Thursday, January 30, 2020

Remembering Roger Scruton

I only recently learned that Roger Scruton, eminent conservative and aesthetic philosopher of our day, passed on only a few short weeks ago. Between my own father's death and that of Fr. Jerome Bertram I am becoming wary of mortal news. All the same it is really worth re-visiting Scruton's thought and his journey from an apolitical, middle class rearing to that of a thinker who promoted a coherent and political significant understanding of the world.

That recounting will not happen here, but you can do it in this marvelous essay he penned seventeen years ago where he recounts his conversion while witnessing the students of Paris rioting against the bourgeoisie in '68. "I must find out what these people believe so that I may believe the exact opposite," he often said. I have alluded to Scruton in a post on searching for illumination in our post-Christian age and leaned on him significantly for two posts on what makes "good" ecclesiastical music (here and here). He even once wrote about Mgr. Alfred Gilbey in a book on wine. Do read those posts and Scruton's own essay on his intellectual conversion.

I do not know the condition of his soul in how he died, but I do find some lament in how he lived. He was a realistic and did not hanker after a past age. He wished to conserve traditions, meanings, and institutions given to us by the dead so that they may be passed on to the unborn; he was a true traditionalist. Aware of the irreligiosity of his age he was moved by the less radical Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophers, namely Hegel and Kant, and seems to have latched on to some quieter ideas of the Romantic era, which used art and philosophy to replace the God sized hole in the human heart, perhaps including Scruton's own heart.

He was a traditionalist, too, in that he retained ancient ideas and questions and passed them on to the new generation.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Imaginative Prayer

If you have ever prayed before an icon or a holy image you have engaged in imaginative prayer. Someone has created an image of a holy person or event and presented the image both for the grandeur of God and the efficacious devotion of the living. Indeed, even mental prayer is imaginative, it merely requires the person praying to construe the image rather than an artist or iconographer.

Imagination is the construction of images in our own heads, our ability to move them and join them abstractly using ideas we have accumulated in reality. In his chapter on the theme of memory in Confessions, Saint Augustine asks how he has a desire for God without having known God in the flesh and concludes that he had some awareness of God haunting him all his life in his head, an image formed but not yet fully realized.

Imaginative prayer should be just that, prayer focused on some image, visible or construed, concerning God, the saints, the events of Christ's earthly presence, and the Church. It is a vehicle for thanksgiving and petition as much as it is meditation and reflection. Perhaps two of the most historic and prevalent types of prayer that require imagination are the Rosary and lectio divina, the former a medieval development of the practice of repetitive prayer and the later something older than monasticism itself.

How is lectio divina an imaginative prayer? While the Rosary is more apparent in commanding meditation on fifteen certain mysteries of the Word, lectio allows one to enter a text as a form of prayer and commune with God therein. Without using the text as a form of imagination, to place one's self before God in humility and even to place one's self in the events described, reading becomes academic study and collecting knowledge, but not prayer.

In Mystical Mush one commentator asks if the Counter-Reformation emphasis on the "spiritual life" may reflect the augmentation of imaginative prayer in a way that the medieval Christians and the Eastern Churches do not know. This is possible, but it is territory that requires some caution. Some writers of that age absolutely prescribe what one might call imaginative prayer.

In the old kalendar today is the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva, spiritual master, and successful missionary for the re-conversion of cold hearted Calvinists to the warm of the Church's bossom. Saint Francis's Introduction to the Devout Life, or Philothea, is abundant with instructions to meditate on some spiritual truth, to place one's own self there, and to reflect on one's own standing with God and the need for conversion. In his early chapters he specifically calls to mind the Crucifixion and places the reader there at the foot of the Cross, then imagines the love of the just and the unsightliness of the damned. Which line will you pick, o reader, asks Saint Francis.

This may seem highly imaginative in departing from accepted norms, but is it really that different from the Kiss of Christ described by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in his commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles?

Liturgical prayer itself requires some imagination, albeit less than most others. To see Christ truly crucified when the Cross is raised on Good Friday or truly betrayed during the responses of Tenebrae (Amici mei....) is to see the sacred rites as more than re-enactments or duties paid. The elevation at Mass was born out of a desire to see both an image of the Body of Christ and the thing itself. The same age which proliferated more [good] liturgy than any other was, in some way, more "imaginative" in perpetuating the presence of Christ than any other

Things become "mystical mush" when the imagination of the person praying is required to put words into God's mouth, as if a reply is the necessary and only point of interior prayer. No where in Philothea does Saint Francis ask for Christ's reply to a meditation, but plenty of mystics, spiritualists, and quietists have imagined such replies in their hearts or heads and then given them to us as matters of truth. At best, one can only hope for pious nonsense in these cases. At worst, one might reasonably fear voluminous novelties acquired on a two-ray radio with the Holy Spirit. Worst of all this approach puts someone's words in God's mouth and makes God into the fulfillment of one person's desires rather than all hearts' desire.

Prayer is imaginative and it should be as long as one does not begin to make it up.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Mystical Mush

Is there a problem with mysticism? That depends greatly on what "mysticism" means.

In the Latin Church mystical theology signifies an interior, prayerful approach to understanding the mysteries of the Catholic faith. This is not opposed to, but certainly a contrast from, the more rigoristic theology of the Schoolmen, which used the Traditions of the Fathers and applied the logic of the Greek philosophers.

Indeed, while conventional Patristic and Scholastic theology concern themselves with understanding the faith, mystical theology concerns itself with the understanding of God Himself and the human being's relationship to Him. The mystic, in this sense, is concerned with spiritual truths, understanding (intellectus) rather than knowledge (ratio). Both the Middle Ages and Counter-Reformation produced numerous mystical theologians counted among the Doctors of the Catholic Church, among them Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the reforming Carmelite saints of Spain, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, and potentially even Saint Francis de Sales, whose Introduction to the Devout Life and works on the Blessed Virgin Mary could only have been derived in pectore.

The mystic is one who leads primarily an interior life of prayer, finding similar power in reflection and surrender as most would find in the great liturgical ceremonies and Sacraments of the Church.

There is, however, a problem with mysticism: it exists in the heart and head of the mystic, and as such can be given to dreams, ecstasies, ill-judgments, and ignorance. Unchecked, these forces can accumulate to give mysticism a new meaning and a bad name to those familiar with its former glories and contributes to the spiritual life.

Our recent post reviewing a new book on Consecration to St. Joseph has renewed commentary which presents itself whenever a post on the topic of Saint Joseph and his constant re-invention appears. There is not much of a tradition around Saint Joseph, conventionally speaking, aside from that which appears int he proto-Evangelium of Saint James: he was a widower with six children who took the Virgin as a wife after she left the Temple, was thrown into doubt and confusion after her conception by the Holy Spirit, he took part in the events described in the canonical Gospels, and died in advanced age. The Church Fathers saw him as minor figure and none ever wrote more than a few lines about him. He figures more prominently in the Yorkshire mystery plays around Corpus Christi than he does in any sermon by Gregory the Great or Chrysostom. This is hardly a slight against the stepfather of Christ. Popular imagination in Christian Europe afforded him higher regard than any Father gave him.

Where this becomes difficult, aside from a well placed Spanish propaganda campaign, and where this relates to mysticism is that the contrary tradition of "young" Saint Joseph was born in intellectual theology and insinuated its way to mystics. The evolution of Saint Joseph during the 17th-19th centuries coincides with a de facto reinterpretation of mystical theology and the purpose of mysticism.

Name a mystic. María de Jesús de Ágreda? Anne Catherine Emmerich? Maria Valtorta? Each of these mystics provided a corpus of texts narrating the entire life of Christ in minute details, details which their defenders adumbrate as evincing proof: how else could person X have known such particular information about the layout of ancient Jerusalem?

Yet this is exactly where mysticism and mystical theology have changed. Whereas previously mysticism was a source of inner, spiritual knowing of God, it is now semi-synonymous with a person who has special knowledge of new information. In fact, it is a source of information and even lower tiered revelation where Holy Writ and accepted Tradition are silent on a matter, or in this case if they fail to say the right thing.

Most of "young" Saint Joseph has come to us from devotional writings and rational theology inadvertently ignorant of the larger Tradition. If Saint Joseph was a protector of Christ and the Virgin he must have been virile. If he was a provider he must have been a model worker. If he was worthy to live with the Mother and Child he must, too, have been a Virgin, sanctified in his mother's womb, and assumed into heaven; if he had those privileges he must have been the greatest saint after Our Lady and before John the Baptist, who Christ called the greatest man ever born of woman.

Mystical writings, particularly those of the aforementioned authors, provide legitimacy to these theological speculations in the form of purportedly revealed evidence. The problem, especially in the case of Saint Joseph, is that it is antipodal to the previously accepted characterization of the Saint. It would in fact be more intellectually honest to admit that if the Early Church's understanding of Joseph is unreliable then we do not know much about him at all other than what is plainly stated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The result is that the power of Tradition is undermined, a house divided against itself, and mysticism is transformed into a means of obtaining private revelations for popular consumption rather than a means of communing with God. If a private revelation, vision, or supposed miracle purports to say anything inherently new about God, the Saints, or the Church then I am not interested in it. Biographers and contemporaries of Saint Philip Neri frequently recall that after his own solitary ecstasy he always held in suspicion those who had mystical visions, ecstatic prayers, or who learned special secrets when they prayed.

As an aside, I essayed to reader Valtorta and Emmerich some years ago and found both to be excellent cures for insomnia.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Consecration to St. Joseph?

It has been only a few weeks since Marian Press published Fr. Donald Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father, and since the book seems to be gaining some traction I thought I should give it a read. I know almost nothing about Fr. Calloway save what he includes on the back cover—he is a vocation director for the Marian Fathers and lives in Steubenville—and a little bit from his social media footprint. I am not usually interested in reviewing new Josephite devotional material, but Calloway’s twist of a Montfort-esque consecration to the foster father of Christ piqued my interest.

Oddly, the focus on consecration is so strong that Calloway seems annoyed that any reader would want to take time and learn about St. Joseph before embarking on the 33-day preparation process:
Most likely, the majority of people who acquire Consecration to St. Joseph are going to go straight into the 33-day preparation. However, there might be some people who get the book but are not quite ready for consecration to St. Joseph. Some people might feel that they want to get to know St. Joseph better before committing to a month-long preparation for consecration to a saint they don’t know much about. (p. 7)
They might, indeed! St. Louis de Montfort made sure to lay the theological groundwork for his “total consecration” to the Virgin Mary before encouraging his readers to embark on the lengthy preparation process. Fr. Calloway has a difficult time understanding why St. Joseph would require any introduction, much less why any Catholic would need convincing before preparing himself for a sacred vow to the carpenter of Nazareth.

Fr. Calloway’s version of St. Joseph is, of course, the “New St. Joseph” that I have written so much about in my Josephology series on this blog. Those posts expound (perhaps at excruciating length) upon the Josephite doctrines I consider untraditional and therefore in error, and Calloway adds very little to the doctrinal list.

I would rather consider a bizarre aspect of Josephite devotion which crystalized for me while reading this book: Why is it that devotees of St. Joseph strive to make him so much like the Virgin Mary, both in doctrine and spirituality? Let us consider this list that traditionally applied in whole only to Mary, but which the New Josephites claim as the common property of them both:

  • Sanctification in the Womb
  • Sinlessness
  • Perpetual Virginity
  • Annunciation
  • Spiritual Parentage of All Christians (New Adam/Eve)
  • Bodily Assumption
  • Celestial Coronation
  • A special kind of dulia (hyper for Mary, proto for Joseph)

  • Litany (of Majestic Titles)
  • Memorare
  • Seven Sorrows
  • Seven Joys
  • Flowery Iconography
  • Consecration with a 33-Day Preparation

Why does New St. Joseph appear to be, for all intents and purposes, a male clone of Mary? Does he have no spirituality of his own? No doctrine or personality that could be considered particularly his? (I’m actually surprised no Rosary of St. Joseph exists. It would be the next logical step.) Calloway makes an attempt to push the idea of Joseph as “The Savior of the Savior” in reference to the Flight to Egypt, but other than this and a brief observation about manual labor, he comes up empty in demonstrating anything manly or even unique about St. Joseph. The historical trajectory of Josephite devotion is to mimic everything wonderful and special about the Mother of God, while gradually discarding those few facts concerning him we actually received from Tradition.

On the other hand, the Real St. Joseph is full of personality and is at no risk of losing himself as a dim reflection of the Virgin Mary. He is indeed virile, proven by the generous procreation of many sons who would become disciples of Christ. He is indeed manly, proven by the feeling of dishonor upon learning about Mary’s unexplained pregnancy. He is indeed both just and merciful, proven by the subtle decision to divorce her, but quietly. He is indeed wise, for he obeyed the angel always without complaint. He is indeed longsuffering, for he endured many trials, humiliations, anxieties, and undesired journeys for justice’s sake.
O how comely is judgment for a grey head, and for ancients to know counsel! O how comely is wisdom for the aged, and understanding and counsel to men of honour! Much experience is the crown of old men, and the fear of God is their glory. (Sirach 25)
Let the real glory of St. Joseph shine in all its radiance. We don’t need to carbon copy the Second Eve to make him seem worthwhile. Jesus is the sun, Mary is the moon; what glorious humility that they would bow down before Joseph of Nazareth! Perhaps he understands humility more than any other saint ever could. Let him remain humble.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Ordo MMXX, Gateway to the Roman Rite

Thanks to the Unionized Society of Postal Sloths, the USPS, the Ordo recitandi Officii Divini Sacrique peragendi published by the St. Lawrence Press has finally arrived at my doorstep. Perhaps the Orthodox Christmas cards cleared the mail and they decided to get to the international bag?

The SLP Ordo is a must for any Traditional Catholic with a remotely liturgical interest, be (s)he clerical or lay. Even those who, like myself, observe the Roman Office predating S Pius X's alterations will find this booklet helpful for things like tracing the occurring Scripture, following when commemorations falls, finding the Saturday Vespers antiphon, and which third verse to say on Iste confessor.

Initially compiled by John Tyson, attributed on the second page of the Ordo, the SLP book is preferable to any other Ordo recitandi precisely because it is the only traditional one. It follows the Roman rite as it existed before Pius XII began the un-ending tinkeritis on the Mass and the associated deforms to the Divine Office. Originally, the Ordo was published in association with the FSSPX before Archbishop Lefebvre's liturgical about face. Since then it has been compiled under the aegis of the St. Lawrence Press in England.

As such, it is also the only truly traditional Ordo in how it is published. As it began only a few years after the conclusions of Vatican II and the abolition of Latin and the old liturgy, it retains the structure, style, and useful items that the older, traditional Ordines had in better times. I have seen the FSSP, FSSPX, and LMS publications, all of which follow the 1962 Missal and are available in English. The SLP Ordo instead follows the older style of abbreviations and page layout and in the Latin language, making it a universally useful product. For those who would excuse the vernacular in the '62 products, if a priest cannot follow a simple fragment sentences in Latin he has no business reading Mattins or the Roman Canon in that tongue either.

This Ordo contains much more than just the color of the day or what to do at Vespers. It denotes on which day votive and Requiem Masses may be said or sung as well as the commemorations and, if occurring, proper Last Gospel, both useful steps in an incrementalist approach to wean off the '62 rite.

The front of the Ordo is uniquely valuable. It contains the Noveritis both for liturgical use and for reference of the user. Following that are the regulations around votive Masses, the manner of observing a patronal feast when it is impeded, the rules around external solmenities of the Sacred Heart, how to conduct a Forty Hours devotion, when a Nuptial Mass is permitted, votive Masses—sung or said—of devotions or Requiem, the general rules around commemorations, and what qualifies as a proper Last Gospel. Other Ordines may tell you when these things happen or are permitted in '62ville, but they will not educate one who actually wishes to know what the traditional liturgical praxis of the Roman rite is.

This Ordo has its virtues, virtues which may at first look challenging. The traditional abbreviation system, for example, may look daunting in contrast to this bit of spoon feeding, but page 16 explains the whole thing and provides an easy reference if a reader gets stuck on a day. It is not hard, but just like learning the old Mass and Office, it requires a little patience and curiosity before providing immense return. So go over the to St. Lawrence Press, get your copy, support tradition, and practice it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Requiem for the Requiem

Eleven days ago my father passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer. Despite his struggles and hospitalization for an infection, the initial cause of his stay in the facility had cleared out and he was due for a discharge in a few days when a blood clot budged from his right leg and traveled to his lung, instantly bringing him from a Texan hospital bed to the "awesome judgement seat of Christ" against which we pray for a good answer in the Divine Liturgy.

My father detested the changes to the Church in the 1960s, complaining that "there were never deacons or sermons before all that Vatican II stuff." The vernacularization of the Mass coincided with a divorce and his shadow only rarely haunted a Church after 1970. He always considered himself a Catholic despite, like many of his generation, ignoring what the Church taught and asked for. He was away from the Church for longer than he rested in her bosom. After his passing I reviewed an old wallet that included a 1963 driver's license, two miraculous medals, a 1964 Goldwater campaign pin, and a Crucifix.

Two weeks before his somewhat unexpected death we arranged a local parish priest to pay a visit and see if my father would consent to the Last Rites of the Church. Mostly unconscious, he did have his Lord Marchmain moment. He greeted the priest and welcomed him before his cognition failed. The priest anointed him, said the prayers prescribed by the Roman Ritual, and ended with an Our Father. At this moment my father regained full awareness, said the Lord's prayers in its entirety, and fell back asleep. He had his entire life to practice for this moment. How did he do? God knows.

What has followed is the unhappy realization that modern funerals more often focus on the living than the dead. Fearful of death, he only made two requests in his life: that he not be cremated and that he receive a traditional Catholic funeral. Sadly, he never committed these requests to writing. Against his desire and my objection, he has gone to flames in this world, although hopefully not in the next. I arranged a Tridentine Requiem Mass only to be overridden by [Protestant] family who demanded the cancellation of the affair on the grounds that flowers ought not be in the church, that eulogies are not said, that Methodist hymns may not supplant the texts of the Roman Missal, and that the "Catholic Church has a very grim and un-hopeful Tradition on death." The Requiem Mass is now dead.

Our post-Protestant, secular society is so very fearful of death that we have become unaccustomed to something every single person who ever has and ever will live will do at least once: die. Unless one lives to see the End Times, we will all die just as all before us have died. Death is unhappy, miserable, the wage for sin, but certainly it is normal. For most funerals are less focused on commending the deceased to God or even respectfully closing out a life. Instead, like Google executives who decide to opt out of death, they are ways for friends and family to manage and avoid grief.

One often hears "So and so is in a better place." Really? Then cry not for his loss. "He's gone to meet [insert deceased relative's name]." Really? The only barbecue in eternity is one replete with unhappy guests.

I cannot reasonably fault my extended family for following our culture in their aversion to something embedded in our lapsed nature. Society has no foundation for dealing with death anymore. We cannot manage to deal with it religiously because our little remaining religion is superficial and institutional, not felt in the heart. There are no philosophers either capable of dealing with death, only atheistic writers obsessed with Darwinian evolution and the pointlessness of existence. Indeed, we are less equipped to deal with death than the pagans who lived before the coming of the Lord Jesus, who at least had philosophy and the experience of a difficult life to empower them. We are too comfortable even to be people.

A proper Requiem Mass in the older rite will happen and several have already been said. In the interim, tempus fugit, momento mori! Pray from my father in your charity.

Incline Thy ear, O Lord, to the prayers with which we suppliantly entreat Thy mercy, and do Thou, in a place of peace and rest, establish the soul of Thy servant Francis Joseph, whom Thou hast called out of this world; and cause him to be joined to the fellowship of Thy saints.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

In recent weeks people have brought multiple anti-traditionalist pieces to my attention, which have been written by commentators who piously wring their hands about a lack of good manners and welcoming committees among Tradistani communities. These writers seem to be of the “I love the Latin Mass but I wish I didn’t have to deal with all those pesky people” type, and who proceed to hammer down a list of poor behavioral patterns which must be corrected before they will again grace traddy parishes with their presence.

I am no stranger to the difficulties of adjusting to new social groups; nor are most people, in my experience. The problem of alienation is common across group and personality types, even among the extraverts who try to be friends with everyone. Men form deep friendships in their formative years among compatriots in school, church, and political causes. Apart from the natural growth of families, most find it difficult to form deep or even lasting connections after their mid-twenties. Marriages too are increasingly unlikely to last in our monadic anti-culture.

Traditionalist communities after the last council were forged in fire. Reacting against the ill-will and deception of clerics of all ranks, these Catholics formed miniature societies which were still brittle from the abuse they were fleeing. They were refugees with little in common except abuse, and while the pre-Pauline form of the Mass was a symbol to rally around, it was still insufficient to cover over the deep differences of those who suddenly found themselves with strange bedfellows. In some cases, this ended in the further splintering of loosely confederated Catholic groups, but those who had fewer options attempted to make the best of a bad situation and get on as well as possible with their neighbors.

Normal diocesan parishes had historically constituted a greater cross-section of social strata, temperaments, and experiences. Except when catering to a very specific neighborhood or rural space with its accompanying demographic, they more often housed a comfortable variety of cliques and opinions than do the refugee communities of the Tradistan Archipelago. Yet even these territorial parishes today have a tendency towards cultural crystallization depending on the strength of a pastor’s personality and the busybodyness of a parish council. The abolition of the requirement to be registered in one’s territorial parish has encouraged a general grouping of like-minded Catholics into their preferred parish, and we lose the opportunity to learn the virtue of toleration.

The obvious difficulties the Church has with showing compassion to abuse victims extends to those scarred by all manner of abuse. Doctrinal abuse is a mockery of the Truth, asking afresh Pilate’s sneering question. Slander from pastors against the sheep in their flock is nearly the worst thing one can endure from a trusted leader. Traditionalists have suffered these and even the insult of their fellow laymen who blind themselves to the incontrovertible evidence of abuse out of flattery. Perhaps it is not correct to say that traditionalists have a right to bitterness and isolation, but their reaction is at least comprehensible from a psychological point of view.

Those who write these new think-pieces are not without some merit when they call for reform and a societal shift, but they do not truly know what to recommend because they do not acknowledge the roots of the problem. Even today, traditionalists are regularly carpet-bombed by pesky bishops looking for a scapegoat to distract the laity from financial and sexual corruption, but disillusioned neo-traddies who want the old Mass without the people insist that the problem is a mere lack of friendliness and smiling. It is a terrible thing to tell a sufferer of PTSD to be cheerful and outgoing, even if their trauma is “merely” that the sitting pope has once again insulted them in front of the whole world. People are similarly intolerant of the failings of their own family members, as when they impatiently tell the drunk younger brother to just get over his divorce already. Familiarity breeds contempt. Those who cry for more human friendliness are rarely willing to be the friendly and outgoing face for newcomers that they demand. They are more likely to complain to a sympathetic public ear than they are to embody this kindness, but true charity goes both ways.

This short essay is no apologetic for every traditionalist excess nor an excuse for rudeness, but a call for a bit of realism. If you are outside looking in at the unhappy Latin Mass-ers, make some effort to take their experiences seriously before dismissing them as a load of cranks. You are not going to talk them down by insulting them further, and a sympathetic ear can go a long way toward smoothing rough edges.

(Hermann Kern)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

After Darkness, Light

The old Calvinist motto Post Tenebras Lux has been on my mind in recent weeks. This is in part because I just completed the reading and glossing of thousands of pages of Reformed dogmatics, but also because of the barrage of alarming Church news that shot at me once I finished that project and raised my head above the trenches. This present darkness is so oppressive that many who have been long asleep to ecclesiastical corruptions are beginning to awake. Are we waking quickly enough to set the ship aright before it founders?

Coming into the Church in the early 2000s, I had the impression of moving not from darkness to light, but from darkness into grey fog and shadows. Like many converts, I was forced to fight for every scrap of certainty, for every clear definition of doctrine, for every act of liturgy that was not a slap in the face of Christ and of all Christians. Every priest was potentially going to preach heresy or offer immoral advice in the confessional. Every layman was potentially ready to explain why contraception was in and the Real Presence was out. Every book published by a Catholic press was potentially evidence that imprimaturs no longer meant anything, if indeed they ever did.

The more orthodox-leaning commentators have been predicting a reform and return to sanity since before my time as a baptized Christian. “Once this generation dies off,” they smugly opined, “the conservative generation will take over. Look at the fresh crop of seminarians in my diocese!” And look at how our seminarians are oppressed and discerned away by the “dying generation” at every turn. Look at how many were corrupted and brainwashed by Uncle Ted and his still-unpunished enablers. It is necessary to acknowledge that we might not in fact see the clear light of God’s day in our lifetimes.

By faith we know and firmly believe in all that the Church teaches. The content of this faith is what gives us hope, not only for our own salvation, but for the righting of the Church as a whole. There have been many evil bishops and popes in the past, and they will continue to arise until the Final Judgment, but it is impossible for the Church Catholic to be devastated beyond repair. Altars may be desecrated and commandments wantonly offended, but judgment will find the offenders in the end. I do not recommend cheerfully ignorant optimism, but the acceptance that we may not see justice shining clear before our own deaths. The consolation of hope transcends earthly expectations. The certainty of faith is more blessed to those who do not see and yet believe.

We can hide in our liturgical shelters for a while, but nothing is safe from episcopal busybodies who demand conformity. There is no reason to think that the immediate future will be any more friendly to traditional movements than it has been since the 1970s. Even the most solid Latin Mass community can be taken away at a moment’s notice; all it takes is the right word whispered in the right bishop’s ear at the right time. Every traditionalist might be only a week away from needing to hear Mass from a soy-boy cleric who grows a backbone for the first time when he sees a participant kneeling among the kneelerless pews with a rosary in his hands.

A robust sense of humor is the surest way of living through Pachapapa Bergoglio’s reign intact. “Happy is he that hath had no sadness of his mind, and who is not fallen from his hope” (Sir. 14). There is much in our lives that we cannot control. Frustration is a constant temptation in troubling times; schism and apostasy are frustration’s daughters. One never actually abandons the grey fog for light, but always for a deeper darkness. The sun is still visible through the fog if only as an obscured disc, and God always gives us enough light to keep from stumbling unto death.

Christ is on his throne, always interceding for us with the Father. Mary and John are ever at his right and at his left, praying on our behalf. A great cloud of witnesses anticipates the outworking of divine decrees in our deeds. Nine choirs of spirits are always enlightening us and one another, loving God with intense fire and ready to fight for our good.

We must not fight for ourselves but for our children and for the Church universal. It may be that the special virtue of our time is to endure and never lose faith, to defend to the death without ever having the strength for an offensive assault. We may even succeed, as it were, in saving the Shire… but not for us. Some may need to lose the expectation of seeing the restoration of the good in this life so that others may keep it.

(Inger Edelfeldt)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A New Year and Looking for Hope

2019 was a dark year for we Catholics. In the Western end of the world we have on-going political uncertainties surrounding President Trump and Brexit which have spilled over into personal animadversions between the sides. Even our lives outside the four walls of a church are glib.

Within the Church we have passed the murkiest year of my admittedly brief sojourn on this earth. On April 15—Tax Day in America, the day President Lincoln died, and the day the Titanic sank—the cathedral of Paris, Notre Dame, burned for the entire day. The world watched in muted horror as an enduring monument of Christian civilization helplessly flickered on the Ile St. Louis. In Rome an assembly of left-wing secular humanists masquerading as successors to the Apostles asked Pope Francis to confer the diaconate on women in between sessions of Pansymama worship.

It seemed like a year without refuge and without hope, but we do have hope and always do. One might say the Christian life and the Church herself are personifications of theological hope.

A few years ago an Eastern monk gave the Lenten retreat at my parish and illustrated the three Pauline theological virtues with a familiar image. Hope is what comes after faith in the aspiration of what Love promises. A house or a family are expressions of Hope. An act of Faith might be the act of marriage with the expectation of Love, love for the spouse, love that will transpire between the parents and children that the union produces. The house is the Hope. It has a firm foundation and provides a place for that which is hoped for to come about.

We may be disappointed with 2019, but let us have some hope for 2020. The Church will endure, yet it is not the end in itself. God is. The Church is where what we received at Baptism is lived in the Hope for life everlasting. It is a house, the "porta caeli" of which the psalmist says "Concupiscit, et deficit anima mea in atria domini, cor meum et caro mea exsultaverunt in Deum vivum."

Here is to Hope in 2020.