Monday, March 16, 2015

The Dangerous Superficiality of Traditionalism -- Part 2

St. Catherine of Siena
I recently did a post on traditional Catholics and the emphasis they place on external worship, citing the fact that this can be a very dangerous road. Just because something looks holy, that doesn't necessarily mean God is present. I gave the example of an Anglican high mass which looks very similar to a TLM. However, that is very deceptive because Jesus Christ is present in the TLM while the Anglican Mass truly is nothing more than smells and bells.

I have found great support for this argument in my Lenten reading.  Part of my spiritual reading for Lent has been The Dialogue by St. Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church.  The Dialogue is the record of conversations St. Catherine had with God the Father in which, while in a state of ecstasy, she dictated the Father's words which were written down verbatim by her secretaries (St. Catherine could not read or write, at least not until the end of her life).

In Section 68, God the Father talks about the difference between loving Him and loving the consolations we receive from Him.  He warns of the great danger that comes from loving the consolations more than Him.
Page 129-130 - But my servants, even though their love is still imperfect, seek and love me for my love's sake rather than for consolation and pleasure they find in me. Now I do reward every good deed -- but the measure of the reward is the recipient's love. . . .it is not my intention that the soul should receive this consolation foolishly, paying more attention to my gift than to me. I want her to be more concerned about the loving charity with which I give it to her, and to her unworthiness to receive it, than to the pleasure of her own consolation. If she foolishly takes only the pleasure without considering my love for her, she will reap the sort of harm and delusion of which I am about to tell you.

. . . When she has experienced my consolation and my visitation within her in one way, and then that way ceases, she goes back along the road by which she had come, hoping to find the same thing again. But I do not always give in the same way, lest it seem as if I had nothing else to give. No, I give in many ways, as it pleases my goodness and according to the soul's need. But in her foolishness she looks for my gift only in that one way, trying as it were to impose rules on the Holy Spirit.

That is not the way to act. Instead, she should cross courageously along the bridge of the teaching of Christ crucified, and there receive my gifts when, where and as my goodness pleases to give them. And if I hold back it is not out of hate but love, so that she may seek me in truth and love me not just for her pleasure, but humbly accept my charity more than any pleasure she may find. For if she does otherwise and runs only after pleasure in her own way rather than mine, she will experience pain and unbearable confusion when the object of her delight, as her mind sees it, seems to be taken away.

Such are those who choose consolation in their own way. Once they find pleasure in me in a given fashion they want to go on with just that. Sometimes they are so foolish that if I visit them in any other way than that, they resist and do not accept it, still wanting only what they have imagined.

This is the fault of their selfish passion in the spiritual pleasures they found in me. But they are deluded. It would be impossible to be always the same. For the soul cannot stand still; she has either to advance toward virtue or turn back. In the same way the spirit cannot stand still in me in one pleasure without my goodness' giving her more. And I give these gifts very differently: Sometimes I give the pleasure of a spiritual gladness; sometimes I give contrition and contempt for sin, which will make it seem as if the spirit is inwardly troubled. . . .
The words I highlighted in the last paragraph, "For the soul cannot stand still; she has either to advance toward virtue or turn back. In the same way the spirit cannot stand still in me in one pleasure without my goodness' giving her more" are very similar to those of Pope Francis when he celebrated Mass on the 50th anniversary of first Mass in a language other than Latin.  From an article by Crux:
Allowing priests to celebrate Mass in the language of the local congregation rather than in Latin allowed the faithful to understand and be encouraged by the word of God, Pope Francis said.
“You cannot turn back, we have to always go forward, always forward and who goes back is making a mistake,” he told parishioners after commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first time a pope celebrated Mass in the vernacular following the Second Vatican Council.
“Let us give thanks to the Lord for what he has done in his Church in these 50 years of liturgical reform. It was really a courageous move by the Church to get closer to the people of God so that they could understand well what it does, and this is important for us: to follow Mass like this,” he said as he left Rome’s Church of All Saints March 7.
Pope Francis at Anniversary of First Vernacular Language Mass
The Remnant Newspaper posted a typical traditionalist response to this message from the Holy Father:  "Pope Francis Celebrates Tragic Anniversary Today in Rome."  As this article states,
[T]he so-called "New Mass" and all of its Protestant trappings were imposed on the Church by modernist revolutionaries acting under the auspices of the demonic "spirit of Vatican II."
Father Z, who tries to appear more moderate than the extremist Remnant Newspaper, was basically in agreement with this statement [HERE].  Father Z deftly avoided any mention of the Mass or homily by Pope Francis.  He started out his post, entitled "Speaking of 50th anniversary of vernacular Masses… BUGNINICARE! (Revisited)",  with the following statement:
In some circles there has been some panting whoopdeedoo about the fact that 50 years ago Paul VI celebrated Mass for the first time in a Roman parish in Italian.
Yes, Father Z, and the one making the biggest "whoopdeedoo" about this was none other than Pope Francis.  The Vicar of Christ, unlike you, felt this was a very important event in Church history.

