Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tridentine Misery

When I entered the Catholic Church, it was through a traditionalist parish. It was majestic. I vividly remember the knocking of Tenebre, the beeswax candles, the beautiful vestments, and all of the other externals. But I also remember the rich prayer life. There were frequent Masses, the stations, novenas, and other prayers. Everything seemed perfect, but there was something that was apparent in the faces of the people. They were miserable. Years of fear and torment morphed into a deep unhappiness. What I noticed attending other traditional parishes was the same unhappiness. There was so little joy. Instead, there was a focus on the minutiae of everything rather than enjoying others company. A psychiatrist could make a fortune at most traddie parishes.

So, I found that there was no place for me. I love traditional liturgy. It's not just because of the externals--I love traditional liturgy because it has been formed through the centuries by people a lot holier and smarter than me. It wasn't just made up and it wasn't the fruit of someone's imagination. It has been tried and tested by saints and sinners alike. I don't mind when it is in the vernacular because Latin was the vernacular for much of the early church (and prior to that Greek). 

The dilemma, then, is how to foster traditional devotion and spirituality without losing our humanity. A review of several Facebook traditionalist groups shows that misery loves company, especially when discussing the liturgy. But deep down I believe that communities can form of real people who have personal issues, tragedies, joys, and other natural emotions which can be shared together in a supportive environment. And these communities can use traditional liturgy and they can strive to make it always rubrically correct. But if someone makes a mistake they can acknowledge that God has an amazing sense of humor.

I also believe, in my heart of hearts, that people can gather together without talking about hot-button issues all the time. For traditionalists this can be what is wrong with the church. There is not enough digital space to hold all of the gripes traditionalists have against modernism, the modern church, modern liturgy, etc. The same is true of neo-conservatives on homosexuality, abortion, etc. While these issues can be discussed they don't have to be the ONLY thing discussed.

I hope that these beloved communities do exist. I have seen glimmers of hope among the incorrectly named "non-canonical" Orthodox. The same is true in the Autocephalous Catholic movement. There are people who are sincere in their prayer and in their commitment to tradition. But they can do it in an open, joyful way devoid of institutional misery. They can disagree but not in a way which dehumanizes the other person.

Opponents of this dream will say that it's just a watered-down Catholicism. Or even "Anglo-Catholicism" as traddies might say about anything that is liturgically high but morally ambiguous to them. Yet this is the vision I have of the Church and of heaven--that together with the Mother of God and the saints we will gather around the Holy Trinity in adoration. And we will truly have been forgiven 70 times 7 as we laugh in the incomprehensible joy of joining the God of the universe.

"From silly devotions, and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us." - St. Theresa

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Book Review: "Sede Vacante: The Life and Legacy of Archbishop Thục"

This book, again published by Apocryphile Press, is authored by Edward Jarvis who also wrote the book on the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB). While covering generally the same topic of "dissenting Catholics," the books take a decidedly different tone. Both groups are the legacies of bishops from countries with political upheaval who followed their own brand of Catholicism. Yet the Thuc book provides more insight on Thuc himself and, since Thuc had no successor to his office, lacks the focus required by the ICAB on detailing the history of an organization.

Jarvis does an excellent job of providing in-detail background of the Vietnam which raised and nurtured Thuc. His insights into Thuc's family life are useful at helping to understand Thuc's mindset. Jarvis is to be commended on this work because it is apparent that he worked hard to maintain objectivity. He provides a sympathetic picture of Thuc while also detailing his contradictory actions. I am also grateful that he did not delve deeply into the sacramental validity of Thuc's actions and let the reader decide for themselves (while providing theological and historical context to support validity if that is the reader's conclusion).

It is also helpful that Jarvis does not end the story with Thuc, who died in 1984. He continues the story by detailing information about current traditionalists who carry the Thuc lineage. Jarvis' grasp of church history and sacramental theology gives him the ability to weave the story together with clarity. I appreciated Jarvis' sharing part of his own history (such as where he studied) because it gave some insight into his interest in this distinct part of Catholicism. Because of his background, Jarvis is able to ask difficult questions of the Thuc-lineage inheritors, especially related to the consecration of bishops and the suitability of the consecrated.

This work will be helpful to anyone interested in the traditionalist movement. I owe Jarvis my appreciation for such through research and the consultation of many different sources. My only suggestion is that there are even more sources that could be incorporated. Thuc's life has been detailed by many contemporaries and several books and articles did not make the bibliography. Despite this, the book does not suffer from lack of clarity or detail.