Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Stop Calling Me a Crypto-Nazi’

St. Thomas Parishioners Locked Out

July 31st, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

Just when it seemed that the situation in Irondequoit had reached some sort of equilibrium, Fr. English reminds us that this is not the case. After having instructed parishioners of St. Thomas (sorry…St. Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Thomas the Apostle) not to pray their daily Rosaries there, the administration of the “parish” decided to change the locks on the doors to the church. This was done without any prior notification of the parishioners, adorers, or other visitors who sought to visit Our Lord in His holy place. 398574_10150600168381842_509333251_n

Simply put, Fr. English has locked his own parishioners out of their own church. Remember: St. Thomas the Apostle has not been closed. It is an open church, consecrated and fully able to minister sacramentally to the people of the city, presuming, of course, that her priest(s) choose not to shirk their duty to do so. The parish has been stripped of its Masses, its confession schedule, and all devotions, and for no other reason than a warped sense of political expediency. This is not pastoral planning; this is pastoral vengeance.

The people of St. Thomas have been fighting for years to maintain a presence in their own church. They ought never to have needed to do so, based on their stable finances, demographics, and campus upkeep. Indeed, of all the Irondequoit parishes, St. Thomas was in the best position to facilitate a gentle transition to a prosperous worship community. This was overlooked by many, though. Every individual in a position of authority lorded that authority over the people of St. Thomas, and did this only because of one reason: St. Thomas the Apostle rejoices in its Catholic identity. The same cannot be said of Christ the King, where the casual observer finds himself asking, “is this really a Catholic church?”

The willful and deliberate targeting of St. Thomas has been an unquestionable trend for the past several years, and this most recent transgression refreshes in our minds the memories of past injustices. The manner in which the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle has been “dealt with” bears a striking similarity to the Jews’ treatment of Our Lord in his final days. The Diocese, like the High Priest and his minions, hides behind flawed interpretations of Canon Law, and bends the Law to suit its own agenda. The machinations of the priests took place in darkness, hidden from the light of day, from the light of Truth. Fr. English, I think it is fair to say, is not acting entirely dissimilarly in this matter.

76079_461342011841_6916584_n We should ask of him several questions, to see what possible justification he might have in locking his parishioners out of their worship site. Primarily, why now? What happened to prompt him to seal shut the doors of one of his own churches? Was there theft? Was there mistreatment of property? Did someone say their “Hail Mary” a little too loudly for his liking? Next, we should ask what part of Canon Law allows a pastor to lock his flock out of their church? He might say that locks are changed frequently, and for all sorts of reasons. And this is true. However, in most instances when a parish has its locks changed, the pastor sees to it that the faithful actually have access to the church, and don’t find themselves left out on the steps. His defense might be that “we don’t use St. Thomas for Mass any more. We worship at St. Cecelia, Christ the King, and St. Margaret Mary.” Yes, that is true. But St. Thomas is not closed, and being in that state, cannot be locked to the faithful. The Vatican ruled that it could not “save” St. Thomas because, on paper, St. Thomas is not in any need of being saved. It is officially open. There is no doubt about this. And, maybe I just don’t understand, maybe I don’t speak English too good, but isn’t an “open” church actually supposed to be open?

As of this writing, the canon lawyer representing St. Thomas has been contacted, and is working on resolving the situation. Let us pray for a resolution that is just and equitable for the parishioners. But remember: our politically-motivated priests don’t operate with a focus on the Faith, on objective Truth. No. They can’t focus their eyes on anything, living and operating as they do in the shadow-lands of legality. Do not expect, dear friends, to be dealt with by those in charge with any semblance of respect or charity. But stand firm, be vigilant, do not yield. The Office of Compline tells us, “Be sober and watchful, for our adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. But resist, ye, strong in faith.” Take this to heart, and approach this issue prayerfully, with composure, dignity, and certitude.

Some (extraordinary) Food for (ordinary) Thought – Installment III

October 5th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Question:

Why do liberals love manipulating the Agnus Dei into this hippie litany of environmental activism (Tree of Life, Flower of Love, Vine of Hope, etc. miserere nobis), but “conservative” Catholics are frowned upon for frowned upon when they change out the words “dona nobis pacem” with “dona eis requiem” in a funeral Mass?They’re both unapproved changes in the Ordinary Form, but still, the reaction to one is always more vehement than reaction to the other . . .

Note: In the Extraordinary Form, a Requiem (Funeral) Mass changes the words of the Agnus Dei from “have mercy on us” to “grant him/her eternal rest” (in Latin, of course). This was dropped in the Ordinary Form, where at funeral Masses we have the familiar “grant us peace” without variation.

Some (extraordinary) Food for (ordinary) Thought – Installment II

September 6th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

One of the strangest trends I have noticed in folks who demean the Extraordinary Form is that they say it’s too hierarchical, too close to priest-worship, too much “me/them” mentality on the part of the sacred ministers.

If I were to look at the Ordinary Form through these same politically-tinted goggles, I could just as easily say that the OF fosters these things more than the EF. After all, when the priest is at the altar in the OF, he’s standing (customarily) behind it. It’s a barrier between him and the “people who are Church.” I would rather be united in prayer with my priest rather than separated from him by an altar. After all, didn’t our mothers teach us that it’s bad manners to yell over the meal table?

Another strange oversight on the part of the anti-EF camp is that in the EF, the people go up to the altar rail (which is an extension of the altar table), and wait to be “served” by the priest, who comes to them as a servant, descending from where Heaven and Earth meet atop the steps of the altar. However, in the OF, we are oppressed by a hierarchical system, wherein we have to get out of our comfortable seats and walk to the priest (or EMHC) who is relaxing in front of the sanctuary, just “chillaxin'” till we come up to him. In the EF, the priest moves down the line, doing all the hard work, but in the OF, we are forced to come to a stationary priest whose only real effort is standing up straight.

(If you can’t detect the sarcasm, turn on your sense of humor on and re-read.)

Getting Our Priorities Straight

August 22nd, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.'” – Catechism of the Catholic Church

We are blessed to have such a dynamic population of practicing Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester, and for as much as there is which is wrong or disordered, there is a great deal that is good and godly. And, at the end of the day, Our Lord is present in our tabernacles, regardless as to whether or not the Sacrifice of the Mass was properly celebrated. In addition to this, we have a vibrant population of lay faithful, intent on spreading the Gospel through their charitable and spiritual works. And I think that where all of us can agree, even our liberal friends, is that the Mass is, as the Church tells us, “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

Why, then, is good liturgy dismissed as too “over the top” by some Catholics who otherwise defend the Church with zeal and integrity? Why is the prerogative of the Church, which is the absolute pinnacle of human achievement, deemed secondary, or considered a disordered priority by those who, ultimately, are called upon to defend and uphold it? It seems that we have a rupture between those who profess “ora et labora,” and just plain “ora.” St. Benedict famously directed his followers to pray and labor, together and in all things. He did not direct his monks (some may think unfortunately so) simply to pray, and let God take care of the rest. Throughout the history of the Church, we see this theme of prayer and labor, of faith in action. Jesus fasted in the wilderness, but then he presided at the Passover seder, the First Mass. Monks in the Dark Ages lived often within the confines of some sort of cloister, but they preserved classical antiquity and tended to the spiritual and temporal needs of the locals. Even now, our Carmelite sisters live within their monastery, but recognize the need to order their day around prayer and labor.

Now, of course, labor can be many things. It could be running a parish. It could be running a choir. It could be running a youth group. But when the labor is not directed where it ought to be, namely, the Eucharist, the “source and summit,” the labor is in vain. As the psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it” (Psalm 127). For us who are Roman Catholics, this “city” is the Church, and if we labor in ways that are not productive, or even counterproductive, we are not standing in solidarity with Christ. We are called to be vigilant, and to do Our Lord’s bidding, especially at the Mass. He commanded, “Do this in memory of me.” That is one of the most explicit things said by Our Lord in the Gospels. We look to the cryptic, metaphorical tone of the parables, and find the same Truth, but the way in which it is given is entirely different. God Himself commanded that we take this most sublime gift, a gift formed by God Himself, and partake of it with frequency.

Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says of the Mass, “in brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking'” (CCC 1327). If our thoughts, our prayers, our labors, are not directed towards the dignity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, we must rethink our priorities. It is lamentable that our Protestant brethren devote such time in studying and preaching the Scriptures without their complete and total application. It is certainly commendable to know the history of the Jewish people as outlined in the Old Testament, to know the connotations of the original Greek in St. Paul’s epistles, and to see in the Gospels the hand of the Divine Author, but that is not enough. All of this is aimed, not at the breadth and depth of Scripture or service or fraternity, but at the Holy Mass. Without the Mass, we are nothing, for it is that most sublime gift which links us physically and directly to God and the Heavenly Jerusalem.

To have a love and knowledge of Scripture is to understand that our lives are ordered in such a way as that the Mass is should be our highest priority, for in the Mass we are presented with Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Mass is that instrument used by God to give us Himself on a daily basis, an instrument which uses the Word as an integral part to that Mystery. But what happens when we strip the Word of its liturgical focus? We strip our Faith of its liturgical focus, and in so doing, lose sight of what our priorities really, truly are. The Mass is like a ciborium, in that it is the vessel of God’s Sacramental Presence here on Earth. Sacred Scripture is the gold lining that cradles the host, but we must realize that it is not the host itself, but a support to it. For what is more precious, the Word or He or spoke it? This is not to say that the Word is somehow not precious – it is. But God is perfection itself, and needs nothing to adorn that which is already the most beautiful thing imaginable. The Holy Scripture gives life to Our Faith, and is coupled with Tradition to present us with Christ’s Mystical Spouse, the Church, but the Word is not God. The Blessed Sacrament is.

So what should our priority be – the manifestation of God on our altars, or our own “ecclesiastical ministries” and “works of the apostolate” (which, we can all agree, are most beneficial to us as Christians)? The Church is very clear that the Mass is central to salvation, for through it we encounter Christ Himself.

And so it follows that, should we have the ability, we must strive to do our best to make the Mass beautiful. If one is a priest, it is up to him to say Mass with dignity and fidelity, not to fall into some sort of worship of the rubrics of the liturgy, but to offer high praise to God. If one is a layman, it is up to him not to profane the Mass with any of his God-given faculties. Our Lord deserves the best, and it is the sin of sacrilege to purposefully and willingly deprive God of the honor due to His Name. We see in the Gospels that we must love and serve the poor, but that we must be even more aware of the importance of He who is our God and King, He who gave us our Eucharistic Meal wherein our souls find themselves spiritually sated and our minds given to holy thoughts. St. Augustine presents us with excellent insight into this notion:

6. But Mary, the other sister of Lazarus, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Such was the incident, let us look into the mystery it imported. Whatever soul of you wishes to be truly faithful, anoint like Mary the feet of the Lord with precious ointment. That ointment was righteousness, and therefore it was [exactly] a pound weight: but it was ointment of pure nard [nardi pistici], very precious. From his calling it pistici, we ought to infer that there was some locality from which it derived its preciousness: but this does not exhaust its meaning, and it harmonizes well with a sacramental symbol. The root of the word [pure] in the Greek is by us called faith. You were seeking to work righteousness: the just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17 Anoint the feet of Jesus: follow by a good life the Lord’s footsteps. Wipe them with your hair: what you have of superfluity, give to the poor, and you have wiped the feet of the Lord; for the hair seems to be the superfluous part of the body. You have something to spare of your abundance: it is superfluous to you, but necessary for the feet of the Lord. Perhaps on this earth the Lord’s feet are still in need. For of whom but of His members is He yet to say in the end, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of mine, you did it unto me? Matthew 25:40 You spent what was superfluous for yourselves, but you have done what was grateful to my feet.

7. And the house was filled with the odor. The world is filled with the fame of a good character: for a good character is as a pleasant odor. Those who live wickedly and bear the name of Christians, do injury to Christ: of such it is said, that through them the name of the Lord is blasphemed. Romans 2:24 If through such God’s name is blasphemed, through the good the name of the Lord is honored. Listen to the apostle, when he says, We are a sweet savor of Christ in every place. As it is said also in the Song of Songs, Your name is as ointment poured forth. Song of Songs 1:3 Attend again to the apostle: We are a sweet savor, he says, of Christ in every place, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savor of life unto life, to the other the savor of death unto death: and who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 The lesson of the holy Gospel before us affords us the opportunity of so speaking of that savor, that we on our part may give worthy utterance, and you diligent heed, to what is thus expressed by the apostle himself, And who is sufficient for these things? But have we any reason to infer from these words that we are qualified to attempt speaking on such a subject, or you to hear? We, indeed, are not so; but He is sufficient, who is pleased to speak by us what it may be for your profit to hear. The apostle, you see, is, as he calls himself, a sweet savor: but that sweet savor is to some the savor of life unto life, and to others the savor of death unto death; and yet all the while a sweet savor in itself. For he does not say, does he, To some we are a sweet savor unto life, to others an evil savor unto death? He called himself a sweet savor, not an evil; and represented himself as the same sweet savor, to some unto life, to others unto death. Happy they who find life in this sweet savor! But what misery can be greater than theirs, to whom the sweet savor is the messenger of death?

8. And who is it, says some one, that is thus slain by the sweet savor? It is to this the apostle alludes in the words, And who is sufficient for these things? In what wonderful ways God brings it about that the good savor is fraught both with life to the good, and with death to the wicked; how it is so, so far as the Lord is pleased to inspire my thoughts (for it may still conceal a deeper meaning beyond my power to penetrate)—yet so far, I say, as my power of penetration has reached, you ought not to have the information withheld. The integrity of the Apostle Paul’s life and conduct, his preaching of righteousness in word and exhibition of it in works, his wondrous power as a teacher and his fidelity as a steward, were everywhere noised abroad: he was loved by some, and envied by others. For he himself tells us in a certain place of some, that they preached Christ not sincerely, but of envy; thinking, he says, to add affliction to my bonds. But what does he add? Whether in pretence or in truth, let Christ be preached. They preach who love me, they preach who hate me; in that good savor the former live, in it the others die: and yet by the preaching of both let the name of Christ be proclaimed, with this excellent savor let the world be filled. Have you been loving one whose conduct evidenced his goodness then in this good savor you have lived. Have you been envying such a one? Then in this same savor you have died. But have you, pray, in thus choosing to die, converted this savor into an evil one? Turn from your envious feelings, and the good savor will cease to slay you.

9. And now, lastly, listen to what we have here, how this ointment was to some a sweet savor unto life, and to others a sweet savor unto death. When the pious Mary had rendered this grateful service to the Lord, straightway one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was yet to betray Him, said, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Alas for you, wretched man! The sweet savor has slain you. For the cause that led him so to speak is disclosed by the holy evangelist. But we, too, might have supposed, had not the real state of his mind been revealed in the Gospel, that the care of the poor might have induced him so to speak. Not so. What then? Hearken to a true witness: This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the money bag, and bare what was put therein. Did he bear it about, or bear it away? For the common service he bore it, as a thief he bore it away.

10. Look now, and learn that this Judas did not become perverted only at the time when he yielded to the bribery of the Jews and betrayed his Lord. For not a few, inattentive to the Gospel, suppose that Judas only perished when he accepted money from the Jews to betray the Lord. It was not then that he perished, but he was already a thief, and a reprobate, when following the Lord; for it was with his body and not with his heart that he followed. He made up the apostolic number of twelve, but had no part in the apostolic blessedness: he had been made the twelfth in semblance, and on his departure, and the succession of another, the apostolic reality was completed, and the entireness of the number conserved. Acts 1:26 What lesson then, my brethren, did our Lord Jesus Christ wish to impress on His Church, when it pleased Him to have one castaway among the twelve, but this, that we should bear with the wicked, and refrain from dividing the body of Christ? Here you have Judas among the saints—that Judas, mark you! Who was a thief, yea— do not overlook it— not a thief of any ordinary type, but a thief and a sacrilegist: a robber of money bags, but of such as were the Lord’s; of money bags, but of such as were sacred. If there is a distinction made in the public courts between such crimes as ordinary theft and peculation—for by peculation we mean the theft of public property; and private theft is not visited with the same sentence as public—how much more severe ought to be the sentence on the sacrilegious thief, who has dared to steal, not from places of any ordinary kind, but to steal from the Church? He who thieves from the Church, stands side by side with the castaway Judas. Such was this man Judas, and yet he went in and out with the eleven holy disciples. With them he came even to the table of the Lord: he was permitted to have intercourse with them, but he could not contaminate them. Of one bread did both Peter and Judas partake, and yet what communion had the believer with the infidel? Peter’s partaking was unto life, but that of Judas unto death. For that good bread was just like the sweet savor. For as the sweet savor, so also does the good bread give life to the good, and bring death to the wicked. For he that eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself: 1 Corinthians 11:29 judgment to himself, not to you. If, then, it is judgment to himself, not to you, bear as one that is good with him that is evil, that you may attain unto the rewards of the good, and be not hurled into the punishment of the wicked.

11. Lay to heart our Lord’s example while living with man upon earth. Why had He a money bag, who was ministered unto by angels, save to intimate that His Church was destined thereafter to have her repository for money? Why gave He admission to a thief, save to teach His Church patiently to bear with thieves? But he who had formed the habit of abstracting money from the bag, did not hesitate for money received to sell the Lord Himself. But let us see what answer our Lord gave to such words. See, brethren: He does not say to him, You speak so on account of your thievishness. He knew him to be a thief, yet did not betray him, but rather endured him, and showed us an example of patience in tolerating the wicked in the Church. Then said Jesus to him: Let her keep it against the day of my burial. He announced that His own death was at hand.

12. But what follows? For the poor you have always with you, but me ye will not have always. We can certainly understand, the poor you have always; what He has thus said is true. When were the poor wanting in the Church? But me ye will not have always; what does He mean by this? How are we to understand, Me ye will not have always? Don’t be alarmed: it was addressed to Judas. Why, then, did He not say, you will have, but, ye will have? Because Judas is not here a unit. One wicked man represents the whole body of the wicked; in the same way as Peter, the whole body of the good, yea, the body of the Church, but in respect to the good. For if in Peter’s case there were no sacramental symbol of the Church, the Lord would not have said to him, I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Matthew 16:19 If this was said only to Peter, it gives no ground of action to the Church. But if such is the case also in the Church, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven,— for when the Church excommunicates, the excommunicated person is bound in heaven; when one is reconciled by the Church, the person so reconciled is loosed in heaven:— if such, then, is the case in the Church, Peter, in receiving the keys, represented the holy Church. If, then, in the person of Peter were represented the good in the Church, and in Judas’ person were represented the bad in the Church, then to these latter was it said, But me ye will not have always. But what means the not always; and what, the always? If you are good, if you belong to the body represented by Peter, you have Christ both now and hereafter: now by faith, by sign, by the sacrament of baptism, by the bread and wine of the altar. You have Christ now, but you will have Him always; for when you have gone hence, you will come to Him who said to the robber, Today shall you be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 But if you live wickedly, you may seem to have Christ now, because you enter the Church, signest yourself with the sign of Christ, art baptized with the baptism of Christ, minglest yourself with the members of Christ, and approachest His altar: now you have Christ, but by living wickedly you will not have Him always.

13. It may be also understood in this way: The poor ye will have always with you, but me ye will not have always. The good may take it also as addressed to themselves, but not so as to be any source of anxiety; for He was speaking of His bodily presence. For in respect of His majesty, His providence, His ineffable and invisible grace, His own words are fulfilled, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Matthew 28:20 But in respect of the flesh He assumed as the Word, in respect of that which He was as the son of the Virgin, of that wherein He was seized by the Jews, nailed to the tree, let down from the cross, enveloped in a shroud, laid in the sepulchre, and manifested in His resurrection, ye will not have Him always. And why? Because in respect of His bodily presence He associated for forty days with His disciples, and then, having brought them forth for the purpose of beholding and not of following Him, He ascended into heaven, and is no longer here. He is there, indeed, sitting at the right hand of the Father; and He is here also, having never withdrawn the presence of His glory. In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, Me ye will not have always. In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without seeing Him with the eyes. In whichever way, then, it was said, But me ye will not have always, it can no longer, I suppose, after this twofold solution, remain as a subject of doubt.

By focusing on things to the exclusion of the Holy Mass, to profess a love for the Mystical Banquet but then label its most zealous defenders, to make sanctimonious pronouncements – all of this robs the Mass of its dignity. For 2,000 years, we have had the Mass, and for 2,000 years, certain Christians have diminished its apparent worth by whoring it out to this agenda or that, by sitting back and permitting sacrilege, by removing the “labora” from the “ora et labora.” The Church, however, has never ceased to teach the absolute importance of the Mass, the “source and summit.” So, yes, serve the Church through whatever apostolate you feel called to, but remember, your first priority is always to the Mass, not its parts. Love the Gospel, preach it, defend it, but recognize it as a part of the Mass, not something which stands alone, but something which totally depends on the Mass (and on which the Mass is totally dependent).

It pains me to think of how some people over the years have mistaken a zeal for good liturgy for that as its own end. Good liturgy is never an end in itself, but a means to a more perfect end, namely, the presence of God in our tabernacles. People have criticized me and my friends for “worshiping the liturgy” – what sense does it make to worship worship or to praise praise? To love the Mass is to love praying the Mass, and to love Him who is made present through it.

 

Obedience – What It Is, What It Isn’t, and What Others Would Have it Be

July 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of discussion across the internet and in Catholic publications about the troubling situation with Fr. Corapi, who says that he is leaving the priesthood, and yet he is not leaving the Church. Of course, when you take vows to serve the Church, and you openly deny them, the logical conclusion is that, on some level, you are, in fact, leaving the Church. But that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I would like to look at what is actually meant by “obedience.” After all, the Catholic faith is all about obedience, and even those who openly deny their duty to follow Rome will readily profess their fidelity to Christ, even if it is a warped and politicized “fidelity.”

One of the oft-encountered qualms here at Cleansing Fire is that we (staffers, writers, readers, etc.) are being disobedient, seeing as how we are to obey the local ordinary (Bishop Clark) in all things. If, in anything, the local ordinary errs, our detractors say that we should remain silent out of respect for the office of “bishop” and its clear and undeniable link with the Apostles. This is a noble and charitable position, at least on the surface of things. And it would be extremely easy merely to abandon this apostolate and let happen what may. But our silence, friends, would be in itself disobedience for the sole reason that the local ordinary is not the final arbiter of Truth. That is, of course, God. And He has chosen to create in His Church one bishopric which rises above others, and which has the authority, privilege, and responsibility to rebuke those who persist in their infidelity. If we were to be obedient on this lower, local level, and merely bite our tongues until the trouble passed, sure . . . maybe we would have done the tactful thing, but would we have done the right thing? Overturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple was certainly not tactful by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a just and noble act, one which showed that obeying the current temporal leaders comes second to obeying the eternal Leader, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The following excerpt from Lumen Gentium describes this:

26. A bishop marked with the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, is “the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,” (48*) especially in the Eucharist, which he offers or causes to be offered,(49*) and by which the Church continually lives and grows. This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local congregations (note that by specifying “legitimate, the Second Vatican Council also implies the existence of illegitimate local congregations) of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called churches in the New Testament.(50) For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and in much fullness.(167) In them the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, that by the food and blood of the Lord’s body the whole brotherhood may be joined together.(51) In any community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the bishop,(52) there is exhibited a symbol of that charity and “unity of the mystical Body, without which there can be no salvation.”(One of the major ramifications of Bishop Clark’s reign in Rochester is the fact that this “charity” and “unity” are nowhere to be found. Those who disagree with the Diocese’s agenda, i.e. lay pastoral administrators, lay preachers, etc., are not privy to the same favor shown on those priests and congregations whose loyalties rest in lukewarm adherance to the status quo.) (53) In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the Diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His presence there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.(54*) For “the partaking of the body and blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume”. (55*)

Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, to whom is committed the office of offering the worship of Christian religion to the Divine Majesty and of administering it in accordance with the Lord’s commandments and the Church’s laws, as further defined by his particular judgment for his diocese. (And we have all seen what our Bishop “regulates” in terms of sacred liturgy.)

Bishops thus, by praying and laboring for the people, make outpourings in many ways and in great abundance from the fullness of Christ’s holiness. By the ministry of the word they communicate God’s power to those who believe unto salvation(168) and through the sacraments, the regular and fruitful distribution of which they regulate by their authority,(56*) they sanctify the faithful. They direct the conferring of baptism, by which a sharing in the kingly priesthood of Christ is granted. They are the original ministers of confirmation, dispensers of sacred Orders and the moderators of penitential discipline, and they earnestly exhort and instruct their people to carry out with faith and reverence their part in the liturgy and especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. And lastly, by the example of their way of life they must be an influence for good to those over whom they preside, refraining from all evil and, as far as they are able with God’s help, exchanging evil for good, so that together with the flock committed to their care they may arrive at eternal life.(57*)

27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them (58*) by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant.(169) This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. (This is absolutely key. The power and authority of a bishop is essentially irrelevant when this power and authority is directed, not towards the defense of Tradition and Truth, but towards a private desire or personal aim. Bishop Sheen wrote that “the priest is not his own,” but he is Christ’s. The same is true for bishops, but in an even more intense manner! For how can a bishop be acting as Christ, and exercising his  God-given authority, when he uses the strength of his office to do more harm than good to those whom he serves? You should note that discussing this is not the same as discussing the man who is bishop, but rather, the office of bishop as lived out by a man.) In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.

The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern.(59*) Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it,(60*) since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church.

For more clarifications on these statements, we can look to a saint whose ties to this Diocese are extremely relevant. St. Thomas More opposed his king and lost his head for it, and yet he is “St.” Thomas More. This man denied lawful authority, citing a higher authority than man’s, and was condemned for treason. However, what is missing from this extremely-abridged story is that St. Thomas More opposed lawful authority, the King of England, Henry VIII, not because it gave him pleasure to do so, but because it was commanded by God through His Church. When Henry VIII broke from Rome, and started persecuting those loyal adherents to the Faith, he lost the obligated respect and obedience of his subjects because he did wrong.

Obedience is not owed to anyone who acts in such a way as to transform this Godly obedience into un-Godly disobedience. When St. Thomas More bore silent witness to the true Church, he did so for God’s glory, and not his own glory or edification. Many of those who accuse us of disobedience also accuse us of arrogance, an accusation leveled at St. Thomas More as well. Henry VIII remarked “what is this, that his vanity should be above a king’s?” – and yet, there is no arrogance in obedience, only in disobedience. When we take it upon ourselves to push the envelope, to see how much we can get away with before we get caught, we see the truth of the matter and take such delight in bypassing it for our own satisfaction. Our lay administrators hide behind flimsy reasoning and documentation to be able to preach from the pulpit during Mass, citing documents describing children’s Masses as the basis for preaching at all sorts of Masses. We must not read what we want to into documents, but rather, read them through the lens of obedience. Nothing in the Church ought to be novelty, and yet that is all we see in the Diocese of Rochester, where “norms” are twisted and manipulated to allow all sorts of liturgical mutations which mar the beauty of the Mass and, consequently, the beauty of the souls of the faithful.

And whose responsibility is it to prevent against this? It is the Bishop’s responsibility, and the responsibility of his priests. And yet here we are in 2011, where half of our priests are reveling in disobedience and the other half is too afraid to do what is “right and just,” and then there is a small group of faithful priests whose fidelity is rewarded with burdensome assignments, cold-shoulder treatment from the Diocese, and various threats from their “brother priests.” In talking with a priest from Syracuse recently, I was told by him that when he offered a private Mass ad orientem (i.e., alone and at 4 AM in a dark church) he was confronted by the pastor who rebuked him for “praying to a wall” and who threatened violence should he ever see this priest offering an ad orientem liturgy, public or private. This sort of behavior strips the individual, be he a priest or bishop, of his authority. As the lay faithful of the Church, we are obligated not to acquiesce to erring princes, be they temporal leaders or spiritual ones.

Bishop Clark is our rightful Bishop. However, this does not mean that he is infallible. Nor is he above rebuke or reproach. He is a man, and capable of mistakes, and as such deserves our prayers and assistance. We do what we do, not as some sort of “gotcha Catholicism,” but as an act of obedience to the Church, and act which, like St. Thomas More’s, may appear to be disobedient, arrogant, or even contemptuous of authority. And yet, it is not! We have a zeal for authority, and it pains us to see it manipulated like it has been in Rochester. A Bishop ought to use his office to do good, and aside from not closing every parish and school in the Diocese, I am hard-pressed to find something I can point to as an undeniable and pure “good” brought about by this administration. So, yes, I acknowledge Bishop Clark to be my Bishop, and I acknowledge the relationship between us as one of prince and steward, but I will not at any point concede that just because the prince is a prince and the steward a steward the prince is infallible. He is not, for he is not the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome. Bishop Clark is a successor to the Apostles, but so too was Arius. Just be thankful that Bishop Clark is not a heretic, but simply a man in need of our fraternal correction and prayers.

Remember – your silence gives consent.

Bishop Sheen on False Compassion

May 12th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Bishop Clark on the Traditional Latin Mass

March 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

In 1991, Bishop Clark outlined five reasons why he was not inclined to permit the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in his Diocese. In order, they are as follows:

1) There is a grave concern about offering the Mass according to one ritual while not offering the other sacraments according to that same ritual.

2) I do not see that granting this permission would be a unifying act, but on the contrary I see it as divisive to our Catholic community

3) The necessity of designating a priest (or various priests) to celebrate this Mass only at particular churches at a particular time seems to signal something different or odd about the celebration. it seems that the Holy Father’s permission indicates this should be an exception and not the norm which can cause confusion for the faithful.

4) While at various times I have received request for this Mass, I have never found a large number of people who wish to celebrate it. If there were a large number of people, I would have to question their acceptance of the liturgical changes which have already been authorized.

5) We are still in a period of transition from the Second Vatican Council. People have not yet discovered the richness of the liturgical changes. I fear to grant this permission now would further inhibit the development of the faithful’s experience of this liturgical richness.

Of course, since the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was released by Pope Benedict in 2007, these excuses are officially irrelevant. However, they betray the one-way street that is Bishop Clark’s liberalism as regards the Holy Mass.

In the first point, Bishop Clark says that he is not comfortable with having Latin Mass without all the other sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, etc.) in the same ritual. There is a simple solution – offer the ritual in its entirety. Many dioceses have parishes dedicated solely to the Extraordinary Form of worship, from Mass to Vespers, from Benediction to Marriage. It would take practically no effort to designate a parish in the Diocese as the “Traditional Latin Mass Parish,” which would be staffed by a priest and run as an individual parish, not a “community” reliant on the generosity of a mother parish. God knows there’s a multitude of abandoned churches in our diocese which would serve as suitable homes for such an endeavor. Again we see in this first point the same flawed logic we see in almost every decision which comes from Buffalo Road. Rather than address a problem head-on and in a proactive way, the Diocese takes the route of least resistance, making no effort to save a damaged limb, and instead, just hacking it off “for the good of the whole.”

The second point Bishop Clark makes is that he thinks the Latin Mass serves as a divider, not a unifier. The only reason this point would have any validity is because of the campaign disobedient bishops took in the years after the Council. They read the documents, not with the intention of understanding them, but with the desire to twist and manipulate them into what they wanted. People who were still inclined towards the older forms of prayer were labeled as reactionaries, as angry conservatives, as superstitious morons, and as Catholics standing in the way of progress. After almost thirty years of this brainwashing, Bishop Clark came out with this argument, that the Latin Mass causes discord. No, the Mass does not cause division and scattering of the flock – inept leadership does that. I can guarantee you that more people are angry with the Bishop over closed schools, closed parishes, forced clusterings, and the like, than over the possibility of attending a Latin Mass. A genuinely pastoral bishop looks at the needs of his flock and meets them. He does not dismiss their needs as being detrimental to unity. Does the Bishop not realize that it isn’t the liturgical preferences of “traditional” Catholics that causes division, but the childish and blasphemous tinkering they see with the Mass in almost every single parish, diocese-wide? Can the bishop honestly think that more people will be offended over ad orientem worship than a flamingly gay liturgical dancer parading around the sanctuary of the cathedral? That’s rubbish, and you can bet that Bishop Clark knows this. Each of these points stands, not as a logical opposition to a minority, but a fearful oppression of a movement bigger than any one man, whether or not he is blessed to wear the miter.

The third point continues the pattern of Bishop Clark’s fear-made-policy. “The necessity of designating a priest (or various priests) to celebrate this Mass only at particular churches at a particular time seems to signal something different or odd about the celebration. it seems that the Holy Father’s permission indicates this should be an exception and not the norm which can cause confusion for the faithful.” Is it really that confusing to Joe Layperson if he is given the choice of going to Mass in English or Latin? God forbid someone in the pew actually be confronted with a choice and ability to think for himself! The Bishop is right, though, that the setting aside of a specific priest, time-slot, and worship space could mark something as unique, different, and odd. Let’s recall the African Mass, the Carribbean Mass, the Rainbow Sash Mass(es), the various LifeTeen Masses around the Diocese, the Lithuanian Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, the Korean Mass at St. Anne, the Vietnamese Mass at St. Helen, the Spanish Masses at city parishes, the Italian Mass(es), and the Latin Mass. Oh, yeah, that last one really stands out, doesn’t it?

The fourth of Bishop Clark’s theses is “While at various times I have received request for this Mass, I have never found a large number of people who wish to celebrate it. If there were a large number of people, I would have to question their acceptance of the liturgical changes which have already been authorized.” As one of the CF staff members mentioned, this is just ludicrous. The Bishop doesn’t recognize the needs of several hundred Catholics wanting traditional liturgy, but if he does recognize that there are, in fact, hundreds, he would have serious doubts about their being non-schismatics. The whole point here is that people are entitled and encouraged to ask for the Traditional Latin Mass, and they were (and are) entitled and encouraged by none other than the late Pope John Paul II and our current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. If a pope allows something, a Catholic who pursues that “something” can in no way be a schismatic or some sort of liturgical reactionary. It’s like saying that if people go to Starbucks and ask for tea instead of coffee, they wouldn’t be served tea until enough people asked for it, and then when enough people asked for it, they’d be ushered out the door because they’re obviously not in-line with the current coffee-drinking regime. Anyone who’s ever gone into Starbucks knows that they serve coffee and tea, and there are no bitter debates between customers as to which is better, which is more stimulating, or which is more edifying. It’s called “mutual enrichment.”

The fifth point is like the other four. “We are still in a period of transition from the Second Vatican Council. People have not yet discovered the richness of the liturgical changes. I fear to grant this permission now would further inhibit the development of the faithful’s experience of this liturgical richness.” Yes, we are in a period of transition. It’s just like the period of transition we saw after Trent, the period of transition after Nicea, after Ephesus, after Constance. Every Council of the Church results in a period of implementation which isn’t sorted out until around 100 years after the close of the particular Council in question. However, we need to realize that the Church does not change quickly. After all, it’s a 2,000 year-old institution, and the only form of governance not to have been changed or toppled since its creation. For 1,500 years, the Mass was in Latin. And then, over the span of less than a decade, we saw changes which completely re-created Catholic liturgical life. Masses were turned around, altars pulled forward, tabernacles put to the side, prayers translated into the vernacular, and so on. That is not organic growth. Nor is it an “experience of liturgical richness” as Bishop Clark calls it. It was a rush to do away with something seen as too archaic to be relevant. Why did it not seem archaic to our ancestors in the 1800’s?

But that’s not the point. Rather, the issue in this fifth point is that Bishop Clark sees the return of the Latin Mass as a step backward, not forward. This mentality is stuck in 1970, whereas the Church has universally kept advancing towards a proper implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict is a champion of this, offering solemn Masses in the Ordinary Form, Masses where reverence is the norm. Bishop Clark’s Masses have innovation as the sole norm, with women in albs replacing priests, with “inclusive language” which includes everyone except God Himself. There is so much one could say about all of this, but in closing, I’ll quote Pope Benedict XVI on the importance of the Traditional Latin Mass. Let’s just compare this with the five reasons Bishop Clark gave for denying the Mass all those years ago.

“In some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms.”

“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.”

“In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962.”

“It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.”

That’s what a pastor sounds like.

Active, Passive, and Actual Orthodoxy

March 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

I hate labels. Whenever someone looks at me and says, “you seem like a conservative,” or “you seem like a traditionalist,” or “you seem orthodox,” I cringe. A Catholic ought to be nothing more than “Catholic.” This being said, he must be nothing less. And that’s where we run into problems. Sure, someone says, “I’m Catholic,” but are they really? Several “Catholics” I know are barely even Protestant. When you say you’re a Catholic, and yet persist in choosing what doctrines suit you, you cease to be Catholic. If someone calls herself a vegetarian, and yet delights in eating meat, guess what? She’s not a vegetarian, no matter how loudly she may protest that she is. In a reading from the Holy Gospel according to Joan Sobala, “it is what it is.”

But we have a problem with this. I myself see, among practicing Catholics, a broad spectrum of how orthodox Catholicism is lived out. Of course they’re all genuine forms of Catholicism – the only thing that changes from one to another is the tone. And tone is very important.

The first kind of orthodoxy is what can be called “Active Orthodoxy.” This doesn’t sound too bad, and, depending on how one reads it, may contain some Ignatian themes. I would strongly caution against equating this with dynamic orthodoxy. This “Active Orthodoxy” can best be described as a belligerent orthodoxy, an orthodoxy which, emboldened by its love for the Truth of Catholicism, forsakes things such as feelings, compassion, empathy, or understanding. Though certainly right in its focus and grasp of the Faith, this “Active Orthodoxy” has an approach which is altogether repugnant, in a social and a spiritual sense. By “active,” then, I mean “militant.” And not militant in a good way, i.e. “ecclesia militans.” No, this militancy is one which discourages people, rather than offer them edification. It holds the faithful at arm’s-length for the sake of following the letter of the law, neglecting totally the spirit thereof.

“Active Orthodoxy” is dangerous, almost as much so as the heresy we find in too many pulpits from diocese to diocese. Note the “almost,” folks. When someone engages in the unbending enforcement of the minutiae of churchiness, there is a great danger of igniting in the hearts of some individuals a sense of, “That’s not what Jesus wants.” This is where the over-used accusation comes into play, the charge of being “pharisaical.” This is something we are charged with almost perpetually here at Cleansing Fire. Let me point out that there is a massive difference between critiquing illicit or invalid Masses and criticizing a priest because his maniple is crooked. The former is advocated by Our Lord (Matthew 5:17-20). The latter is condemned by Him (Matthew 15:1-9). There is a clear and absolute respect offered by Our Lord to the Jewish religious and legal officials, but he adds that a truly just and holy man is one who, rather than focus solely on proper worship, focuses also on charitable living.

This brings us to the second kind of orthodoxy, “Passive Orthodoxy.” One of my biggest personal pet-peeves is the attitude of “let’s just pray about it.” Yes, pray, but don’t be a push-over. St. Benedict didn’t stop after “Ora.” He said, “Ora et labora.” Pray and labor. There is a massive difference between praying, and trusting in God, and simply avoiding controversy. Do not hide your orthodoxy – be proud of it as a mother is proud of her child! Yes, God is in control, and He, ultimately, determines what is best for us. But to adopt “Passive Orthodoxy” is to run the risk of losing one’s soul due to apathy. I’m not condemning anyone here, but I am telling you that if you know the Truth and do not defend it when it comes under attack, it’s just as if you yourself were attacking Truth Incarnate. The passively orthodox Catholic may be the person who diligently prays the Holy Rosary in church before Mass, but who shies away from defending Church teaching for fear of being labeled as “too intense” or “reactionary.” As St. Thomas More said, “We cannot get to Heaven in feather-beds.”

St. Thomas More - neither offensive nor cowardly in his orthodoxy

Of course, not everyone is called to such dynamic orthodoxy as being an apologist, a noble priest, or a faithful layperson. The main thing to note with “Passive Orthodoxy” is that we must not hide behind our piety in order to placate those around us. Yes, be pious and be faithful, but don’t be so concerned about your own reputation so as to stifle Truth. If we permit ourselves to become timid, and indirect in our fidelity to Christ and His Church, we become like the lukewarm souls Our Lord casts forth from His mouth. Tepidity disgusts God.

The middle ground in all of this is what we can call “Actual Orthodoxy.” Those who are “Actual-ly Orthodox” know what is right, and do their absolute best to pursue it. However, they stop short of insulting, offending, or causing spiritual harm. Whereas the “Active-ly Orthodox” are generally offensive and less-than-humble, the “Actual-ly Orthodox” ought to have a good sense of humor, being sensitive of other’s feelings yet being keenly aware  of where the line is. Rather than focus on the nitty-gritty of the liturgically-pharisaical, those who demonstrate “Actual Orthodoxy” focus on a healthy and Godly blend of the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. In essence, these are those individuals who strive for beautiful liturgy, yet do not feel the need to reprimand in harsh terms those who may have wrinkled surplices, stale incense, crooked birettas, or tarnished candlesticks. Of course, it’s ideal to have such things as the liturgy as flawless and noble as possible, but such things cannot be pursued at the expense of charity. If a lay administrator is adamant in continuing his or her illicit homilies, it is entirely improper to resort to physical violence, slander, or mean-spirited persecution, no matter how angry one may be. However, unlike the “Passive-ly Orthodox,” the “Actual-ly Orthodox” proceed with directness and humility, documenting, educating, and exposing error for what it is.

“Actual Orthodoxy” is what we should all strive for, an orthodoxy which is compassionate, yet strong, principled, yet temperate in its implementation of norms and regulations. The spirit in which orthodoxy is lived is just as important as whether or not it even is lived. If a “progressive Catholic” is humble, obedient, and charitable, this is more desirable than being orthodox or traditional in practice, yet living with a hostile attitude towards those who deviate even slightly from what is perfect. In like manner, if a liberal Catholic persists in disobedience, and desires to knowingly spread this in his or her parish, this is infinitely worse than a solid Catholic who does her best to live a holy life, yet fails to remember a chapel veil, or forgets to genuflect while passing before the tabernacle. The spirit of Catholicism is one which is gentle, but unwavering, unassuming, yet majestic in its timeless beauty. Its beauty and serenity cannot be upheld in apathy or in militancy. It can only be upheld in “Actual Orthodoxy.”

In essence, don’t be a Pharisee, but don’t be a pushover either. Live your faith, don’t hide it or use it as a weapon. Defend your Church – don’t hide behind Her or use Her as a means to personal glorification. Humble, firm, unwavering orthodoxy is what the Church is built on.

The “Catholic Taliban”

March 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Here is a snippet sent in to us by a reader from Sunday’s homily delivered by Blessed Kateri’s pastor, Fr. Norm Tanck. In this clip, Father speaks about the “Catholic Taliban” and Catholic pharisees, no doubt directing his comments at those who wish to see the Church’s liturgical norms and her teachings respected and observed. He also makes a brief comment about those who provide possible reasons for the priestly vocations shortage.

Please keep the people of  Blessed Kateri, especially those from St. Thomas, in your prayers. I know I wouldn’t enjoy such regular chastisements from my pastor for desiring fidelity to the Holy Catholic Church.

The Heart of an Immense Darkness…

January 31st, 2011, Promulgated by Ink

I, too, was present at this “Mass,” and I’m going to be giving my commentary on it.  Hurrah for Catholic Schools Week?

Today was the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, therefore Aquinas deemed it necessary to have a “mass” with the entire school, as well as all of Nazareth Elementary. As it can be imagined, this went about as well as the last one, if a bit worse.

Father Bob Werth said the mass. I didn’t realize how much this would change the entire mass until he opened his mouth. In the opening prayer it was mentioned somewhere about that we shall be solemn “for the next hour or hour and a half.” I thought they were joking, but the mass started at 9:30 and ended at eleven. Long masses are wonderful when they’re, say, Latin mass, but the Father Werth Long Mass is painful.

Father started the FWLM by encouraging us to do the “big sign of the cross,” whereupon he scooped his hands in various ways that vaguely resembled the sign of the cross but seemed more like he was warding off an impending attacker who stood five feet away from him, and somehow his feet were glued to the floor.

I thought it looked like he was slowly and dramatically swatting flies.  It looked really dumb.

The Opening Hymn was, “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” during this hymn, the Nazareth dancers (the same ones from last time, only there were more of them and their dresses contained less fabric.*)paraded around the congregation in the center of the gym, waving their arms in some sort of weird ritualistic dance. This time, they looked less like zombies and more like they were offering up the corn harvest.

*I don’t know why it’s so hard for the little Nazareth dancers to wear sleeves. I understand that ladies no longer wish to wear hats to church, and, as painful as it is, I think it’s not something that can really be controlled anymore. But please, ladies, cover your shoulders when you go to mass. If I could have, i would have given all those girls the Paper Sheets of Shame, like they do in Italian churches.

Nah, the dresses definitely had more fabric.  Lots of fluffy organza-esque stuff, and they were longer this time.  The colours were still awful, though, and they still didn’t fit the liturgical season (light ballerina pink, anyone?), and the dresses were still not appropriate for Mass.  Dance recital, yes.  Mass, not at ALL.  I am agreed on the Paper Sheets of Shame point though.  Those were funny. ^_^

Dear Nazareth teachers: Mass is not a performance.  I love your little children dearly and find them irresistably adorable, of course!  But the Sacrifice of the Mass–the LITURGY! is not a place for them to parade through the area which sould be designated as a “sanctuary” and do their little arm-waving gestures.  And the drum is just unnecessary.  If you have any problems with this, take it up with me.

Father then opened the mass and commented on the situation in Egypt, and somehow the phrase, “it’s not all about the money” sneaked into his speech about three times. It was hard for me to see how it was related because it was hard for me to listen to him at all.

The reading(first and only) and the responsorial psalm went passably, in that they weren’t mentally scarring. The Gospel was from Mark, and it was a good reading. The mass really sterted to go awry at the beginning of the homily.

Fr. Werth seems to be one of those types who likes to give bits of his homily at ALL times of the Mass, not just after the Gospel!  Isn’t this great.  By the way, today’s reading was the Gadarene demoniac, who was possessed by a legion of demons, but then Jesus chased the demons out of the man and into the pigs and then chased the pigs into the sea.  It was awesome. Talk about badass Bible!

Father began by discussing the importance of Catholic schools, which is a good thing, since it seems like our diocese doesn’t really seem to get that. He didn’t talk about the fact that they needed to stay open, though. He spent quite a lot of time praising Aquinas and nazareth for being such good schools and then began discussing his opinions on money. The phrase, “It’s not all about the money” was most of the next part as he said it, then muttered some point about how parents work hard to keep kids in school (which is true), uttered the phrase again, said something else that didn’t really seem related, then shouted the phrase a few more times.

Yeah, I have to say–telling us it’s not all about the money is like saying, “Don’t think of purple elephants.”  We’re students!  The better majority of us listen idly to our parents tell us just how expensive our school is and then move on with life.  (Sorry, Mom.)  The Gospel was about a guy who was POSSESSED.  He had a legion of demons inside him!  And then Jesus kicked all their butts!  How much cooler do you get??  That was the perfect opportunity to sell a totally amazing “Church Militant” homily which glorifies Jesus as a sort of superhero! (I mean, there were tons of little kids there and I think they’d find that story just really, really awesome.)

Somewhere in the homiliy Father Werth stopped talking about schools and started talking about weather. He was annoyed, he said, that people care so much about weather when it doesn’t really matter. At this point I was on the verge of hysterical laughter and had to struggle to maintain silence.

The rest of the homily was him again screaming, “It’s not all about the money” a few hundred times more for good measure and then saying some other stuff. One of these other things was him talking about how Jesus is such a crucial part of our life that he should be the answer to everything. He then began asking everyday questions and encouraging the congregation to respond with, ‘Jesus!’. It went as follows (With FW ans the priest and C as the congregation):

FW: What’s up?
C: Jesus!
FW: How’s it going?
C: Jesus!
FW: What’s the weather like?
C: Jesus!
FW: How are you?
C: Jesus!

…I’m not going to comment a lot on this.  I was trying to stay patient by this point in time.  Any sense of reverence had totally disappeared, and the homily turned the Sacrifice into a talk show. >.<

There were more casual questions that made no sense with the answer as Jesus, but I think the point is there.
He then went on to give five questions that people should be asking themselves daily. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but I can assure you that they were cheesy things such as, ‘How do I see the world differently?” and “Who is in heaven that I should be looking to?” [Both the answers were, of course, Jesus.]