Father Z, as part of his response to the "whoopdeedoo" reprinted an old post about Msgr. Annibale Bugnini which Father Z entitled, "Bugninicare!  UNIVERSAL SPIRITUAL-CARE REFORM FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH."  After writing disparagingly of the New Mass, Father Z then  posted several pictures showing abuses of the Mass but disingenuously presented these pictures as the natural result of the "Bugnini" changes.  One of the comments was very typical of those posted:
Dundonianski says:9 March 2015 at 8:34 am
A wonderful tapestry of what was (and is) valid and licit; my sympathies to the SSPX!
But the one comment that everyone loved was this:
Henry Edwards says:9 March 2015 at 10:34 am One thing we did not hear from the Bugninicare reformers was “In [sic] you like your old Mass, then you can keep your old Mass.”

Why are traditionalists so insistent on the superiority of the TLM and the spiritual destructiveness of the "Novus Ordo" as they call it?  That answer was given recently by none other than the aforementioned Father Z.

In a recent post [HERE] Father Z answered an email from a reader:
Since His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has allowed the Latin mass to be celebrated by Priest without special per mission, many younger Priest and young Catholics have been celebrating the Latin mass more often. Do you think this is a comeback of the Latin mass? Do you [think] the Novus Ordo may eventually be outnumbered by the Latin mass sometime in the future?  [Emphasis Father Z]
Father Z's response:
Good question.
It seems almost like a war of attrition, doesn’t it? Whose churches or Masses will empty faster?
I know, this seems like a pretty negative assessment, but I don’t see anything to be gained by false optimism.
With this comment, Father Z lets us know that he most definitely would like to see the TLM outnumber the "Novus Ordo" Mass.  But alas, he does not believe this will happen because, as he writes, "There are many obstacles to the TLM."

Father Z believes that one of the biggest obstacles to keeping the TLM from "outstripping" (as he calls it) the "Novus Ordo" is the fact that so many priests do not know Latin.  Father Z seems to feel this was intentional, as he wrote:
Enemies within the Church knew that they had to destroy the foundations, so Latin had to go.  [Emphasis Father Z]
Father Z is telling us, and many traditionalists agree, that one of the major reasons for so many leaving the Church in the western culture is that Latin is no longer used in the Mass.   Father Z tells us that the "enemies within the Church" knew that dropping Latin would cause people to leave the Church(?!), and that is why they conspired to change the Latin Mass.

Really? Knowledge and use of the Latin language is a key to holiness? Don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Latin. But how did Latin become the language of the Church? The capital of the Church was moved from Jerusalem to Rome in the first century, and the language of first century Rome was Latin. So in actuality, the Church in the first centuries of her existence celebrated Mass in the vernacular of her capital, which at that time happened to be Latin.

Despite what many traditionalists believe, including apparently Father Z, there is nothing more inherently spiritual about Latin than there is about any other language. I highly doubt that the language of heaven is Latin. I don't find anything in the Word of God that says to this man will I look, he who can speak fluent Latin. So my question to Father Z would be, just how is Latin a foundation of the Church? I thought the Church was built on Jesus Christ and the apostles. I don't find anything in either the Bible or church writings that says the Latin language is a "foundation" of the Church. Yes. Latin is the official language of the Church, but that is far different from being a "foundation" of the Church.  

If the ability to speak and understand Latin was essential to holiness and salvation, one wonders how saints like Bernadette of Lourdes ever made it. She couldn't even pass her Catechism class, and yet she was chosen to bring the message of the Immaculate Conception to the world.  Most people after the fall of the Roman Empire could not understand Latin.  That is why so many resorted to their own prayers, such as the Rosary, during Mass.  They really didn't know what was going on at the altar.

Even priests had problems with Latin.  One of the most notable is the patron saint of parish priests - St. John Vianney. He was almost kicked out of seminary because of his inability to master Latin. And one of the holiest priests of the 20th Century - Solanus Casey - was never allowed to hear confessions or publicly celebrate the Mass because he could not learn Latin or German and thus he was perceived as being deficient in theology as well. I think it is safe to say that these two saintly priests would have rejoiced to have been able to celebrate the Mass in the vernacular.

