Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wounded Traditionalists and the Liturgies of Pope Francis

I think there is a story behind this specific chasuble and mitre Pope Francis likes to wear.
It's not brocade, but it's also not tie-dyed. It's simple, but not distracting. 

I want to preface this post by saying that traditionalists cannot be broad-brushed with one stroke.  I have found, in my eight years at Assumption Grotto in Detroit and following traditionalist blogs and websites, that only a small segment are what we might call "cranks." They are often the most vocal in some blog comment boxes. Keep in mind there is a silent majority and the outspoken often do not adequately represent a single group or class of people.  It has nothing to do with age either because I see it represented in most age groups.

Years ago, I was a crank myself for a period of time, but it wasn't to last long thanks to some very good priests at Assumption Grotto, also of a traditional bent, who would not allow me to remain there.  Sacramental Confession was very helpful during that period.  My own anger and crabbiness came from feeling wounded over the fact that the church of my youth had given me religious junk food, and some of it was spoiled, at that. The realization came that hell was real and they nearly led me there through neglect of my eternal salvation with too much concern for my self-esteem and little regard for my soul. The "feel good religion" they gave me showed little concern for pleasing God, above all others.  It was steeped with false charity.

With time, and lots of prayer, especially Adoration and the Rosary, I came to realize that a lot of good people passed off bad stuff, because someone else they trusted, gave it to them.  Good men who entered seminary and became priests were subjected to strange teachings that, if they didn't somehow embrace, they weren't getting ordained. Some transitioned out of this as soon as they were ordained; others transitioned later.  Sadly, some are still stuck there. Pray for them.

People today don't consider that when Vatican II was promulgated, there was no internet to verify that what some were bringing back from Rome was legitimate, like the priest turning towards the people, jack-hammering out altar rails, and ushering in folk bands, and Communion in the hand. The "spirit of Vatican II" was peddling all kinds of things that were no where to be found in the documents of Vatican II while eliminating things that those documents specified as having pride of place, like Gregorian chant, and retaining some Latin.  Years went by and some priests and lay people got so accustomed to what they were told was from Vatican II, they reject even the plain words of the Council documents still today.

What came next can happen as someone breaks free from anger about something, which serves only as a boat anchor: I would get angry at other wounded, crabby traditionalists rather than just walk away and pray for them (trying to talk to them when upset can be like throwing fuel on a fire).  They have suffered much and I know some of the pain because I felt it.

With the election of Pope Francis, a small segment of traditionalists has been up in arms because the new pope does not have the same taste for tradition (as in, small-t). Some lament that he isn't wearing the red shoes or choosing brocade vestments and doesn't seem to "dress-up" for the more solemn events, opting for his simple chasuble and mitre used in Argentina (someone should ask him if there is something special about that chasuble and mitre - maybe it was given to him by someone close). They complain that he stands while preaching rather than sitting at the throne. There are many other things I could mention that this segment of traditionalists is upset about, but suffice it to say that I think many are confusing small-t tradition with Tradition, doctrine, and dogma.

I too was concerned and went through a range of emotions as I watched the Holy Father do things different than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI - a man that I believe will some day be declared a doctor of the Church.  It came as kind of a shock to me because I was accustomed to the image of pope given to us by the predecessor of Pope Francis.  But I am also shocked to see a spring in the steps of the pope - something to which I was not accustomed given age and frailty of Benedict XVI (and I recall feeling the same way when Pope John Paul II died and he took over).

Of the things that flowed through my mind in the days after his election was that some seminaries, which have been including provisions to teach seminarians how to celebrate using the 1962 Missal, may shelve such plans under this pope.  But, this remains to be seen.  There is much to learn from the older form of the Mass that can help with a proper celebration of the new and Summorum Pontificum remains in effect.  Priests need to be able to accommodate those who request it. And, I might add, many seminarians have expressed a desire to learn it and not just those of a traditional bent.

Sometimes we make the mistake of associating smells and bells with orthodoxy when a seemingly traditional priest or bishop may actually be lacking in it. The opposite can also be true, where we find a very orthodox priest who has simple tastes for vestments much like Pope Francis.

You might find a video floating around of then Card. Bergoglio celebrating a Mass in a stadium with youth.  I don't want to link to it. There are liturgical dancers in the foreground and balloons being released in the background.  That video appeared within minutes of him being named.  I lamented a return to this kind of thing in papal Masses just when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI seemed to tone them down in favor of a more reserved and reverent atmosphere.  I myself think it is too premature to presume that papal liturgies will include such liturgical abuses going forward.  Everything I've seen of Pope Francis when celebrating the Mass, even in that video, reveals a man deeply devoted to Our Eucharistic Lord despite what is going on around him.  I am really beginning to wonder if he was as surprised to find those things at that Mass as we were to watch them.  Like we say with stocks, "past performance is not guarantee of future results."

For the record, I personally am at peace with the hope that the traditionalist movement is a grass-roots movement.  As others are pointing out, it's very possible that God wants to make sure it is augmented with applying the Gospel more fully.  Catholicism doesn't end with the liturgy; it lives itself out when we hear the words, "Ite, Missa est" and go forth and give witness to the Word in our daily lives.  I believe that this pope will teach us how to do that.  Where Benedict XVI gave us a cerebral understanding of charity, I think Pope Francis will show us how to apply it.  And, I do not believe it will be the kind of false charity we have been experiencing.  True charity must be exercised without sacrificing truth. Mercy is inauthentic if it is not married truth.

There is so much more to say on this, but I want to pass along to you an article by Andrew Haines at Ethika and Politika.  He writes from a similar point of view where he acknowledges his own concerns, but then, as the article goes on, shows us how he worked through them.  Someone without some experience in the traditionalist movement could easily misunderstand his commentary.  Most people that  I have heard back from, who do understand the wounded-ness among some traditionalists felt the article  was well written.  Don't judge the post by it's title.

Go read: The Pope's Painful Liturgies

As an aside, I thought Msgr. Guido Marini looked a little more relaxed in the Inaugural Mass (see pic at top) than he did in the immediate wake of the election.  Of course, less traditional liturgical style of Pope Francis would be most difficult on this papal MC than on others.  Andrew Haines refers to him as the "suffering servant" and I sensed that the moment Pope Francis stepped out on to the balcony for the first time, minus the stole and the Mozzetta.  I hope he is able to stay on as papal MC.  Opportunities for humility come in different forms and I he will be in my prayers.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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