Thursday, December 11, 2014

Discouraging Words

The Diocese of Grand Rapids sends out this magazine to registered parishioners every month.  Usually I just throw it in the trash without reading it but this month a friend pointed out a rather troubling article on page 4 titled 'Mass Appeal: The posture Catholics use at Mass train us how to be Christ in our world' by Fr. Chris Rouech - who also happens to be the diocesan director of worship.

In the article Fr. Rouech explains why Catholics sit, kneel, bow, and avoid expressing signs of personal piety during Holy Mass.  Find that last part confusing?  According to Fr. Rouech such behavior is distracting and creates division in Christ's body.  Still scratching your head?  I should have prefaced with his comments about kneeling where he points out, "in an earlier era of the Church, kneeling was forbidden during the Easter season because of it's penitential and private character".

Page 4 of Faith Magazine
Instead of expounding on the importance of kneeling Fr. Rouech diminishes the practice with his vague reflection.  But after reading his well crafted comments on bowing the true intentions of this article come into focus.  "The bow is a beautiful gesture that expresses honor and humility" and the "prescribed gesture of reverence before receiving Communion".  Yet kneeling or genuflecting before receiving Communion is described as "expressions of personal piety" and are "discouraged".  Worse yet, offenders are labeled as those who "distract from our efforts to be united as Christ's body".

Thankfully Fr. Rouech found time to explain what to do when you enter a church where the tabernacle is not present - a profound bow to the altar.  Nowhere does he mention what Catholics should be doing when a tabernacle is present in the church - something many could use a refresher on.  Both  are sad realities if you ask me.

Certainly there is an underlying negative message to those who desire to receive Holy Communion on their knees.  Even in the concluding paragraph kneeling is referenced as something you do when you "wipe up the vomit from a sick parent or child".  Considering this priest serves as the diocesan director of worship I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Such attitudes have driven many Catholics to wits end. 

Schola Sancta Caecilia: Advent & Christmas Music

A beautiful rendition of traditional hymns in Latin and English, perfect for this Holy season of Advent and Christmas! Sung by Sacred Heart of Jesus' own Schola Sancta Caecilia.  Purchase this CD for yourself and as gifts for family and friends. You will not be disappointed.  Proceeds benefit the Sacred Heart of Jesus music program.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holy Communion For Adulterers: A Different Perspective



 A Pastoral Solution


The recent extraordinary synod has raised much discussion (and scandal) for those who find themselves in the unfortunate state of divorce.  Considering how common divorce and remarriage have become, it should come as no surprise that some priests and bishops would welcome some form of relief to this growing problem.  The majority of priests have already developed "pastoral" solutions - if you can call turning a blind eye a solution.  Welcome to my perspective, where the pastoral solution provides no solution at all. 

My mother was already pregnant when she hastily married my dad at his Episcopal church.  My mother raised Catholic had permission from her bishop and her parish priest was present for the wedding.  Shockingly the marriage didn't last, less than 5 years later my parents were divorced.  For a long time my parents were victims of their own foolish decisions.  Both my parents abandoned their faith but neither blamed the Church for their sorry state.  My mother at least would eventually return to her Catholic faith.

All I hear are stories in the news about how hurt and disconnected the Catholic divorced feel regarding the rigid and unforgiving rules of the Catholic Church.  I even had a friend who's Catholic grandmother "suffered greatly" when she abstained from Holy Communion because her annulment was not granted - when her husband died she left the Church for some feel good fundamental protestant community.  So what if she was on her 3rd marriage!  This injustice was cited as one of the primary reasons he himself rejected the Catholic Church.

My experiences with my mother at church were not marred with shunning or rebuke - not by priest or parishioner!  I only heard complaints about the the Monsignor who "always repeated the same sermons year after year" from her childhood but he was long since retired.  A new priest ran the parish now and he was as unremarkable as anyone could be.

My mother became pregnant while dating a guy she met through work, once again she hastily married - this time at a friend's house while on vacation in Florida. The ceremony was in the living room of someone who had the legal authority to issue a marriage certificate.  This would be my new step-father's 3rd marriage and problems from his 2nd marriage followed him everywhere.

Years later my mother and step-father would return to regular attendance at the Catholic church she grew up in.  My brother and I attended CCD classes and became confirmed Catholics.  Our whole family started attending Holy Mass regularly.  My mother supervised the Eucharistic Adoration program for a time and helped teach Catechism classes.  My step-father and I joined the Usher's Club.  You could say we looked like a model Catholic family.

More Unhappiness


My mother's 2nd marriage was a plagued with problems of all sorts.  Oh sure you could say this of any typical family - things are always different than the outward appearance, and our family was no exception.  At least we could all go to church and pretend that the my mother's decision to marry this man was not only right - but had Christ's blessing.  My mother even befriended an old priest who was the associate pastor at our parish.  He would stop by regularly for meals and socializing but sensitive topics were never brought up.

You could say that the Church was more than understanding to the irregular situation of my mother's adulterous relationship.  Many times she considered divorcing because of irrational, abusive, and irresponsible behavior inflicted on her, but she never did because she believed the Catholic Church and God condoned her marital situation and she needed to honor her vows.

Yet she would ask me why God had stricken her with such a hopeless situation in life - financially, emotionally, and spiritually?  I had been reading the Q&A section of  the EWTN website and many of the questions were about marriage.  I started sharing these stories with my mother in hopes of helping her unhappy situation.  My mother was such a devoted Catholic but seemingly so ignorant of Church teaching on marriage.

No Solution At All


After a lifetime of being confirmed in her sin by the pastoral solution of ignoring the elephant in the room, my mother was not very open to discussing the mistakes she had made in life, certainly not with her children.  My mother refused to divorce my step-father because she feared what he would do and she feared breaking her marriage vows for a second time.  Sadly nobody ever told her that her second marriage was not recognized as valid.

Circumstances escalated to a point where I revealed to my mother that I had come to believe that her marriage was not recognized by God and thus not recognized by the Church or myself.  I encouraged her to leave him because I saw no moral impediment to abandoning the relationship which was causing her so much harm.  My half brother was almost 16 years old and very independent, I saw this as the best time for her to return to single life where she could be happy.

Faced with increasingly difficult circumstances my mother eventually decided she would seek an annulment to help her resolve questions I raised about the validity of her marriage.  After some effort she was able to obtain that annulment and I leave that to God's judgment.  My step-father was unable to obtain an annulment because he had no means to reach his first wife and one could argue that he lacked the mental capacity to try.  The annulment process progressed rather quickly for my mother even after all this time, I guess the process is already "streamlined" in our diocese.

My mother was diagnosed in 2010 with Acute Leukemia and died 7 months later at 52 years old.  With her death came closure to all the marriage-related issues.  My former step-father moved to Florida and took with him all his problems.  I am grateful for all the good times that we had together, but I often wonder how our lives would have been had my mother and father feared the consequences of divorce and remarriage.  Instead they lived those consequences which clearly were not desired.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What To Call The Fullness of Christian Faith?

Lately I have been reflecting on what it means to be a faithful Catholic.  Over the last 20 years I have gone through more than a few spiritual transformations where I always considered myself Christian and Catholic but with only a vague understanding of what differentiated the two.  When pressed by friends or co-workers about my beliefs I would reference my Episcopal upbringing as part of my Christian identity.  I didn't hold any Episcopal beliefs but non-Catholics seemed to be less confrontational when I explained myself in this way.

As I better learned my Catholic faith I developed a stronger Catholic identity and openly referred to myself as such despite confrontations with protestants.  I also became painfully aware of the large number of Catholics in name only.  These "fallen-away Catholics" still consider themselves Catholics in good standing with the Church.  Still to this day faithful Catholics battle the negative stereotypes that exist because of these people.  I quickly learned that I needed to refer to myself as a "practicing Catholic" to differentiate myself from this group.

But I have learned that a "practicing Catholic" is considered someone who goes to church regularly, not necessarily someone who believes and lives out the Catholic faith.  For a while I subscribed to the idea of referring to myself as a "conservative Catholic" but people like Cardinal Dolan have been referred to as such so it's clear that I do not fall into that camp.  Besides, the idea of liberal/conservative Catholics suggests that the two are like political camps where both are Catholics but with different views on who God is, kind of like protestantism.

At one time being called "Christian" was all that was needed to distinguish the faithful followers of Christ, but it became necessary for those who were faithful to all of Christ's teaching to differentiate themselves from those who did not by calling themselves "Catholic".  After the disaster better known as Vatican II it is clear that the Church is becoming more divided between those who accept Catholic teaching as it has traditionally known, and those who accept compromise and wish to "make a mess".

Now I consider myself a "traditional Catholic" which helps me distinguish myself from the millions of pseudo-sedevacantists who reject fundamental Catholic doctrine on marriage, the sanctity of life, and even the Holy Eucharist.    I've been introducing myself as such to both Catholic and non-Catholic alike for some time now.  Through this introduction I have found a greater opportunity to evangelize others - even apostate Catholics because they retain a certain nostalgia to what was lost.  Most of all I love sharing the profound beauty and deep reverence that is found in the traditional Mass!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Think Your Kids Won't Form Opinions About Your Drug Use?

Growing up drugs were a part of every day life, my parents did drugs.  Though they managed their  addictions in different ways, never the less the outcome was the same, everyone suffered.  Children of addicts suffer more than their parents realize, and it should come as no surprise that I have little compassion for "recreational" drug use.  

Some of my first memories are of my father and his friend talking while holding up a big bag of weed.  I was probably 3 years old, I remember the smell of marijuana, thinking about how the aroma was pleasant and nice.  I remember waking up early, to the empty bottles, empty glasses.  On the coffee table would lay a 10x10 metal baking pan with zig zags, ashes, seeds, and remnants of a "good time".  I would smell the bottles, taste the ashes, eat the left over chip crumbs and popcorn.  All these things meant happiness and fun, or so I thought.

Shortly thereafter I remember being curled up in a ball on the floor as my mother and father argued, yelling at each other with only a lamp table between them as they sat in their opposing reclining chairs.   I didn't know any better then, but they were getting divorced, we stayed with our dad who retained custody.  My mom always blamed the drugs.  More than once my mom said,  "If not for he drugs your dad and I would still be together".

You see, marijuana is just one drug in the devil's arsenal of slavery and lies.  My parents were also doing cocaine at that time,  destroying their marriage along with my childhood  security and happiness.  I have many bad memories from my mother, enough to solidify my hatred of both cocaine and marijuana, both destroyers, one just more subtle than the other.

My mom got a job selling waterbeds.  On Fridays my dad would drop off my brother and I at the store near closing time.  We spent many hours playing amongst the displays and warehouse boxes, I actually consider those fond memories.  But it was also here that she met a new man who struggled even more with drug addiction.  It was during this time that she almost died from a cocaine overdose.  I was there and remember the situation, my mother in the bathroom on the floor.  I was too young to understand.

Having survived that ordeal, my mother would recall that frightful night, how she overdosed and almost died, how cocaine was the most evil drug in the world, how seductive it was, until it destroyed you.  That night she flushed what remaining coke she had and vowed never to do it again... and after 1 or 2 more times she never did - having lost the desire for it.  Marijuana became the drug of choice after that, after all, "Native Americans had been doing it for hundreds of years" and "It's natural"..  I can't tell you how many times I heard that. 

But lunch money never came before drug money, which is why we lived with our dad, whom despite his addictions was a much more capable provider.  My mother always said that my father was a "good provider" and she was right, he never failed to provide for our temporal needs, though he struggled as a father due to his own deficient upbringing.  He had the common sense to hide his addiction but it resulted in long hours hidden away in his locked bedroom where kids were not allowed.

I look back now as an adult and I can see how my parents' drug use ruined their lives, not to mention the ripple effect it had on my life and the rest of our family.  My mother remained a slave to addiction for the rest of her life, a mere 52 years.  The man she me met selling waterbeds? - on permanent disability with severe mental and neurological disorders. Real freedom and happiness? Up in smoke years ago. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI

Cathedral of St. Mary's Gaylord, MI

 Birth of Tradition


About this time last year I learned that the Diocese of Gaylord was providing a Latin Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral.  Through Divine providence my family was able to participate in praying the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St. Mary's while on Vacation in East Jordan, MI last summer.  Previously we had attended Holy Mass at St. Mary's in downtown Charlevoix, but there seemed to be much disunity amongst the parishioners, the pastor at the time was being ostracized in the local paper for "turning back the clock" etc. etc.   So sad!  We considered the SSPX chapel in Mancelona but since the Diocese was allowing the TLM I felt we needed to show our support.  Plus I was curious!

Last year we didn't know what to expect.  Nothing was posted in the bulletin and if not for some personal correspondence with a blogger from northern Michigan I would have had no idea that Mass in the extraordinary form was being offered.  Even when we pulled up to the Cathedral we had our doubts, Mass schedules were clearly listed on the sign out front, but absent was any mention of a Latin Mass.  We pulled up to the front of the church and found only 1 or 2 other cars parked out front.  The doors to the main sanctuary were open but the lights were off and nobody was inside.  I left my family in the car as I ventured inside for a better look.  If not for the custodian I probably would have just gone home, but I asked him whether or not the 3pm Latin Mass was to take place and he directed me to the chapel!

So I gathered my family and we made our way through the dimly lit main sanctuary to a little chapel along the back side of the church.  As we entered we were greeted by about 20 or 30 people occupying a rather well furnished chapel.  Three sections of full sized pews, a respectable altar, miniature organ, and of course - tabernacle were all present.  The tabernacle looks like something straight out of the 70's, I couldn't help but wonder why the tabernacle sits behind the glass of the chapel rather than within the center of the main sanctuary, but this church is a modern design so what else is new right?

Chapel containing the Blessed Sacrament - St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI (Novus Ordo Mass)

Fast Forward 1 Year


So my family finds themselves up north once again this summer.  Much like last summer we were eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of our Sunday obligation at St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI - 3pm Latin Mass of course.  I was curious whether or not the TLM was still being offered, thankfully yes!  We even confirmed it in the church bulletin.  Funny enough, after talking with a local parishioner I learned that the Mass schedule in the weekly bulletin did not contain the Latin Mass time until just a few weeks prior!  Call me suspicious but I have a feeling the delay was not accidental. 

Our second visit was just as pleasing as the first.  Solemn High Mass in the chapel!  Such an intimate and spiritual experience!  I feel so blessed that God has provided the traditional Latin Mass within the Diocese of Gaylord.  Considering my family has owned a cottage in East Jordan, MI for generations, there is no excuse for missing Mass on Sunday while on vacation, especially when you do a little bit of research on the internet.  

When I thought about going up to our cottage this year, the #1 thing on my mind was returning to St. Mary's in Gaylord for Mass!  I am so thankful to the Holy Ghost that I have this feeling of anticipation for praying Mass, that I long for this union with Christ!  There was a time that I breathed a sigh of relief while on vacation because I felt I had an excuse to miss Mass.  Even when my family attended Mass while on vacation it seemed like fulfilling an obligation, something I was glad to be done with.  I know that many Catholics skip Mass while on vacation, but I strongly encourage finding the local Mass times and to plan in advance where and when Catholic Mass is being offered!  The internet provides easy access to the necessary resources.  Vacations can be a great time experience how a different parish celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it's also a great time to experience a traditional Latin Mass if you never have.  

St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI offers a traditional Latin Mass every Sunday at 3pm in their chapel which is directly connected to the main sanctuary.  If you park on the back side of the church and enter the door closest to N. Ohio St. you will be closest to the chapel entrance.  There you will find plenty of Latin/English translation booklets and a group of Catholics dedicated to the preservation of Catholic tradition and timeless Catholic worship.  While my young family with 5 kids surely stood out, I never for a moment felt out of place.  May God's grace reveal to you all that He has revealed to my family in Gaylord, MI!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Novus Ordo: Equal If Not Superior?

