Saturday 23 July 2022

"We're here from the archdiocese and..."

Yesterday Cardinal Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington outraged Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass by sharply curtailing the number of churches where it might be offered in his See, banning the celebration of the sacraments according to their traditional form and celebrations according to the traditional form of the Triduum and other solemnities. 

One pastoral solution for integrating the "Trads" into ordinary parish life is to educate them about the wishes of the Second Vatican Council for the liturgy and the beauties of the Ordinary Form. Another is to make "pastoral visits" to the Trads. I think these are both fantastic opportunities for Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass. First, any serious research into Sacrosanctum Concilium and the construction of the Ordinary Form will lead any intellectually honest pastor to understand why a number of Catholics prefer what Benedict XVI calls the Extraordinary Form. Second, the pastoral visits will give Catholics who love the TLM a chance to say, "Sit down, Father/Sister/Susan! I'll bring you a drink, and we can watch Mass of Ages together." 

My greatest fear for Americans who love the Traditional Latin Mass--apart from despair and apostasy, of course--is that they will become angry and weird. Or, if they are already angry and weird, angrier and weirder. 

I have long held that one of the great gifts of Summorum Pontificum is that it led to the arrival of wave after wave of curious young people, as well as middle-aged refugees whose patience with their parishes' liturgical experiments or sacrilege had snapped. The curious young people came without baggage and with the confidence born of a marriage between pre-1962 Catholic books and the post-1962 pastoral obsession with the Youth. Cheerful, excited, wearing new-to-them jackets or mantillas, they eventually outnumbered (or outlived) the battle-scarred ranks of the  old and cranky Trads. It cannot be underscored enough, however, that the young must be kind to and patient with the Old Guard, partly because they are their mothers and fathers in faith, and partly because without them there would have been no TLM communities for them to flock to. 

It is my practice to pray for those among my TLM community Old Guard whom I met and have gone on to their reward. Only one of them was angry and weird, but goodness knows what suffering made her choose to be that way. Meanwhile, my TLM community is flourishing and happy, and it is so not-weird that a visiting American Protestant couple made it a habit to accompany their university friends to our Mass. I chatted with them over tea.

That reminds me to make another plug for after-TLM tea. Please, my fellow lovers of the TLM, have coffee and tea hour after Mass and go to it. Critics of the TLM keep saying and writing about how terribly formal and unfriendly it is, everyone so intent on the incomprehensible stuff up front, so give newcomers the attention and smiles they think normal at church when they turn up in the tea/coffee room. Look around for those sitting there with no-one but their spouses and/or minor children to talk to, and talk to them. 

It is true that bishops can do a ton of damage, but the choice to become angry and weird lies with us alone. Remember the Whos of Whoville and how their joy converted the Grinch. I can't see Wilton Gregory racing down a hill on a sled full of vestments and missals, but let me not place limits on the abilities of the Holy Spirit. 

Meanwhile, I am disappearing from the world of online English letters for some weeks, for I am going to Poland. When I was feeling particularly ground down in March, I basically put my head down on my desk and asked myself what I wanted. What I wanted was for it to be the last day of school and to have a glorious summer spread out before me, as if I were in Grade 5. 

So what I did was ask for some unpaid leave to take an intensive Polish course in Poland, given that I have been working for my employer for 5 years, which is about the length of a school year in grown-up years. It was granted, and thus my glorious summer began today. 

In case you are wondering, I will presumably go to a Polish-language Novus Ordo during the week and travel to the TLM across town for Sundays. Meanwhile, I am giving up social media cold turkey, and thus I will be even less angry and weird when I return. 

Sunday 17 July 2022

Faith of Our Fathers

Very real, living, breathing people

UPPER UPDATE (July 18: Someone went on record. 

The ICKSP did not, in fact, make the announcement today. However, a named source told one of my colleagues he has seen Cupich's letter. Stay tuned.

It has been a year since Traditionis Custodes, which sought to discourage adherents to the traditional Roman Rite, blew up in our midst. Such Catholic liturgical experts as Gregory Di Pippo have already made very learned comments to mark the sad anniversary. 

