh oh, but not in these traditionally minded circles. No siree! They are churning out vocations, are packed with young L-A-R-G-E families, have a parish-wide sense of community, socialize as well as pray together, generally tend to home-school their exorbitant number of kids and center their lives around the one true faith established by Jesus Christ – the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

They know their faith, make sure their kids know the faith. They live the faith and most importantly LOVE the faith. Practically all the action in the Church these days, from excitement and devotion, to vocations and young people involvement to large families - ALL of it – is coming from the Traditional Latin Mass quarter of the Church.

Again, I’m not reading this in brochures or promotional videos – as if such things even existed in the first place. I’m seeing it with my own peepers, almost everywhere I go.

As the establishment Church of the last half of the 20th century turns old and grays, one can only hope that its liberal and decidedly non-Catholic approach to the Church’s mission of saving souls dies with it.

As you look around at who’s clogging the ranks of seminarians these days, as Father Z pointed out on his superb blog earlier this week, it’s not hard at all to see where the Church will be in the next 20 years.

Here’s a clue: it’s gonna be very hard to hear the drums and tambourines over all that Gregorian Chant.

And here’s a shout out to the liberal Catholic crowd – the few of you that are left: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em. After all, you made a living fomenting revolution in the halcyon days of the 1960’s and ‘70’s.

Well, here’s the newest revolution you can sign up for. And never forget, what’s old is new again. 

Here's the video:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Francis de Sales: Hearing the Word of God

The source of the following excerpt is: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent. This is from the sermon for Passion Sunday; I’ve excerpted only a small portion of it here.


He who is of God hears the words of God. 
Therefore you hear them not, 
because you are not of God. – John 8:47

A word is accepted or rejected for three reasons: because of the person who speaks it, because of the word that is spoken, because of those who hear it. For this word to be honored and accepted, the one who is speaking it must be a good man, a virtuous man, one worthy of being believed. Otherwise, rather than being accepted, it will be rejected, despised. Further, what is said must be good and true. Finally, those who hear it must be good, prepared to receive it; if not, it will be neither accepted, honored, nor kept.

This is what Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel Holy Church offers us today, in which He reproaches the scribes and Pharisees for not receiving His words—for which they are to blame. [Jn. 8:46-59]. He says: Why do you not believe the truth I teach? Their nonbelief thoroughly astonished Him. It is as though He meant to say: “You really have no excuse, for which one of you can convict Me of sin? Why then do you not believe Me, since what I am telling you is truth itself? I cannot err. Therefore your disbelief must stem from your own wickedness and sinfulness. Certainly neither I nor the word I teach is to blame.”

Thus, it is necessary that the one proclaiming God’s word be irreproachable, and his life congruent with his teaching. If this is not the case, the word will be neither honored nor accepted. For this reason God forbids sinners to announce His word [Ps. 49 (50):16-17]. He seems to say: “Miserable one, how dare you teach My doctrine with your lips and dishonor it with your life? How can you possibly expect it to be accepted from a mouth so full of infectious sin? I will not permit such a one to proclaim My will.” Thus He has forbidden sinners to announce His sacred word, fearing it will be rejected by those who hear it.

Be careful here. It is not all sinners who are forbidden to preach, but only notorious ones. Otherwise, who could announce God’s word, since we are all sinners? Whoever says the contrary is guilty of grievous untruth. [1 Jn. 1:8]. Even the Apostles were sinners. Those who allege never to have sinned are guilty of a very great delusion indeed. The contrary is actually clear at the very moment they allege it. St. Augustine teaches this explicitly when he writes that the daily petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses” [Matt. 6:12], is not only a word of humility but also one of truth because, due to our frail humanity, we commit offences at every turn.

All are sinners, but not all are to be silent and refrain from teaching God’s word, but only those who live a life wholly contrary to this divine word. Yet even if this word is preached to us by evildoers, we ought not reject it, but accept it, doing as the bees do who gather honey from almost all the flowers of the fields. Even though some of these flowers are harmful and poisonous, they skillfully draw out honey, a celestial dew untainted by poison.

As confirmation of what I say, I will gladly relate a beautiful example found in the life of the great St. Ephrem. He was indeed a great man, not only because he was a deacon to two illustrious Doctors of the Church, but because he too was a great Doctor, having written very beautiful teachings which truly delight those who read them. This great saint was reared very carefully and nourished from his earliest years on the eremitical life. After many years in the desert, he was inspired by God one day to go to Edessa, his native city. He had always left his heart open and receptive to the Divine Majesty, eager to receive the precious dew of heavenly inspiration, and he had always faithfully accepted them in obedience. Thus he readily embraced this one too.

He went promptly to the city. As he drew near, he was convinced that God must have something important to teach him in calling him from his hermitage. Falling on his knees, he prayed most fervently for the grace to meet someone in the city who would serve as his director and lead him to God’s will. Full of confidence that the Lord would hear him, he got up. When he reached Edessa he came upon a prostitute. Disturbed, he said to himself: “My God, I asked You to let me meet someone who would teach me what Your good pleasure wants of me. Instead, I meet this unfortunate woman.” Eyeing her disdainfully, he noticed that she too was looking at him attentively. Enraged at her boldness, he demanded: “Why, miserable woman, do you look at me so?” She responded very cleverly and learnedly: “I have the right to look at you, but you have no right to look at me. You know that woman was drawn from the side of man. [Gen. 2:21-23]. Therefore, I am only looking at the place of my origin. But man was created from the earth [Gen. 2:7], so why are you not continually looking down at the earth, since that is the place from which you were drawn?”

This great saint truly valued the teaching of the wretched woman, received it humbly, and even warmly acknowledged his gratitude to her. From that moment on, he so valued that lesson that not only did he always keep his bodily eyes lowered to the ground, but even more so his interior and spiritual eyes, which he kept riveted on his nothingness, his vileness and his abjection. In this way he made continual progress in the virtue of most holy humility all the rest of his life.

This story teaches us how we should honor and esteem God’s word and good teachings even if they are presented by persons of ill repute. After all, the Lord desired that a prophet should be instructed by an ass [Num. 22:28-30], and that wicked Pilate should announce the great truth that our divine Master is Jesus [Matt. 1:21]—that is, Savior—a title which he even placed above the Cross, insisting: Such is the case, it is I who have said so. [Jn. 19:22]. Caiphas, the most miserable among men, pronounced this word of truth: It is expedient to have one man die for the salvation of the people. [Jn. 11:49-50; 18:14].

This makes it clear that although we must never esteem nor approve the evil lives of wicked and sinful people, yet we ought never to despise God’s word that they may offer us. Rather, we must profit from it as did St. Ephrem. A great Doctor has taught that we ought not care whether the person who shows us the way of virtue is good or had. All that is important is that it be indeed the true way. If so, we ought to follow it and walk in it faithfully. What does it matter whether they give us balm in an earthenware vessel or in a precious vase? It is enough that it cures our wounds.

Other Lenten meditations on this blog: