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My mom and I often have conversations where we puzzle over the awesome mysteries of life and the afterlife.  It is something that occurs naturally after the death of a loved one.  One topic we try to wrap our minds around is that of eternity.  Living, as we do, in time and space, the concept of eternity is a strange one indeed.  For to live in eternity is to live outside of time and space.

We Catholics can’t claim to understand much more about eternity than other human beings on this side of Heaven.  But even in this life, we are granted certain small glimpses and foreshadows.  Most notably, every time we attend the Mass, we gain entry into eternity.  This is because the Mass is the earthly participation in the very worship of Heaven.  The senses may not perceive anything; the church (or wherever the Mass is taking place) remains a physical place, and the people within it still move through time and space.  But it is an article of faith that when we are at Mass, we are in communion with all souls who worship God: those in Heaven, those on Earth, and those in Purgatory.  The only absence is that of those who are in Hell.

It is very difficult for my non-Catholic relatives and friends to understand this, but nowhere and at no time am I closer to my dad and my other deceased loved ones than when I am at Mass.  They are right there with me.  I know this to be true.

Catholics also see eternity in certain days–most especially Sundays and Fridays.  In each and every Sunday, there is a glimmer of Easter.  In each and every Friday, there is a shadow of Good Friday.  This is why we owe our worship to God each and every Sunday, and why Sunday is traditionally a day of joyful feasting.  This is why we are obliged to perform acts of penitence each and every Friday–be it the traditional abstinence from eating meat, or some other act.  It is not so much that we remember Easter on Sundays and Good Friday on Fridays, as that we actually enter in to them and live in them to some degree.

I’m probably not explaining this too well.  And ultimately, it may be understandable only to Catholics who understand and practice the faith devoutly.  (Not that this is something particular to Catholics; I imagine it is understandable also to our Orthodox and Jewish brethren; indeed I believe this idea of entering profoundly and truly into past events originated with the Jews, in their annual commemoration of the Passover, for instance.)

In any case, eternity is an interesting thing to ponder, and our limited brushes with eternity are something for which to be grateful.

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As you probably gathered from my last post, I’ve been struggling with my faith quite a bit.  I’ve really gotten off track, more than ever before.  I can’t really explain it.  There is no kind of excuse.

But there is a cure, a way out.  Or rather, I think, a series of spiritual medicines.

The first and foremost of a spiritual medicines is the sacrament of Confession.  I didn’t really want to go.  I had to force myself, convince myself of its benefits.  I doubted it as much as I’ve been doubting everything, even God.

And then, the exchange between Christ and St. Peter came to me.  When all the disciples were leaving Christ after the shocking Bread of Life discourse, Christ turned to the Apostles and asked them, “Will you, also, go?”  St. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

That was all the convincing I needed.  I had come to the place where one must choose definitively: shall I stay or shall I go?  Where do my loyalties lie?  Whom shall I serve?

And so I went.  And of course it helped me.  How could I ever have doubted that?  Perhaps doubt itself provides a valuable shot in the arm, a vaccine against indifference.

That was the first round of treatment, to make me well enough to persue further courses of action.

The main one: daily Mass.  This has been the biggest missing puzzle piece in my life for way too long.  I have allowed many things to get in my way and distract me.  My priorities have been mixed up.  I’ve decided that starting tomorrow, I am returning to the 6:30 AM Latin Mass.  That shall come first in my day.  It doesn’t matter if I have to rearrange my schedule or giveup some activities.  It just doesn’t matter!  God matters.  I know where my loyalty lies and Whom I shall serve.

Other than that, I shall dedicate myself to living by my Lay Dominican rule of life: the Rosary, Divine Office, frequent confession, and wearing the white scapular which is my blessed privilege.

And loving others.  I may not be the most socially adept person, but I can always strive to simply treat others as I would want them to treat me.  It’s really not complicated.  It is all very simple.

Nonetheless, I will need and appreciate prayers for the firmness of my will.  I shall pray for you in return, as always. 

Wouldn’t you know… just as I was feeling that I had nothing to write about tonight, I find that a kind correspondent has given me something to share!  And it is something most wonderful!

Many thanks to Mr. Richard Collins from the UK for giving me this story and photos from a very special Mass that took place in celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and–as he reminds me–the 2nd anniversary of Pope Benedict’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which has liberated the 1962 Mass, what we now know as the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Latin Mass:

Latin Mass on the Feast of the Holy Cross celebrated in ex Italian PoW Chapel

Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated, on the Feast of The Holy Cross, in a Nissan hut in Henllan, West Wales. The hut is the framework to a small Chapel created lovingly by Italian prisoners of war in the final years of World War II. The original Nissan hut is part of a PoW camp where both German and Italian servicemen were held.

One of the main artists responsible for creating images of St Joseph, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Papal Flag, Mario Polito, died only this year. He and his fellow servicemen made pigments from vegetable juices and painted the aisle arches in a fresco style and the sanctuary area and pillars (made of corrugated cardboard) with a faux marble effect.

Tin, from corned (bully) beef tins was used to make candle sticks which look uncannily three dimensional despite being totally flat.

All artwork in the Chapel leads the eye to the primitive painting of The Last Supper in the apse, a lasting testament to the devotion of men held prisoner many miles from their families and loved ones.

The Missa Cantata, in thanksgiving for the second anniversary of the Motu Proprio was celebrated by Father Jason Jones, Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady in Wales at nearby Cardigan and whose parish embraces Henllan.

What a perfectly beautiful and fitting way to celebrate this feast day and this anniversary–and to honor men who made something good in a bad situation!  Here are some of the photos:

Italian Prisoner of War Camp Mass

Italian Prisoner of War Camp Mass

Italian Prisoner of War Camp Mass

Well done to those who created that sacred space, and to those who still preserve and use it today!

I attended my first High Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF) this morning.  It was glorious!  I’ve been wanting to attend one for a while now, but there’s a story behind why I went today.

Basically, I did something really stupid last night, such that I really, really needed to go to Confession before Mass!  The only priest I could think of who offers Confession before Sunday Mass was our FSSP chaplain.  So I dragged myself out of bed before 6, and mustered up my courage to go to a new place, for a new kind of Mass, and to confess to a new priest.

I got to the monastery chapel where the Sunday EF Masses are said, and I got there in plenty of time.  But I couldn’t tell where the confessional was, and I had not seen the priest around.  I finally asked a young man sitting behind me, and he told me I needed to go outside to an adjoining building.  Well, by the time I got there, there was quite a line.  And about 20 minutes until Mass was to start.  The priest had to cut us off.

I stood there, crestfallen and uncertain what I should do.  The young lady who’d been in line ahead of me told me that Father also hears confessions after that Mass.  That was well and good, but I felt I would have to refrain from receiving the Eucharist if I confessed after Mass.  I thought about going somewhere else, in hopes of possibly finding a priest to hear my confession.

But I felt oddly compelled to attend the high Mass.  It was something more than interest or curiosity that compelled me.  Something much more powerful… something supernatural, which came from within me and from without at the same time… if that makes sense.  The phrase I have long used for it is a gravity upon my soul.  An ineffable, external force which also ignites a great longing within my soul, a willingness and eagerness to respond to the force.

So I walked back over to the chapel, which by that time was standing-room only.  I stood in the doorway, not sure where I should go or whether I could possibly find a seat.  I was feeling very uncomfortable and hot and self-conscious.  Honestly, I just wanted to disappear, and in fact, I was about to turn and slink away when a young man came and told me there was a seat up front.  I didn’t like the idea of having to refrain from Communion in front of the entire chapel (as if it were all about me, right?).  But I also didn’t want to be ungrateful for the consideration shown to me.  I hesitated, but again, I felt that compulsion.

I followed the boy to the empty spot, sat down and tried to pray, fumbled around for my missal.  All while being devastated that I couldn’t in good conscience receive Communion.  I felt sort of like there was an earthquake going on inside me.  I wondered if the people around me could tell–it seemed impossible that they couldn’t.

And then…

And then the music began, organ and choir.  A simple hymn before Mass, but it was so beautiful that I could imagine the angels in Heaven appearing and becoming audible.  Then a bell rang, and the splendidly-attired servers and priest filed in.  The priest began the chanting of the Asperges Me, and the choir and congregation took it up while the priest sprinkled holy water on everybody.  I recognized the text of the antiphon as a passage from that most excellent prayer of penitence, Psalm 51:

Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow.
(Angelus Press 1962 missal translation)

As I felt a small shower of water come down around me, I felt God’s mercy wash over me.

And I was transported.  Transported out of my worry and discomfort, transported out of my nervousness and the internal earthquake.  Transported out of everything dark and worrisome and into a marvelous light.  The chanting, the Latin language, the incense, the splendor of the chapel and the vestments and the finely choreographed movements… it all transported me.  It wasn’t about me at all, and yet I found myself in a most wonderful place.  “It is good that I am here,” I thought, echoing the sentiments of St. Peter as he stood before the transfigured Christ, dazed but fully conscious of the blessing he had received.

Yes, of course, I found the liturgy a bit strange and hard to follow along with (I still find even the low Mass challenging at times).  But it didn’t matter.  I was aware of what was going on.  A great mystery, to be sure, but a mystery into which we are meant and indeed created to enter, without fear or hesitation.  I had been compelled to do just that, and I was now part of it in some small way.  What my feeble mind didn’t grasp, my soul certainly did.  It resonated with every sound, smell, sight, and motion.

And then there were the Scripture readings and the homily.  As I listened, I thought and prayed:  “OK, Lord, so this is why You compelled me.  This is all exactly what I needed to hear, and what You wanted to tell me.”  We heard Galatians 5:16-24, where St. Paul speaks of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit and how we must live in the Spirit and crucify our flesh together with Christ.  Yes… I suppose I needed that reminder.  The Gospel was Matthew 6:24-33, where Christ warns that one cannot serve both God and mammon, and that if we have faith and trust in God, we will not be anxious about provisions for the needs of the flesh, for God knows us and provides for us, as He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field–and then some.  “Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Yes… I definitely needed that reminder!

As part of his homily upon these exhortations, Father encouraged us to pray the Rosary.  It was probably the best and most inspiring preaching on the Rosary I’ve heard!  It really moved me, almost to tears.  My prayer life of late has been… shall we say… a bit weak.  Not because I’ve been unable to pray, but, honestly, because I just haven’t made praying a priority.  (Gosh, maybe that’s why I’ve been falling to pieces lately.  Do you think?)

The Mass proceeded.  I implored the Lord for a spiritual Communion.  After Mass came Adoration and Benediction.  I once again bewailed my sins and begged for mercy.  I was still painfully aware of my separation from Him.  And the fact that it was I, not He, who had caused it.  A hard conviction to pass upon oneself.  But not a death sentence.  God doesn’t hand out death sentences (despite some all-too-popular misconceptions about Him).  Rather, I felt Him say to me, “My child, I know that you came here to be reconciled, and although things have not gone as planned, I have kept you here so that you might receive hope, healing, and encouragement to sustain and re-fortify you.”  I thanked Him profusely and reaffirmed my intention to get to Confession as soon as possible and to do better.  I marveled at how He brought that beautiful morning from the previous day’s pitiful failing.

I tried to go to Confession again after Mass, but again, there were too many penitents and not enough time.  At the time, I was still disconsolate about it.  But I decided that I would wait until Tuesday morning and go to Confession at my parish church, to my parish priest, my usual confessor.  And in the meantime, I would trust in God’s tremendous mercy and providence.

That’s what I am doing now, and with considerable peace of mind, thanks be to God. But perhaps that raises another question:  So, why go to Confession anyway? I’ll address this question in a separate post.  I was planning a similar post anyway, and what happened today provides a good context for it.

Let me just close by saying:

1. Mortal sin IS. NOT. WORTH. IT. So avoid it at all costs and save yourself a whole lot of grief!

2. But if you can’t avoid it, DO. NOT. DESPAIR. Be humble, honest, and contrite before God, and get to Confession ASAP!

A kind reader and correspondent of mine, Mark at Joe versus the Volcano, has encouraged me to read the work of the great 19th-20th century Dominican theologian, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP. I’ve slowly and gradually begun to read his The Three Ages of the Interior Life, which is available online.

Well, actually, I’ve only just begun reading the introduction–but have already have found lots to think about! Below is an excerpt from the 2nd section of the intro, called: “The Question of the One Thing Necessary at the Present Time.” (The “one thing necessary”–a phrase Christ uses with Martha and Mary in Luke 10:42–is the interior life, which Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says “consists in hearing the word of God and living by it”; “the life of the soul with God”).

The “present time” for Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange when he was writing this work was the late 1930s. As we know, Europe was approaching what was to be a horrific catastrophe. However, as I read, I kept thinking to myself, “My goodness, this could have been written this morning!”

This section caught my attention by its talk of “the seriousness of life.”  I’m a pretty serious person.  I think one thing that defines a mature adult human being is a certain awareness and observance of the gravitas of life–and certainly the gravitas of religion and the spiritual life.  I would consider being serious a virtue.  Of course, I’ve also been accused of being a dour, joyless, uptight, crotchety hag.  I’m not sure when that became the definition of “serious.” Is it really so awful to ponder what is most important and deserving of devotion?

Without further ado, here is Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, with some reflections of mine interspersed.

Without God, the seriousness of life gets out of focus. If religion is no longer a grave matter but something to smile at, then the serious element in life must be sought elsewhere. Some place it, or pretend to place it, in science or in social activity; they devote themselves religiously to the search for scientific truth or to the establishment of justice between classes or peoples. After a while they are forced to perceive that they have ended in fearful disorder and that the relations between individuals and nations become more and more difficult, if not impossible. As St. Augustine and St. Thomas have said, it is evident that the same material goods, as opposed to those of the spirit, cannot at one and the same time belong integrally to several persons. The same house, the same land, cannot simultaneously belong wholly to several men, nor the same territory to several nations. As a result, interests conflict when man feverishly makes these lesser goods his last end.

I think of the modern Church as I’ve found it so often today: entertaining liturgy, no reverence at all, no talk of the Cross of Christ nor of the need for us to carry our own crosses, no talk of sin and repentance, no Confession lines, no whole-hearted devotion.  Replacing all of that tends to be so-called “social justice” activism that is divorced in some way (or in many ways) from Catholic moral teaching and obedience to the Church Magisterium–most often at the expense of unborn children… because what are they going to do, fight back?

I think also of the dreadful insistence on “tolerance” which actually means, “Hey, Catholic Church, you have to tolerate me no matter what I say or do or think or believe or how I define ‘Catholic,’ and if you don’t then I get to scream at you for being a bunch of backward, intolerant bigots.  I mean, how dare you stand up for absolute truth and for your own sense of identity!  And if you even think the word ‘excommunication,’ you’ll only prove yourselves to be medieval fossils.”

Related to the insistence on tolerance are the insistence on relativism and an indifferentism that favors just about everything and everybody except the Church.

The Church is discriminated against in the name of non-discrimination.  The Church is wronged in the name of justice.  And it’s done most often by people within the Church–it is what they have chosen as their serious mission in place of a serious Catholic faith.  Like the material things Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange mentions, the Church as a human, earthly institution, cannot belong to more than one group of persons at the same time.  It either belongs to Catholics, or it belongs to non-Catholics (even if they call themselves Catholics).  Until it belongs either to one or the other, interior strife and chaos run rampant.  There is nothing but division.

It is very ironic that dissenters scoff at the notion of the “institutional Church” (for them, a code phrase for the real, faithful, orthodox Church they despise).  In reality, they are seeking to steal the institution for themselves, to ensconce themselves as the institution, as the face and the voice of the Church on earth.  To once and for all have their definition of “Catholic” win out and be universally accepted.  “God?  Bishops?  Ordained priests?  Pious laypeople?  Who needs them?  We are church. [sic]  Like it or leave.”

One often feels that they have very nearly succeeded today.  “Oh, yes, there are still a few people who blubber over crucifixion, obey the pope, consider abortion the greatest evil ever, hate sex, think only men can be priests, and pray the Rosary.  But they’re just crazy extremists.  Pay them no mind.”

St. Augustine, on the other hand, insists on the fact that the same spiritual goods can belong simultaneously and integrally to all and to each individual in particular. Without doing harm to another, we can fully possess the same truth, the same virtue, the same God. This is why our Lord says to us: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Failure to hearken to this lesson, is to work at one’s destruction and to verify once more the words of the Psalmist: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.”

True unity, true justice, true tolerance can only exist where there are shared spiritual goods.  In contrast to the false tolerance mentioned above, the Church embraces a true tolerance based on shared beliefs and absolute truth.  There is a genuine diversity within the Church.  In addition to the various liturgical traditions, there are individual people of all races, nationalities, ages, states in life, political viewpoints, socio-economic status, sexual orientation.  What binds us together as one Church is our belief in and devotion to “the same truth, the same virtue, the same God.”  What unifies us is our common goal of worshiping, knowing, loving, and serving God and seeking the kingdom of God.

This common ground is built into the Catholic Church via Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium, and of course the Holy Spirit’s rule and the discipline of infallibility He exerts over our human leaders where the faith and morals of the Church are concerned.  When this spiritual common ground is abandoned and Catholicism is put up for grabs and torn to shreds like a piece of meat by various contenders… when the spiritual common ground ceases to be the most important, most serious part… then we get the chaos described above.


We conclude logically that religion can give an efficacious and truly realistic answer to the great modern problems only if it is a religion that is profoundly lived, not simply a superficial and cheap religion made up of some vocal prayers and some ceremonies in which religious art has more place than true piety. As a matter of fact, no religion that is profoundly lived is without an interior life, without that intimate and frequent conversation which we have not only with ourselves but with God.

What comes to mind here is the sometimes hotly-debated notion of “active participation” in the Mass by the laity.  Some claim that the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite by its nature engenders active participation, as opposed to the Extraordinary Form, which by its nature stifles active participation.  This claim is only true if “active participation” means exterior actions, such as speaking words and singing songs and shaking hands with your pew-mates.  Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange is saying that such exterior actions by themselves are meaningless, “superficial and cheap.”  They do not by themselves constitute “a religion profoundly lived.”  They may or may not be an indication of a religion profoundly lived.  What constitutes a religion profoundly lived is the interior life.