I had a brief and rather unpleasant conversation with a Catholic gentleman at my parish recently.  I say unpleasant because the topic of Holy Mass preference came up and I found myself making an impromptu argument for the Traditional Latin Mass, all the while staring at a frowning and unconvinced face.  The conversation basically started with, "You love the Latin Mass and I love the English Mass".  I just could not let that go, and without thinking I blurted, "I could never go back to the Novus Ordo" and proceeded to explain why I preferred the Latin Mass until he changed the subject.

In many respects I totally blew my opportunity to properly share the beauty and spiritual depth of the TLM and likely came off as arrogant and judgmental just like the stereotype.  Encounters like this though few, seem to have a common outcome of misunderstanding.  I found myself apologizing to God repeatedly for mishandling the opportunity to help awaken a deeper interest in the Latin Mass.

I've been replaying the whole scenario in my mind for several weeks now, and though I have a benefit of hindsight, I'm still uncomfortable with the stonewalling that I got from this gentleman.  Sure seemed like he had his defenses up, almost like when a Catholic is confronted by some fundamentalist - one who's views are strongly motivated with a misplaced zeal and well learned talking points.  Almost like a Jehovah's Witness where the brainwashing is so thorough that you don't even want to enter a conversation with them.  This same apprehensiveness was now coming from a fellow Catholic, I know because it's the way I felt when conversing with an SSPX member many years ago.

So why all this animosity between Catholics?  I get defensive whenever anyone attacks the Church and I get defensive when someone calls me holier than thou, I even get defensive when a pope suggests that my love of the Latin Mass is merely a fad.  But I embrace the opportunity to share the beauty and spiritual depth so masterfully preserved in the Latin Mass.  I desire to share all the spiritual benefits I have come to know through the Latin Mass, I feel an obligation to share this gift from God.

So this brings me to the questions I've been pondering since my rather unpleasant conversation:  Does the Novus Ordo offer something spiritual that is lacking in the Vetus Ordo?  If so then why have I never encountered a Catholic with valid arguments to persuade me?  Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever experienced anything of the sort!  Even the gentleman reference above made no effort to correct any perceived misconception on my part.  He did boast of his large family and many grandchildren - a clear attempt to establish his Catholic orthodoxy which was never called into question.  On the contrary, when I meet someone who appears to be a practicing Catholic I feel obligated to share this spiritual treasure with them!

But these people typically will not go to a Latin Mass with an open heart and open mind.  They forgo any preparation and perhaps begrudgingly attend one or two Latin Masses just to say, "There I did it and it wasn't for me, now leave me alone".  A more typical attitude is one of complacency, "I don't feel like I'm lacking anything" or "My family could never sit through a Latin Mass".  Please don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that these people are bad Catholics or lacking in faith and conviction, just that they are convinced the Latin Mass contains nothing but nostalgia, this is what is taught after all!

Going back to the gentleman referenced earlier, he was a Catholic convert of nearly 40 years.  I always say that converts make some of the best Catholics!  Anyway, he didn't mention how many of those years were spent attending a Vetus Ordo Mass (presumably none).  Now on the day we talked I'm pretty sure he attended the same Mass that I and my family did because of obligations afterward, but was he merely attending?  What I mean is, did he pray the Mass?  Was he even aware of the differences in the prayers?  These are questions that now run through my mind.

You see I regularly attended the Novus Ordo from my early teen years until I was 30 years old.  Of those 15+ years I would say at least 7 of those years were experienced as one who fully understood the Catholic faith with all it's splendor!  Now I have almost 7 years of experience with the Latin Mass and friends I'm not going back.  Some things are so precious that compromise is not a consideration, but Our Lady Akita reminds us:

“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see Cardinals opposing Cardinals, Bishops against other Bishops. The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres. Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be filled with those who accept compromises, and the devil will induce many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. "

I work in the HVAC trade and when it comes to certain model furnaces we have a saying, "If you don't find a failure in that model furnace you're not looking hard enough".  Friends, if you don't see a failure in the model of modern worship within the the Catholic Church you just aren't looking hard enough.