Friday, February 21, 2003


My bishop, James A. Murray of Kalamazoo, has requested that I cease further postings to my blog.

When or whether I will return to blogging, I cannot say at this time.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Latin as a Flash Point?

Well, I had an excellent visit to Lincoln, Nebraska and Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, which is the theologate of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). The men were most welcoming to me and made my stay very pleasant. The Rector, Fr. Jackson, is an excellent priest and is obviously the right man for his job.

I was very impressed by the maturity, seriousness (in a good sense), and all-around level-headedness of the seminarians and faculty I met. Anyone who thinks all Traditionalists are wild-eyed zealots should spend a few hours in the company of these excellent men. I found them to be men who truly want to be in the heart of Mother Church.

It is most unfortunate and unfair, it seems to me, that so many "moderate" and "progressive" Catholics have relegated faithful Traditionalists such as those of the FSSP to an Outer Darkness of sorts: Such people love to portray themselves as champions of diversity within the Church, but somehow that diversity doesn't include the riches of our own Latin liturgical patrimony. The fact is that the rites of the 1962 missal fulfill the spiritual needs of a large and growing number of Catholics. If that's not diversity, I don't know what is. Authentic traditionalists, such as those I met and know, are all in favor of legitimate diversity, as that is one of the hallmarks or the Catholic faith. The seminary community was most accomodating to me, they readily made their facilities available to me to celebrate my Novus Ordo masses (I haven't yet learned how to celebrate according to the Old rite) and provided a seminarian to serve for me.

I attended a couple of seminary liturgies, and while at Vespers last Saturday evening I was struck by the true austerity, a beautiful austerity, of the liturgy. Those who pooh-pooh the old rite as overwrought or difficult to follow, it seems to me, simply have not made any effort to understand it. That liturgy wasn't complicated: what it was was reverent. And it seems to me that that Novus Ordo opens itself up to irreverence in a way that the Old Rite doesn't. And to dismiss it because of the use of Latin, it seems to me, is simply fatuous. The person of average intelligence can learn the parts of the Mass in Latin and the proper responses in a matter of hours. If I can teach 4th and 5th graders Latin prayers and chants then it's not beyond the reach of adults.

Which brings me to an observation: The only real die-hard opposition to Latin in the liturgy anymore comes from the aging-hippie set. Many such people have a virulent hatred of Latin or anything that smacks of tradition. I recall an incident I witnessed at a parish some time past: A parishioner innocently approached the parish music director and asked if we could have "some Latin at Mass". She literally drew back her shoulders and declaimed in her most authoritative voice "We don't do Latin at this parish. Latin isn't accessible to the people." The parishioner (who was by no means elderly) spoke of the beauty of Latin and how much she and many other parishioners would enjoy it. I then chimed in and said, "Why couldn't we? We would have to start with simpler stuff, but why not? I'd be happy to help." She then turned to me and with a voice of cold fury made it clear that there would be no such goings on at that parish. When I pointed out that a couple of parishes in the diocese (including, at that time, the Cathedral) in fact had regular Latin Masses, she harrumphed and said that unfortunately there was nothing she could do about such pastors.

The attitude of this music director, in my experience, is typical of ecclesiats (thanks to Mark Shea for that excellent term) of a certain generation. Too many of them are people who, unfortunately, have been taught or otherwise learned to hate their own tradition. They are truly self-hating Catholics, for they despise the wellspring and source of the faith they claim to hold, the Tradition.

But this attitude does not, in my experience, reflect the mind of most people in the pews, and certainly not young (35 and younger) people. I was struck by the number of young couples and families at the FSSP parish in Lincoln. In my own small efforts to expose young people to more "traditional" forms of worship, including Latin, I find them to be quite receptive. I find parents of these young people to be practically universal in their gratitude for such efforts.

The Tradition is the life-blood of the Church, for it contains the essence and genius of the faith. That is why it is ever living and ever new, and why each generation will continue to re-discover it, in spite of the best efforts of some to obfuscate or revise it.

In answer to a question...

In one of my comment boxes below someone asked if I was contemplating joining the FSSP. The answer is no. While I am in some respects sympathetic to, and always enjoy the company of, my loyal Traditionalist brethren, I am happy, and more importantly, know that I am where I have been called to be, precisely where I am at.