After far too long since my last article, I write to you from my new life as a graduate student in philosophy in Krakow, Poland. I’m currently sitting on my laptop and sipping my americano in the square of the beautiful (well, when it’s not covered in scaffolding due to restoration as it is now) Basilica of St. Mary. As I gaze upon this great basilica, I can’t help but think that few spots could be better to write on today’s feast; Our Lady of the Rosary. There is so much history contained in the Holy Rosary and today’s feast alone. Today, 7 October, is the anniversary of the victory of the Christians over the Mohammedans at the Battle of Lepanto, a battle won as a result of the faith of the soldiers and the people in the Holy Rosary. I could say so much about this battle, the origins of the rosary, St. Dominic, or any host of topics related to the rosary. All of this, however, can be found on countless other blogs, sites, and books. Nor do I seek to go into some deep theology of the devotion to the Rosary or Mary, for far more eloquent the words of St. Alphonsus or St. Louis de Montfort than those of myself on this topic. Therefore, I find it best to give a sort of personal “testimony” (a word I was very accustomed to as a Protestant) of the Holy Rosary. Perhaps, my humble experiences would be some sort of inspiration to another to encourage them to take up the Rosary. In fact, if only one person would find greater love of the Rosary of Our Lady, I would be happy for having written this article. At the risk of running on for too long without ever getting out of an introduction, let us begin.
As I went through the pangs of my crisis of faith which ultimately led to my conversion to the Holy Catholic Church, I was thrown about in the spiritual tempest. As I began to have doubts as to the denomination which I was in for most of my life thus far, I found myself jumping around from church to church. I kept attending Sundays at the church of my parents, but on other nights of the week, I would attend bible studies, youth groups, and other meetings of different churches. I would read online about various Christian (and even non-Christian) sects with no real idea of what it was I was searching for. The idea of one of them being objectively true had not yet entered my mind. All I knew was that I wanted more in my faith and life in general. If you can think of it, I probably at least looked into it at one point; Mormonism, Lutheranism, Evangelicalism, Messianic Judaism, and so many other “isms” (plus Orthodoxy, since it ends not with “ism”). Not on my list, however, was Catholicism. I was very deeply and emotionally Protestant to the core. Heaven forbid that I associate with those nasty Papists who officiated (so I thought) the deaths of my so-called ancestors in faith who, after 1500 years, finally brought real Christianity to the world. I would be no Papist. In fact, when I would sing at at the local Catholic parish in my town, I would always despise the experience. Looking upon the people in the pews with disdain from my spot in their choir loft, I would pray “Thank you God, I am not like one of these Romans.” I was as the Pharisee in the temple. Despite my complete abhorrence to the faith of the Catholics, there was one thing which began to fascinate me; the Holy Rosary.
For most Protestants who finally decide to swim the Tiber into the sweet embrace of Rome, the “Mary issue,” as it’s often called, is the very last thing they are able to resolve. The same would, for the most part, be the case for me. However, as someone who likes pretty things, something about those beautiful beads dangling in the hands of Roman Catholics was intriguing to me. I had no idea what they were for or even what prayers they were praying on them. All I knew was that I wanted some. So, in the midst of my crisis of faith, although I would not entertain the beliefs of the Catholic Church yet, I made my way to the Catholic parish, snuck in to the back door as a mass was going on inside, and went to the little honor system gift shop I knew was in the back of the church from my times singing there. I examined the array of beads. Some of them were beautiful and elaborate, others quite simple. I chose very simple beads; wooden with a simple cross with a corpus simply imprinted on it. To be frank, the rosaries costed more than I anticipated and this was the only one I had enough money in my pocket for. However, I couldn’t leave and come back. I couldn’t risk being caught. I put my money in the little safe box and then rushed out as quickly as I could. I spent maybe 5 minutes in the church.
Later that night, I would examine my new treasure and look up how exactly to use it. To my surprise, I learned that these beads were a devotion to the humble maid of Nazareth, Mary. At first, it was quite shocking. However, I was still drawn to the little beads in my hand and the prayers contained in them. Particularly, I was moved by the idea of meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ. At this point in my journey, I was beginning to construct my own hodgepodge faith which comprised my favorite elements of the things I had studied in various religious groups. I decided that maybe this one papist product wasn’t so bad and could be incorporated into my new personal religion. So on that first night, rosary in one hand and smartphone in the other (with the prayers), I prayed my first rosary. After this first night, however, my practice of the rosary was far from regular. I found myself only drawn to it on occasions. Most notably, whenever I was faced some sort of great trial or conflict, I would pick up my beads, look up the prayers and mysteries on Google, and pray. This experience brought me so much comfort amidst times of great sorrow. It wasn’t, however, a pacifier to ease the pain. Rather, it helped me to confront my issues by turning my mind and soul to the maternity of that great Mother in Heaven and the life of her Son. When I finished the rosary, my problems were still there. However, I knew that I wasn’t facing these problems alone. It was this rather sporadic cycle of the rosary which, I believe, ultimately brought me to my conversion.
Fast forward a while to the dawning of my conversion. My heart was no longer hardened to the teachings of the Church of Rome, an interest for it had been placed into my heart, and I was ready with an open mind to at least give time to study this faith as I had others in the past couple of years. I remember sitting in my high school library and sending an email to the religious sister in charge of RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at the local parish. I had no intent, as of yet, to convert. I made this clear in my email, I was simply coming to learn more and at least understand the ways of the Catholics. Seven months later, I was Catholic. Only four months after that, I was in university with all of its challenges. I was now faced with a new and rather unexpected challenge; I was attending a Catholic school, but what was often said in the classroom didn’t seem as such. Intellectually I was confused. Spiritually, I was downtrodden by the apparent denial of faith by many of my professors and fellow students. I began to study even more deeply on my own, reading the lives of saints and solid spiritual and catechetical books. More importantly, however, I committed myself to the rosary as I knew to do during times of distress. Through the meditations on the life of Christ, the prayers of intercession to his Mother, and the patience gained in staying present through those seemingly monotonous prayers, my mind and soul were more deeply united to those of Christ. I felt the rosary had become a tether for me, keeping me safely united to Our Lady and Christ amidst the storm which sought to pull me, once again, from the Church. Often, the saints have compared the Church to a ship leading us home to Heaven. Even the best of ships, however, are rocked by the waves and those aboard risk being thrown overboard. The rosary is our tether to the ship to keep us from falling off.
The rosary continues to have such importance in my life and my devotion to it grows with each time I pray it. Trials still assail me, scandal in the Church continues to be exposed, people around me reject me, and I now find myself in a new country whose language I do not speak immersed in studies that I’m still not even sure I will want to (or be able to afford to) continue and finish. I thought I would be living in a Dominican monastery in France (a country I am familiar with), studying the language and searching for opportunities to make it my new home. COVID (or rather Our Lord in His providence) had other plans. Life is full of unknowns. At any moment, it could be radically changed through loss of job, death of family, unexpected move, or even a worldwide disease. Sure we have the certainties of our faith, but even the faith contains mysteries which the human mind cannot contain. The rosary, however, is stable and structured. Each day has a set of mysteries dedicated to it. Each prayer is simple and repetitive. The rosary has no surprises. It is that trustworthy tether we grasp to in order to stay near to Jesus and Mary. Even should the beads be torn from our hands amidst persecution (something that it seems we could see in the not so distant future), we have exactly the number of fingers we need to complete one decade. I’m not perfect at praying the rosary. Often times I put it off until the end of the day or forget it all together. Therefore, in this month of the Rosary, I’m spending it to rededicate myself to the daily praying of the rosary. I have seen first hand the power of the rosary in so many ways, including ways not mentioned in this little testimony, and still failed to pray it. Despite my failure, I know that each rosary gives me the strength and resolve to continue to be more faithful to it in the future. Therefore, I encourage (or rather, beg) you to use this month to rededicate (or dedicate) yourself to the Holy Rosary. Even if you are not Catholic, maybe you will find some consolation in it as I once did. Cling to the tether of faith manifested in the practice of these holy beads so you may be a child Our Lady who will bring you to and keep you at the side of her Son, Jesus.
To finish, I will leave you with the quotation from True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort: “We know they (the children of Mary) will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world. Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favor to anyone; they will not spare or heed or fear any man, however powerful he may be. They will have the two-edged sword of the word of God in their mouths and the blood-stained standard of the Cross on their shoulders. They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart. The simplicity and self-sacrifice of Jesus will be reflected in their whole behavior.”
Artwork: Gaetano Esposito, 1887.
“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” This is the promise which Mary made to the children, and the world, at Fatima, Portugal on 13 July 1917. It is this triumphant heart which we commemorate every year on the Saturday following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Currently in the United States, we are living in a time where Christ’s promise that His Church would be persecuted is unfolding before our eyes in a way which was once unimaginable in this country. Christ said, “If the world hates you, be sure that it hated me before it learned to hate you. If you belonged to the world, the world would know you for its own and love you; it is because you do not belong to the world, because I have singled you out from the midst of the world, that the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). There are so many examples of this persecution in the current social and political climate. Just yesterday, “activists” and “protestors” tore down a statue of Saint Junípero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan known for his missionary activity in early America, in San Francisco. Catholic Churches across the United States have been suffering vandalism, supposedly in the name of racial justice. To top it all off, there is now a petition in Saint Louis, MO not only to tear down the statue of the saintly King of France but to completely rename the city because he condemned Islam and Judaism, therefore making him a dangerous and bigoted figure. Ironically, these groups of people who call themselves “anti-fascist” are doing exactly what so many fascist regimes sought to do in censoring history and the opinions of those who disagree with them. In times like these, it is more and more crucial that we call upon Our Queen Mother and implore the coming of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
If you read my article yesterday, found here, you know that I wrote on the importance of burning with love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and making reparation for the ungratefulness to which this Sacred Heart is subject by so many. Why, then, do I write promoting the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Well, in short, the triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart IS the triumph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for the two are intimately and inseparably united. In his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote, “The names of Jesus and Mary live always united in the hearts and the songs of the faithful. Their temples and their altars are always near together, and nothing is more inseparable in their pious remembrances, their confidence, their invocation, their love, than Jesus and Mary.” In the Old Testament, we see that, in the kingdom of Jerusalem, the mother was given a role of queenship. An example of this is in the book of the Prophet Jeremiah where it is written, “This was after King Jechoniah had left Jerusalem with the Queen mother, the eunuchs, the chief men of Judah and Jerusalem, and the blacksmiths and metalworkers” (Jeremiah 29:2). Therefore, when we pray for the coming of the triumph and reign of the heart of Mary, we are, in fact, praying for the coming of the triumph and reign of the heart of Jesus, the King Son of the Queen Mother.
Furthermore, Mary has been given a special role in bringing about the reign of Christ by forming the hearts those who love and honor her heart. When Jesus came to dwell as man upon the earth, he received his humanity and his body from the womb of Mary. As a result, he received his Sacred Heart from her. Mary can form a heart like that of Jesus in us as well, that we may not only dwell within the Sacred Heart of her Son but, that the likeness of His Heart may dwell in us! By forming in the hearts of the faithful ones like that of Jesus, Mary brings about the triumphant reign of her Son by building up within the world an army of soldiers with hearts burning with ardent love and passion for their Lord who hold nothing back, exhausting themselves for the coming of the Kingdom. Therefore, if one is to seek the kingdom and to give return for the love of the Sacred Heart, one must trust themselves to Mary to form his or her heart in the likeness of Jesus. To further this point, I turn to Saint Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary where he writes, “If Jesus Christ, the head of mankind, is born of her, the predestinate, who are members of this head, must also as a necessary consequence be born of her. One and the same mother does not give birth to the head without the members nor to the members without the head, for these would be monsters in the order of nature. In the order of grace likewise the head and the members are born of the same mother. If a member of the mystical body of Christ, that is, one of the predestinate, were born of a mother other than Mary who gave birth to the head, he would not be one of the predestinate, nor a member of Jesus Christ, but a monster in the order of grace” (Saint Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, 32). Therefore, if we wish to be members of the triumphant Kingdom which is the very Body of Christ, we must be born of Mary as Christ willed himself to be.
