Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sunday's Gospel: A Lesson for Trad Catholics

I have often heard from a lot of Catholics that they would be more willing to attend the old Mass or denominate themselves "traditional" if they met "traditionalists" who were more comely, forgiving, and saintly themselves. This assessment is a bit overboard, but I think has some merit.
Michael Davis, RIP

The late Michael Davies once said in a debate that like the man on the road to Jericho, traditionally minded Catholics were "spiritually mugged." We lost the Mass, spirituality, respect from the hierarchy, and were often cast aside as radicals, Luddites, or sedevacantists. We were understandably bitter.

This separation from the mainstream of the Church, which we did not bring upon ourselves, created something of a like ghetto-attitude for us. We distrusted most priests and bishops—rightfully so in many cases—but sometimes actively disliked them. I have heard many a trad express some form of bitterness towards Popes Paul VI and John Paul II for their pastoral neglect or active opposition of tradition, particularly of the old Mass. Pope Paul VI went as far as to attack Archbishop Lefebvre:

Pope Paul VI
There are those who, under the pretext of a greater fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium, systematically refuse the teaching of the Council itself, its application and the reforms that stem from it, its gradual application by the Apostolic See and the Episcopal Conferences, under Our authority, willed by Christ. —Paul VI, at the Consistory of May 24, 1976

This began to permanently sour relations between Econe and Rome, creating divisions that are only now being reconsidered. Still, this position has made most of us—myself no exception—demand concessions from the Holy See and the bishops to foment use of the old Mass, clear teaching, and condemnation of heresy. Whenever we do not get these, or find those in power actively opposing things, we tend to get our shorts all knotted up. And when we get our concessions, we still do the same thing.

We should crusade for the reign of Christ, in and outside of the walls of our churches, but let us also remember to forgive those whom we dislike or find troublesome. Christ's parable in this Sunday's Gospel speaks well to us:

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talentsAnd as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.  Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.—Matthew 18:21-35
 Whether we get what we want, let us forgive those who somehow offend us, love them, pray for them, and leave them with a smile, not to pie-in-the-sky airheads, but to demonstrate that Christ's joy and mercy can be passed on to us through traditional devotion and spirituality. This is quite hard. A personal anecdote might help. When I visited St. Peter's Basilica a while back I passed through the Papal tombs under the main floor. When I found Paul VI's tomb I immediately became irate. Temptation offered an opportunity to dwell on this passed Pontiff's quite sad time upon the Apostolic throne, but this is not what the Lord wants. After regaining control, I said a quick prayer for Paul VI's soul and walked away. I was not much happier after leaving his tomb than when I found it, but doing what Jesus wants is rarely easy.

I do not tell this tale to pat myself on the back. It was not a happy moment, but I just wanted to say that Jesus commands our patience and forgiveness in today's Gospel passage, even if our indignation might have some merit. If we cannot forgive one another, why would God ever forgive us?

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