Eventually, the homily ended and after some other, less significantly painful parts of mass, we arrived at the Eucharistic Prayer. During this prayer, the Father would change the words at will, both to change the meaning and to remind everyone of his homily. There were, in the end, maybe two or three sentences of the prayer that were completely unchanged, if that.

Which makes me wonder, was it a legitimate Mass?  He prolonged the words of the Consecration and did two elevations of each the Host and of the chalice–first at the Secret (and waved each the Host and the chalice all the way around the gym) and then at the words of consecration, where they are supposed to be.  The only difference was that at the first elevation, he held the host flat, and at the second, he held it up at the words of “this is my Body.”  If you make it up as you go along, you have destroyed the point of the Sacrifice!  I really, really don’t know if this Mass was legitimate.

The Communion song was, “Lean on Me, ” and I still have no idea how that is a church song. After that song was the song, “Seasons of Love,” which was apparently from the musical Rent. It made me ashamed of the Aquinas choir, because usually they’re pretty okay with at least singing fairly religious songs. Their voices were amazing, but, again, I failed to see how it was related to anything else.

After the usual dull “Post communion reflection” and prayers was the graduation of one of the Chinese exchange students, Joyce, and it went acceptably. Once that was over, however, the mass again became awful as the little dancers gathered again, dancing to the song, “I Send You Out,” which is one of those songs upon which dissertations could be written about how awful it is.

In short, the mass was terrible. None of the elements tied together, the homily made absolutely no sense, and the words were changed for all of it. I don’t feel “churched,” and I don’t think anyone else does either,

Oh yes.  Rent. Let’s do, as a song in MASS, a musical song from a musical about sleeping around.  Lovely. I have nothing against the song itself!  “Seasons of Love” is a fine song, for a Broadway show, and the choir sounds downright flat-out amazing.  But this isn’t a concert, it’s a solemn sacrifice.  Would anyone have known this?  Not at all.

Thank you for reading this, if you made it all the way to the bottom.  If you have any issues with me personally, email me: ink@cleansingfire.org.  Otherwise, comment.  And pray for Aquinas, and for Nazareth.  Pray for deliverance from the insanity, and pray that God gets the respect He is due.  Just once… please.

You don’t HAVE a menu.

January 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Ink

I am utterly sick and tired of the complete and blatant lack of respect for marriage or for the family in today’s society.  How many times have I heard, from people I respect, the phrase, “Well, just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.”  You don’t HAVE a menu.  You’re married–be it to your husband or wife or to God or the Church.  Even if you’re not married but just dating someone, think about it first.  Wouldn’t you want to be respected and loved, just as you are?  As my art teacher told me, “Criticism is the result of comparison.”  If your spouse or significant other begins to compare you to someone–maybe someone who is thinner, or who has blonde hair instead of brown, or is taller, or is shorter, or has a smaller nose, or maybe bigger eyes, or different-coloured eyes… do you see where I’m going with this?  Because someone else is different, and probably more attractive because of that, it makes you lesser.  Not as good.  Not good enough.

Now go back and look at that sentence. “Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.”  So you’re telling me, in short, that you are dissatisfied with what you have.  As a result of that, you’re “shopping around” and just ogling everything else, everything which seems “better.”

If you, dear reader, are guilty of doing this, I’m afraid I have to tell you that this is not a very good mentality.  It’s actually a sin.  “…He designates as an adulterer not only the man who violates the marriage of another by intercourse, but that man, also, who contaminates it by a lustful look.  Accordingly, it is quite dangerous for the mind to represent to itself something which is prohibited, just as it is rash, through an act of the will, to effect it in deed” (Tertullian, On Penitence).

To ogle someone else while you are committed in a relationship is what is commonly referred to as “cheating,” just not as blatantly obvious as actual physical “cheating.”  It objectifies the opposite sex, turning them into simple toys, of sorts, for the one doing the ogling.  Ogling someone outside of your relationship, like kissing someone else’s girlfriend or boyfriend while you’re both drunk out of your minds, is unfaithful and irresponsible.

I’d like to conclude by saying that you’re not just on a diet, you don’t even have an a menu.  Besides, what more do you need?  Married men and women are married forever (one would hope, but we’ve covered that in other posts), and priests and religious are promised to the Church and to God.  So who could ask for anything more?

“I Have Forgotten Good Things”

January 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Whenever I travel outside of the Diocese of Rochester, I’m struck by how much rubbish we simply accept as being the norm. In many places, while parishes might not be 100% perfect, there’s no need to worry about seeing a woman mount the pulpit, a priest manipulate the Mass for a political agenda, or liturgical dancers flitting about the sanctuary like mentally-deranged Tinkerbells. The sad thing is that many people, if not most, are simply unaware of the Church as it exists universally – all they can see is the Church locally, with all of its problems and deficiencies. I can say with absolute certainty that every single Catholic in the Diocese of Rochester is damaged. Almost everyone has been touched by school and parish closings or clusterings. There is pain in practically everyone’s heart, and that is a most unfortunate situation.

This “damage” we bear has some very profound and beautiful parallels to the sufferings of the ancient Israelites and their exile from the Holy Land. The Book of Lamentations is one of my favorite portions of the Bible. The imagery therein is amazingly poignant, and perfectly demonstrates the woes that afflict a people that has turned its back on proper worship. If you haven’t given it a read, please do. You won’t be disappointed. One of the verses that jumped out at me in my last perusal was this one: “my soul is removed far off from peace, I have forgotten good things.” This is taken from the third chapter of Lamentations, but it could just as easily have been taken from the thoughts of any observant Catholic in the Diocese of Rochester. Our souls are not at peace. Nor will they be until a zealous orthodoxy consumes the priests, religious, and the ordinary (bishop).

“But, Gen,” you say. “Aren’t you being a bit dramatic? We’re not exiled like the Israelites were – we haven’t worshiped idols, either! If your soul isn’t at peace, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not a diocese-wide phenomenon.” Well, no. I am not being dramatic. For thirty years, closure after closure, clustering after clustering, and abuse after abuse has hacked away at Catholics whose only desire was, quite simply, to be Catholic. I don’t care if you’re a Latin Mass-er, an Ordinary Form-er, or whatever. We all desire the same thing. We desire a pure, unadulterated, non-political Catholicism.

Or at least we ought to. Behold the tyranny of the “ought,” friends – what ought to be is not what currently is. There are those among us who, though believing their desires pure and Godly, pursue things which cause further dissension, further confusion, and further disintegration of our parish communities. For too many people, the liturgy has become something which must entertain us, which must appeal to every facet of our existence and caress our pre-conceived notions of what “church” should be like. People parish hop because they like the charisma of this priest over that one. They join one choir, then skip along to another one because their desire to sing is the important thing for them – defending dignified worship isn’t. Others turn attendance at a certain Mass into a weapon – I have heard people proclaim loudly that they are parishioners at Our Lady of Victory “just to spite the Bishop.” Not only is that giving a bad name to the others parishioners at that church, it’s just immature.

The Mass ought (aha, the tyranny of the ought rises again) to be above manipulation and partisan bickering. It’s the Church’s reflection of Heaven, and yet too many of us turn it into a reflection of our own daily lives. The tendency of liturgical liberals to lower the Mass to banality through use of ridiculous and irreverent theatrics demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what the Mass is. It is absolutely wrong to make the Mass primarily about you. It is wrong to make it about your abilities or your desires. It is wrong to make it your plaything. The Mass is Our Lord’s, and it is His gift to us. What ungrateful children are they who abuse this precious offering!

Those who do things like this, who focus primarily on self and not on God, have forgotten the “good things” mentioned in Lamentations. And note the similar situations: in Lamentations, Jerusalem is barren and desolate, her sanctuary empty, her priests scattered and disloyal, her courts abused by the conquering horde. Then look at Rochester. The Diocese is, just like Jerusalem, barren and desolate. Churches sit empty. Priests are reveling in tainting Church teaching. Our churches are being turned into mosques and Protestant assembly places. The Scriptures give us so many lessons, so many direct and undeniable incentives to remain orthodox in our faith, and yet many don’t. And why? Because “it’s hard.” “It’s not inclusive enough.” “I don’t understand it.” “God loves me just how I am.” Certainly we have God’s unconditional love, but this does not mean that we can abuse it. Nor does it mean we can deny it.

We all know that Our Lord pardoned His executioners. He was obedient unto them when they sentenced Him to death. He let them spit in His holy face. When liturgical abuse happens, the same scene is acted out. Instead of Pontius Pilate saying, “What is Truth?” we have priests who deny the Final Judgment. Instead of the centurions pushing the crown of thorns into the very bone of His skull, Our Lord has lay administrators assuming the roles of priests at Holy Mass. Though His bones may have been numbered by the Romans, and lots cast on His garments, He now has “Catholics” handling His Sacred Body without any regard for the reality that it is just that, His Sacred Body. There is no difference between those who persist in the complete and total desecration of the Holy Mass and those who murdered God on the Cross.

For the Jewish authorities, they alone were the important ones. So long as they felt safe and comfortable in their ways everything was just fine. Rouse yourselves from your apathy, friends, and don’t find yourselves to be in the same situation. Don’t go to Mass where you can be seen the most or heard the best – go to Mass where God is respected and treated as the omnipotent Creator He is. Do not continue to forget the “good things” the pitiable souls lost in Lamentations – find these “good things.” Defend them. Treasure them. For in finding the value of the sacred, you find value in Him who makes all things beautiful.

Catholic Courier – Fishwrap Aspirant

December 28th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

When you think of all the opportunities to genuinely “celebrate diversity” in the Diocese of Rochester, you’d think that the Catholic Courier would be right there letting

In the eyes of the Diocese, **not** something worthy to announce in the Courier

people know about everything that would possibly fit into that area of religious activity. Well, not so.

