One accusation against Catholic traditionalism is that it’s a bunch of LARPing — Live Action Role-Playing. Live Action Role-Playing means that self-identifying traditional Catholics adopt a number of signifiers of another time and place that they identify as more authentically Catholic than their own culture. They use these signifiers to escape into a fantasy world where they imagine themselves as Crusader knights, or latter-day Chestertons and Bellocs, etc.
What sorts of signifiers? For traditionalist priests, this is easy — maniples, Roman-style (aka “fiddleback”) chasubles, birettas, saturnos, etc. The sorts of things Pope Francis calls seminarians “women” for wanting to wear.* For lay people, you’ll get guys growing out their beards, wearing fedoras, sometimes capes, smoking pipes, speaking Latin (immo, conantes Latine loqui), and generally sticking out like sore thumbs. Women wearing mantillas that would make a Castilian Infanta blush. With groups like the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, Property (TFP), we see bagpipers, capes, flags, and assorted mediaevalia. Across the spectrum, you get a lot of identification with selected historical eras in Catholicism, typically European Catholicism. You’ll get your French Legitimists, your Habsburg restorationists, your Jacobites, your Papal Zouaves, your Carlists, and even your Neo-Confederates.** Basically, anything Charles Coulombe promotes falls under the accusation of LARPing.
My concern is not to assess the merits of the accusation, or to ascertain to what extent self-identifying traditional Catholics actually display any of the signifiers above. Rather, if you’re interested in either the accusation or the alleged phenomenon of traditional Catholic LARPing, I invite you to consider a noteworthy early instance that Dr. Robert Hickson recently documented over at the website of Saint Benedict Center. I refer you to his article “The Slow Fruitfulness of His Mercy: L. Brent Bozell, Jr.” (http://catholicism.org/slow-fruitfulness-heart-mercy-l-brent-bozell-jr.html).
I’ve seen some Modernist-sounding* texts that use the word “assembly” to avoid the word Church. Instead of addressing the congregation, the priest (er, “presider”) addresses the “assembly of the People of God.” Etc. In Hebrew and Greek, the word we translate as Church does in fact mean “assembly.” I surmise that the people who prefer “assembly” do so because they think the word has a more democratic connotation than the hierarchical “Church.” One thinks of the expression “popular assembly.” Implicit in such a usage is a critique of “liturgy as court ritual,” a critique that has been debunked elsewhere.**
Now, one of a Traditionalist or even just plain orthodox-with-a-small-o persuasion might object to this usage of “assembly.” He might advance any number of arguments, the premises of which we don’t share with the people who push for the “assembly” understanding of the Church, and he might cite a bunch of Church documents, originally written in Latin, that no one who has a job has time to read. In these scenarios, I look to my mentor in evangelism and apologetics, Vin Lewis of All Roads Ministry (https://www.allroadsministry.com/). Vin would say to use the simplest, most direct, most memorable argument that requires the least specialist knowledge (such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew). So, with that in mind, here is how I would respond: Continue reading
So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”
But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:
1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential. Continue reading
When Our Lady and St. Joseph presented Our Lord in the Temple, Simeon prophesied to Our Lady:
“Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Gospel according to St. Luke 2:34-35)
Our Lord will cause some to rise and some to fall. Some will embrace Him, some will reject Him. He will be a sign of contradiction. I propose that there is an Old Testament type of this prophecy: the reconstruction of the Temple after the Jews returned from their Exile. Continue reading
Mulieri quoque dixit: multiplicabo aerumnas tuas et conceptus tuos: in dolore paries filios . . .
“To the woman also He said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt though bring forth children . . .” (Gen. 3:16)
As long as we’re on earth, we’ll have problems. That’s one of the penalties for Original Sin that God did not see fit to remove when He sent His Son into the world. Since Utopia is not an option, it seems to me that we should strive to have the right problems. Some problems are totally appropriate for a person to have. To give a vivid example, puberty is a time when hormones run riot. While chastity and purity are necessary virtues, a young man who does not struggle with lust would be odd. It’s healthy at that time in life to have physical urges that force the soul to grow and mature if you’re ever going to restrain these urges.
Likewise, a soldier who is never tempted by anger, or a businessman who is never tempted by greed, might be a very virtuous person. Or, he might not have the necessary appetites — and aptitudes — for those professions.
These considerations bring me to the topic of this piece: Malthusianism. Continue reading
Strange, how the seeds of doubt are sown. I read a blog post by someone who touts himself as a traditional Catholic. The author made an observation. Earlier in Church art, images of Our Lady always include Our Lord. Think of the icons of the East, where Our Lady typically holds the Christ Child. Think of Romanesque and Gothic statues of Our Lady seated, with the Christ Child on her lap. The author contrasted this artistic tradition with Neo-Gothic statues of the modern era, which often show Our Lady standing alone, her arms outstretched. This pose is often associated with Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima.
The author was implying that this artistic convention is un-traditional and divorces Our Lady from Our Lord. It makes her an independent force or mediator, separate from Our Lord, making the Protestant allegation of Mariolatry seem true. This thought now occurs to me when I see statues of Our Lady absent a representation of the Christ Child. It occurs to me when I venerate Our Lady at the Lady Altar in a local church, where the statue shows Our Lady in the pose described above. It’s a wicked thought, but it takes some insight to redress. For me, the insight was slow in coming. It came one day when praying the Rosary, specifically the mystery of the Visitation. Continue reading
Over at his site*, Fr. Hunwicke asks some questions about Purgatory. Specifically, he asks whether a soul, once dead, can slip into Hell proper. His question is prompted by some prayers in the Traditional Latin Mass that beseech God to deliver the soul from the eternal pains of Hell.
Here is my answer:
1.) Souls that go to Purgatory go there after their particular judgment, at which point their destination of Heaven or Hell is forever sealed. No one in Purgatory can ever end up in Hell proper, whether eternally or temporarily. Continue reading
I write to provide a personal story of struggle and redemption. Consider my purpose one of thanksgiving and of praise to God, Who is merciful to me. First, allow me to say that I am a liturgical traditionalist, but a very unmotivated one. I could go to the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday, a Mass offered by a very well-known (as these things go) priest-blogger. It is the most liturgically informed, if you will, Mass that you could attend, short of attending a parish or oratory staffed by a traditionalist order. If I could motivate myself to get up ca. 6:15 on Sunday mornings to get to Mass at 7:30.
Which I am not motivated to do. I often end up going to a parish in the next town over, where the priest offers a very traditional Novus Ordo. The Mass is offered ad orientem, with no altar girls, no extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and with good music (organ, chant, traditional hymns, etc.). You have the ready option to receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. The priest is very manful, and promotes masculine devotion. If I provided his name, you could easily find him at blogs for manly, hair-on-their-chest Catholic-with-a-capital-C Catholics. That Mass is at 10:30 (formerly at 11:00), and I am often late for it.
Then there is the actual Mass in the town where I live, offered at 11:00 A.M. Continue reading
It occurred to me the other day that the Apostles’ Creed is a synopsis — a summary — of the fifteen traditional mysteries of the Rosary. Meditating on that fact helps you integrate the Creed into the Rosary. It doesn’t seem like an arbitrary starting point for the prayers and mysteries that follow. Here’s how my thought came about:
The traditional Rosary consists of five Joyful Mysteries, five Sorrowful Mysteries, and five Glorious Mysteries. These mysteries focus on Our Lord’s Incarnation, Birth, Infancy and early life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and events after the Resurrection. The Luminous Mysteries, which commemorate events in Our Lord’s Public Ministry, are not present.
You can very easily divide the articles of the Apostles’ Creed into three sections corresponding to the three sets of mysteries:
Over at the Rad Trad*, I read the following quotation from a Fr. Butler (presumably deceased — RIP). He was complaining about modern customs that leave many people too psychologically damaged for the monastic life:
“Opposed to the supernatural values of poverty, virginity and obedience in religious life, are the modern tendencies towards material acquisitions, sexual promiscuity, and the revolt against authority. This is the Age of Selfishness. Artificiality of custom and pettiness of concern cramp the natural generosity of youth.”
I get so sick and tired of reading things like this. When in history has anyone ever written, “People nowadays are all so normal, well-adjusted, chaste, happy in poverty, and obedient to superiors. What an age to be alive!” When? Seems like everyone observes the sins known from the Fall onward and opines that it must not have been that way before. The medieval aristocracy strikes me as a class naturally prone to “material acquisitions, sexual promiscuity, and the revolt against authority.” Oh, and dueling over slights to honor, and blood-feuds, and dynastic wars fought over hereditary claims to rule countries they might never have visited before. And yet some will tell you that that was the heyday of monasticism.