Finally, Mary has been granted special strength by God to bring about the Kingdom and vanquish evil. This is a result of her lowliness and humility before her God. In fact, Saint Louis de Montfort would say that, in some ways, Satan fears Mary more than the Lord. He writes, “From the time of the earthly paradise, although she existed then only in his mind, he gave her such a hatred for his accursed enemy, such ingenuity in exposing the wickedness of the ancient serpent and such power to defeat, overthrow and crush this proud rebel, that Satan fears her not only more than angels and men but in a certain sense more than God himself. This does not mean that the anger, hatred and power of God are not infinitely greater than the Blessed Virgin's, since her attributes are limited. It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God. Moreover, God has given Mary such great power over the evil spirits that, as they have often been forced unwillingly to admit through the lips of possessed persons, they fear one of her pleadings for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats more than all their other torments” (Montford, True Devotion to Mary, 52). In addition, not only has nobody loved God more than Mary, nobody has been more cooperative with the will of God than her. From the very beginning of her life to the very end, she echoes those words she uttered to the angel; “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.” “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” Mary, in her humility, trusted all to God and made herself subject to His will. As a result, God raised her up and made her mighty as we see in the Magnificat when she says, “He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed… He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted them humble” (Luke 1:48,52). As a result of his pride, God cast Satan out of the kingdom and into the abyss of Hell. As a result of her humility, God raised Mary up to the greatness of Queen and gave her great power. Because of this, Satan and the forces of evil greatly fear her and those who honor her by seeking to imitate her humility.
Amidst this time of persecution, we take comfort, first of all, in the fact that Christ himself has promised this persecution as a sign of our belonging to Him and being singled out from the midst of the world. Furthermore, this time of the tearing down of the monuments of saints, the vandalism of churches, and the calling for the wiping of the names of holy men from cities by degenerates, who, in their pride and obstinance, refuse to submit to the Kingdom of God, we call upon the reign of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We ask her to come to our aid by bringing about the triumph of her Son to which her triumph united, forming in us the likeness of the Sacred Heart of her Son which burns with true, self-giving love, and casting out the powers of evil and darkness with her great power which she received from God by the virtue of her great humility. Amidst this time of persecution, we take comfort, first of all, in the fact that Christ himself has promised this persecution as a sign of our belonging to Him and being singled out from the midst of the world. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in the holy Church of God, let us entrust ourselves to the reign of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as we give ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, knowing that, even should we suffer bodily destruction and death, we need not fear for, if we are true and devoted members of the reign of the hearts Jesus and Mary, the degenerates cannot take our souls for the battle has been won and the triumph is soon to come!
An Act of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart
O Most Holy Virgin Mother, we listen with grief to the complaints of your Immaculate Heart surrounded with the thorns placed therein at every moment by the blasphemies and ingratitude of ungrateful humanity. We are moved by the ardent desire of loving you as Our Mother and of promoting a true devotion to your Immaculate Heart. We therefore kneel before you to manifest the sorrow we feel for the grievances that people cause you, and to atone by our prayers and sacrifices for the offenses with which they return return your love. Obtain for them and for us the pardon of so many sins. Hasten the conversion of sinners that they may love Jesus and cease to offend the Lord, already so much offended. Turn your eyes of mercy toward us, that we may love God with all our heart on earth and enjoy Him forever in heaven. Amen.
“Voilà ce Cœur qui a tant aimé les hommes. Il n’est qu’amour et misericorde.” This saying is found on so many French prayer cards dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It means, “Behold this heart which has so loved men. It is all love and mercy.” Today, and the entire month of June, we contemplate this Heart of Our Lord which has loved men so much. Throughout his earthly life, Jesus’ heart burned with love for the souls of those to whom the Father had sent him. Even further, he desired to spread that fire of love to the all the hearts in the world which is apparent when he says, “I am come to cast fire on the earth: and what will I, but that it be kindled?” (Luke 12:49). At the scene of the road to Emmaus, we see the two disciples saying after they finally realize it is Jesus and he vanishes from them, “Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way, and opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Jesus desires that our hearts, too, would be inflamed with the fire of his love as the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Sadly, few hearts burn with love for Jesus. In his apparitions to Saint Mary Margaret Alacoque, He said, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege.” Perhaps the world’s ingratitude and lack of love in return for the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more apparent now than it ever has been. In the Church, we see so few souls going to confession before coming to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion and receiving Him irreverently, the authorities of the Church bowing to every wish of the secular state, and priests and bishops using their status to push a secular agenda in the Church contrary to the Gospel of Christ, therefore committing spiritual assault on the faithful in addition to the sexual assault which far too many have suffered at the hands of clergy, the one’s whose hearts are meant to burn the hottest for Heart of Christ through the gift of Holy Orders.
In the world, the examples are far too great that I won’t even try to list them. However, it is no coincidence that the secular world, at the hand of Satan, has dedicated what was for Catholics the month of the Sacred Heart as the month of the first deadly sin, celebrating the perversion of love, and now even the perversion of the most basic human characteristic of gender. This is extremely telling of the society we now find ourselves in, a society which is no longer satisfied with denying the Sacred Heart of Jesus through living in sin, but which now must be “proud” of it and shout it to the whole world. Even further, the secular (or rather, Satanic) society wants to instill this same pride in you, and your children. Don’t believe me? Just look to the calls for “LGBTQIAXYZ History” education in schools or the library drag queen reading hours. The world is descending deeper and deeper into degeneracy and it is now not content with living in its disgusting state but it now seeks to pull even more souls into its cold abyss and away from the burning love of the Sacred Heart.
As Catholics of good will, therefore, we must resist this degeneracy with all our strength and the strength of Our Lord. We need to do so by entering into and dwelling in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that our cold hearts hardened by sin will be warmed and melted by the fire of His self-giving love and our souls inebriated with faith by the Precious Blood which pumps through it. Even further, we need to seek to make up for the ingratitude to which the Sacred Heart is too often subject. Jesus said to Saint Mary Margaret Alacoque, “Do you at least console Me by supplying for their ingratitude, as far as you are able.” Our Lord faces so much torment at pouring out his love only for it to be denied by so many. Let us not, then, spurn His Love but instead accept it with deepest gratitude by consecrating ourselves to His Sacred Heart this day. Let us console him through fasting, penance, and making frequent acts of reparation for not only our own individual sins, but also the sins of the whole world. I implore you, not because I have so perfectly loved the Sacred Heart for, in fact, I have also failed in gratitude through my sinfulness. Rather, I implore you to join the battle that we all burn with love for Christ and one another and strengthen each other in the fight, united in a world which seeks to separate and devour us. Start today; consecrate (or reconsecrate) yourself to the Sacred Heart, make acts of reparation, and assist at mass and reverently receive Our Lord if you are able to, or make a spiritual act of communion before Our Lord in the tabernacle if you are not. And finally, us dwell in that beautiful and glorious Heart where is found true love and peace and which is our true pride and joy.