But the use of the vernacular in the Mass is not the only obstacle Father Z sees to the TLM:
Another obstacle to the TLM is the hatred that squishy-identity Catholics have for it, because of its emphases on sacrifice and it’s clarity about the Four Last Things. When you start experiencing Mass in the older form, you begin hearing “No!” to your baser passions and you begin to encounter something transcendent and, indeed, frightening. It is a harder path.
In this statement, Father Z accuses anyone who is not a supporter of the Latin Mass as "squishy-identity Catholics" who hate what he calls the TLM emphasis on "sacrifice and it's [sic] clarity about the Four Last Things."  Father Z obviously feels that if you are not a supporter of the TLM, then you are a "squishy-identity Catholic" at best with little love for anything truly Catholic.

Wow. What do I tell the people at my parish, such as the 80-plus year old blind Italian gentlemen who waits outside his house for someone passing by to walk him to Mass every day, always coming at least a half hour early so he can pray before the Sacred Heart and Our Blessed Mother, and who always stays afterwards to pray the Rosary? What do I tell the 90 year old head of our Rosarian society, a daily communicant coming early to pray the Stations of the Cross, who is also active as a lecturer, altar server and Extraordinary Minister of Communion? These are just two examples of the "Novus Ordo" Catholics I know who have a deep devotion to Christ and His Church. I know many, many others.  How do I tell them that because they have "moved on" from the TLM, as Pope Francis said, they are just "squishy identity Catholics"?

Father Z then makes a prediction about the future of the Mass:
In the longer term, will the TLM survive and the Novus Ordo die out? I suspect it won’t look like that. I suspect that something along the lines of what Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI thought would happen will take place. That is, having jump started the more organic path of liturgical development, with the greater frequency of the older, traditional forms alongside the Novus Ordo, some tertium quid will eventually emerge, wherein the two forms have influenced each other in a process of “mutual enrichment”. They will exert what I call a “gravitational pull” on each other and the Roman Rite will organically develop.
I know that Cardinal Ratzinger - as Cardinal Ratzinger and not as Pope Benedict XVI - wrote about the state of the Mass and the changes he felt should be made, such as the priest celebrating ad orientem.  But in his official role as Vicar of Christ, he wrote the following in Summorum Pontificum:
Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the 'Lex orandi' (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same 'Lex orandi,' and must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church's Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's 'Lex credendi' (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.
Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass
In fact, Summorum Pontificum actually places limits on how often the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass may be celebrated in a parish:
Article 5, § 2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.
This is why the TLM is officially labeled the "Extraordinary" Form. The Ordinary Form of the Mass, according to Pope Benedict XVI, still has precedence over the Extraordinary Form. Hence, the names of the two usages, as Pope Benedict XVI labeled them.

It is always possible for changes to be made in the future, but as of right now, it does not look like the Church has any intention of creating a hybrid Mass out of the two forms. This seems to be wishful thinking on the part of Father Z and other traditionalists.

Father Z then explains why the TLM is so necessary for the salvation of the Church:
What is clear to me, however, is that we urgently, desperately need a renewal and revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship. Without a solid liturgical base, no initiative of evangelization (or of “New Evangelization”) will bear lasting fruit. Every aspect of the Church’s life flows from and back to our worship of God, which we owe by the virtue of Religion.
Therefore, we need more and more celebrations of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
With this statement, Father Z is making it very clear that he sees very little value in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. He looks at the state of the church in the western culture, which admittedly is not good, and concludes that the problem is with the Novus Ordo Mass. As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, traditionalists seem to be oblivious of the fact that our entire western culture is dying. It isn't just the Catholic Church that is suffering. All religions are suffering.

African Bishops
As I also noted in my last post, the Catholic Church is growing in the rest of the world - Asia, Africa and South America - the "third world" countries that are not as infected with materialism and hedonism as we in the West are.  And which form of the Mass is primarily celebrated in these counties?  The dreaded Novus Ordo.  Trying to lay the blame on the Ordinary Form of the Mass for the decline of the Church in the West is to totally ignore everything else that is happening in our culture.

Father Z also writes:
One of the reasons we need wider use of the Extraordinary Form is because of the knock on effect it produces through the priests who learn it. When young priests learn the older, traditional form, it shapes their priestly identity in a way that the Novus Ordo simply cannot. The deepening and strengthening of the identity of the priest at the altar will in turn produce effects among the people who are entrusted to the priests pastoral care.
Father Z is stating here that learning the TLM makes better and holier priests, and this in turn has an effect on those in the pews.  Why is it, then, that, without exception, all sedevacantist groups - those who have separated from Holy Mother Church - reject the "Novus Ordo" Mass and revolve their identity around the Traditional Latin Mass?  Why hasn't the TLM made them better Catholics?  Why is it that the most hateful, mean spirited Catholic blogs are those written by traditionalists?  