In my experience, both forms of the Latin Rite can inspire, foster, and deepen the interior life.  Both forms can also stifle it.  The difference lies not so much in the liturgies themselves.  The difference lies chiefly within each and every one of us.  How willing are we to dedicate ourselves body and soul, exteriorly and interiorly, to worshiping God?  That is, how serious are we about worshiping God?  If we worship half-heartedly, lazily, and without seriousness, which liturgy is used at the Mass isn’t going to matter one bit!

This is what it comes down to, dear ones: It comes down to each of us asking ourselves questions.  How seriously do I myself take practicing the Catholic faith?  How seriously do I take God?  How seriously do I take the Mass?  How seriously do I take orthodoxy?  How seriously do I take the institution of the Church?  How seriously do I take the tradition that has been handed down by the Holy Spirit through men?  How seriously do I take unity with my fellow Catholics?

We all take things seriously.  Our souls are driven by meaning, purpose, and importance.  We either take the truly important things seriously (which I think happens only when we take a serious attitude toward life in general), or we take lesser and even foolish things seriously.  Such as flawed notions of tolerance, for example.

Let’s get serious and make the right choices.

I began my day by attending the TLM at my parish.  The TLM is always a transcendent experience, but this morning was even more so because of the chanting!  Usually, we have a simple, very quiet spoken Mass, but today, parts were chanted, and it was so… captivating!  I felt that my senses were lifted to a completely different sphere.  It made the Mass even more other-worldly.

It’s no wonder that the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed Gregorian chant’s pride of place in the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium 116).  It’s a shame that that little declaration of the Council’s is often overlooked or disregarded.  As with so many liturgical treasures, many, if not most, Catholics have no idea what they are missing… or being deprived of.

Once again, I count my many blessings!  To be able to enter into another world without leaving my city–that is something truly amazing.

And yes, I realize that it happens at every Mass, simply because the Mass is the Mass.  But without the liturgy to fully direct us and transport us into the other world, to break the chains of the ordinary world, to liberate and enlighten mind, soul, and senses–without proper liturgy, the Mass can seem empty or boring, or else it can seem like a chore because we have to work so hard to find our own way into the other world, while being snatched at or pummeled over the head with distractions.  That’s assuming that we already know what that other world is like–if we don’t, then we might never find it.  We might be led to mistake the Mass as a place to socialize and be entertained.  Or we might just leave altogether because there is far better socializing and entertainment to be had elsewhere.

I remember back when I was first starting to consider returning to the Church.  I had begun doing a little exploration at Catholic Answers and other Web sites and radio programs.  I read and heard people exclaim how the Mass is Heaven on Earth, an entry into eternity and another world.  I remember thinking to myself:  “Are these people really talking about the Mass?”  I was skeptical… I had never experienced the Mass as something earth-shaking and other-worldly.  But I was also intrigued…  and after just a couple of times attending Sunday Mass at my parish, with my parish priest, I was utterly convinced!

I thank God always for bringing me to the right parish, and the right priest, at the right time.  And I also thank Him for nudging me on to the TLM!  I know I still have a lot to explore and learn and soak in!  It is so unreal that I ever considered the Mass, or Catholicism in general, to be boring!

Pope Benedict with monstranceI’ve been thinking about the Eucharist a lot lately, between the recent celebration of Corpus Christi and some other things that have come up.  Nothing defines Catholicism more fundamentally than our belief in, and reverence for, the Eucharist.

So, what does it mean, this “Eucharist”?  This is not a question that should be asked only by non-Catholics.  It should also be asked and meditated upon often and deeply by Catholics, because it is the “source and summit” of our lives as Catholics.

One thing I have found helpful since the time of my reversion to the faith is this definition from Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary:

EUCHARIST: The true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, in order to offer himself in the sacrifice of the Mass and to be received as spiritual food in Holy Communion. It is called Eucharist, or “thanksgiving,” because at its institution at the Last Supper Christ “gave thanks,” and by this fact it is the supreme object and act of Christian gratitude to God.

Although the same name is used, the Eucharist is any one or all three aspects of one mystery, namely the Real Presence, the Sacrifice, and Communion. As Real Presence, the Eucharist is Christ in his abiding existence on earth today; as Sacrifice, it is Christ in his abiding action of High Priest, continuing now to communicate the graces he merited on Calvary; and as Communion, it is Christ coming to enlighten and strengthen the believer by nourishing his soul for eternal life. (Etym. Latin eucharistia, the virtue of thanksgiving or thankfulness; from Greek eucharistia, gratitude; from eu-, good + charizesthai, to show favor.)

See Also: SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR: The Eucharist viewed as the body and blood of Christ, which are offered on the altar in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Also the Eucharist as reserved on the altar for adoration by the faithful.

Pope Benedict offering MassThis definition of “Eucharist” has so much in it.  I love the way Father Hardon describes it as a three-fold mystery (much like God Himself is).  I remember reading this definition for the first time several years ago and realizing with some horror that in my whole life, I had never really understood the Eucharist.  If I had, I really don’t think I ever would have left the Church!  These years later, it still gives me plenty of food for thought.

If anything, I had always heard “Eucharist” used as a synonym for “Holy Communion.”  Nothing more.  That’s an error, and I can tell you that it’s still being made.  This conflation of Eucharist and Communion can have serious consequences.  It can lead to the abandonment of adoration and the dilution of the doctrines of the Real Presence and of the Mass as Holy Sacrifice.  Without the Real Presence and the Holy Sacrifice, Communion means nothing!  And neither does Catholicism.

There’s no reason to be Catholic if Communion is just a bread-and-wine party… which is what it logically must become if we lose sight of the full meaning of the Eucharist.  Catholicism is much too difficult to bear unless in Communion we are receiving the “true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine,” unless Communion “is Christ coming to enlighten and strengthen the believer by nourishing his soul for eternal life.”

Without the Real Presence, adoration really is just “cookie worship.”  And Catholics are all a bunch of lunatics sharing in one huge mass delusion.  And if Christ isn’t the one truly acting in the Mass as our High Priest, then the Mass is just a show with some guy in some fancy anachronistic get-up spouting a bunch of hocus pocus.  Oh, but those crazy Catholics think they’ll risk hellfire if they skip a single Sunday!  The ordained priest has no purpose whatsoever if he is not acting in persona Christi.  He’s just another one in a wide variety of Christian ministers–namely, the crazy one who gave up everything to gain some kind of magical powers over bread and wine.

Maybe that’s all over the top, but not by much.  When you think about it for just a little while, pretty much everything about Catholicism becomes absurd and grotesque if we don’t understand the Eucharist.  It becomes a real live Jack Chick tract.

Pope Benedict giving first CommunionCatholics must understand the Eucharist in order to understand ourselves and to be authentically Catholic.  As opposed to being heretics, protestants, and/or people who mindlessly do and believe things without knowing why.  Being Catholic doesn’t mean being mindless, and it definitely doesn’t mean not asking “Why?”.  The long and venerable tradition of Catholic meditation and contemplation has been built upon ordinary Catholics asking questions.  To some extent, I’d say all prayer is based on asking questions.  The development of our theology and doctrine has been fueled by burning questions.  Christ said, “Ask and you shall receive.”  God blessed Solomon because all Solomon desired was wisdom.  God similarly blessed St. Thomas Aquinas because all Thomas desired was God Himself.  God does answer, He does give wisdom, and He does give us His very Self, when we ask.

Let us ask often to understand the Eucharist in all of its great mystery, power, and glory.  Let us ask to understand it as our Lord and King truly with us on this earth.  Let us ask for the faith and understanding to adore Him, to bear witness to His Sacrifice, and to receive Him into our bodies and our entire lives.  And let’s do it in that order.  Let us place ourselves before Him, let us open our hearts and minds before Him, let us bend our knees before Him, before we even think of receiving Him.  He will give Himself to us.  Let us also give ourselves to Him, mind, heart, soul, and body.  He is far more deserving to receive us than we are to receive Him.

I went to the early-morning TLM today.  I wore my veil for the first time.  I was a little self-conscious, but not nearly as self-conscious as I felt being one of the only ladies without a head-cover!  It made me feel beautiful… but not in a showy, prideful way.  A hidden, private way, between God and me.

I love the early-morning Mass so much that I’ve changed my work schedule!  I’ve rediscovered how peaceful the morning is.  And I find I have lots more energy during the day when I get up early and go to sleep early.  Or maybe that’s just what happens when you start your day with Mass and Communion.

This evening I returned to church for Confession.  While I waited, I was enchanted by the visual and auditory beauty withing the church.  It was near sunset, and the stained glass windows had a beautiful, rosy-gold glow.  One of the choirs was rehearsing a beautiful arrangement of O filii et filiae.  I felt like I was in another world… or rather beyond any world.

Next week is Holy Week!  Time for the final push to make the most of this season!  Time for greater vigilance than ever, vigilance against sin and vigilance for our Lord!  Now is the time to get your precious immortal soul into a state of grace.  If you’ve already done that, then do your utmost to keep it there.  Let’s show the devil that we are the light of the world, as our Lord said.  Let our souls be lights shining in the night, purer and more radiant than sunlight.

