Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Being Sure

A younger generation of Catholics have become attached to various particular aspects of the Church in a way that prior ages would have found curious. The "JP2 generation" admired the Polish pontiff's life and morality teachings; an educated, hipster-esque demographic have assigned themselves to the so-called "EF" (whatever that is) and artful celebrations of the Pacelli-Montini rite; perhaps a slightly older, but relatively youthful, group of proto-Libertarian Americans have found solace in the social teachings of Leo XIII and Pius XI of happy memory. And it all begs the question, why? Is there something wrong with these "rigid" neo-Pelagian people or is something else at play?

Years ago the then-pastor of the FSSP parish in Roma and liturgical restorationist, Joseph Kramer, observed that the rebels immediately responsible for the Church's current state of affairs were reared under "super discipline", their parents having grown up during the Great Depression and two World Wars. Post-modern youths live under antipodal circumstance and seek greater direction in the practice of faith.

That discipline and direction once upon a time came from Catholic culture prevalent in ethnic communities in America and in the village life back in the "old world." It was devotions, catechism, family customs, patron saints, Blessed Sacrament processions, the romanticism of the Mass, and so on. All of that is gone, or near gone, in most parishes; where it exists it has been recrafted, not continued from previous times. Bereft of these cradle-Catholic inheritances and living in a secularized society, Catholics understandably latch on to the firmer things that make sense to them, older things with clear continuity to the past, things that possess a gravitas that assures one that the object of interest carries a greater weight than the one engaging it. No one you know may care about the significance of additional ministers at Pontifical Mass or Rerum Novarum, but for many years faithful Catholics did, and in caring one can normalize one's interests in their company.

Converts felt a similar struggle a century ago. Louis Bouyer, who came to the Church from French Lutheranism, was drawn to the Church by study of the Fathers and the Roman liturgy only to be told by cradle co-religionists that "real Catholics don't care about that sort of thing." Bouyer buried himself in the Scriptures and the liturgy, which directed him to the Church through the ancient Fathers, knowing that these artifices did not belong to a vague Christianity, but were in fact proper to the Church, irrespective of others' disinterest in that fact. John Henry Newman had a similar struggle upon entering the Church and leaving his prestigious position as a don at Oriel for the religion of the Irish. 

These aren't necessarily unhealthy trends on their own; the Apostolic Fathers possessed no Catholic culture, nor a Jewish one after the failed revolt of Simon bar Kokhba. They lived merely on the certainty of what the Apostles and their immediate students told them. But what of the muddled middle who do not seek out special interests? Culture once fortified their hewing to the Church, but without it they wane....


  1. I, for one, have found it engaging to study the Late Antique-Early Medieval Christian world, especially the Roman Church of the day. It helps in my "faith seeking understanding" moments.

  2. "[W]here it exists it has been recrafted, not continued from previous times." I was reminded of the Tolkien image of the shards of the sword being reforged. I suppose an analogy closer to home would be the reading of the "book of the Law of Moses" (Deuteronomy, presumably)aloud by Esdras to the assembled people after the return from exile.

    Our revived Catholic customs may have the thinnest of claims to the title of living tradition, but I think they may still claim it. And that is cause for joy: "Be not sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength." (Both citations from 2 Esdras 8, being on my mind today after celebrating the Ember Day Mass.)

  3. ABS has known he was on his own since the 1960s and he knows he can not count on his Bishop or Pope to defend the Truth, say nothing about those prelates promoting it in the face of the increasing strength of unbelievers.

    For the Pope and the vast majority of Bishops, our enemies are to be cultivated as friends but not converted, while lifelong tradition-loving Catholics are to be marginalised, silenced, and denounced.

  4. So the hipsters and "proto-Libertarians" (?) have it right, then? That is, the Catholic manliness cigar-smokers at your local FSSP hole-in-the-wall are generally closer to Goodness than the NFP choirs at the oft-sneered-at "wreckovated" parishes?

  5. Sometimes it seems to me that we tend to construct idols of those "firmer" things.

  6. You've got some interesting points here. Honestly the number one thing I just cannot wrap my head around is how utterly destructive and poisonous the papacy has been to the Roman Church of the last hundred plus years. Something changed dramatically with the close of Vatican I and things avalanched after Vatican II.

    Now I will perhaps always maintain some kind of connection to the Church I was baptized and confirmed in, but for the last year or more I have been unable to bring myself to believe in the papacy as it's come to be, nor put aside my grave doubts long enough to do anything Church related other than pray the Benedictine Office and the Jesus Prayer.

    I'm not sure I can ever believe again that the popes and bishops are worthy of obedience and having a pious love for. I love neither nor do I desire communion with them.

    For now I must remain as I'm doing, an outlier that prays the Office daily but who maintains only the thinnest connections to the papally orchestrated mess that is the RCC.

    1. Why is it that you feel, might i say, betrayed by the Church? Is it because of the abandonment of certain type of aesthetics in the liturgy or is it because of the content of the preaching of the bishops?

      I'm not trying to attack you, but understand you.
      Certainly, we have made a cult out of the pope. It was very popular in the 50s for every home to have the picture of the pope. And from V1 and on it wasn't hard to begin to build the cult of personality that the popes now enjoy, or at least try to acquire.

      And certainly, many times i look around myself and ask: "Christ, where is thy Church?".

      Throughout the centuries Christianity has in certain areas become just like one of the religions which sociology of religions describes. Designed to control the masses, to extort money under threat of eternal fires etc. All these things sometimes fill me with questions about existence of God even, but quickly i remind myself of the resurrection of Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.

      The more Christianity "feels" like "just a religion" the more i dislike the religious part of it.
      And certainly, broadly and technically speaking, Christianity is a religion, like all others. But spiritually speaking, religions are just human constructs, while the Way is something God has built and to call it a religion would be to despise it, as the Canticle says (8,7): "if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing. ".

      So given all that, i would urge you not to live in cognitive dissonance, but, as you already do, do all you can, but also, do not give yourself to hate. Sorrow is good, since sorrow stems from love. Love and bless those who wrong you.

    2. Marko-

      Cognitive dissonance is what I felt for years when attending the only parishes available to me. I basically became Orthodox at heart while remaining connected tenuously to the Church I voluntarily entered as an adult , fancying myself sort of like an Old Believer or a Home Aloner Catholic, although out of necessity, in order to try and kill the cognitive dissonance. The only reasons I never formally became Orthodox was because I didn't have a parish close to me, because I found the whole rebaptism controversy even within the same jurisdictions to be bizarre and nonsensical and mostly because I had some very real experiences within Rome that made me see experientially that there IS grace in Rome.

      I sometimes truly believe that the papacy as its come to be IS the problem today, that the cult of ultramontanism taken to extremes is THE number one reason for almost all of the damage we see in the Roman Church today. I basically started questioning the papacy itself, and to this day I'm totally agnostic about it, leaning more towards an Orthodox view.

      If I am to survive even on the hinterlands of the RCC I must continue to do what I'm doing, and that's to pray the Breviary and the Jesus Prayer, and to stay away from the average parish. I just do not see almost any evidence of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi there.

      I suppose I'll always be on the edge of the RCC, I mean, I want to take seriously my baptismal promises, but I must do that in a way that allows me breathing room from the cognitive dissonance that simply stepping into the average parish brings to me.

    3. I have a different set of doctrinal concerns, and it often feels like cognitive dissonance or forcing myself to believe something that doesn't really make sense, so i can sympathise.

    4. I'm quite happy men like Bruno, Francis, Dominic, and Philip Neri didn't react to the Church of their day with this morose despondency.

    5. Well they reacted that way solely because God has given them to react that way.

      Anyway, are you speaking of me as being morosely despondent, or JD, or both?

  7. "They lived merely on the certainty of what the Apostles and their immediate students told them. But what of the muddled middle who do not" And also upon personal and comnon revelation. You also mentioned the modern fear of the supernatural. Oh well, in the beginnings when Christian would be slayed and tortured by the idolatres and perform physical miracles against the pagan knowledge... today I feel we are just the shadow of a doubt in comparison.
    I have kept quiet for a while for Marko who is right, women be quiet. In reality we are all quiet here. The only sound is that of the keyboard for those of us who hear it. We literally are.. the sound of silence. We fear physical pain, it's a fact mist Christians today only wish for health. YET these people who have suffered immensely above us in flesh. For them I would never keep silence, because the reality is we are not worth their intermediation. We are nothing. Do get a good job we would stuff our own mouth with gasoline and set it on fire. This is Christianity today. I subscribe. I am a sinner. I die everyday inside I keep quiet. I dont want to be labelled 'hater', idiotic, by people who I know have nothing to do with God or even His oponent.

    1. I don't know how would it be to suffer martyrdom... I am very afraid of it...
      Today, Christians, those self-confessedly more traditional ones especially, seek comfort in christian monarchies, and certainly, Constantine and Theodosios have given us that comfort. But before that, there were not exhortations to establish a catholic monarchy where heretics would be punished by fire, but exhortations to martyrdom. We have taken a stand which is diametrically opposed to that of the early Christians, and dare i say, Christ himself...

      As msgr. Masterman, the protagonist of rev. Benson's Dawn of All said: "I long to see Christians suffering at the hands of the world.", because he thought that the Church has lost something of her essence when she began to rule the world...
      It is a lofty thing to desire, far loftier than the establishment of the Church as one world religion, but am i a hypocrite when i desire the same as the aforementioned monsigneur and at the same time am afraid of suffering?

    2. The Church suffering at the hands of the world will happen no matter what. Fear of suffering can also show humbleness. Because if one does not fear suffering then he has nothing to offer at the Altar of Heaven when he does suffer. And we all suffer eventually. Remember the Apostles fled and ran those who wanted them dead so they feared death too. In the old Coptic books of the Patriarchy of Alexandria I read Virgin Mary was very afraid of the threats made to her because she was praying at His grave so she asked God to take her because she can't handle it anymore. Archangel Gabriel appeared and spoke to her again that her prayers have been heard but why does she have so little faith in that which was promised to her? Then she falls ill and her departure from this world comes near as she requested.