Cor Jesu sacratissimum, miserere nobis.
Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Most sweet Jesus, whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence, and contempt, behold us prostrate before you, eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries to which your loving Heart is everywhere subjected.
Mindful alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask your pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation, not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those who, straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow you, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the promises of their Baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of your law.
We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against you; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in indecent dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holydays and for the shocking blasphemies uttered against you and your Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which your Vicar on earth and your priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of your divine love, and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which you have founded.
Would that we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of your divine honor, the satisfaction you once made to your Eternal Father on the cross and which you continue to renew daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of your Virgin Mother and all the saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of your grace, for all neglect of your great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth, we will live a life of unswerving faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the Gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending you and to bring as many as possible to follow you.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to you, that we may all one day come to that happy home, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, for ever and ever. Amen.
Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but to be more surely united to Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates ourselves today to Thy Most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known Thee; Many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful children, who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children, who have abandoned Thee; Grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.
Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to draw them into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of the race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.
Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry; praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; To it be glory and honor forever
A year ago today, all eyes were on Paris as we watched the world-famous Cathedral of Notre Dame go up in flames. For me, I felt immensely sad to see such an amazing accomplishment of faith and humanity which took over 180 years to build being destroyed in the matter of a few hours. Notre Dame had survived so much; two world wars, an anti-Catholic revolution, and even other fires. However, it was Monday of Holy Week 2019 which seemed to bring the cathedral to its knees. The world was in shock.
For some, however, what was even more shocking was the fact that fire and police officials declared the fire an accident before the flames had even been put out and that it was going to be investigated as an such when the flames were at bay. They pointed to the restoration work being done on the roof. To think it was the restoration work in many ways is understandable. When one looks at the context in which the fire happened, however, one is compelled to question whether it was an accident and believe that a more thorough investigation should have been done. At the time in France, church burnings and vandalizations were happening more and more by atheistic leftists and Islamists. In fact, the second largest church in Paris after Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, had suffered a fire only about a month before. The church was, ultimately, saved and the fire declared arson. Notre Dame, however, didn’t seem to get proper attention. Ultimately we cannot know for sure, but some of us were left questioning the conclusion.
Regardless of whether the fire of Notre Dame was an accident or not, the whole scene seems to point to something much greater. Less than two months after the fire last year, I arrived in France for a two week trip which would include the traditionalist pilgrimage to Chartres. Normally the pilgrimage begins at Notre Dame de Paris and ends at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres. For obvious reasons, we couldn’t begin at Notre Dame de Paris so we began at the aforementioned Saint Sulpice. In the two and a half weeks I spent in France on that trip and the additional month and a half I spent there in the fall, I realized how much the faith is struggling in France. As Americans, we have this idea that France is this great Catholic nation. At one point in time, it was. Countless saints have come from France including Saint Louis, Saint Catherine Labouré, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and countless others. France has also been blessed with five apparitions of Our Lady at Paris, Lourdes, Pontmain, Cotignac, and La Salette. However, the towering edifices of the churches built during these glory days of the French faith are mostly empty while secularism rises and Muslims continue to invade. The Catholic faith in France seems to be in shambles with only a shell of what once was, just like the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Therefore, the fire was a jarring reminder of what we are experiencing in the Catholic faith in France and in the world.
Since my visits to France, I have continually been fascinated with the faith in France. To me, it seems that the restoration of French Catholicism will play a part in the restoration of the faith worldwide. Many Catholics will be familiar with the title “The eldest daughter of the Church” which is ascribed to France. Right now, the Eldest Daughter seems more like the Prodigal Son, squandering the riches of the faith she had received by throwing aside fidelity to God and instead worshiping the post-revolutionary ideals of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” The Eldest Daughter has set a poor example for her little brothers and sisters in the faith and the errors of the Revolution have spread throughout the world with many even pointing to the French Revolution as the beginning of the heresy of modernism in the Church, a heresy which is in full swing in the current time infecting the entirety of the faith from top to bottom and from Paris to America even Rome.
Be that as it may, the Eldest Daughter also has the ability to aid in the return of the whole world. Think about traditional family dynamics. If you had older siblings, you probably looked up to them in some way. You had some interest in the things they had interest in, you acted the way they acted, and you may have even went to them from time to time for advice on how to deal with your parents in a particular situation. If you were the oldest sibling, you were likely on the receiving end of this. In the same way, France can have this effect on the faith in the world. This is why so many people still regard France as a Catholic nation, because the rest of the world viewed it as such for so much of its history. In many ways, all faithful eyes were on France. I can’t help but think that a nation in which Our Lord has raised up so many saints, granted so many visits by his Mother, and through which spread the Rosary and the Miraculous Medal to the world will have a special role in the reconversion of the world and that he will raise up new saints in this very same county to bring home His Eldest Daughter so she may bring home her little brothers and sisters in the faith. I’ve seen signs of hope for this in my time spent in France. On the pilgrimage to Chartres I mentioned earlier, I encountered the traditional Catholic faith in a way I never have before. About 15,000 faithful made the seventy mile pilgrimage over the course of three days consisting of three masses, penance, sleep deprivation, hunger, and nearly nonstop devotions and songs. The majority of these pilgrims were French. In addition, while the majority of churches become more and more empty, the ones with the traditional mass are well-attended and their numbers are continually increasing. Is this unique to France? No but, it must be noted that in many ways it was some faithful of France who helped keep the traditional mass alive after what appeared to be the Church’s own revolution in the 1960’s. France is, in many ways, the hub of Catholic traditionalism with many other nations, including the United States, following behind.
To put things in perspective, if one goes to the website www.latinmassdir.org they will see that for France there are 195 locations listed for the traditional latin mass. That number is amazing to see on account that France is about the same geographical size as Texas. Not to mention, the mass locations on this website don’t include those of the “irregular” (not schismatic) Society of Saint Pius X which, according to the Society’s website, accounts for an additional 109 chapels and 44 priories. Before going to France, I was regularly attending the latin mass. However, it was the pilgrimage to Chartres and the time spent in the country fully immersed in the traditional faith which really planted within me the love for tradition which I currently possess. Many traditionalists seem to find a greater love of tradition in France and are inspired by the small but quickly growing remnant of faithful which is found there.
Therefore, let pray for the Church in France. May Jesus raise up more and more saints within the Eldest Daughter to restore the faith there so she may, once again, shine as a city upon a hill for all of Christendom to see and lead her siblings home. Let us, in the words of St. Pius X in his encyclical Vehementer Nos, “implore (Christ) to bend a glance of mercy on France, to save her from the storms that have been let loose upon her, and, by the intercession of Mary Immaculate, to restore soon to her the blessings of calm and peace” (VH, 18). May God rebuild His Church in France, and Notre Dame de Paris with it.
We have arrived again at one of my favorite days of the entire year; the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. Despite receiving relatively little attention from most Catholics nowadays, this feast warrants great celebration. In fact, on this day in the middle of lent, the Gloria returns to the mass, flowers are allowed to adorn the churches again, and the vestments and altar cloths are white instead of lenten purple. Additionally it is permissible for Catholics to celebrate by relaxing some of their lenten penance and fasting and, at one point in history, this feast even had an octave like that of Christmas. As it has in ages past, the Church bids us to rejoice today as we celebrate Saint Joseph, earthly father of Jesus and husband of Mary. However, this beautiful feast looks substantially different this year than most.
Currently, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis as the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the world. What at first looked mostly like an issue in China alone has become an issue for all of us in the world. Typically, there are special masses, processions, and traditional dinners held in honor of Saint Joseph. This year, however, many places throughout the world have suspended public masses and we are being told not to have gatherings of more than a certain number of people. Therefore, many of us will celebrate from the privacy of our homes. Despite being unable to publicly celebrate Saint Joseph, we still need to celebrate and ask Joseph for his assistance from Heaven, especially in times like this. In some ways, the celebration of Saint Joseph within the home is extremely fitting. In fact, in the Litany of Saint Joseph, he is addressed as “The Glory of Home Life” and “Pillar of Families.” Therefore, Joseph is very present to us as we quietly and privately celebrate this day in our homes with our families. However, because of his patronages of the home and family life, his patronage extends to all aspects of life. If the family is the very foundation of life and society, it would follow then that Saint Joseph’s patronage extends out into every aspect of our life. If one reads through the entire text of the litany of Saint Joseph, it can be seen how he is invoked in nearly every cause. He truly is the saint for all things and all times. In this time, however, a few of the invocations to Saint Joseph stand out as especially important.
The last five invocations in the litany of Saint Joseph are as follows: solace of the wretched, hope of the sick, patron of the dying, terror of demons, and protector of Holy Church. It’s not hard to come to the conclusion that as disease continues to spread with no end in sight, these patronages of Saint Joseph are notably important to us. In this time of so much sorrow and wretchedness, may Joseph obtain for us joy. In this time where so many are ill, may Joseph obtain for us health. In this time where so many are dying, may Joseph obtain for us peace at the hour of death. In this time where the evil of Satan and his demons is so visible to us, may Joseph obtain for us strength for the fight. In this time where we are in danger, whether spiritually or physically, may Joseph obtain for us protection.
As Christ gave to us Mary as our mother, he gave to us Joseph as our spiritual father. The trials we are going through have been foreknown by Our Lord. Therefore, we can trust that he provides all that we need to face them. So much of what we need seems to be taken from us; attendance at the mass or even the very churches themselves, public devotions and processions, access to public sacraments like baptism and matrimony, and in some cases, people are even being left without sacraments of forgiveness like confession and extreme unction (last rites). However, there is much we still have; the Bible, the Rosary, prayer in private and with our families, and, last but certainly not least, devotion to Saint Joseph. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “To other Saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succor us in some special necessity—but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, He has given the power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth—for St. Joseph, bearing the title of father and being His guardian, could command Him—so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions.” Saint Joseph has great power in imploring Our Lord in all situations, including the one we find ourselves in now. Therefore, let us ask for his assistance now and, God willing that this scourge is removed from us, until the day we die for he is the saint of all and for all.
Artwork: St Joseph and the Christ Child (c. 1655–60), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
It’s a peculiar fact which puzzles Catholics and other Christians throughout the world that Ash Wednesday could likely be regarded as one of the highest attended masses throughout the entire year, with attendance likely outnumbering even Easter Sunday which Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are meant to lead to. Upon walking into a Catholic Church on this day, one could ask the question, “Is today a holy day of obligation?” to which the answer would be, “No.” This means that, despite there being no obligation upon the Catholic faithful to attend mass on this day, people are showing up in droves. For some, this day could mark the return to regular mass attendance. For others, they may never be seen again until next year. This observation leaves many priests and lay faithful scratching their heads asking, “What gives?”
Depending on who you ask, there are a couple of answers. Some are cynical and argue that the reason people come on Ash Wednesday is because you “get” something; the ashes. To the cynic, people come to get their ashes to wear around all day long to show off. They argue that in this narcissistic culture in which we live, people love nothing more than a reason to show off. Therefore, the receiving of ashes on one’s forehead to wear around all day is a way to proclaim to the world, “Look at me, I went to church today.” One can sympathize with this theory a bit, especially looking at the issue of pride as a result of our human frailty. However, I would argue that this argument doesn’t apply to our current atmosphere. Sure, maybe sixty or seventy years ago when church attendance was the norm of most Americans, people would have taken pride in the fact that they got up early to make it to church before work or school. However, in our increasingly secular “post Christian” culture, wearing ashes as one goes about their day is likely to earn ridicule from coworkers, colleagues, and fellow citizens. This is especially true with the increasingly militaristic atheists and leftists who want to attack any sign of the sacred within society. I would argue that the likely correct answer isn’t as cynical as this. Instead, I think the real reason people are coming is because of what the day truly represents; sorrow for sin and repentance.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the yearly forty day (forty-six counting the Sundays) period when the universal Church commemorates Christ’s forty days in the desert and meditates upon his suffering leading up to his crucifixion. Especially to the Catholic, this day marks the beginning of what for many is a period of personal spiritual transformation where the faithful take on various sacrifices such as additional prayers or giving up something one likes for the period. Some even seek to give up particular habits to rid them from their lives for good. It is a period when we are especially called to look inside ourselves and seek to remove sin and die to ourselves so we may rise with Christ on Easter Sunday to come and, hopefully, to rise with him to eternal life on the last day. Of course, this isn’t a message that we should only hear during a specific forty day period every year. The three pillars of Lent (prayer, penance, and almsgiving) need to be part of our lives all year. The fact is that, in probably most Catholic parishes, this is the only day of the year in which the message of repentance is communicated to them.
At most masses throughout the rest of the year, the message being preached to people is that of the “Gospel of niceness” in which Jesus is portrayed as being a nice guy who wants us to be peaceful and nice to each other. The fact is, however, that this “Gospel of nice” is a false depiction of the message of Our Lord and ignores that the majority of references about Hell in the Bible, and the idea of people actually ending up there, come from the mouth of Christ himself. To the members of the Church of Nice, Heaven is essentially guaranteed as long as we are nice to each other. In fact, they may be hard pressed to even accept that Hell exists. If they do, they’re likely to think that nobody actually goes there. In this, Gospel of Christ as taught by the Catholic Church for millennia is continuously being watered down and the spiritual life being made easier and more comfortable. What has happened to the people? They’ve quit coming, of course.
However, Ash Wednesday is necessarily different. Of course, many priests will likely preach the same message they preach the rest of the year. Even Pope Francis offered Lenten “penances” resembling the Church of Nice in his list two years ago with practices such as fasting “from hurting words” or “pessimism.” These things, while not bad things to get rid of, kind of miss the point. Despite whatever bad and feel-good preaching to which one is subject, the fact is that as one goes up to receive their ashes, they are still faced with the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” For many, this is probably the only time of the year in which the authentic message of Christ will be preached to them. That is why they are packing the churches on this day. The trust is that we humans were made to be in right relationship with God, it is the very purpose of our creation. Whether one consciously knows it or not and despite our inherent sinfulness, the soul actually wants to toss aside sin and cling to Christ. The soul wants to be corrected and reminded of the continual need of sorrow for sin and repentance. The soul wants to hear that suffering isn’t without purpose because Christ himself said “Take up your cross and follow me.” The soul doesn’t want Hell and eternal death. The soul wants Heaven and eternal life with its Creator and penance, in union with faith in Christ, is the way to get there.
Ash Wednesday is yet another powerful reminder that what people really want is the truth of the faith, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Of course, the Church doesn’t just do what people “want” to get them in the door. That has been tried and, well, it hasn’t worked. However, this wanting stems from the deepest desire of the soul of each person to be reunited with God. This is the reason the Church exists, to lead people to eternal salvation with God. When he commissioned his disciples, Christ said to them, “Go out all over the world and preach the gospel to the whole of creation; he who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who refuses belief will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Christ did command to all to love one another by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc. However, the crux of his message was always the salvation of souls and the building up of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, he established the Church, the heavenly Kingdom’s earthly presence, to preach the message of salvation and lead souls to Heaven. Sadly, so many deacons, priests, and bishops seem to have forgotten this mission and have failed to preach accordingly. However, we can take hope in the reminder which this day provides that, despite the apparent failure to provide it, throngs of people still come looking for the authentic Gospel represented in the simple sign of ashes being placed upon our forehead.
Artwork: "Ash Wednesday" by Julian Falat
The day is upon us once again. A day full of roses, chocolate, lavish dinners, romance, and some Cupid guy who shoots people with arrows. I am talking, of course, about Valentine's Day. Every year on this day, couples will celebrate their love of one another through things like giving gifts or going out to a special dinner. One can't walk into a supermarket without seeing a section all plastered in pink boasting anything you could possibly need in the shape of a heart. It is yet another holiday which radical American consumerism has hijacked for the sake of making a profit. In addition, it has one key thing in common with many other holidays which have experienced this same fate; it is actually a Catholic holiday.
Everyone knows Christmas and Easter come from a Catholic origin and Saint Patrick's day too (it has "Saint" in the name so it's not hard to figure out). However, I think there is a large number of people, maybe even Catholics since it was removed from the liturgical calendar after Vatican II, who don't know that Valentine's Day is actually "Saint Valentine's Day." Not a lot is known about Saint Valentine and, in fact, he could represent two different people. However, it is agreed that he was Roman martyr from the third century who was buried north of Rome. In fact, it was on this day, the fourteenth of February, that he was martyred. There are two main stories about him, leading people to the aforementioned belief that he may have been two people: The first holds that he was a bishop who was sent to prison and later executed for trying to convert people to Christianity. The other holds that he was arrested and sent to prison for aiding persecuted Christians and also for illegally presiding over Christian weddings. This second thread may be, in part, how his feast has come to be associated with romantic love. I do not, however, wish to go deeply into the various stories concerning Valentine since you can easily search for them online. If you wish to learn more about who he may have been, you can go to this website where I found my information. However, I wish to give a little commentary on what meaning we can draw from this day, besides romance, in our current age.
As I said earlier, what we do know about Valentine is that he was a martyr, meaning he was killed as a result of his Christian faith. I think the two main stories about him have particular significance in our modern era. As noted above, the first story says he was killed for trying to convert people to the faith. One needs not look far to see that we have, again, entered into an era where working to evangelize and convert others is seen as impolite if not outright offensive. The secular world tells us that everybody has their own truth and that we have no right to impose "our truth" upon others. Even further, there are even some in the hierarchy of the Church who at least seem to criticize good and authentic evangelization, condemning it a "proselytism." The idea of moral and theological relativism continues to spread to the point that it seems we live in an age where each person lives his or her own reality. Saint Valentine reminds us that we need to hold on to and fight for the truth, no matter the cost. In the United States, we have relative comfort in professing and sharing the Christian faith. Sure, sharing our faith may earn us a weird reaction or even cost us friends, but it's unlikely that we will die because of it. However, we can look east to the underground church in China being persecuted by the secular communist regime or the Christians being slaughtered by radical Islam for a reminder that, for many, Saint Valentine's reality is their reality. Then we have the story which says that Valentine was imprisoned and killed, at least in part, for performing illegal Christian marriages. For many Americans, this story thread may hit a little closer to home. Sister Lucia, one of the witnesses of Mary's apparitions at Fatima stated that the final battle against Satan would be for marriage and family. We see this battle being waged before our very own eyes where unnatural unions are now viewed as the norm to the point that a former presidential hopeful threatened to remove tax exempt status from churches who do not accept gay "marriage." It is no longer enough for the secularists that their desired lifestyles have been enshrined into national law. They now want everyone who even disagrees with their point of view punished because to disagree with them is hateful. Instead, the argue, we need to love each other.