Father Z then writes:
Meanwhile, I suspect that we will see a more and more divided Church.  
Far and wide we will see a deemphasis on doctrinal clarity that will, coupled with vague liturgical worship, produce weak and vague Catholic identity among a majority of those who self-identity as Catholic. A sort of Immanentism Lite will continue to enervate Catholic identity.
On the other hand, there will be some Catholics who are fortunate enough to have solid priests and bishops who maintain sound and reverent sacred worship, who teach with clarity true Catholic doctrine without watering it down under the pressure of the world, the flesh and the devil. I fear, however, that they will be isolated in enclaves, oases, ghettos. Through the Church’s history, in times of trouble, there has been a temptation to isolate, to preserve the core by separation. This tendency, human as it is, in part brought about the rise of monasticism. In the modern world, however, in which is nearly impossible to isolate oneself on a mountain top, I fear that strong identity Catholics may disengage from other Catholics and from action in the public square. This is why I am always nagging traditional Catholics to be active in their parishes, to be the first to get involved with parish initiatives and, especially, corporal works of mercy. Strong or hard-identity Catholics simply must be more engaged with their parishes and active in the public square.
Again, Father Z is pushing the notion that the TLM makes better Catholics and the Novus Ordo destroys Catholics, going completely against Summorum Pontificum.  I give Father Z credit in that he encourages traditionalists to stay with their parishes, but he is promoting an elitist, patronizing attitude in that he is telling his followers that they are the better Catholics who need to teach the poor dumb slobs - er, excuse me - the "squishy-identity Catholics" who are so blinded by the Novus Ordo Mass.

And I absolutely must object to Father Z's statement:  "Through the Church’s history, in times of trouble, there has been a temptation to isolate, to preserve the core by separation. This tendency, human as it is, in part brought about the rise of monasticism."  Monasticism was about separating from the world, not the Church.  Monks were always completely in line with and under the authority of the Church.  This statement of Father Z is misleading, to say the very least.

At the beginning of this post, I quoted from St. Catherine of Siena's  Dialogue in which God the Father warns us not to love the consolations He gives us more than we love Him.   This is the big problem I see with traditionalists and with attitudes such as that displayed by Father Z.  In my first post on this subject, I quoted from an article written by a traditionalist who stated his reasons for loving the TLM:
The Traditional Mass made it clear that the Mass is something different from all that. The formality, the silences, the use of an ancient language, the orientation and gestures of the priest, the indifference to popularity—all those things meant the Mass wasn’t anything like an ordinary meeting.
In other words, the writer likes the feelings or the "consolations" he receives from the Mass.  He does not receive these same feelings or consolations from the Novus Ordo Mass.  He is, therefore, convinced that the TLM is superior and more authentically Catholic.

This is exactly what God the Father warned against in His words to St. Catherine
All this I do [taking away consolations] out of love, to support her and make her grow in the virtue of humility and in perseverance, and to teach her that she should not try to law down rules for me and that her goal is not consolation but only virtue built on me. I want her to accept humbly, in season and out, with loving affection, the affection with which I give to her, and to believe with lively faith that I give as her welfare demands or as is needed to bring her to great perfection.

