Sunday, September 29, 2013

The problem with the traditional "fringe"

I want to address a comment found in someone's Facebook thread directly under this photo. It was his unnecessary, mean-spirited, sophomoric and condescending remark  that prompted this post.  I can't be silent anymore about this kind of stuff. If you want to know what is giving traditionalists such a bad name, here's a good example.

First, I want to make some observations about this 1942 photo from Quebec that has been floating around Facebook.  You see a priest entering a home, preceded by an altar boy, who is likely carrying a candle.  I was moved deeply by what I witnessed in my first Corpus Christi Procession at Assumption Grotto.  Similarly, when I discerned a vocation in a Franciscan convent in Herzegovina back in 1980 that is how the Eucharist was carried to the sick and dying sisters - preceded by someone carrying a candle, and someone ringing bells.  The bells alerted people that Our Lord was going to be passing by.  Those who could kneel did; and those who could not, bowed in adoration.  That is what these people are doing if you look carefully at the photo - they are in adoration as the Lord passes by.  My mind's eye reflects on the magi and how they kneeled before the Infant Jesus in adoration.  I point this out only as an observation. I believe some gesture of reverence is in order when we pass Jesus, or when he passes us. He does not deserve to go unacknowledged in such cases. But, I don't think I need to insult others in order to propose this position to others who may not have thought about it this way before.

Second, I want to get to the remark that set me off.  This snipe was the first comment under the photo at the Facebook thread:

"Now Mrs. Pants Suit Eucharistic Minister does it with the pyx in her pocket."

Take a good look at that statement. It sounds like a 13 year old wrote it. No, wait, that is an insult to 13 year olds. If you think that is funny please allow me to help you see that it is damaging to the Body of Christ and damaging to the cause of making more traditional expressions of the Catholic faith more available for others.  Why? It puts a very ugly face on it.  If this is the kind of traditionalism a bishop encounters is it any wonder why some are still not proactively working to make it more readily available? If this is the kind of traditionalist other Catholics encounter, what impression are they given? If non-Catholics witness this, how inviting is the Catholic faith? Well guess what: Bishops are reading, as are other Catholics and non-Catholics.  We are all on display on the internet. Hello?!?!?

Its so small, really, such a statement.  It broad brushes, in a negative way, every person who takes time out of their day to bring the graces offered by a valid Eucharist to the sick, while others are on the couch watching football or browsing at the mall; or wasting time dropping digital turds like that on the web.

Only God can read souls and judge them, including the souls of those EMHC's taking the Eucharist to the sick.  They aren't doing anything the Church doesn't permit them to do.   If only we had more priests, this would not be necessary, but there is a shortage.   We all know part of it is contrived. Very slowly, that is changing.  It happened; God permitted it to happen.  But we don't please God by insulting others who are trying to help, even if some might have mistaken ideas about their roles.

How does that statement build the Body of Christ?  That is a question we need to ask more often.

Ponder it in Adoration

There was a time when I myself used to think these things and even say them to others. I know from personal experience it's entertaining to the self and to others who cave in to their fallen nature to have fun at the expense of others.  I noticed that once I was still chuckling at my own "humor" while in Adoration. Our Lord was not laughing. In fact, these kinds of things came up often during Adoration, but it wasn't I who would bring it up for discussion.  While we can talk to Jesus, Adoration should be more about listening to see what He might have to say to us.  That said, I largely abandoned the practice some years ago because it seemed to violate virtues, even if I didn't quite know what those were.

There are a few things wrong with this kind of humor and it is lacking virtue.  There's nothing traditional about not practicing the virtues.  No matter how hurt you are over things that happened in the past, or over things happening now, you don't get to abuse other people, even if they are nameless.  People not showing reverence to our Eucharistic Lord may indeed offend Him; but not showing reverence for others also offends Him. That it should be done in the name of defending Jesus is just twisted logic.

When there are many priests in a parish...

At my parish, we have two diocesan priests, but also have some religious order priests that work out of an office on the grounds, and a deacon.  In such a situation, it is much easier for priests to take Communion to the sick on a regular basis and this happens on First Fridays at my parish, and in between as necessary for those in need or near death. The beautiful part about having a priest bring Communion to someone in the hospital is that there is always an opportunity to request sacramental Confession.  How many people today in hospitals and nursing homes are receiving Communion regularly, but have had no real opportunity to seek God's mercy in Confession? This is utterly unmerciful if you understand that it is a sacrament of mercy.  This is a real crisis.  A priest can labor all day every day to get souls to heaven from the parish, and lose them on their death bed because they were receiving Communion with serious sin on their souls.

If we were a one-priest parish, I'm not sure how that would all change, but I do believe something would have to give.  That is the position most parish priests are in today.

The graces of a valid Eucharist for the sick

When I was preparing for surgery last year, knowing our priests make the rounds for Communion, but not daily, I asked one of them how he thought I should respond if an EMHC shows up, being that I could receive from one of the priests, but not as frequently. I still don't know if I was testing him or myself.   He smiled and gave me a piece of paper with the full set of prayers for such an occasion.  He said that some EMHC's take short cuts -- poor training, perhaps.  He told me to hang on to the paper and if they don't do it right, to invite them to pray those things with me. In this way, they too might learn.  Then, in so many words, he told me to be mindful of the fact that it is still the Eucharist, and the holiness, or lack thereof, of the person bringing it to me, or the fact that they were not a cleric, has no bearing on it's validity.  I was able to reconcile his words with what I had already discerned through some prayer, but this sealed it.

Something about my background

I consider myself a traditionalist in the sense that I am deeply devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass (1962 Missal).  I am also very comfortable in a more traditionally celebrated ordinary form Mass.  Yet, I often will not refer to myself as a traditionalist.  The reason is that a small number of people dwelling in the wounds inflicted on them during a very confusing period in the Church are putting an ugly face on traditionalism.  Others, who are too young to have those wounds, have found that misery loves the company of the miserable and have joined in their cause.   Make no mistake: People who loved the 1962 Missal and more reserved forms of the new Mass were wronged when they were treated like second class citizens, and worse.  They were deprived of a more traditional expression of the faith, from the usus antiquior to the devotions and small "t" traditions inherent in such a culture.  To live a traditional expression of the faith is not just about the Mass; it's a way of life.

I understand because I've been in such a community at Assumption Grotto since 2005 and would be devastated to lose it.  My heart bleeds for those who want it, but have no access.  I can't know the pain Catholics experienced in the 1960's; I was a baby. But I know how painful it would be to lose it now.  Prior to 2005 I kept wandering from parish to parish wondering what it was I was looking for. I was a spiritual mess.  I was not getting things I needed that are now given to me at Assumption Grotto.  That's material for another post.  I have a more wholesome spiritual nurturing at Grotto that is vital for me, personally.  I'm grateful that Archbishop Vigneron grasps the need to make this available to Catholics like myself.

I also understand and accept that other Catholics feel out of place in a parish like mine.  I don't see them as some kind of "enemy."  I don't see myself and my way of worship as superior to someone who devoutly assists at an ordinary form Mass.  The way I often explain it to people is that God gave us active religious orders and contemplative ones.  With so much built in silence and because of it's reserved nature, the EF Mass heightens the contemplative dimension, a subject I should take deeper in another post.

Stereo-typing is stereo-typing

Something I would ask others who don't consider themselves traditionalists to consider is how they might stereo-type all who love the older form of the Mass or go to a traditionalist community.  I know more people at my parish who simply want a nice place to go to Mass and are not interested in fringe wars.  You will undoubtedly find in at least some traditional communities, those who try to make something a part of traditionalism that has no basis.  There are very small camps, either schismatic or in an irregular status, who are holocaust deniers or minimalists.  Could there be some in a community like Grotto?  Perhaps.  I've never met one.

Just as I've learned it's not fair to stereo-type the people at my territorial parish next door, or paint them all with one broad brush of rash judgment, I don't think it is fair to broad brush traditional Catholics for the indiscretions, imprudence, and brashness of the cranks who seem to sometimes be the face of traditionalism in com-boxes and on the web in general.

One thing you will learn about traditionalists.  They are divided. But, I think there is a reasonable, good, and virtuous silent majority out there being harmed by a vocal minority -- the fringe -- whose understanding of the faith is running like a washing machine with too many clothes on one side. It makes for a lot of noise. At the end of the day, what we know about the truths of the faith, must be balanced with a virtuous presentation of those things.  It's called charity, and charity is not a dirty word.

That is my problem with remarks like the one that prompted this post.  What purpose did it serve, really?

UPDATE: A question dropped into the comment box.  Read my response to Jenna here:

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