The sane Christian agrees that we are called to love one another. Christ himself told us to do so. However, there is a major difference, I would argue, which lies in what society's ever-changing definition of love and what Christianity has always defined as love. The secularists, and sadly many "Christians," seem to equate love with things like niceness and acceptance. To them, the loving reaction to someone living in sin is accepting them, giving them a pat on the back, and letting them stay where they are. To proclaim the truth to someone and call them out of their sin, that is hate. However, Christianity has taught that the holiest and truest form of love is the love which involves sacrifice. This love is, of course, modeled most perfectly in the life of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus loved sinners, of course, but he loved them too much and knew the value of their souls to leave them there. It was love, then, that compelled him to say, "Go, and sin no more." It was love for his Father which compelled him to enter into the temple, the house of worship, and cast out the money changers and vendors with a whip and turn over their tables because they had defaced the house of the Lord. It was love which compelled Jesus to ascend the cross and give himself, in innocence, for the salvation of all the guilty who would accept him. A life modeled on Christ is the true love. This love, then, leads one to forsake any care for how they are viewed by the world so they may be a voice of truth among confusion and error. This love leads a husband to give himself completely for his wife and children. Most perfectly, this love leads the martyrs to their glorious deaths where they die in and for Christ, just as he died for them. Therefore, let us cast aside the falsity which the world wants us to believe is love. Instead, let us look to the example of Saint Valentine as a reminder to truly love. To be better husbands, wives, parents, children, relatives, friends, and, most importantly, disciples. Let us strive to die to ourselves every day for the love of God and others by rejecting sin, especially pride and impurity, and our own desires in our lives. Instead, let us accept the desire of Christ, that we take up our cross and follow him. In addition, let us not be too afraid of being labeled as hateful for calling others to do the same. Yes, the way of true love is difficult, but it is this love which leads to true blessedness, for "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
Sancte Valentine, ora pro nobis.
Artwork: Saint Valentine Baptizing Saint Lucilla by Jacopo Bassano
Today on the traditional calendar for the Roman Catholic Church is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I celebrate this day with great joy because my spiritual life is very much focused on the Holy Family. In a special way, I have consecrated myself to each member of the Holy Family and renew my consecration daily with a more solemn renewal each year. On this day, many priests preach on the family life and looking to the Holy Family as models of our families. The example the Holy Family gives us for our family life is so important. However, there is another aspect of the Holy Family which is important for us; dwelling within the Holy Family ourselves.
When we dwell within the Holy Family, we place ourselves in an oasis of protection, holiness, and peace. When we are tempted or in danger, we flee with the Holy Family as they did to Egypt to escape the attack of Herod. In our struggle for holiness, we turn to the three greatest examples of holiness to ever walk the earth; Jesus the incarnate God, Mary immaculately conceived, and Joseph who the church calls the greatest saint second only to Mary. Finally, we dwell in that peaceful home where Jesus “grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom” (Luke 2:40) and, in turn, we are able to do the same. As dwellers, or rather children, of the Holy Family, we have a special relationship to each member of that Family. In turn, each member has a unique role in our lives which is so necessary to our lives as believers.
First of all, we have Jesus our brother. Jesus is the brother who we can turn to at all times in our life. He is our best friend who never leaves our side. With Jesus, we can share all of our joys, desires, and victories as well as our sorrows, doubts, and struggles. As our brother, He is our best friend who demonstrates perfectly for our sake those words he preached, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus is the opposite of the wicked brother Cain who took the life of his brother Able for his own good. Instead, Jesus offers up His own life for our good. When we take Jesus for our brother as children of the Holy Family, we can see Him in a new light, a light which is often more personal and intimate.
Second, we have Mary our mother. As our mother, we can also go to Mary in so many of our needs. She loves us and wants what is best for us as mothers do. However, Mary has a special role which is so desperately needed in our lives. It was Mary’s womb who formed Jesus, the incarnate God. As a result, we can rely greatly on her to form us more and more into the image of her son. We can allow ourselves to be spiritually carried and born by Mary so we can be more like Christ. St. Louis de Montfort writes in True Devotion to Mary, “We may be formed in our Lord and our Lord formed in us, because her womb is, as the early Fathers call it, the house of the divine secrets where Jesus and all the elect have been conceived. ‘This one and that one were born in her.’” As children of the Holy Family, we acknowledge Mary’s ability to form us in the image of Jesus snd turn to that “house of divine secrets.”
Third, we have Joseph our father. I am often frustrated as I see devotion to Joseph as so beneficial to the soul yet so forgotten by many. As our spiritual father, Joseph has so much he can offer to us. One needs only to look at his role in the life of Christ. God the Father trusted Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus; to protect Him, to teach Him, and to love Him as his own. In the same way, we can trust ourselves to Joseph to do what he did for Christ; to protect, teach, and love as his own. Joseph is also so important because he is completely like us. When we look at Jesus and Mary, we see God incarnate and a woman who was conceived free from stain of original sin. However, Joseph just is like us. He is neither God nor immaculately conceived. However, in the litany of Saint Joseph, the Church resoundingly calls him “Joseph most faithful.” He is a reminder to us that we can be faithful and, as our father, he wants to help us achieve that most high goal.
To end, I encourage you to grow in your devotion to the Holy Family. As our brother, mother, and father, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have a high expectation for us; to become great saints. However, they will not leave us as orphans, struggling through life with no assistance. On the contrary, they will do all in their power to help us achieve this goal. Therefore, let us dwell within the Holy Family as children, trusting ourselves to them so they may guide us on the way to sainthood by offering us their gifts of protection, holiness, and peace.
Artwork: "Holy Family" by Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535).