Let us prepare ourselves.  Let us prepare the way of the Lord.

Oh, I’m so excited!  But I must get to sleep now!

I meant to comment on this earlier.  Now it’s gotten even better (and by “better,” I mean more absurd and appalling).

The UK’s liberal Catholic magazine, The Tablet, has slung mud at Father Timothy Finigan (of The Hermeneutic of Continuity) for ruthlessly foisting the TLM on his poor oppressed parishioners.  (Never mind that only 1 of the parish’s 4 Sunday Masses is in the Extraordinary Form.)

That’s the good part.

The better part is that after Father Finigan posted a detailed response to the article, presenting his side of the story, The Tablet demanded that he remove his post because it quoted the article in its entirety and allegedly violated copyright law!  I’m no copyright law expert, but I think Father Finigan’s post actually fell within fair use.  The Tablet just wants to censor him and keep the story one-sided.  Or maybe, in their hearts of hearts, they are ashamed of the nasty article and they don’t want it disseminated all over the world in its full glory.

Gosh.  So much for the freedom-loving, tolerance-touting liberal media!

In any case, Father Finigan has posted a “legally compliant version” of his response to the article.

Be sure to go read it if you haven’t already.

Also read Father Z’s reporting on this story.

And Father Finigan’s paper, “Sacred and Great: Traditional Liturgy in a Modern Parish,” which he wrote in response to some of his parishioners’ concerns.

For my part, I’d just like to share my personal favorite bit of the article:

Several said their adult children vowed never to go to the church again, such was their unhappiness with the liturgy. “People who have been away from church come back at Christmas and Easter and are totally put off. It is so sad,” said Jean Gray.

Boohoohoooo!!!  Those poor grown-ups who only go to church on Christmas and Easter!  And then act as if they have a right to be unhappy with the liturgy!  And their poor parents who feel sorry for them and blame that wicked old parish priest for putting off their little darlings!

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that quotation was from a “fake news” satire.  I mean, are you kidding me?!  Maybe if those C&E types would have been more constant in their Mass-going during the time in which Father introduced the new liturgy, they wouldn’t have been so put off.  Or why didn’t they just attend one of the Ordinary Form Masses Father offers?  The article and the folks grinding the axes really make it sound like they’re trapped animals.  What a joke! What a ridiculous, pathetic, public, worldwide joke!  Have those people no shame?

Well, I applaud Father Finigan for his efforts and pray that the Lord will bless him and his entire parish richly.  And will grant special graces of conversion and repentance to those who have disrespected not only Father, but also the majority of their fellow parishioners by dragging them into this mud pit.  And will cause more Father Finigans and Blackfen parishes to pop up rapidly all over the world!  In my humble opinion, the liberals have asked for it.  Let ’em have it!

Well, it’s just after 9 AM–the time when I might just be getting out of bed on any other Saturday–and I’ve just returned from my first Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF)!  My parish offers it every morning, Monday-Saturday; or rather, an FSSP priest offers it at my parish.  I figured the familiar surroundings would make me less nervous about going, and that the daily Mass might be simpler to start out with.

First, I want to say that before Mass, while praying and making my petitions and offerings, I remembered in a special way those who have inspired me to explore the EF–Pope Benedict, Father John Zuhlsdorf (Fr. Z), Seminarian Matthew, and of course, all of you dear readers who responded to my recent post with so much encouragement and advice!  :D  I might not have gone to Mass this morning if it weren’t for all of you.

And now for my impressions…

Well, it was very different from the Ordinary Form (OF), and I felt a little clumsy and a little lost at times.  That didn’t trouble me, because it was only to be expected, right?  Maybe I could have taken more time to prepare myself a little better beforehand, but I didn’t want to start coming up with excuses not to go!  I felt like this was something I really needed to do.  And as with all the “threshold-crossing” moments of my life, the devil was already giving me enough grief about it, trying to discourage me and distract me–I wasn’t going to give in!

No matter how clumsy and lost I might have felt, I did not feel like an outsider.  Reading some other people’s accounts of attending Mass in the EF, I’ve gotten the impression that they have felt sort of like outside observers, like aliens in a foreign land.  I think that is wont to happen if one regards the EF as something foreign or alien.  I regard it as part of my own culture and civilization, part of my patrimony, my inheritance, my treasure.  This is the kind of Mass my family and ancestors knew.  Like many things handed down from previous generations, it may seem new and different, maybe strange or hard to understand in ways, but it’s still mine.  It’s part of me and I’m part of it.

More than anything I was fascinated and full of wonder!  I don’t know if I will ever let another Saturday go by without attending morning Mass in the EF.  I feel drawn to it now.  I want to leave behind my clumsiness and disorientation.  I want to know and understand it better.  And I want to participate and enter into it even more fully.

