Saturday 17 July 2021

Under the Greenwood Tree

Yesterday the frantic reading, interviewing, and typing. Today the reflection. 

As more than one Catholic pundit stated, Pope Francis has dropped the Bomb on tradition-loving Catholics. Benedict Ambrose and I are tradition-loving Catholics, so it felt as though the roof had fallen in. The windows blew out. The floor buckled. 

Remembering the morning I woke poor B.A. up to tell him that Pope Benedict had--not died, nobody had died--resigned, I telephoned him to tell him what Pope Benedict's successor had done. B.A. was in a lovely historical garden, praying the rosary. He came home and spent the day on his computer while across the hall I interviewed liturgical experts. Kwasniewski sounded stunned. Di Pippo wouldn't talk to me until he had calmed down. 

I've met both of them in person, of course. Dr Shaw, too. Catholic Tradition in this anti-tradition world is a golden thread that connects Catholics all over the world. Catholic Tradition is our life. Catholic Tradition is our community. Almost all the Catholics I know in Scotland are Traditionalists: the children, their parents, their grandparents, their priests. And then there's Rome. Yesterday's bomb didn't just shake our home in Scotland, it shook our community in Rome. Our home, as it were, in Rome, for all our travel decisions revolve around easy access to the Traditional Latin Mass. And then there's Toronto, and my parent-denying Sunday morning journeys to the notorious slum in which the Oratorians' resurrected church shines like a jewel. The only one of my university-era writing friends to convert to Catholicism goes there. 

Then there's Poland although Polish Pretend Son jumped ship to the SSPX years ago. I remember being wedged into an underground SPPX chapel like a decorated shoebox and feeling distinctly unhappy about it. The Mass should not be a hole-and-corner affair, least of all in Poland. The Mass should carry on being celebrated in the great, airy, beautifully-lit Gothic and Baroque churches built for its celebration. They abound in Poland, and I have assisted at the TLM in Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw and Poznan. 

Dropping the Bomb on the Traditional Latin Mass and the Catholics who love it and have rooted their lives in it would be brutal and cruel under any circumstances but after a year and a half of a pandemic? When churches were allowed to open again, there was concern many Catholics would just stop going. They could watch Mass over their computers, so why bother going in person? But I can tell you that our people flocked back to Mass, and new faces appeared. Some Catholics were so shocked that their right to receive the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue had been violated out of fear of man or bodily illness that they left their beloved parish communities to seek out ours. 

Our community: a dwindling number of the elderly old guard, middle-aged couples with adult children or none, middle-aged men with absent Protestant wives, young married couples,  young married couples with a few children, slightly older married couples with many children, university students at various stages of study, the children themselves, the babies. And, of course, our dead: those who were central to the community when I first arrived and who have now been buried--I think. One of our oldest parishioners was blessed with a good death just before the pandemic, and his family's plans to give him a grand Novus Ordo funeral in a church big enough to hold his friends and fans were foiled by the lockdown. I certainly hope he's been buried by now, but who knows? The important thing, I've always thought, was that he was spared a lonely death and was not deprived of the Last Sacrament. 

Our larger community extends across Scotland, of course, and--as I said above--the Western World, from Warsaw to Toronto and beyond. 

Last week Benedict Ambrose ordered the Ordinariate's new breviary, and this reminds me that the tiny Ordinariate congregation was given the red carpet treatment in Edinburgh whereas the 90 or so trads felt merely tolerated until the happy day a young diocesan priest suddenly appeared and said "our" Mass. And this is so unfair because we are simply Catholics who actually believe Catholicism is true and that the saints--most of whom did not know the New Mass or even (Padre Pio) refused to say it--are worth emulating. Traditional Catholics put money in the collection basket (or not) like everybody else, and if you count the children, you'll realise that our young parents make enormous sacrifices out of love for God and the doctrine of the family. Enormous.

It's all very well for Francis to counsel "mercy" for the divorced-and-remarried-and-contracepting, but what about mercy on the young parents of eight who drive or take a bus for miles so their children can be brought up in the reverent Mass their ancestors knew? And I must say, when I look at our expenses, it would be terribly nice if B.A. and I could just walk to our beautiful Arts-and-Crafts parish church instead of paying £7.20 in bus fares every Sunday. But the beautiful Arts-and-Crafts church does not have the beautiful Mass, and when last we were there, B.A. was either the second-youngest or the youngest person in the building. 

This morning I feel like I am holding my breath, waiting for the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh to make his move. And I feel like my whole local community is doing that, too. In Fife, all thoughts are turned, no doubt, to the Bishop of Dunkeld. I don't want to think about Glasgow. I wonder, too, what the tiny regiment of SSPX priests in Scotland are thinking. I'm thinking that their Edinburgh church is much too small to handle another 90 people, let alone 100 more from Glasgow. 

And it's all so unfair because the people Francis is punishing did not go to the SSPX but went to the FSSP and ICK and diocesan priests willing to celebrate (and, if necessary, learn) the Mass of Ages. And given all the babies,  and all our young men converts pursing priestly vocations (usually diocesan ones, by the way), I'd say that we were (are) in ourselves a "new springtime" in the Church. We are the greenwood tree flourishing in the otherwise thinning forest.   

I don't know how to finish this post because there is no finish yet. All we can do is wait. So we wait--and pray, of course. 

Read this, too.  

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