This past Sunday, I attended a pontifical high mass celebrated by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The mass was held at a church near Madison, WI which is fairly well-known within the traditional Catholic sphere in America, St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff. This parish is the home base for two fairly prolific priests; Father Richard Heilman, creator of the popular website “Roman Catholic Man,” and Father John Zuhlsdorf who runs the also popular “Fr. Z’s Blog.” The mass was absolutely beautiful. If you have ever been, you know that St. Mary of Pine Bluff is not a large church, but the liturgies which it hosts are huge. Of course, a pontifical high mass with a prolific American Cardinal is going to follow suit. The pews were packed with people sitting shoulder to shoulder and people were standing around the sides and the back of the nave. There were also people sitting and standing in the breezeway watching from screens. The mass was the perfect way to celebrate the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast day of the United States.
Afterwards, all in attendance were invited to a reception in the parish school building. My friends and I decided to attend in hopes to kiss the good Cardinal’s ring and even snag a photo with him. We went and stood in line to get some food. As we did so, in walks His Eminence and he instantly begins greeting and speaking with people as they stood in line. His interactions were extremely genuine; he spoke with adults and children alike, refused no conversation, and graciously accepted requests for photos. My encounter with him was simply sublime. I respectfully knelt down and kissed his ring, a traditional sign of respect for high ranking clergy such as bishops and cardinals. I stood up and thanked him for being with us and celebrating the traditional mass for us and he responded that it was a great pleasure for him to do so. As I looked at him, I saw a smile on his face. I could tell that the celebration of the holy mass was such a source of joy for him. Here was a man who has been celebrating the mass since his ordination in 1975. Even after forty-five years, I could have thought that the mass on Sunday was his first with the joy that radiated through his smile. Our conversation was brief, but so genuine and so full of joy. As he continued on down the line, the smile rested on his face and spread to each person he greeted.
As we neared closer to the food table, in walks Fr. Richard Heilman, the pastor of St. Mary’s. I said, “Hello Fr. Heilman,” to which he joyously responded, “Wasn’t that awesome?!” He kept saying over and over again, “Wasn’t that awesome?! That was awesome! What an awesome blessing!” Fr. Heilman was bursting with joy that couldn’t be contained. We all understood why; we had just encountered Heaven in the mass. Even more so, the traditional latin mass, especially the pontifical high mass, is celebrated in a way which inspires awe in the faithful. Afterward what we had all just experienced together, I don’t know how any emotion besides complete and utter joy is even possible. We had just witnessed the condescension of Christ the King as He came to make bread and wine His body, blood, soul, and divinity so that he may feed us with His very self and the mass was celebrated in a way which perfectly conveyed this most holy mystery.
This Sunday reminded me of something very important; tradition is for the joyful. I have found that there are many people who have a certain stereotype about traditionalists. It’s often believed that we are joyless people who are mad about everything going on in the world and the Church right now. It’s believed that we’re unwelcoming and uncaring. However, I’ve found that this simply isn’t the case, at least not for the huge majority of people. I will admit, yes there are some “traditionalists” out there who do fit this stereotype. They are the small yet vocal minority and the reason the stereotype even exists. However, I would argue that our traditional Catholic faith is a cause for great joy and that the true traditionalist relishes in this joy and spreads it to to the entire Church and the world. The true traditionalist loves the faith so much that one cannot help but feel such great joy at the thought of how great a gift it is to be Catholic and to be living the Catholic faith as it has been lived for centuries. The true traditionalist gladly takes the demands of the faith upon himself, considering it an honor to be more closely united with Jesus crucified through them. And, ultimately, the true traditionalist is glad to share the faith with those around him in order to bring as many souls to Christ as possible.
Sure, there is a share of sorrow and even anger at the state of the world in the Church. The traditionalist should desire nothing more that the glory of Christ and His Church and the salvation of souls. As a result, when one sees corruption among the hierarchy or souls seemingly on the path to Hell, joy may be hard to find. We are allowed to experience these emotions of anger and sorrow. In fact, theologians have often taught that anger can be good as long as it inspires us to right the injustice that makes us angry. As traditionalists, however, we must always call to mind that Christ has already won the battle. This thought should always bring us back to joy so that we can continue to march on as soldiers of the Church Militant, offering prayer, sacrifice, word, and deed for the good of our souls, the good of the souls of the entire world, and the glory of Christ the King!
Well, here I am finally making a post. When I started this blog months ago, I was excited to share my story with those who needed to hear it. Then life got in the way. I found myself busy with my thesis and senior recital, working to maintain relationships with family and friends, and in it all, trying to keep a regular prayer life. Next thing I knew, I had graduated from university and no longer had a laptop to use. Summer arrived and I went to France for two and a half weeks. Summer ended and I went back to France for a month and a half. Now, here I am back home for a few months trying to decide what the next steps in my life need to be. I broke down and bought a laptop and decided now is the time to finally get started on this blog.
When I think about it, however, the timing is perfect. Today, we commemorated the first Sunday in Advent as we begin to prepare ourselves for the birth of the King. In addition, with Advent we begin a new church year. Just as the secular world makes New Years resolutions, we make resolutions for this Advent which we hope to carry into the rest of the church year and the rest of our lives. Maybe it's a vice we want to break or a habit we want to begin. I guess you could say one of my resolutions is this blog, beginning with this post.
These resolutions we make during the Advent season remind us of the other meaning of Advent. Yes we commemorate the Advent of Christ at his birth, but we also commemorate the Advent which the world is currently in; the waiting for Christ at his final coming. In the Epistle for the Traditional Latin Mass for this first Sunday in Advent, Paul writes to the Romans, "Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed and the day is at hand" (Rom. 13:11-12). This Advent, we seek to renew our commitment to Christ. Along with Saint Paul, we proclaim that, "Now is the hour." Not next year. Not next month. Not tomorrow. Now. We can't continue to put it off for we know not when he will come.
As far as resolutions go, this blog is pretty insignificant and unimportant compared to the struggle for holiness. However, the fact that today I decided to sit down and write this post and renew my commitment to this page points to something so much greater. It serves as a reminder of the commitment of prayer, fasting, and giving which we seek to renew this Advent season. My commitment to this blog may fade, life may get in the way again. But, I can't let life get in the way of preparing for the Lord for life itself is at stake if I am unprepared.