Many of you will recall the glorious Rosary for Priestly Vocations that the Knights of Columbus sponsored at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in November. See here, here, and here for a refresher. Many of you were probably in attendance for such a beautiful and majestic occasion. After all, it’s not everyday that you have twelve altar boys, a properly vested priest, a Gregorian schola, and some of the most precious treasures of the Church’s store of sacred music. Many people and organizations publicized the event: St. Anne Church, Our Lady of Lourdes, Holy Cross, Our Lady of Victory, the Latin Mass Community, Christ the King, St. Cecilia, the Carmelite Monastery, WHIC (Catholic Radio) and the list goes on and on. Alas, one entity which did not publicize the event was the Catholic Courier. Many people wrote to us saying that they had left messages for the Courier staffers to mention the service, but not one of these was ever actually posted on their site. No fewer than six people contacted the Courier to say, “hey, a bunch of Catholic are getting together to pray the Rosary – why don’t you let even more know about it?”

Well, we got over it. “Onward and upward,” as they say. After all, they were probably really busy with more important news items.

Now comes this little gem, as advertised on the Catholic Courier: “Communal Recitation of the Rosary

And guess which parish is hosting this weekly occurrence? St. Mary’s Downtown – the same parish which laughs in the face of the Church’s doctrines and rubrics, and whose administrator’s qualifications to be a pastoral administrator are questionable, to say the least.  This is the same parish that was given a transgendered crucifix under the watch of Sr. Joan Sobala. This is the same parish that supports gay couples and their sinful lifetyles. So naturally it’s the perfect parish to plaster all over the internet, the Courier touting it as a  model Catholic institution.

St. Mary's Downtown - aka "more of the same stale liturgical philosophy we've been spoon-fed since 1970"

Where was the coverage for St. Thomas? Hundreds of people attended that service, and the ceremonial aspects of that evening were unsurpassed by any liturgical function this diocese has seen in decades. Were they passed over because they were angered when a non-Catholic invaded their sanctuary during Mass? Were they passed over because they knelt for Communion? (Oh no! God forbid!) Were they passed over because they practice their faith without politicking and dissent from Church teaching? Or perhaps they were ignored by the Courier for simply being an indication of an inconvenient truth. What is this inconvenient truth? It’s called “dynamic orthodoxy.”

After all, it would serve to castrate the already emasculated Diocesan institutions if there were an event which upheld the dignity of the celibate male priesthood.

It’s rather pathetic the depths to which the Courier will sink just to keep pushing it’s 1970’s mentality on people who are trying to move forward and embrace genuine ecclesial renewal.

Further proof that duplicity reigns supreme in this Diocese. St. John Fisher, pray for us.

A Vision of a Stagnant Liturgical Dystopia

November 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Brought to our attention by a reader:

Cluster Pastoral Council article from OLoL and Saint Anne Bulletin- 11-21-10

At this month’s meeting of the Cluster Pastoral Council,
Karen Rinefierd, our Diocesan Liaison from the Office ofPastoral
Planning, provided us with both a picture of the Diocese as
a whole and a picture of our cluster parishes.
Karen explained Diocesan strategies to deal with the stagnant
population growth within the Diocese and the decline in available
priests. The Diocese has sharpened its focus and put more
resources into increasing vocations. (There are now 10 major
seminarians within the Diocese.) As in our parishes, the Diocese
has been using either retired priests or foreign priests to help deal
with this decline. Karen did say that the closing of churches has
been driven by financial issues and not by the declining number
of priests. The process of clustering has been happening
throughout the Diocese as has the use of pastoral administrators
who are not priests. (There are now 16 such persons in the Diocese
including three deacons, five women religious, six laywomen
and two laymen. )

The picture of our cluster parishes shows a significant decline
in Mass attendance over the past 10 years. Reflecting the mix of
people in our parishes, it is not surprising that there have been
more funerals (44) than Baptisms (25) in the cluster in 2010. We
were also given other demographic information about our parishes
and the areas in which we are located. The Cluster Council
plans to use this information to help frame its priorities.

Please let us have your thoughts about these or other issues of
interest to you. You may email usat:johngivensI9@gmail.com
or Sr. Joan at jsobala@dor.org.

Many points to address here:

1. They reference “stagnant population growth”. Maybe if our priests and lay preachers actually e-nun-ci-a-ted Church teaching regarding contraceptives and abortion, we wouldn’t be in this cycle. When you start neglecting to preach morals from the pulpit, you lose the future of your parish. Good preaching, rooted in doctrine, is the key to reversing the “demographic shifts” the DoR has seen and will continue to see.

2.  “Karen did say that the closing of churches has been driven by financial issues and not by the declining number of priests.” Tell that to the people of St. Thomas and St. Salome. The Diocese contradicts itself time and time again. “Oh what a tangled web we weave . .  .”

3. “The process of clustering has been happening throughout the Diocese as has the use of pastoral administrators who are not priests. (There are now 16 such persons in the Diocese including three deacons, five women religious, six laywomen and two laymen. )” If the processes we see at work in the DoR are driven, “not by the declining number of priests”, but by financial issues, why is this necessary? If we had ample amounts of priests, we wouldn’t need lay administrators. I won’t even bring up the canonical dubiousness of that whole arrangement, i.e. priests serving under lay parish leaders. The Diocese is really clueless.

4. “The picture of our cluster parishes shows a significant decline in Mass attendance over the past 10 years.” Gee, ya think? You take away a solid, liturgically-oriented priest like Fr. Lioi, replace him with another solid priest, Fr. Leone, who is called off to Kosovo, and then have Fr. Abas in charge, only to experience the pernicious backstabbing of other parish administration, and then when Fr. Leone gets back you replace him with Sr. Joan? Does it comes as a surprise that there’s a decline? When you destabilize a parish, that’s bad enough, but when you try to correct the destabilization with a poster-girl (sorry, not inclusive enough) poster-person as Sr. Sobala, that’s even worse. Sr. Joan is a dissident at best and a heretic at worst. This isn’t a judgment on her – it’s fact. Her liturgical practices are wholly illicit, founded only in the hollow norms from Buffalo Road. She chases away the faithful and then plays the “poor me” card by asking her remaining serfs what’s going on. Now that’s the definition of pathetic. She doesn’t need to look into the hearts of the faithful to get the answer to her question. She need only search the folds of her lilly-white alb.

Those churches which are still buying into the antiquated notion of “experimental liturgy” need to wake up and smell the incense. People don’t want Mass that cradles their pre-conceived notions of God and humanity. They want to be challenged, whether they know this on a conscious level or not. Why do you think places like Our Lady of Victory are bursting at the seams with solid young families? Is it because they experiment with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? No. It’s because they do what is asked of them by the Church Herself, not Her wayward, self-deifying servants.

And before anyone even thinks of saying, “You always talk about Our Lady of Victory. You’re biased,” show me another parish in the DoR that’s actually growing by leaps and bounds and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a valid argument. Liberal parishes are not experiencing tremendous growth. Most are lucky if they are breaking even from year to year in terms of attendance. St. Anne and Lourdes have lost hundreds of parishioners since Sr. Joan Sobala took over. Our Lady of Victory has gained hundreds of parishioners. If only we had some kind of genius who could decipher these baffling clues . . .

Duplicity is the Sole Regent

November 1st, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

When I was having a conversation with a friend from St. Thomas the Apostle today, I was told of a very disturbing comment made to a fellow parishioner. When this family visited Christ the King, in the spirit of “sticking with the new parish”, they knelt after the Agnus Dei had been said. The Christ the King parishioners directly behind them remarked loudly enough to be heard, “See, they don’t even try to fit in.”

Shame on them. How dare they ostracize members of a parish which is in its bureaucracy-imposed death-throws? The people of St. Thomas (and soon St. Andrew’s and Our Lady of Perpetual Help) are experiencing daily martyrdoms, losing what has made them whole for their lives as Catholics. To criticize fellow Catholics for doing the right thing is not appropriate. It’s downright rude. It’s behavior like this that tears open the flesh of Our Lord anew, with our flagellating tongues and demonic misconceptions. If kneeling at a time when kneeling is wholly permitted makes one feel more spiritually alive at Mass, they should not feel burdened to change that, just to make other people happy.

I pray that the other parishioners of Christ the King do not share in this ignorant perception of their brothers and sisters at St. Thomas. May God bless the people of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, and open their hearts to the true King, Jesus Christ.

You’d think…

October 21st, 2010, Promulgated by Ink

Wouldn’t you think that, if your organization was controversial and constantly under attack, you would stand up to defend it and to support it?  So WHY do Catholics constantly accuse their own Church of “embarrassments” such as the Galileo incident and the Crusades?

These things are not embarrassments.  Galileo was an annoying guy and it was more to do with his personal vendettas than with his scientific beliefs.  Copernicus (the guy who actually came up with the heliocentric model) was a Catholic priest. The Crusades were basically an extensive turf war: Jerusalem belonged to the Eastern Christians, but got invaded by the Moors.  Then the Eastern Christians called the Western Christians and asked for help.

If you call yourself Catholic, please, PLEASE read up on these stupid discussions (do NOT read the Revisionist History version) and learn the facts–the real ones.  Liberals and progressives like to pick on these because they think they know so much.  Do NOT go making fun of your own church–defend our people and stand up for the truth!

Hurrah for Saint Paul!

October 16th, 2010, Promulgated by Ink

In an attempt to make myself better-acquainted with some of our Church documents, I decided to start with the New Testament epistles.  Saint Paul has made me smile, since I’m sure he is looking down on our world right now and saying, “HEY, THAT’S WRONG!”  Emphasis mine.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.

Source: Romans 1:18-32, Revised Standard Version.

Food for thought.

AQ/Naz Mass

September 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Ink

Mass today was… interesting, to say the least.  I think I need to be cleansed… heheh, guess I write for the right site then, hmm? =P

This post sums up what Mass was like… very, very well, in fact.  I’ll go through some of it and add my comments in purple.