I’m baffled at how some people have said that they don’t get to participate in the EF.  If anything, I think it demands much more focused and alert participation than the OF.  The priest prayed most of the prayers silently, and I was reading them to myself.  Reading is a different process than listening, a different encounter with the words and, in this case, the prayers.  I consider it a more active process.  While I read along, I was carefully listening for cues like bells ringing and the priest’s uttering aloud the opening words of certain of the prayers.  I also glanced up to watch for gestures like bows or genuflections or what part of the altar he was standing at.

The overall effect that this process had on me was a dual one:

On one hand, through the act of reading, I felt like the prayers were more my own and that I was playing a more personal, individual, and active part in the Mass.  In the OF, it’s easy to sort of shut down and slip into a more passive watching and listening to the priest, as if he’s the one who actually “performs” the worship, especially the Eucharistic Prayer, and we’re just the “audience.”  I suppose that’s possible with any Mass, but by reading the prayers myself, I felt more unified with the priest, more like I was acting with him and imitating him.  He read the prayers, I read the prayers.

On the other hand, I felt more that I needed the priest there.  I needed him there at the altar to pray on my behalf.  I needed him as a leader and as a much more experienced pray-er.  I wanted and needed him to stand for me and to cover over all the imperfections in my own praying: the clumsiness, the distractions, the getting lost.  I needed to put my trust in his prayers and actions.

Now obviously, we always need our priests, and we always need to entrust to them sacrificial duties that they alone can fulfill, and the mysterious sacramental works that their prayers and actions alone can bring about by the grace of God–such as the consecration and transubstantiation of the Eucharist.  We always have to have faith and trust in the priests’ Holy Orders.  Otherwise they’re  just these guys dressed up in fancy frocks, serving up bread and wine.

But this morning’s Mass really emphasized that for me.  I saw the priest and his role in a different way.  And I realized what a blessing the priest is–what a leader, an advocate, and intercessor we have in him.  And I realized how much I needed and wanted him there for me.  As he prayed before the Crucifix, I sensed that he was carrying my prayers and those of everybody else on his shoulders.  I’ve never been to a Mass celebrated ad orientem before, so I’d never really thought about that before.  Acting in persona Christi, he was bearing all of our prayers, as well as anything else we were thinking of or carrying in our hearts and souls–any troubles, any petitions, any needs.  He was bearing them for us at the altar.  That was a pretty awesome realization.

By far my favorite part of the Mass was when the Host and the chalice rose above the priest’s head.  It looked almost as if they did so by their own power!  In those moments, the priest sort of disappeared, and the Body and Blood of Christ appeared, among the ringing of the bells.  It was a beautiful, mystical experience.  I’d heard people talk about that, but I couldn’t have imagined what it was really like to behold it!  The elevation of the consecrated Eucharist is always a powerful event for those who have the eyes and the faith to see… but with the priest facing ad orientem, it was… more mysterious!  You can’t actually see the priest raising his hands–that might not sound like a big deal, but it really does have a big effect.

There were many other things I was impressed with:

For one, the altar boys–yes, I can say altar boys, because that’s who they were!  There were two young men, and three little boys, all dressed in black cassocks and white surplices.  Not only did they look very sharp, they really knew their stuff!  They were all focused and very reverent and dignified in the way they carried themselves.  While the older ones assisted at the altar, the little ones sat and read along in their missals.  I was extremely impressed by how responsible and well-trained they each were!

Second, the priest’s vestments were absolutely gorgeous.  He had a beautiful bright red “fiddle-back” chasuble, embroidered with gold, with a cross on his back–which helped me visualize him bearing our prayers.  He wore a biretta with a pompom as he entered and exited the sanctuary.  And after Mass, he gave us Adoration and Benediction dressed in a gleaming ivory cope, also trimmed in gold and with a cross on the back.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say again: vestments matter.  And it’s not because I’m shallow and just think they’re pretty.  I regard Christ as my King, and I also regard the priest as His official representative on earth.  If the priest wears rich, beautiful vestments, I see it as an image of, and a tribute to, Christ the King’s glory.  Even if a priest were vain or prideful about his vestments, that’s not how I would see them.

Third, the beauty of the language–both the Latin and the English translation I read along with.  It was so elevated and reverent.  Uplifting and, well, sacred.  Perfectly befitting prayer and worship.  Now I really, really can’t wait for the new translation of the OF missal!

Well, these are my main impressions of the EF.  As I said I do want to attend more Masses in this form, including some Sunday Masses!

If I have any additional thoughts, I will post them too!  Thanks again for your help and encouragement!  :)

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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