So she should remain humble. Her beginning and end should be in the love of my charity, and in this charity she should accept pleasure and its absence in terms of my will rather than her own. This is the way to avoid delusion and to receive all things in love from me, for I am their end and they are grounded in my gentle will.
If we identify as Catholic, that means that we accept the teachings and pronouncements of the Catholic Church. Traditionalists love to point to Summorum Pontificum as a defense of the superiority of the TLM. However, as I pointed out above, this document as written by Pope Benedict XVI specifically states that the two forms of the Mass are equally valid. If we accept one form, we must accept the other. But this is not what we are hearing from Father Z and the traditionalists. They receive more consolations from the TLM, and therefore they consider it superior. This is very dangerous.
From The Dialogue:
Section 69, Page 131  - Because their sight is set on their own pleasure they do not know how to discern or know in truth where their offense really lies.
Section 70, Page 132 - If they behave foolishly they will receive only milk. But if they behave prudently, I will return to them with even greater delight and strength, light and warmth of charity. But if they accept the absence of the feeling of spiritual tenderness with weariness and sadness of spiritual confusion, they will gain little and will persist in their lukewarmness.
Section 71, Page 133 - After this they are often deluded in yet another way by the devil, when he takes on the appearance of light. For the devil gives whatever he sees the mind disposed to desire and receive. So when he sees the mind gluttonous, with its desire set on spiritual visions and consolations (whereas the soul should set her desire not on these but only on virtue, counting herself unworthy of the other or of receiving my affection in such consolations), then, I say, the devil presents himself to that mind under the appearance of light. He does this in different ways: now as an angel, now under the guise of my Truth, now as one or the other of my saints. And this he does to catch the soul with the hook of that very spiritual pleasure she has sought in visions and spiritual delight. And unless she rouses herself with true humility, scorning all pleasure, she will be caught on this hook in the devil's hands. But let her humbly disdain pleasure and cling to love not for the gift but for me, the giver. For the Devil all his pride cannot tolerate a humble spirit.
And should you ask me how one can know that the visitation is from the devil and not from me, I would answer you this is the sign: If it is the devil who has come to visit the mind under the guise of light, the soul experiences gladness at his coming. But the longer he stays, the more gladness gives way to weariness and darkness and pricking as the mind becomes clouded over by his presence within. But when the soul is truly visited by me, eternal Truth, she experiences holy fear at the first encounter. And with this fear comes gladness and security, along with a gentle prudence that does not doubt even while it doubts, but through self-knowledge considers itself unworthy. 
Page 134 - The one deluded will be the soul who chooses to travel only with the imperfect love of her own consolation rather than of my affection.
Section 72, Page 134 - I have told you this so that you and my other servants may follow the path of virtue for love of me and for no other reason.
It was not that long ago that I was one of those traditionalists who loved the Latin Mass and had little if any use for the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I often complained that I couldn't pray at the OF, that I found it more distracting than anything else. I just didn't receive the same feeling from it. But then I decided that I needed to accept the OF because, like it or not, it was the Mass promulgated by the Church. As the recorded words of God the Father state above, I felt "holy fear at the first encounter." But as I put my own feelings aside and prayed the Mass whether I felt it or not, I gradually found it to be as much of a spiritual experience as the TLM ever was. Jesus Christ was as present at this Mass as He was in the TLM. My feelings have nothing to do with the validity of the Mass. As God the Father says above, "with this fear comes gladness and security, along with a gentle prudence that does not doubt even while it doubts, but through self-knowledge considers itself unworthy."

As Our Lord told us, by their fruits you will know them. Many will say that the fruits of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass has been the destruction of the Church. I say again - it is Western culture that is self destructing. The fruits of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass is the growth of the Church in parts of the world which until now were basically resistant to the Church. But now that the Church is no longer identifying as a European institution, the rest of the world can see the true universality of the Gospel message and how it relates to them.

We need to be very careful that we are listening to the Voice of God and not our own internal voice. We need to realize that God works in His own way.  We are finite human beings who see only a very small part of the picture if we are lucky.  Walking by faith means trusting in the Lord, even if it feels wrong.



  1. The problem is that modern western man does not really believe in hell, let alone that anything about his nature might send him to such a place.

    And this problem has penetrated the Church itself, which has undergone a tremendous de-emphasis on the Four Last Things throughout its life - its catechesis, its devotional life, its education, and, yes, its liturgy. It was with good cause that Piers Paul Read observed some years back that "neglect of the Four Last Things is one of the causes for the relative decline of the fortunes of the Catholic Church in the developed world."

    The difficulty with the Missal of Paul VI is not the lack of Latin (after all, technically its normative text is Latin, even if this is very rarely celebrated) but that there is a pronounced shift away from emphasis on the Four Last Things in its texts - and in its praxis, this is generally deemphasized even further, in part due to the many options it permits. The new offertory, the choice of readings (especially on Sundays, when the vast majority of Catholics actually attend), the new propers, the loss of the Judica Me, the loss of the communion confiteor, the loss of key penitential rubrics - all of these things combine to create a pronounced theological shift without precedent in the Latin Rite liturgical tradition (which includes many rites and uses outside the old Roman Rite). In fairness, the disdain for the Four Last Things was already growing before the Council, or the advent of the new missal. Just the same, the missal reflects, in some real way, these priorities, albeit not fatally so.

    And yet hell is a real place, and souls really do go there, and we are to properly fear it (Council of Trent, S. VI, Canon 8). Indeed, to listen to nearly all of the doctors and saints of the Church who have spoken on the subject, it would seem that *most* souls go there - perhaps all but a small handful - which is after all a reasonable reading of our Lord's own words at numerous points in the Gospels. St. Catherine of Siena herself provides in her Dialogue a stark vision of the four torments of hell. "But in my divine justice I allow my fire to burn these souls mightily, tormenting them without consuming them. And the tremendous pain of this tortuous burning has as many forms as the forms of their sins and is more or less severe in proportion to their sins.”

    The problem is not the Latin. If indeed having a more comprehensible liturgy was the objective, we could have been given the permission to celebrate the Roman Rite in a faithful, sacral vernacular, and that would be that. Yet the introduction of the vernacular was arguably the least important change that was made. Why was so much changed, without precedent? More to the point, why is there so much deemphasis on the Four Last Things in our normative liturgies today? And could that have something to do with the universalism that appears to prevail in so much of the Church?