After my homeroom finally discovered where we were supposed to sit, I started to look around. I glanced at a group of girls wearing sleeveless (but high-collared), short, sparkly peach dresses, and i got a sinking feeling that they would dance. And dance they did. During the opening hymn, the girls (and one boy who was wearing a blue t-shirt and black pants) they couldn’t even make him match the girls! started slowly walking through the isle of Nazareth students, their arms in front of them as if they were zombies. once they reached the front, they stood in a formation and moved oddly in something I would not consider a dance in any context. While they moved, a teacher, presumably the Nazareth music teacher, was standing at a microphone, rocking back and forth and bouncing up and down with a guitar, singing. It was acoustic–were it electric, I just might have walked out right then and there. There was also a teacher (whom I’d heard was a Spanish teacher) on drums. The entire thing looked terribly un-Catholic, and I found myself rather glad that the mass was in the gym – I didn’t want to have bad associations of the Auditorium and I would never wish that on a church. It was like Port-A-Sacred-Heart-Cathedral.

That’s just part of it.  This whole so-called “Mass” was enough for me to end up in tears shortly afterward.  I can call the experience nothing short of outright traumatizing.

Also, a note on the bishop’s homily on angels (which was really about how we should be like angels to others–not really about angels at all but about the community present): it felt weak and nonmotivational, and to be honest… after Fr. Bonsignore’s homily on angels at High Mass on Sunday, I don’t think anyone can top it.

Calling all Catholic Students and Staff!

September 6th, 2010, Promulgated by Ink

With school starting, we have another battle to fight–the battlegrounds of our schools.  Catholic or not, high schools (and colleges) tend to be breeding grounds for liberals and CINOs (Catholic In Name Only).  Time to put on the armour of Christ, as they say, and truly represent our faith!

Some suggestions:

1. Celebrate feast days.  I walked in to school on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception dressed entirely in white (except for my shoes, since I have not owned white shoes since I was probably ten).  Lots of people noticed (possibly because I wear lots of black) and asked about it.  You don’t have to be quite so drastic or blatant, but it’s good to get people asking questions.  They become opportunities for little catechetical moments.  Ash Wednesday is a marvellous opportunity for this as well.

2. Don’t be afraid to speak out.  If someone is saying something untrue (e.g. “Catholics are cannibals”) and you have the opportunity to correct them, do so gently.  “Actually, not exactly.  It IS the Body and Blood of Christ, but in substance, not in form.”

3. Refer people to important documents if they need proof.  Papal writings are wonderful for this, especially those of John Paul II, since he is widely regarded by the secular world as “a pretty cool guy.”  Obviously the Catholic world considers him wonderful.

4. If someone is still stubborn, let it go.  They can be as stubborn as they like, but if they are really seeking truth, your words will gnaw at their brain for a while.

Assuming a Cultic Character

August 17th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

It seems we can’t turn around these days without tripping over broken olive-branches our detractors cast back upon us with aspersion. However, today we don’t just have the honor of stumbling over these broken branches, but rather, carved branches which now resemble . . . what could they be . . . ah yes, drum sticks.

Our dear fraternal fellow Lee, peace be upon him, is reprising his role as the prophet of epileptic rythmitizing – yes, I do mean promoting “Rock Music” at Mass. While many matters liturgical are somewhat unclear, this is one whose debate is over and done. I don’t care how many people “like it” or “dislike it” – there is no place in any liturgy for the use of rock music. It is not proper, it is not licit, and it is certainly not in keeping with the Spirit of Vatican II, the Council whose decree on sacred music (i.e. “music at Mass”) states the following (my commentary added):

114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. (Preserved – that means that we take what is already in the Mass, i.e. Gregorian Chant. We do not have the right to do with the Mass whatever we want.) Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs, as laid down in Art. 28 and 30. (I don’t foresee everyone in the congregation being able to participate in a Rock Mass, singing their own individual parts, or banging their own little drums. However, I do see people in parishes, like Our Lady of Victory, St. Stanislaus, St. Anne, etc. picking up the missals and singing along with the chant. That’s called active participation, folks, and rock music doesn’t allow that.)

115. Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in the novitiates and houses of study of religious of both sexes, and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music. (Carefully trained – so I guess those who pursue music as a hobby aren’t qualified to add their own politically-tinged ruminations into the mix of liturgical debate?)

It is desirable also to found higher institutes of sacred music whenever this can be done.

Composers and singers, especially boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training. (Genuine liturgical training does not include tambourines or guitars or bongos. It does, however, include the Liber Usualis, Renaissance Polyphony, and hymns which preserve the prayerful unity of the congregation rather than its entertainment.)

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. (How can Gregorian Chant be given “pride of place” when folks insist on running the show when they have little-to-no grasp of what the Second Vatican Council called for? It’s right here, folks – use Gregorian Chant. The actual Latin for the phrase “pride of place” is “principum locum.” You don’t need to be a Latin scholar to see the error in translation. Principal place, not “pride of place.” When something is of principal importance, you do it first, you follow its lead, you give it absolute authority. You do not, however, necessarily do that when something is given “pride of place,” like the oldest living family member who sits at the end of the Thanksgiving table in silence, drooling into his lap. No. Gregorian Chant has principal place, and must be used above all other musical forms, including sacred polyphony. The point is non-negotiable, but our “liturgy experts” tend to overlook this for the trite and banal pieces by Haugen and company.)

But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30. (The spirit of the liturgical action is one of sacrifice, i.e. “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” The only sense of the sacrificial in rock music is the sacrifice of any modicum of decency on the part of priest, people, and musicians.)

117. The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X.

It is desirable also that an edition be prepared containing simpler melodies, for use in small churches. (When I think “rock music,” “simpler melodies” is not the first thing that pops into my head. A raging headache, first, but then the thought of, “Wow – this is way too busy.” Chant is simple. It’s intuitive. Rock music isn’t. It can be entertaining, but it’s not what the Council directed us to embrace.)

118. Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.

119. In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40. (Oh, please! If anyone makes the argument that America is a mission territory in the same sense of the words as the jungles of India or the Sahara of Africa are . . .  We aren’t aboriginies who have been in isolation for millenia. We’re Americans for goodness sake, and we have access to everything we need to have dignified liturgy.)

Therefore, when missionaries are being given training in music, every effort should be made to see that they become competent in promoting the traditional music of these peoples, both in schools and in sacred services, as far as may be practicable.

120. In the Latin Church (that’s us, folks) the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things. (The organ is the prime instrument for Latin Rite liturgy. Although, I’m sure that rock Masses don’t fall under this category. After all, we have an Anglican Usage Mass . . . why can’t we have a Preslyan Usage Mass? I can hear it now – “I ain’t nothing but a hound-dog unworthy to receive thee . . . “)

But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful. (There isn’t anything dignified about guitars, amplifiers, and drum sets. Period.)

121. Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures.

Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful. (This is kind of the opposite of what rock music promotes. Gee . . . it’s almost as if reality is dividing the sacred and profane without any effort. Imagine that.)

The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources. (I’d be willing to bet that any rock Mass is focused more on the boom boom boom of the rockers’ egos, and not on the theological nuances of the Holy Mass.)

The Holy Mass was instituted 2,000 years ago, long before anything resembling rock music. However, at that time, the melodies for certain of our Gregorian chants were in use. Many of our Mass settings, our propers, our ordinaries, etc. can trace their melodies back to the chants of the priests in King David’s Temple. Why do we turn our back on these for the sake of something which has only presented itself as an art form in the past 35 years? That’s not only short-sighted, it’s terribly immature. It shows a fear of what is greater than us, and rather than confront the mystery and confusion, we run into the arms of the things with which we are the most familiar. When you were a little child and got separated from your mother at the mall, the grocery store, etc. you didn’t run into the arms of the creepy old man next to you just because he was there. No, you avoided the convenience of that man’s grasp and you went running towards your mother. The sooner we do this in a liturgical sense, and run from the things closest to us for the things which are most precious, we’ll begin to see vibrancy at Mass, increased attendance, more vocations. People yearn for transcendence, not vulgarity.

There’s no room for personal taste at Mass. It doesn’t matter what we like or dislike. Even if I thought Gregorian Chant was the most hideous thing every created (which it’s not), I would still crusade for its use. Why? Because it’s sacred. It has been set apart as the thing we’re supposed to hear at Mass. Rock music, jazz, rap, ballroom music, and calypso beats are distinctly there for our leisure, and not for Mass. They are profane in the sense that that are pro (Latin – “in front of”) the fane (Latin – “the shrine, temple”). They are outside of the sacred. Each kind of music is specifically suited to where we hear it. We hear Calypso music in tropical locales – we get festive. We hear Jazz in New Orleans – we get inspired to jive. We hear rap in the “ghettos” – we get inspired to duck and run for cover. We hear Gregorian Chant at Mass – we are struck by the mystery and, here’s the word again, the transcendence. Ask any young man or woman who is discerning a call to serve the Church. They will tell you, without exception, that they weren’t attracted by the theme-Masses, the inclusive language, the novelty of certain contrived “rites.” They are attracted by a realization that the Church is something outside of human manipulation, for it was founded by God Himself. Sure, humans can cause havoc within the Church, and do so royally, but the Church stays on track.

To insist on continuing in illicit behavior just because “people like it” is reckless. It’s irresponsible, inappropriate, and adolescent. I would bet an amazingly obscene amount of money that the average age of those participating in the rock Masses of the DoR is well above the average age of those who attended the Colloquium. And guess which group is more on-fire for the Faith? Guess which group produces/produced more vocations? Guess which group is joyful in its reverence, not just plain goofy? Guess which group is excited about orthodoxy? Guess which group has the bigger families? Guess which group has a better grasp of the documents of Vatican II?

I close with the Pope’s explanation of sacred music from his classic, “The Spirit of the Liturgy.”

“Rock” . . . is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe.