Archive for the ‘by ALL SOURCES’ Category

My comment regarding Msgr. Charles Pope’s recent article regarding abortion laws):

Dear Msgr. Pope,
I leave it to legal minds to answer your sincere questions, however I would like to share my point of view regarding what pro-life citizens should be doing independently of the courts. “The divide between red and blue states” should be a divide between individuals within all states. The stance of a pro-life person should be: ABOLISH ABORTION NOW’. Our fellow citizens, including our family members and associates, should know what our stance is regarding abortion. It sickens me that to keep peace amongst our closest relationships or risk loss we fail to deliberately bring up the subject. The fear of a potential family feud keeps mouths silent and minds stagnant. Will we ever get fed up enough to fervently protest the killing of the unborn?  Most of us can probably say that we would have laid down our lives for our captive brothers and sisters if we had lived during the slavery vs. abolition era. But can that really be true? In today’s civil war the only persons dying are those who can’t defend themselves, the children in their mothers’ wombs. We must continue to be prayerful and peaceful, but we must also be much more active and fervent in our defense of the unborn and not allow fear of anyone or anything to deter us. We must be willing to endure rejection, ridicule and even personal and national hardship.

Come, let us love the unborn generations,
And guard their right to live upon this earth,
Lest human deeds, by stealth or conflagration,
Snuff out all life and put an end to birth.

[Brian Wren copyright 1983 Hope Publishing Co.]

Recent Pro-Life Laws in Many States are Encouraging – But are There Dangers on the Road Ahead? 

by Msgr. Charles Pope

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The company we keep, whether directly (with those whom we know personally) or indirectly via various media (with those whom we are fond of), can reveal our true selves.

Consider this most important daily prayer: ‘Heavenly Father bless this day for me and for everyone; make it a day in which we grow to have mind and heart of Christ Jesus, your Son’. Then examine your mind (not your conscience).

Reflect on how close your mind is to that of Our Lord’s: Which television programs do I watch; which movies or theater do I enjoy; which lyrics of songs do I enjoy and relate to; which celebrities do I admire and enjoy listening to or watching; which books do I enjoy reading; what kind of conversations do I engage in; what are my most important concerns; what doesn’t concern me; what do I desire or strive to achieve or possess?

Mind Your Mind!

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

[If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many
of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied
below with his kind permission.]
There is a tendency today to trivialize and reduce the human person. One of the ways we do this is by claiming that it doesn’t really matter what people think or believe, only that they behave well. For example, we think that if a man is a good citizen, pays his taxes, doesn’t beat his wife, and is kind to children and animals then it doesn’t matter what he believes. This trivializes the man, because each of us was made to know the one, true God. We were made to know the truth and, knowing this truth, to be set free (Jn 8:32). God’s plan for us is more than just that we behave “well” from a human perspective. He offers each of us a complete transformation: a new mind and heart, attained through personal knowledge and experience of Him. This will certainly affect our behavior, but God is offering us much more than just to be considered “nice” by other people.

One of the ways Scripture expresses what God is offering us at a deeper level is the appeal to the mind that so frequently occurs in the New Testament. The very first words of Jesus as He began His public ministry announced the invitation to receive a new mind. Sadly, most English translations do not adequately capture what the Greek text actually reports Jesus as saying. Most English renderings of Jesus’ opening words are “Repent and believe the Good News” (cf. Mark 1:15; Matt 3:2). The most common meaning of “to repent” is to reform one’s behavior, to do good and avoid evil, to stop sinning. The Greek word used in the text is far richer than this. Μετανοείτε (metanoeite) most literally means “to come to a new mind.” It comes from meta (hard to translate perfectly into English but often indicating accompaniment, change, or movement of some sort) and nous or noieo (meaning mind or thought). Hence, metanoeite means thinking differently, reconsidering, coming to a new mind. So, what the Lord is more fully saying is this: “Come to new mind and believe in the Good News.”

Thus, Jesus is not merely saying that we should clean up our act. He is inviting us to come to a new mind, which He alone can give us. If we think differently, we will surely act differently. Metanoeite can and does include the notion of reformed behavior, but it is the result of a new mind. If we think differently (by the new mind Christ will give us), we will start to see things more as God does. We will share His priorities, His vision. We will love what He loves. We will think more as He does. This will effect a change in our behavior.

There is a famous quote (attributed to various sources) that goes like this: “Sow a thought, reap a deed. Sow a deed, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” Notice how it all begins with the mind. Our mind shapes our decisions, habits, character, and ultimately our destiny.

The mind is the deepest part of the human person. It is not always possible in Scripture to perfectly distinguish between the word “mind” and the word “heart.” Sometimes they are used interchangeably and at other times to mean different things. For the purpose of this discussion, the mind can be understood as quite similar to the heart in that it is at the deepest part of the human person, where thought, memory, imagination, and deliberation take place. The mind is not to be equated merely with the brain or the intellect; it is deeper and richer than these. Using the mind is not simply a function of the physical body but rather involves the soul as well. The mind is where we live, think, reflect, ponder, remember, and deliberate.

Hence, in appealing to the mind, God is offering a transformation of the whole human person, for it is from within the mind and heart that all proceeds. Good behavior is a nice goal, but God does not trivialize us by trying to reform only our behavior. He offers us much more: to transform us.

Thus, what a person thinks and believes does matter. In these hyper-tolerant times, in which tolerance is one of the few agreed-upon virtues remaining, we like to brush aside the details. We are almost proud of ourselves for affirming that people can think and believe whatever they want as long as they behave well. Perhaps a person is free to think whatever he pleases, but we are foolish to think that this does not ultimately influence his behavior. Our dignity is that we were made to know the truth and thus to know Jesus Christ, who is the truth and the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6). Hence, our dignity is not just an outer transformation but an inner one as well. In fact, it is an inner transformation that leads to an outer transformation.

Below are a few more Scripture passages that refer to the mind as the locus of transformation and the main battleground where grace must win. Without a transformed, clear, sober mind we will give way to sin and bad behavior. Transformation begins with the mind. My comments on each text appear in red.

  • Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2). Transformation comes by the renewal of the mind.
  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. … [For] although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their senseless minds were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools …. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. … He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Rom 1:18 ff selectae). Suppression of the truth leads to a depraved mind, which leads to depraved behavior. It begins in the mind, which is the real battleground.
  • Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Rom 8:5). Sinful nature proceeds from a worldly mind. Those who have received the gift of the Spirit and embraced it fully have their minds set on what God desires. The remainder of Romans 8 goes on to describe the complete transformation of the human person resulting from having the mind set on what God desires.
  • The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor 4:4). Worldly thinking leads to spiritual blindness.
  • So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way … put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:17-24). The bad behavior of the Gentiles comes from minds that are frivolous and darkened. The new mind we receive from Christ gives us a new, transformed self.
  • Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things (Phil 3:19). Destruction comes from a mind that is set on earthly things.
  • This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people(Heb 8:10). God does not merely want to improve our behavior. He wants to transform us interiorly, to a new mind and heart that have his law written deeply in them.
  • The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). When the mind is divided or impure, behavior is corrupted.
  • Therefore, gird the loins of your mind; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:13). A sober and clear mind that actively seeks God’s will leads to a self-controlled and hopeful life.
  • The end of all things is near. Therefore, be of clear mind and self-controlled so that you can pray (1 Peter 4:7). In turbulent times it is necessary to have a clear, sober mind so as to be able to control one’s behavior and to be serene enough to pray.

The lyrics of this song (“Caribbean Medley” or “I’ve Got My Mind Made Up,” by Donnie McClurkin) say, “I’ve got my mind made up and I won’t turn back because I want to see my Jesus someday.”

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

See What the End Shall Be – Palm Sunday

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The Passion, which we read in the liturgy for Palm Sunday, is too long to comment on in detail, so we will only examine a portion of it here.

It may be of some value to examine the problems associated with the more moderate range of personalities involved. The usual villains (the Temple leaders, Judas, and the recruited crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”) are unambiguously wicked and display their sinfulness openly. But there are others involved whose struggles and neglectfulness are more subtle, yet no less real. It is in examining these figures that we can learn a great deal about ourselves, who, though we may not openly shout, “Crucify him,” are often not as unambiguously holy and heroic as Jesus’ persecutors are wicked and bold.

As we read the Passion we must understand that this is not merely an account of the behavior of people long gone, they are portraits of you and me; we do these things.

I. The Perception that is Partial – Near the beginning of today’s Passion account, the apostles, who are at the Last Supper with Jesus, are reminded of what the next days will hold. Jesus says,

This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.

Note that the apostles are not being told these things for the first time; Jesus has spoken them before on numerous occasions:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life (Matt 16:21).

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief (Matt 17:22-23).

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life” (Matt 20:18-19).

Thus we see that the Lord has consistently tried to teach and prepare them for the difficulties ahead. He has told them exactly what is going to happen and how it will end: not in death, but rising to new life. But even though He has told them over and over again, they still do not understand. Therefore He predicts that their faith in Him will be shaken.

Their perception is partial. They will see only the negative, forgetting that Jesus has promised to rise. Because they cannot see beyond the apparent defeat of the moment they will retreat into fear rather than boldly and confidently accompanying Him to His passion and glorification (for His passion is a lifting up; it is His glorification). Instead they will flee. He has shown the “what the end shall be,” but they can neither see nor accept it. Thus fear overwhelms them and they withdraw into a sinful fear, dissociating themselves from Jesus. Only a few (Mary, His Mother; John; Mary Magdalene; and a few other women) would see Him through to the end.

As for the rest, they see only what is gory and awful, missing what is glory and awesome. Their perception is quite partial. Paradoxically, their blindness comes from not hearing or listening to what Jesus has been telling them all along.

We, too, can easily suffer from a blindness caused by poor listening. The Lord has often told us that if we trust in Him, then our struggles will end in glory and new life. But, blind and forgetful, we give in to our fears and fail to walk the way of Christ’s passion boldly. We draw back and dissociate ourselves from Jesus, exhibiting some of the same tendencies we will observe in the people of that day.

Next, let’s examine some of the problems that emerge from this partial perception and forgetful fear.

II. The Problems Presented – There are at least five problems that emerge. They are unhealthy and sinful patterns that spring from the fear generated by not trusting Jesus’ vision. Please understand that the word “we” used here is shorthand and does not mean that every single person does this. Rather, it means that collectively we have these tendencies. There’s no need to take everything here personally.

1. They become drowsy – A common human technique for dealing with stress and the hardships of life is to become numb and drowsy; we can just drift off into a sort of moral slumber. Being vigilant against the threat posed to our souls by sin or the harm caused by injustice (whether to ourselves or to others) is just too stressful, so we just “tune out.” We stop noticing or really even caring about critically important matters. We anesthetize ourselves with things like alcohol, drugs, creature comforts, and meaningless distractions. Prayer and spirituality pose too many uncomfortable questions, so we just daydream about meaningless things like what a certain Hollywood star is doing or how the latest sporting event is going.

In the Passion accounts, the Lord asks Peter, James, and John to pray with Him. But they doze off. Perhaps it is the wine. Surely it is the flesh (for the Lord speaks of it). Unwilling or unable to deal with the stress of the situation, they get drowsy and doze off. Grave evil is at the very door, but they sleep. The Lord warns them to stay awake, lest they give way to temptation, but still they sleep. Someone they know and love is in grave danger, but it is too much for them to handle. They tune out, much as we do in the face of the overwhelming suffering of Christ visible in the poor and needy. We just stop noticing; it’s too painful, so we tune out.

The Lord had often warned them to be vigilant, sober, and alert (Mk 13:34, Matt 25:13, Mk 13:37; Matt 24:42; Luke 21:36, inter al). Other Scriptures would later pick up the theme (Romans 13:11; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thess 5:6, inter al). Yes, drowsiness is a serious spiritual problem.

Sadly, God described us well when He remarked to Isaiah, Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep (Is 56:10).

We do this not only out of laziness, but also out of fear. One strategy is to try to ignore it, to go numb, to tune out. But despite the sleepiness of the disciples, the wicked are still awake; the threat does not go away by a drowsy inattentiveness to it. Thus we ought to be confident and sober. Life’s challenges are nothing to fear. The Lord has told us that we have already won if we will just trust in Him. The disciples have forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. So they, and we, just give in to the stress and tune out.

2. They seek to destroy – When Peter finally awaken, he lashes out with a sword and wounds Malchus, the servant of the high priest. The Lord rebukes Peter and reminds him of the vision: Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11) Jesus then heals Malchus, who tradition says later became a follower.

In our fear, we, too, can often lash out and even seek to destroy our opponents. But if we are already certain of our victory, as the Lord has promised, why do we fear? Why do we need to suppress our opponents and enemies ruthlessly? It is one thing to speak the truth in love, boldly and confidently. But it is quite another to lash out aggressively and seek to win a debate. In so doing, we may lose a soul. The Lord healed Malchus, seeing in Him a future disciple. The Lord saw what the end would be. Peter did not. In fear, he lashed out with an aggression that did not bespeak a confidence in final victory.

It is true that we are required to confront evil, resist injustice, and speak with clarity to a confused world. But above all, we are called to love those whom we address. There is little place for fear in our conversations with the world. The truth will out; it will prevail. We may not win every encounter, but we do not have to; all we must do is plant seeds. God will water them and others may well harvest them. In Christ, we have already won. This confidence should give us serenity.

Peter has forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. So Peter, and we, give in to fear and lash out, driven by a desire to win when in fact we have already won.

3. They deny – Confronted with the fearful prospect of being condemned along with Jesus, Peter denies being one of His followers or even knowing Him at all. He dissociates himself from Christ. And we, confronted with the possibility of far milder things such as ridicule, often deny a connection with the Lord or the Church.

Regarding one of the more controversial Scripture teachings (e.g., the command to tithe; the prohibition against divorce, fornication, and homosexual activity) some might ask, “You don’t really believe that, do you?” It’s very easy to give in to fear and to respond, “No,” or to qualify our belief. Why suffer ridicule, endure further questioning, or be drawn into an unpleasant debate? So we just dissociate from, compromise, or qualify our faith to avoid the stress. We even congratulate ourselves for being tolerant when we do it!

Jesus says, If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels (Mk 8:38). But too easily we are ashamed. And so, like Peter, we engage in some form of denial. Peter is afraid because he has forgotten to “see what the end shall be.” He has forgotten Jesus’ promise to rise after three days; we often do the same. We lack confidence and give in to fear; we deny in order to avoid suffering with Jesus.

4. They dodge – When Jesus is arrested, all the disciples except John “split.” They “get the heck out of Dodge.” They are nowhere to be found. After Jesus’ arrest, it is said that Peter (prior to his denials) followed the Lord at a distance (Mk 14:54). But as soon as trouble arose, he “scrammed.”

We, too, can run away. Sometimes it’s because of persecution by the world. But sometimes it’s our fear that following the Lord is too hard and involves sacrifices that we are just not willing to make. Maybe it will endanger our money (the Lord insists that we tithe and be generous to the poor). Maybe it will endanger our playboy lifestyle (the Lord insists on chastity and respect). Maybe we don’t want to stop doing something that we have no business doing, something that is unjust, excessive, or sinful. But rather than face our fears, whether they come from within or without, we just hightail it out.

The disciples have forgotten that Jesus has shown them “what the end shall be.” In three days, he will win the victory. But, this forgotten, their fears emerge and they run. We too, must see “what the end shall be” in order to confront and resist our many fears.

5. They deflect – In this case our example is Pontius Pilate, not one of the disciples. Pilate was summoned to faith just like anyone else. “Are you a king?” he asks Jesus. Jesus responds by putting Pilate on trial: “Are you saying this on your own or have others been telling you about me?” Pilate has a choice to make: accept that what Jesus is saying as true, or give in to fear and commit a terrible sin of injustice. The various accounts in Scripture all make it clear that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. But because he feared the crowds he handed Jesus over.

Note that Pilate did this. The crowds tempted him through fear, but he did the condemning. Yet notice that he tries to deflect his choice. The text says, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility” (Mat 27:24). Well actually, Pilate, it is also your responsibility. You had a choice and you made it. Your own career and your own hide were more important to you than justice was. And though you wanted to do what was right and were sympathetic with Jesus, merely wanting to do what is right is not enough.

So, too, for us. We also often favor our career or our hide over doing what is right. And in so doing, we often blame others for what we have freely chosen. “I’m not responsible because my mother dropped me on my head when I was two.”

We are often willing to say, in effect,

“Look, Jesus, I love you. You get my Sundays, and my tithe, and I obey you (generally, anyway). But you have to understand that I have a career; I need to make money for my family. If I really stand up for what’s right, I might not make it in this world. You understand, don’t you? I know the company I work for is doing some things that are unjust. I know the world needs a clearer witness from me. I’ll do all that—after I retire. But for now, well, you know… Besides, it’s really my boss who’s to blame. It’s this old hell-bound, sin-soaked world that’s to blame, not me!”

We try to wash our hands of responsibility. We excuse our silence and inaction in the face of injustice and sin.

And all this is done out of fear. We forget “what the end shall be” and focus on the fearful present. We lack the vision that Jesus is trying to give us: that we will rise with Him. We stay blind to that and only see the threat of the here and now.

III. The Path that is Prescribed – By now you ought to know the path that is prescribed: see what the end shall be. In three days we rise! Why are we afraid? Jesus has already won the victory. It is true that we get there through the cross, but never forget what the end shall be! Today we read the Gospel of Friday, but wait till Sunday morning! I’ll rise!

We end where we began with this Gospel: This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed;’ but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.

Yes, after He has been raised He goes before us into Galilee. And for us, Galilee is Heaven. Whatever our sorrows, if we are faithful we will see Jesus in the Galilee of Heaven. Never forget this vision. After three days, we will rise with Him and be reunited with Him in the Galilee of Heaven.

So take courage; see what the end shall be! The end for those who are faithful is total victory. We don’t need to drowse, destroy, deny, dodge, or deflect; we’ve already won. All we need to do is to hold out.

I have it on the best of authority that Mother Mary was singing the following gospel song with St. John for a brief time while at the foot of the cross, as they looked past that Friday to the Sunday that was coming:

It’s all right, it’s all right.
My Jesus said he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Sometimes I’m up sometimes I’m down.
But Jesus he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

Sometimes I’m almost on the ground.
My Jesus said he’ll fix it and it’s all right.

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Twelve Reasons Not to Prefer the Novus Ordo: A Reply to Fr. Longenecker

This post originally appeared at OnePeterFive. Permission to post here graciously provided by the author.

Fr. Longenecker has written some fine books and articles. Years ago, I enjoyed and benefited from his book on St. Benedict and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and his recent book on the historical veracity of the Magi is interesting.

It would appear that in matters liturgical, however, Fr. Longenecker is out of his depth. Each claim he puts forward in his article “Twelve Things I Like about the Novus Ordo Mass” can be and has been refuted in the ample literature written on the subject, of which he appears to be ignorant. Indeed, the article betrays minimal knowledge of the history, process, and content of the liturgical reform (as, for instance, well documented in this biography of Annibale Bugnini) and of the contrasting richness of the traditional Mass.

Let us walk through Fr. Longenecker’s Twelve Things (printed in boldface).

  1. It’s accessible. Having the liturgy in the vernacular helps it to be understood by the people. How can that be a bad thing?

It is characteristic of the rationalism of the liturgical movement (based on its Enlightenment precursors) to prioritize verbal comprehension over a more synthetic and holistic understanding of the mystery of faith, which draws on all the senses and appeals to the heart as well as the intellect. The use of Latin, in addition to being simply what the Western Church did for over 1,500 years, creates for worshipers a numinous and sacral atmosphere that invites meditation and adoration.

Moreover, seeking the goal of easy intelligibility led the reformers to dumb down much of the content of the Mass so that it might not be “too hard.” What is the heavy price we pay for the all too obvious “accessibility” of the Novus Ordo? Superficiality and boredom. It’s so accessible that it “fails to grip,” as P.G. Wodehouse would say. This is why we have a new self-help genre on getting over one’s boredom with Mass and various faddish movements like LifeTeen for pumping up the Novus Ordo. In contrast, the traditional Latin Mass is steep, craggy, and sublime, offering the worshiper the kind of challenge that befits his rational dignity and supernatural destiny, and opening up an endless vista of new discoveries in the age-old prayers and gestures.

Finally, no literate person is incapable of using a daily missal, where all the antiphons, prayers, and readings may be found in vernacular translations – but without any attempt at an “official” translation of the impossible-to-translate ancient Latin texts, thus avoiding the intractable battles over what “style” and “register” of vernacular should be used in the liturgy. The major prayers of the Mass are fixed and repeated from week to week, so it is not difficult to follow them, as one can see from wee lads and lasses who do this at the traditional Latin Mass.

  1. It’s flexible. We’re supposed to honor Latin as the language of our church and it is easy enough to integrate a little or a lot of Latin into the Novus Ordo Mass. It is also flexible musically. You don’t have to use Haagan Daz, hootenany and soft rock music. Learn Gregorian chant and polyphony. It fits.

The idea that a liturgy should be a matter of “picking and choosing” among options is foreign to the historical development of Christian liturgy in East and West, which has always been toward greater definition, consistency, and stability of liturgical texts, chants, and ceremonies. A liturgy is a ritual action in which the actors lose their idiosyncratic individuality and adopt a persona that befits the mysteries enacted. The clergy should come across not as the ones steering and coloring the enterprise, but as stewards of a treasure they receive and place humbly before the people; the people, for their part, find it easier to pray when the liturgy is not a moving target, but one can enter again and again into the same sacred routine. This intrinsic quality of good liturgy is absent from the Novus Ordo by design.

Concretely, what does this flexibility end up looking like? We can choose the Roman Canon, that which defines the Roman Rite, or a Eucharistic Prayer patterned after a pseudo-anaphora written by pseudo-Hippolytus and finished on a napkin in Trastevere. We can have the chant that grew up for a thousand years with the rite, or some sentimental piano tune by an ex-Jesuit. We can have Mass facing East in accord with apostolic tradition (as St. Basil and others testify), or we can try our luck with the novel “closed circle” approach of versus populum. We can have people line up for communion in the hand like customers queuing for bus tickets, scattering fragments of the Body of Christ hither and yon, or place the Lord on the tongue of believers kneeling in a posture of adoration. All this great flexibility! The devil delights in it, since it usually plays in his favor.

Such flexibility has also destroyed, for all intents and purposes, the distinctions among a Low Mass, a Missa cantata or High Mass, and a Solemn High Mass. In practice, one usually gets a bizarre mixture of high and low elements with no discernible order or hierarchy.

I address the spiritual dangers of this flexibility in a talk called “Liturgical Obedience, the Imitation of Christ, and the Seductions of Autonomy” (full recording here; some excerpts here).

  1. It travels well. As much as we love beautiful architecture, music, vestments and pipe organs, there are times when the Mass is celebrated at camp, in prison, on the battlefield, in a tin hut or on a mission field, a mountaintop or a beach. The simplicity of the Novus Ordo means it can be celebrated more easily in such situations.

This is probably the flimsiest of the twelve reasons, given that thousands of the greatest missionaries the Church has ever known, as well as military chaplains in many wars (including both World Wars, as plenty of vintage photos online give testimony), offered exclusively the traditional Mass and carried on their backs what they needed for it.

Indeed, one of the objections raised by missionary bishops at the Second Vatican Council is that the proposed liturgical reform would greatly multiply the number of books necessary for liturgy. All a priest needs to celebrate the old Latin Mass in its integrity is a single altar missal. To celebrate the new liturgy in anything approaching completeness, on the other hand, one needs the altar missal, the lectionary, and a gradual or book of antiphons. A “sung Mass” requires a veritable library of books, as I know from firsthand experience as a choir director for many years at the Novus Ordo.

Here is a gallery of photos of priests celebrating the traditional Latin Mass outdoors, showing how well it can be done, including on backpacking trips many weeks long. Besides, as Martin Mosebach says, it’s not ultimately the architecture that makes the difference, but the Mass. The great Catholic Mass of tradition takes possession of the place where it is offered and dominates it; the Novus Ordo brings even a lofty cathedral down to its own impoverished simplism. This is why it usually feels so out of place in the great churches of the past.

It should also give us pause that prisoners would respond so positively to the Latin Mass coming into their lives. I received a letter from a prisoner in Louisiana who prays the old breviary and is requesting a weekly Latin Mass. Don’t prisoners also deserve and respond to that which is beautiful, rich, and profound? The modern world is already too much awash in abridgements, shortcuts, diet drinks, and lite snacks; we would benefit from the original version, the scenic route, the robust nourishment.

  1. There is more Scripture read, and it is read in the language people can understand. How can it be a bad thing for there to be a wider range of Sacred Scripture being made available to the people?

All things being equal, familiarity with more of Scripture is better for the Christian people. But all things are not, in fact, equal.

First, the new lectionary is so cram-jammed with Scripture that it works against familiarity, whereas the old (indeed, ancient) lectionary features a more limited number of readings of optimal length and liturgical appropriateness, which encourages a deep familiarity with them. Since the Mass is not meant to be a Bible study, and no Catholic can be expected to acquire a well rounded understanding of the Bible from the liturgy (even the new lectionary features only 13.5% of the Old Testament and 54.9% of the New Testament outside of the Gospels), the claim that it is better to read more Scripture at the Mass is simply begging the question.

Second, the old lectionary, as limited as it deliberately is, demonstrably features more of the “tough sayings” of Scripture. It is not afraid to present the wrath of God, the evil of sin, or the danger of sacrilegious communions – the kind of passages that are frequently left out of the new lectionary, in spite of its much greater size. In other words, the new lectionary suppresses parts of Scripture that are “difficult” to “modern man.” Thus, it presents less of the total message of Scripture, even as the Liturgy of the Hours presents a reduced Psalter, expurgated of politically incorrect material.

Six major arguments against the appropriateness of the new lectionary may be found here; an explanation of the nature of the omissions and distortions in it may be found here; and a case study on the exclusion of 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 may be found here.

  1. The gospel procession is restored. Moving the book from one side of the altar to the other? That’s not really a procession is it? In the Sarum rite – the ancient English rite–there were a good number of processions–the gospel procession being one. Nice to have that ancient custom restored.

The old rite in its normative form, the Solemn High Mass, has a magnificent Gospel procession that starts at the high altar and comes over to the front of the sanctuary, where the deacon chants the Gospel to the north, to symbolize confronting the world of unbelief and evangelizing it. Even in a Missa cantata, the transition from epistle side to Gospel side is accompanied with candles, incense, and a striking change in chant tone, making it an impressive moment in the liturgy. The ceremonial of the Novus Ordo is pathetic in comparison.

Fr. Longenecker speaks as if the daily Low Mass is the epitome or measure of the ancient Roman Rite, whereas it is a monastic devotional version of it. Nevertheless, even in a Low Mass the transition from the epistle to the Gospel by way of the Gradual and Alleluia, the profound bow at the center and the prayer invoking the prophet Isaias – all conducted upon the altar of sacrifice, where the Word rises up as a sweet fragrance to the Father, showing in a striking way the inherent unity of the “liturgy of the word” and the “liturgy of the Eucharist,” as well as the ordering of the one to the other – is still far more impressive than a priest strolling over to the ambo to read out the Gospel in Nabbish. 

  1. The prayers of the faithful. These are often abused, but when they are well composed and fitting they are a great assistance in leading the people in prayer.

This point gives us the opportunity to state Fr. Longenecker’s central weakness, which he shares with all the tinkering liturgists of the mid-twentieth century – namely, if there’s a “good idea,” we should insert it in the liturgy. It doesn’t matter how it’s been done since time immemorial; our “good ideas” deserve their day in the sun – pontifically legislated, no less! The “Prayer of the Faithful” was added to the Mass on the basis of scholarly theories that maintained that the early Mass always featured such intercessions, as one finds them in full flower in the Good Friday liturgy. However, better scholarship has argued that the Good Friday Mass is not a model for the rest, but a unique day, which is what common sense would have suggested.

In any case, there is no evidence that the Roman liturgy featured lengthy litanies or intercessions along the lines of the Byzantine rite. Almost all of the things we usually pray for are already prayed for in the Roman Canon and in various other parts of the Mass. The “Prayer of the Faithful” is just another novelty inserted into the Mass because the experts thought it was a grand idea. As Joseph Ratzinger noted more than once, it is a dangerous business to yoke one’s public liturgy to the theories of scholars, which are proposed and overturned every quarter-century or so.

  1. The offertory procession is restored. The offertory procession is an ancient part of the liturgy in which the people of God bring forward the gifts of the altar. That’s a beautiful restoration of an ancient tradition.

The “offertory procession” as it was fashioned by the Consilium bears little resemblance to any historical precedent in the West; it is a fanciful creation loosely based on the custom of people handing in bread and wine before the service began. (See Paul Bradshaw’s article “Gregory Dix and the Offertory Procession.”) Its current form seems to be another method for giving jobs to lay people, like the Works Progress Administration for the unemployed in the Depression.

Besides, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei (1947) warned liturgists against the “exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism” of those “who, in matters liturgical, would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by the disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.” In other words, the simple fact that something seems to have been done a thousand years ago or more is no compelling reason to reintroduce it today, when it would certainly take on a different meaning based on the very different context in which it is performed. As the same pope explained:

Ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. … It is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts.

Curious, isn’t it, how every example given by Pius XII as a case of “straying from the straight path” turned out to be characteristic of the liturgical reform as it was implemented everywhere – replacing the ad orientem altar with a versus populum table, excluding black for Requiems, destroying images, installing weird crosses, and repudiating polyphonic music?

Fr. Longenecker decries the loss of these meaningful customs, since he is on the side of the “reform of the reform.” But the presupposition of many of his points is precisely the false antiquarianism that led to the loss of so much that was distinctive of Catholicism, in favor of supposedly “more ancient” practices. Taking away what we gained from the Middle Ages and the Baroque period and replacing it with questionable and always selective reconstructions of antiquity is the hallmark of liturgical eggheadedness. It always looks better on paper than it does in reality.

  1. The offertory prayers. That’s a connection with the Jewish prayers Jesus would have said at the Last Supper. So that’s a bad thing?

This point had me scratching my head. The Novus Ordo faux Jewish offertory is a fabrication that bears no relation to the liturgical offertories found in all Eastern and Western rites from the Middle Ages until 1969. Nor should we be surprised that Christian rites as they developed over time did not reach back to unaltered Jewish material for inspiration, much less for specific texts.

In reality, the Consilium wanted to abolish all offertory prayers and have the “offertory” consist simply in the gesture of a symbolic raising up of the bread and wine. Pope Paul VI objected to the lack of a text and requested the “drawing up” of one (since there was apparently complete agreement among the architects of the new rite that the way the Church had prayed for about 1,000 years was obviously mistaken). The Jewish table blessing was conveniently laid hold of. Shabbat shalom!

Is it really possible that someone of Fr. Longenecker’s intelligence is unaware that it is a serious problem to go about constructing liturgy in this manner, when liturgy is and has always been seen as the corporate prayer of the Church handed down from one age to the next, augmented by the devotion of each generation? The idea of canceling out a significant part of the rite and replacing it with something never in currency among Christians was inconceivable, and so it should remain.

  1. It’s adaptable. The adaptability means the abuses have come in, but it also means all sorts of traditional customs can be retained. Pope Benedict wished for the Extraordinary Form to inform the celebration of the Ordinary Form. So it can be celebrated ad orientem, with altar rails, communion administered to the faithful kneeling and on the tongue, well-trained altar servers, good music, vestments, architecture and art. Yes, bland and banal is possible, but so is grand and glorious.

This is a bit like saying, “The great thing about our political system is that it allows the March for Life to flourish alongside funding for Planned Parenthood.” No, this shows the catastrophic failure of our political system to adhere to the natural law and promote the common good.

In like manner, the fact that the Novus Ordo is a matrix of possibilities that can be realized by each community according to its own ideas of what is right and fitting is not a perfection of it, but a sign of its internal incoherence, anarchy, and relativism. The traditional rites of the Church follow time-honored rules that require (even if they do not always guarantee) serious, reverent, orderly, and theocentric worship. The result is that anywhere I go in the world, I can walk into a traditional Latin Mass and know what I am going to see and hear. The same texts, the same gestures, the same ethos, the same Catholic religion. As long as the priest follows the rubrics, the Mass will be prayerful, focused, and edifying. Tragically, this cannot be said for the Novus Ordo.

  1. Hymns. Yes, I know hymns are supposedly a modern “Protestant” innovation…it’s debatable, but simply taking them for what they are, there are some excellent hymns which really do help the people lift their hearts in worship, express their faith and help to catechize. Used to complement the liturgy they can be a good thing.

This point is faint praise. Hymns are not an exclusive preserve of the Novus Ordo world: communities that worship with the traditional Latin Mass often include a processional hymn on Sundays, prior to the Asperges, and a recessional hymn after the Last Gospel. Be that as it may, the over-use of hymns long predates the Novus Ordo. The “four-hymn sandwich” comes from a sick phase of the Liturgical Movement where the ideal of some clergy (especially American) was a Low Mass into which an Entrance Hymn, an Offertory Hymn, a Communion Hymn, and a Closing Hymn had been inserted for the “people’s participation.” Sound familiar?

The real story is that hymns began in the Divine Office, which is their proper home. Every hour, from Matins and Lauds through Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, to Vespers and Compline, has a hymn. This body of poetry and music is among the richest that Catholics possess, yet almost no one encounters it “in the wild.” It seems that shepherds of souls have still not taken to heart Vatican II’s recommendation that the faithful be introduced to the public chanted celebration of the Divine Office.

On the other hand, the idea of paraphrasing Scripture or writing devotional poetry and having a congregation sing it during the “Lord’s Supper” is unquestionably a Protestant invention, one that tends to give a Protestant feel to the Eucharistic liturgy – as its ecumenical proponents intended. I’m sorry, Fr. Longenecker: it really doesn’t matter how nice the hymns are. The Catholic Mass has its own hymns, the Gloria and the Sanctus, as well as its own native music: the Gregorian antiphons and Mass parts, or their great polyphonic settings down through the ages.

The point of the Mass is not to give catechesis, nor to foster “praise” (in the sense in which charismatics use the term), but to offer worship to the Triune God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No one has explained this point better than Fr. Christopher Smith in this article and this follow-up. The liturgy does not need “complementing”; it needs to be celebrated with integrity and purity, for that is how it will be most effective in doing its proper work. Without a doubt, there are other occasions when hymns may be used to better effect.

  1. Its accessibility makes it better for evangelization. I know the Mass is not primarily for evangelization, but when potential converts start attending Mass, to be able to understand and follow the words and actions eases their entrance into the church and enables the process to be more welcoming.

I am disappointed to see Fr. Longenecker parroting the usual rhetoric of the liturgists, who always assume that what potential converts are seeking is rational content, verbally delivered. We have already touched on this point above. Here it may suffice to note that traditionalism is above all a youth movement (see here, here, and here, for starters). As anyone can see from paying a visit to them, traditional Latin Mass parishes attract a disproportionate number of young adults and young families. Conversions and reversions are numerous, which is striking when one considers the ghetto-like marginalization under which traditional communities still suffer in dioceses where the bishops have chosen to ignore Summorum Pontificum.

All of this suggests that what “modern man” is looking for may not be this now old-fashioned notion of “accessibility” or “being welcomed,” but an encounter with mystery, a confrontation with the divine, a brush against the ineffable, an immersion in the sacred. The Novus Ordo is singularly poorly equipped to accomplish any of that, nor does its sleek Bauhaus design naturally prompt it or encourage it. By 2019, the new liturgy looks and feels dated; many adhere to it from custom or lack of awareness that there is any alternative. The old liturgy has a perpetual freshness that beckons world-weary pilgrims who stumble across it into the haven of the Church.

  1. It’s simple. The plain words and actions of the Novus Ordo provide for a celebration with noble simplicity. Just saying the black and doing the red has a down-to-earth dignity – not overly ornate and fancy nor banal and vulgar.

Should the mystical representation of the supreme sacrifice of Christ, which collapses the 2,000 years that separate us from Calvary and brings us right to His Cross, into His holy wounds, His precious Blood, His pierced Heart; the awesome crossing of the abyss that separates man from God and Earth from Heaven; the revival in our midst of the mysteries of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord; the commingling of His acts of love, adoration, sorrow, supplication, thanksgiving, with our own, so that we, the members of His Mystical Body, may glorify God in union with our Head – should this be “simple”? Could it ever be? Only at the price of falsifying it utterly. Liturgical rites, Greek or Latin, Eastern or Western, developed under the beneficent hand of Providence toward ever greater fullness of expression of these glorious realities, ever greater amplitude, exuberance, and detail. The contrary motion appears in history as iconoclasm: the will to destroy the inexhaustible beauty of God that has found expression in material things.

“Saying the black and doing the red” is only as valuable as the black to be said and the red to be done. The theological inadequacy and spiritual narrowness of the texts of the Novus Ordo have been thoroughly documented and critiqued (e.g., in this book, this book, and this book), and as for the rubrics, they were a standing joke from the first printing of the missal to its latest edition. No wonder a private cleric on his own initiative had to supply a complete set of rubrics; the Vatican apparently felt that Catholic liturgy was better off without taking into account such fussy details as where ministers should be positioned or when and how they should bow. What we see with the Novus Ordo is a contradiction in terms: an unliturgical liturgy, an unceremonious ceremony, a relaxed ritual, a do-it-yourself template for collective devotion.

* * *

Comprising the usual bromides on behalf of the Novus Ordo, none of which stands up to critical scrutiny, Fr. Longenecker’s article is yet another restatement of the neoconservative party line that “the postconciliar Church is fundamentally sound, ladies and gentlemen, so keep moving along.” Those who are going to defend the monumental rupture that is the Novus Ordo are going to have to find much better arguments than the ones proffered to us by Fr. Longenecker.

It is a classic straw man to claim, as Fr. Longenecker does at the start of his article, that “there are some who seem to think every problem in the church and the world can be laid at the door of the dreaded Novus Ordo.” I have never read any traditionalist author who thinks this or says it. Yes, we all think the Novus Ordo is a rupture with Catholic tradition and a disaster in the life of the Church, but we are well aware that it does not exist in a vacuum. Other problems regularly pointed out include modernism, consequentialism, hyperpapalism, feminism, the homosexual clerical power caste, the liberal separation of Church and State – indeed, the list is lengthy. All of these problems are, sooner or later, connected with one another. The liturgical reform is the “poster child” of the revolution that has divorced today’s Catholic mainstream from the Catholicism of all ages, but behind every poster is a propaganda office and an ideology.

The traditional liturgy has taught me that my likes and dislikes do not and should not have any effect on the Mass. Rather, it is the Mass, pre-existing in its solidity and density, that shapes my loves and hatreds, in accord with what it shows me, impresses on me, leads me to understand after a long apprenticeship. It was the same way with the disciples and Jesus. He was not as they expected He would be, but He did not bend to the likes and dislikes of zealots, Pharisees, tax-collectors, or fishermen. He patiently but authoritatively made them conform to Him.

I can understand a priest wishing to believe that the liturgy he has been given by “the Church” could be simply accepted as it is, no worries, no bones about it. But the Lord is extending a special mercy to us during this seismic reign of Pope Francis: the opportunity to wake up to the dangers of an exaggerated ultramontanism that prompts Catholics to swallow whatsoever a reckless pope wants to shove down their throats, even when it runs against the papacy’s ministry of receiving, preserving, and defending tradition.

This new year of grace is an invitation to rediscover, or renew our appreciation for, the inheritance we have received as Catholics. One place to begin might be a different list from the one we have critiqued: “Ten Reasons to Attend the Traditional Latin Mass.”

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By Professor Peter

Today (November 20) on the traditional Roman calendar is the feast of St. Felix of Valois (†1212). Who is this obscure saint, you might ask, and why is he cluttering our calendar? Would it not be fitting to cancel him out? And so, indeed, it was done in the 1969 Novus Ordo calendar: Felix evaporated into thin air, or rather, retreated to his page in the Martyrology where few souls remember him.

But I would like to suggest that, as always, Holy Mother Church proceeded with a wisdom beyond her years, and that the removal of this saint and so many others is yet another instance of ecclesiastical Alzheimer’s.

St. Felix is said to have been a member of the royal court in France. He is known, in any case, to have renounced all his worldly possessions to live as a hermit. He was sought out by St. John of Matha, who had heard of the reputation of his holiness, and together they founded the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives, usually known as the Trinitarians. The members of this order would travel to the Holy Land and exchange themselves for the release of Christian captives held by the Moslems. A similar order was founded in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymund of Peñafort, and King James of Aragon, the Order of Our Lady of Ransom.

What lessons can St. Felix teach us? Unlike so many of today’s prelates in the Church, who cling to their power, prestige, and pleasures, and who refuse to reform themselves or the institutions over which they stand in charge, Felix was willing to abandon everything for the “pearl of great price” that is Jesus Christ. He gave up his opportunities of advancement, position, and influence, in order to do that which was inherently worthwhile for his immortal soul and for the health of the Church. In this respect, Felix is the antithesis to the worldly bishop or priest, whom we may call the “anti-Felix”: unhappy in his own sins, be they of commission or omission, and the cause of an unhappy flock.

What did the order co-founded by St. Felix do? It redeemed Christians from the hand of their heathen oppressors. Today, nothing, nothing is more necessary than that the Catholic Church rediscover her radical opposition to the world, the flesh, and the devil, three enemies over which she has spiritual authority, and from whose heavy yoke she can rescue the faithful. This she does by preaching sound doctrine and feeding a holy life with the sacraments and the liturgy reverently enacted. Again, St. Felix was truly felicitous in his uncompromising battle with the forces of darkness—the darkness of Islam in particular. Would that Europe’s bishops, clergy, faithful, would recover even a fraction of the courage and conviction of these saints of the Crusades!

One last point to make. Several times each year, the Church in the sanctoral cycle of her traditional liturgy begs the Lord to deliver us from bondage or captivity. Let me offer four examples. The Collect for today’s feast of St. Felix reads:

O God, who didst vouchsafe by a voice from heaven to call blessed Felix Thy confessor to the work of the ransoming of captives: grant, we beseech Thee, that his holy prayers may free us from the bondage of sin, and may safely lead us to our heavenly fatherland. Through our Lord…

On February 8, we pray to St. Felix’s companion:

O God, who didst vouchsafe to institute by heavenly direction, through St. John [of Matha], the order of the Holy Trinity for redeeming captives from the power of the Saracens, grant, we beseech Thee, that by the suffrage of his merits, we may be delivered by Thy grace from captivity of soul and body. Through our Lord.

On September 24:

O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son wast pleased to give new children to Thy Church for the deliverance of Christ’s faithful from the power of the heathen; grant, we beseech Thee, that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work, may by her merits and intercession be ourselves delivered from all sin and from the bondage of the evil one. Through the same our Lord…

On August 1:

O God, who didst loose the blessed apostle Peter from his bonds and didst send him forth unharmed: loose, we pray Thee, the chains of our sins, and in Thy great mercy keep us from all evil. Through our Lord.

These are prayers that we desperately need to make—for ourselves, for our loved ones, for the Church wherever she is hemmed in by the heathens, suffocated by the Saracens. The liturgy knows our needs, knows them intimately, and places these words on the lips of her priests and in the hearts of her children.

Where are these prayers in the Novus Ordo?

They are all gone. All of them. Along with the prayers that talk about “despising the things of earth and clinging to those of heaven.”

Bondage, captivity, chains? Too negative. Too difficult. Too medieval. Too otherworldly. The pathological optimists who staffed the Consilium took out their modern scissors and cut away whatever no longer conformed to the times, even if it meant discarding material that had sustained Catholic souls for centuries.* In doing so, they showed themselves to be ungrateful, self-absorbed, and short-sighted.

This is one among a thousand reasons why we must, patiently, say to our Novus Ordo friends, again and again: the problem is not “how the new liturgy is celebrated,” as if dressing it up like the fanciest Infant of Prague is all that needs to be done to make things better. No, for the problem goes much deeper: it goes to the very core of the texts and rubrics of the new liturgy, which are deformed, skewed, bowdlerized, inadequate, misleading, and corrosive of Catholicism. What is needed is not any “reform of the reform,” or any lavishment of smells and bells, fiddlebacks and candlesticks, as appropriate as these things certainly are. What is needed, ultimately, is the restoration of the true Roman liturgy in its plenitude, fully matured over centuries of faith and worship, and unambiguously Catholic in every gesture, word, and chant.

May the Lord deliver His Church from the bondage of a new liturgy simplified, abbreviated, redacted for political correctness, and give all her children access to the uninhibited rites of our salvation—which includes our deliverance from the evils that oppress us.

St. Felix of Valois, pray for us!

* St. Felix’s feast began to be celebrated in his own diocese in 1215, and was extended to the whole Church in 1679.

 

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

The Word of the Lord Remains Forever! A Homily for the 33rd Sunday of the Year

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

No doubt Msgr. that you are a remarkable profit to many. You certainly are
to me and I thank God for leading me to you.

My He continue to bless you and may his voice be heard through you by
countless numbers of his children

As winter approaches and the end of the liturgical year draws near, we ponder the passing quality of this world and the fading of its glories. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading must surely have shocked, even horrified, His apostles. Let’s look at His stunning words and seek to apply them in our own life.

The Place of this Gospel – Jesus is standing just outside of Jerusalem. In the last two months we have followed Him on His final journey: leaving Galilee, heading south along the Jordan River, passing through Jericho, and now making the nearly 2000-foot ascent to Jerusalem.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is at the top of the Mount of Olives with His apostles. From this vantage point, they look across the Kidron Valley to the magnificent Temple and all of Jerusalem spread out before them. The apostles marvel at the glorious beauty of the Temple. Its large, perfectly-carved, white, gilded, ashlar stones gleam like the sun. Indeed, it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, so beautiful and majestic.

Jesus challenges their admiration. He shocks them with the admonition that all the glory they see is soon to be destroyed, that not one stone will be left on another, that it will all be thrown down (Mk 13:2). Shocked, the apostles ask Him when this will happen and what signs will precede this awful event.

In what has become known as “Mount Olivet discourse,” the Lord warns, in great detail, of the coming destruction of the Temple and indeed of all Jerusalem. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain similar descriptions of what Jesus said on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem in her glorious heyday.

Jesus warns of wars and rumors of wars. He speaks of a time in the near future when nation will rise against nation and a terrible conflict will ensue. In effect, He warns His disciples and their followers to have nothing to do with the coming wars. He tells them that when they see Jerusalem being surrounded by an army, they should know that her destruction is at hand. If someone is on a man’s rooftop, he should not to go back into the house to gather his possessions; rather, he should get out immediately. If someone is out in the field, he should not reenter the city of Jerusalem; rather, he should flee to the hills. Jerusalem is doomed for its lack of faith and zealots are picking up the war with the Romans that they are destined to lose (Luke 21, Matt 24, Mark 13).

All of this leads us to today’s Gospel (from the Mount Olivet discourse), which picks up in the middle. Jesus warns of days of tribulation, when the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky!

In reading a text like this, we must not fall prey to an overly literal interpretation. Jesus is using prophetic language, a way of speaking that is meaningful, but not to be understood scientifically or literally. Stars do not actually fall from the sky!

If I were to say, “The world has been turned upside down,” you wouldn’t expect that if you looked back toward Earth from outer space you would see Australia at the top and North America at the bottom. If I were to say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” you wouldn’t expect to look out your window and see animals coming down from the sky and landing on the front lawn. Although I’m speaking figuratively, you understand what I mean.

So it is with Jesus’ use of prophetic imagery. Speaking of the heavenly luminaries as being darkened or cast down is a prophetic way of saying that all the fixed points, all the ways by which we tell time, know the seasons, navigate, and find perspective will be lost to us! The world as the Jewish people know it, centered on the Temple and rooted in their liturgical calendar, is about to be swept away. To the ancient Jewish people, the Temple was Big Ben. It was both the clock of the liturgical cycle and the great visual center of Israel.

The Lord is teaching them that what they see as the hub of all they do is about to be taken away. The Temple, with all its rituals, its liturgical cycles, and its endless slaughter of animals in sacrifice for sin, is about to be replaced. These ancient rituals merely pointed to Jesus and all that He would do. Jesus is now the Temple; He is also the Lamb Sacrifice. All that the Temple pointed to is fulfilled in Jesus. Thus, the Temple is at an end. Jesus is ushering in a New Covenant.

In the Mount Olivet discourse, Jesus prophesies the end of the Temple, which will take place in a biblical 40 years. Sure enough, 40 years later (in A.D. 70), the Roman Army, after having surrounded Jerusalem for a period of 3 ½ months, breached the walls, poured into the city, and destroyed the Temple and all of Jerusalem. In this epic battle, according to Josephus, 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives. As Jesus prophesied, not one stone was left on another. According to Josephus, so complete was the destruction of Jerusalem, that when the Romans had finished their work it was not clear that the city had ever existed.

So, this is the place of this Gospel, a place of epic significance in the ancient world. An era of 1000 years was coming to an end. The world as the Jewish people knew it was ending. The Temple has never been rebuilt; it has been replaced by a Judaism without sacrifice, a rabbinic, a synagogue system. In 2000 years, despite several attempts, the Jewish Temple has never been rebuilt. Everything Jesus predicted came to pass. This is the historical place and context of today’s Gospel.

What does this mean for us, some 2000 years later? Let’s consider three basic themes.

1. The Perspective of Passing – Toward the end of the Gospel passage, the Lord says, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Note the definitiveness of this statement: this world will pass away. All of the things that impress us: the might of the powerful, the influence of the popular, the glory of all the glitterati—all of this will pass away.

Indeed, even now it is passing away, its destruction is at hand. Scripture says,

The world in its present form is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).

We have here, no lasting city (Heb 13:14).

Put not your trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no hope. Take their breath, they return to clay, and their plans that day come to nothing (Psalm 146:3-4).

Yes, all of the glory, even what seems beautiful and fair, is passing away. Don’t be so impressed by this world’s offerings. All of it—no matter how powerful, influential, or sturdy it may seem—is slated for destruction. It is already passing away.

Some years ago, I was in a museum and in one of the exhibits saw a photograph of a family from about the 1880s. At the bottom of the photo was this inscription: “My family, as it appeared for a brief time last summer”—a poignant caption. I thought of the people in that photo, every one of them now dead. I also knew that the house in front of which the photo was taken had long since been destroyed, replaced by an expanding city district of buildings. All is passing; nothing remains here for long.

Painful though this perspective may be, it is important and healing. It brings with it a string kind of serenity. Like every truth, the truth that all things are passing sets us free. As for man, his days, or the flower of the field are like the grass. The wind blows, and he is gone, and his place never sees him anymore (Psalm 130:15-16). We are reminded not to set down too many roots here so that we are not resentful when this world passes away.

2. The Permanence Proclaimed – The Lord tells us that His words will not pass away. Although the world will pass away, the truth and the Word of God will remain forever.

Too many people root their lives in passing things. The challenge for us is to root our lives in the Word of God, which remains forever. Worldly glories, power, access, and wealth—all these things fade and disappear, but God’s wisdom and His plan remain forever.

Consider, for a moment, the Church. The Lord has said that the forces of Hell would strive to prevail, overpower, and destroy the Church, but He promised that such attempts would never be successful (Matt 16:18). The Church is indefectible, by God’s Word, by His promise. No weapons, no war waged against the Church, will prevail.

In all of this the Lord has been proven correct. The Church has seen the Roman Empire, the Carolingian Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Socialist Republic, and many others rise to power only to fade and disappear.

How many heresies, how many philosophies have come and gone in the age of the Church? How many have laughed at the Church, announcing that she was passé, that her day was over, and that they would bury her? The Church has buried every one of her undertakers, outlived every one of her critics. Despite every prediction of her demise, she has persevered until this very day. By God’s grace, she has a permanence that outlasts every one of her enemies. She has read the funeral rites over every single prophet of her doom, and she will continue to do so.

In recounting all of this we do not simply gloat that an institution known as the Church has survived. Rather, we announce that the Church is the Bride of Christ and also His Body. The Church cannot be destroyed, not because of human ingenuity but on account of the power and grace of God. She will endure even though at times she will suffer, be ridiculed, or be marginalized. She will outlive every enemy. She will emerge from every persecution. She will never be removed. For the Church is the Body of Christ, the living Word of God. Though the world will pass away, the Word of the Lord will remain forever!

3. The Priority Prescribed – If this world as we know it is passing away, and the Lord, His Kingdom, His Church, and His Word will remain forever, what should be our priority? The Lord says, in effect, that we know very well what our priority should be, but we willfully ignore it.

Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates (Matt 24:32-33).

Yes, we know very well that the Day of Judgment is coming. Too easily, though, we dream on and do not follow the prescribed priority. Wealth, fame, and glory are all uncertain and clearly passing, but death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell are certain and remain forever. We too easy fiddle on with things that are uncertain and passing while neglecting what is certain and eternal. Ridiculous!

It would be foolish to book passage on a sinking ship. Similarly, it is imprudent to make this world and its demands our fundamental priority. It is wise to set our sights on, and lay hold of, the Kingdom that lasts forever.

It is sad that so many spend people their time “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” of this world. It is tragic how much time, effort, and passion we spend on things that pass through our fingers like sand. So much of our effort is expended on furthering our career, amassing wealth, and enlarging our home; so little is spent on improving our spiritual life.

Parents spend more time worrying about what college their children will attend than where they will spend eternity. If their child is failing math, they will go to great lengths to hire tutors to improve his test scores. Never mind that the child barely knows the four Gospels, the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, or even who Adam and Eve were. Never mind all that; we need to make sure they understand polynomials! It is fine that parents care about math scores and college venues, but how sad it is that eternal things often go unattended.

The greatest duty of parents is to prepare their children for eternity, yet far more time and effort is often spent preparing them for passing things like a career. While education and career are important, eternal life is far more so. A son or daughter may graduate from Harvard Law School and become a famous attorney yet still go to Hell!

What are our priorities? Frankly, most of our priorities are not things that matter to God. Even if we attain the passing things for which we strive, they will all ultimately slip through our fingers. We obsess over passing things like our physical health while neglecting enduring things like our spiritual health. We should care for our bodies, but even more should we care for our souls. If we would expend as much effort looking for a time and place to pray as we do searching for a restaurant for dinner, we would be spiritual heavyweights rather than physically overweight.

In today’s Gospel the Lord stands before the Temple: an impressive building, a symbol of power and of worldly glories. Impressed by it though the Apostles are, the Lord is not impressed with passing things. He counsels us to get our priorities straight and to focus on things that last: His Word, which never passes away, and our ultimate destiny, where we will spend eternity.

We find time for everything else, why not for prayer, Scripture, fellowship in the Church, and the sacraments?

What are your priorities? Be honest, now, be honest.

This world is passing away. Far more essential for us than power, prestige, money, possessions, worldly philosophies, and the latest trends, is the Word of the Lord, which never passes away.

The world will laugh and say that God’s word is out-of-date, old-fashioned, or even hateful, bigoted, and intolerant. In the end, time will prove where wisdom is. Long after our current critics, those who scorn the teachings of the Lord in the Scriptures and the Church, have passed on, we will still be here preaching Christ and Him crucified.

None of this is meant to sound triumphalist. It is simply rooted in a Word of truth that the Lord spoke long ago on a hillside overlooking glorious buildings soon to be reduced to rubble and an age soon to pass away. He said simply this: Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.

In the end, Jesus wins. I know because I checked the end of the story. You can look it up (Rev 20-23). Get on the winning team. Stop trying to amass a treasure here that you can’t keep anyway.

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