    The Ordinary Form is not invalid, illicit, or illegitimate, or even necessarily a grave danger. Catholics who attend it (who after all account for perhaps 99% of participants, even in America) are not second class Catholics. Nor is exclusive attendance at the EF any guarantee of holiness or even orthodoxy (if it were, how could the 60's have happened, or for that matter, the Reformation?) If you are prudent, both forms of the Roman Rite can make you a saint, and I have seen many saintly people at Churches that only offer the Ordinary Form. But I do contend that it is theologically impoverished in this regard, and it is not schismatic or an act of dissent to hold as such. If anything, contemporary society needs the clarity and emphasis on the Four Last Things even *more* than our grandsires did, for our pride is greater than theirs.

    1. I can only say - you are a true traditionalist, and you have completely missed the point of my post.

      Until only recently I would have agreed with everything you said. From an intellectual point of view, yes, we can point out all the ways in which the EF is superior to the OF. I could also point out that Christ should not have been born in a dirty vermin-infested manger nor should he have been crucified in such a horrible manner in a garbage dump alongside of common criminals. But it is not up to me to make these decisions.

      Neither is it up to us as laity to make decisions about the Mass, deciding for ourselves what is best. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit - I do think you agree with that. And the Church has given us the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Admittedly the Church in the west has gone through a tremendous crisis since this has happened, and all of those who support the EF point to the OF as the source of the problem.

      But how does that explain that since the introduction of the OF, the Church has been growing in leaps and bounds in the third-world countries – Africa, South America and Asia? Our western culture has become completely degenerate and lost its way, and the Church has suffered along with it. As I have pointed out time and time again, ALL religions have suffered in our western culture, not just the Catholic Church.

      When you look at the entire world and the way and the growth of the Catholic Church since the introduction of the OF, I think it is only logical to conclude that the OF is a major reason why the Church has grown in these countries. They do not have a European mentality. They look at things very differently than we do. The European Mass – which is what the TLM is – was not suited for them. And the Holy Spirit guided the Church to give them the Mass that would help them grow.

      “The Ordinary Form is not invalid, illicit, or illegitimate, or even necessarily a grave danger.” Do you realize how patronizing that statement is? Do you realize how lacking in faith that statement is? You are looking at the two forms of the Mass from a strictly intellectual point of view. And by doing that, you are limiting the Holy Spirit.

      As Christians, we have to give up our own will and join it to God in the Trinity. It didn’t make any sense when God told Abraham to kill his son, Isaac. From an intellectual point of view, you could have made a very good argument not to do it. Isaac was the son through whom all of the promises were given. It is a sin to kill. Human sacrifice is a grave evil. But there is one thing you cannot argue against – it was a command from God. God said to do it, and Abraham went against his own will entirely and obeyed. And because of that, he is the father of the faithful.

      All of your intellectual arguments mean nothing. My life is based on faith and obedience. The Church is my Mother. She is the Mystical Body of Christ. If she says this is the Mass, then this is the Mass. It doesn’t matter what I think.

      And it doesn’t matter what you think.

    2. CiB,

      It may not matter what you think, but I would like to know just the same: Do you believe that hell exists and that souls really do go there?

      If I missed your point, I fear you have missed mine as well.

    3. Of course I believe hell exists and that souls go there. As I have stated on this blog, I believe I was headed to hell for most of my life, and the fact that I now have a chance at heaven is due only to the mercy of God.

      The point I got from your reply is that you feel that the TLM is better at promoting true Catholicism, specifically the Four Last Things, than the OF. My reply is that yes, you can make that argument, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is what the Church says, because she is the Mystical Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit guides her.

      If you don't believe that, then you are not Catholic in your thinking.

    4. My main question aside, I do think that I ought to address a few other points you have made:

      1. I do regret that my statements seemed condescending. What I *trying* to do was to move out of the way any possible accusations that I rejected the legitimacy of the Novus ordo, as emphatically as I could. Look: truly, I don't sit in judgment on those who attend the N.O., nor the TLM. I do *not* know the state of anyone's soul. And I am certainly not interesting in alienating anyone from an interest in the TLM - quite the contrary, I want it to grow.

      2. Neither is it up to us as laity to make decisions about the Mass, deciding for ourselves what is best.

      With all respect, this statement cannot stand without qualification. It's true that I cannot create a liturgy on my own, or change it on my own (thank heavens). But certainly we *are* told in both canon law and the teaching of the Church that we have a responsibility for the spiritual care of our souls and those of our families. We are not required to attend Mass at a specific location or from a specific celebrant. We are not even bound to a particular rite or use (though there may be limitations on certain sacraments from other rites).

