Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Hermeneutic of Discontinuity: Life as a Traditional Catholic in a Post-Christian World

Having survived -- so far as I can tell -- The Rapture this weekend, I'm struck by a couple of things I experienced.

The first was a discussion with an old friend who does not attend the Latin Mass, but who is increasingly dissatisfied with what passes for suburban post-modern Catholicism of the "I'm-OK-You're-OK-Anything-Goes--Except-Pre-Vatican-II-Catholicism" variety.

He's less than satisfied with the atrocious level of Catholic teaching at his parish, and pretty much most parishes he's visited. I happened to speak with his wife in a separate conversation, and she echoed the same sentiment about the lack of Catholics who seem to practice Catholicism. Specifically she was complaining about the lack of decency in dress at Sunday Mass -- halter tops and short-shorts and the like. When she wondered aloud whether there were any parishes where such things were not occurring, I responded "Well that doesn't happen in our [Latin Mass] parish." "But we're freaks, of course," I quickly added.

And then today on the way to Mass (across town to the ghetto where they keep us Traditional freaks -- for reasons unknown, it's pretty standard that the Latin Masses are relegated to the worst-possible areas of town all across America) we passed one of the local parishes, where I noticed several parishioners doing yard work around the parish sign, apparently oblivious of the 3rd Commandment's strictures against menial or servile physical labor on the Sabbath day. (Yes, I know they were undoubtedly well-intentioned, but couldn't someone have proposed doing this work on a Saturday instead?)

Everywhere you look, it seems that Catholicism is observed more in the breach than in actuality.

I really try to refrain from this sort of fuddy-duddy harumph-harumphing. Really I do. For one thing, there are seemingly no end of faults of my own to concentrate upon (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.)

But it's getting more and more difficult to view Catholicism as it's preached and practiced in the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order of the Mass - the Ordinary Form) and as it's preached and practiced in the Traditionalist parishes and chapels around the country and pretend that the two versions are really one and the same Church.

In the one, you have a complete breakdown of traditional practices and devotions like Friday abstinence and the sacrament of Penance ("Confession"), and pathetically weak homilies about being nice. In the other, you have homilies about reality of Hell, and the need for sacrifice and penance from the laity, and reinforcement of the age-old Catholic teachings against contraception and divorce and the Commandments.

Don't know what to do about it, other than the old ever-necessary tools of prayer and penance. In today's homily my priest was railing about the need to be bold examples of the Church Militant in the world, rather than meekly observing the political-correctness which requires us to hide our Catholicism from the world.

I'll guess we should try both prayer-penance and militancy. Jesus does not require that we be successful, but He does require that we preach the Good News to all the world -- which would I suppose include the Catholics at the parish down the street, as well as the non-Catholics and the rest of the world.

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