      3. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit - I do think you agree with that.

      I do. But not in every act. Sometimes, the Church makes mistakes in the execution of its duties. Sometimes, even Popes do so. (Sometimes, we even elect venial monsters as popes.) Sometimes, egregiously so. And yes, sometimes, even in the matter of the liturgy (see for example Clement VII issuing the Quinones Breviary, later suppressed by Paul IV for dangerous Protestant tendencies).

      4. ...all of those who support the EF point to the OF as the source of the problem.

      Some might do so. I would not. The problems clearly predate the 60's liturgical reforms.

      But do I think that these reforms exacerbated the problem? Yes, I do.

      5. I think it is only logical to conclude that the OF is a major reason why the Church has grown in these countries.

      If I may, caution is needed here in such assertions.

      I am willing to concede that certain aspects (especially the use of the vernacular as normative, notwithstanding that this flouts the express demands of Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, 54) have proved attractive to African Catholics, perhaps even converts.

      But mere growth alone will not make a case for the relative merit of a missal or rite, let alone for specific aspects of it. Two points: a) Consider the remarkable success of the Traditional Roman Rite in Africa in the 20th century - the number exploded from 1.9 million in 1900 to over 30 million by the time of the Council. Today it is approaching 140 million, but the trend line was already established, based heavily on demographic factors (i.e., lower mortality). Likewise, the Roman Rite has a ...pretty impressive track record in Latin America and East Asia after 1500, and, for that matter, in gaining converts in Anglosphere countries (where, I feel I ought to point out, the number of adult converts dropped very steeply in beginning in the 1960's). b) We also have to consider other factors that may have contributed to the growth. The most notable other development in African Christianity in this period was decolonization. And it is worth noting that it is not just Catholicism that has surged in the 20th century, but Christianity across the board, especially evangelical and pentecostal sects. It's untenable to attribute this growth of Catholicism just to the new rite. Without further analysis, the most that can be said is that it appears not to have been too inhibitive of growth in this region over this timeframe.

    5. Back in my days as a traditionalist, you and I would have been very good friends. I would have agreed with everything you wrote 100%.

      I know exactly what you are saying and why you are saying it. But what you don’t see – and what I didn’t see back then – is that you are still imposing your own will on the Church, and not accepting her judgments. You are judging the Mass based on your own feelings – what you feel is important. That is called Protestantism.

      I stand by my statement, that it is not up to us as laity to make decisions about the Mass, deciding for ourselves what is best. The Mass is not a prudential judgment. The Mass is the official liturgy of the Church. It is not physical but spiritual, meaning it is guided by the Holy Spirit. It is the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We can certainly have our preferences. There is nothing wrong with preferring the TLM over the OF. But it is wrong to judge the TLM as SUPERIOR to the OF. And that is exactly what you are doing.

      I find your statement about growth in third world countries rather ironic: “It's untenable to attribute this growth of Catholicism just to the new rite. Without further analysis, the most that can be said is that it appears not to have been too inhibitive of growth in this region over this timeframe”. If that is true, then I say it is untenable to attribute the decline in the Catholic Church to the implementation of the New Mass, blah blah blah.

      You are convinced of the superiority of the TLM. You patronizingly say that the OF is valid but flawed, having “exacerbated the problem” of the crisis in the Western Church. Do you believe that the OF is a manmade liturgy, or do you believe that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit? If you believe that it was manmade, then you do not trust the Catholic Church as divinely led by the Holy Spirit, because clearly the Holy Spirit fell down on the job on this one.

      I walk by faith. I will leave you to walk by your intellect.

    6. We have someone that is trying to have a civil discussion and making sure that they aren't coming across as a condescending individual, and then you have our most humble author. I suffer from pride in faith as well, but this blog takes the cake.

  2. Can you recommend a good version/translation of St. Catherine of Siena's dialogues? Preferably something still in print. I'd love to read these. My wife and I named our 9-month old Catherine Siena Marie and since then St. Catherine seems to be popping up all over for me.

    1. With great pleasure. The absolute best translation, as far as I'm concerned, is by Suzanne Noffke. You can get it on Amazon here:

      I have been reading it for Lent and I am blown away by how completely relevant it is to our time. You can get this only in paperback. I wish it was an ebook as I prefer to read on my Ipad, but get it anyway.

      Thanks for asking.

  3. I have to say that I find Athelstane's points quite compelling and well put. I am quite happy to attend both the OP and the TLM (I know, I know, whether or not I am *happy* is irrelevant!) but as pointed out, Jesus IS there in both. I've grown up with the Novus Ordo, with a disgracefully inadequate Catholic education at school and learnt my faith from my parents and then from true Catholic social groups. I have been drawn to the TLM and even sang Gregorian Chant in it whilst it was said in a parish I could access. It is always reverent. I have been to breathtakingly beautiful and reverent OF Masses too. BUT. The fact is, that the new translation does not convey the richness of our faith in the way that the old translation does. Compare the wording. It does, indeed 'create a pronounced theological shift'. That being said, I have also had many very frustrating discussions with TLM Catholics who DO think that they are superior to the rest of the OF attending Catholics. I believe the TLM Mass conveys true Catholicism better in the wording of the prayers (- oh so much fuller and richer and more specific) and in the proper Catholic teaching preached from the pulpit) but that doesn't mean it's congregation is better! Satan will push our buttons wherever we are. But, I thought that Athelstane's response was very balanced and not patronizing at all. Indeed, the OF Mass was authorised and Jesus IS THERE. In the end, isn't He everything?
    I also must say that I am among the 2% of school attendees that have continued to practice my faith after school (which I finished 20 years ago) and am now still watching my children get the same sorrowfully inadequate Catholic education from the school as I did. My children are among a small handful of students who practice their faith. Most of them receive the sacraments then their parents don't bring them back until Christmas or Easter IF THAT. They don't genuflect (school says if everyone did it it would take too long, I kid you not). All the students of age go to Holy Communion though. They do not know WHO is in the tabernacle. You CANNOT say that the OF has had nothing to do with it. It may not be an 'all-or-nothing' kind of thing, but the lack of reverence that has crept into the OF, the laissez faire approach that decreased the awareness of the sacredness of the sanctuary and Who is present.... YES! Jesus is there! It is just that fewer seem to know it, nor to care. And numbers drop and keep dropping. Compare the stats and compare the dates. Compare what was happening in history, politics, socio-economy, industrial advances. But the statistics on practicing Catholics do have an uncanny timeliness to the practice of the OF the way it is (not the way it was supposed to be).
    That being said, many of the points in this article are good ones. We must not be bitter, nor jaded, nor uncharitable, nor dwell entirely on appearances, although appearances do have their place. Each one look to his or her own, turn towards HIM, wheresoever the sanctuary light burns.
    One more thought: I have heard several exorcists attest to the fact that prayers in Latin are more efficacious in driving out the devil Fr Chad Ripperger for one. Not sure why that is, the apostles drove out devils and they didn't use Latin! However, it is, I believe a pertinent point, and perhaps the suggestion that "there is nothing more inherently spiritual about Latin than there is about any other language." needs to be re-examined.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I agree that from an intellectual point of view, Athelstane does make very good points. And I certainly agree that we have a crisis in the Church in the western countries. But I'm a little older than you, and I remember the Church before all of the "Vatican II changes" were brought in, and before the Mass was changed. People were more reverent outwardly, and just as society in general was more respectful, so those in the Church were more respectful. But society changed, and so did those in the pews. The crisis in the Catholic Church here in the West is reflective of the crisis in our society.

      I also agree that the prayers of the TLM are much deeper than those of the OF. Everything was simplified in the OF. Was that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I still say that contending that changing the Mass caused the crisis in the Church is ignore the crisis in our culture in general, and also to ignore the fact that the Church has grown so tremendously in our other countries which do not have an European mindset, which is the basis of the TLM.

      I have heard the arguments that the "devil hates Latin." Did you know that black Masses are done in Latin? Yes, the devil hates Latin because it was used in the Mass for centuries and is still the official language of the Church. But there is nothing "holy" or special about a language that came from a pagan culture, and in fact was the language of those who put Our Lord to death.

  4. I don't think the point is about the actual language, but the wording. The content of the prayers used is what makes the difference possibly, regardless of whether it is in Latin, or any other language, as though the intent and faith is needed always, the commands used in the words that make a ritual prayer powerful, are very important and so maybe this is why Exorcists who claim the Old Rites are more effective, mean the words used?


  5. Who said that Liturgy must be understood?
    Liturgy is a medium to an end; not an end in itself.
    Language and other settings are there to help its aims.
    Even so, you can always read the translation in the Missal; or you can learn enough Latin to understand it.
    Religions are not Phylosophies.
    When a religion becomes a phylosophy, it stops being a religion.
    Furthermore: liturgy does not preclude or impede private devotions in and out Mass.
    When nowdays people travel so much, Latin should be the language of choice to feel the union among Catholics from all over the world.
    It is through practice (liturgy ) when you become acquainted with the teachings of the Church -very much like osmosis-
    Then, it is up to you -you are free - to choose the level of commitment with the faith.
    After the disaster of emptied churches and lack of priests, all after the Council, its is time to study psychology of Religions and stop favoring things that do not work.


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