It will also be officially announced today that the current Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, has instructed the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, an order of priests that celebrates only the traditional Roman Rite, to stop ministering to the faithful in that archdiocese.  (No, it wasn't. My source was sure this would be announced today, but it wasn't. My bad. Should have have "It is rumoured that..." However, Father Z has this to say all the same.)

I wonder if Chicago is so well supplied with vocations that.... No, of course I don't. This is an own goal (as we say in hockey-mad Canada), or it would be if the player weren't actually playing for the other side. (More on this below.)

The pain caused by Traditionis Custodes and Cardinal Cupich is very real, inflicted on very real, living, breathing people: bishops, priests, religious, and laity, adults, teenagers, and children. Last year there was some talk of my own community being moved, and after I was shown the proposed room for After-Mass coffee and tea, I burst into tears. 

It wasn't just that the shabby, abandoned room was accessible only by several staircases, the last being particularly perilous. It was that the person asked to show it to us seemed (I stress seemed) indifferent to my objections that the room was completely inaccessible to the members of our community in wheelchairs and provided difficulties to parents of small children. It was the first time I can remember meeting a "professional Catholic," who shrugged at the idea of accommodating the disabled. 

This, however, may just have been embarrassment and nervousness on the Professional Catholic's part, as I am not very good at hiding righteous indignation. One of our people is in a wheelchair because she was struck down by a bus one evening after daily Mass. It's a miracle she wasn't killed, and it's another miracle that she didn't die after her legs were amputated. A few years later, she is back at our Mass. She used to help serve tea; I told my community that I wouldn't serve tea if I couldn't serve it to this lady. My voice shook. 

As a matter of fact, this stalwart doesn't come to tea anymore---although another lady in a wheelchair does. Meanwhile, our Ordinary has been extraordinarily kind to us. It was decided in the end that our little wooden home is no longer a parish church and we could stay. The TLM even got a thumbs-up in the official diocesan report for the Synod on the Synod. May our Ordinary have a hundred 74th birthdays.

These details may seem trivial, and I can well imagine Twitter sneers about weeping middle-aged tea ladies. (Yes, we joke about "Susan of the Parish Council", but the problem with Susan is that she doesn't weep. Susan is at the apex of her self-absorbed powers. My community was once chased out of the tea room by a parish council Susan, who completely lost her head and screamed "Get out!")

My growing feeling is that the problem with the Traditional Latin Mass for a growing number of cardinals is that it confirms and strengthens in a growing number of priests and laity the Catholic faith of our fathers. Here is a splendid little survey illustrating this. The problem for these cardinals, I hypothesise, is that they do not believe the Catholic faith of their fathers and dislike those Catholics who do. Apparently it is not only Susan of the Parish Council who wants to sing a New Church into being because she resents the "Old" Church. 

For decades I have heard bewildered, irritated, orthodox Catholics ask why various dissenters (as they were called before dissension became a great career move) didn't just join the Anglicans or some other Protestant sect. They don't because they don't want to.  They want to eradicate the Catholic faith--or the parts of it they don't believe--stem and branch. It quite obviously can't be done by those outside--the French Revolution failed, Napoleon failed, European Communism spectacularly failed in Poland--but perhaps it can be done by those inside.  

I suspect that Cardinal Cupich and our local screaming Susan are sisters under the skin, but that Cupich is much more dangerous, for he doesn't lose his head. He doesn't scream "Get out!" He just locks doors and writes letters.

This morning I was reading the Coverdale Psalms, my usual morning practice, for I wish to know the Psalms in the same way (and as well as) my convert husband knows them, and my eye fell upon this: 

Oh God, the proud are risen against me: and the congregations of naughty men have sought after my soul, and have not set thee before their eyes. 

But thou, O Lord God, art full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, plenteous in goodness and truth.

O turn thee then unto me, and have mercy upon me: give thy strength unto thy servant and help the son of thine handmaid.

Shew some token upon me for good, that they who hate me may see it and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me and comforted me.  (Psalm 86, 14-17.)


Friday 8 July 2022

We go to an ordination

Not to be found at Scots ordinations.

Having done three Saturday shifts, I saved up my accredited time to go to a priestly ordination elsewhere in Scotland this week. 

Sorry to be so vague on the location, but the times, the times. One of my former professors once listened in astonishment mingled with amusement as a pair of aggrieved theologians of the progressivist party denounced something I wrote. When asked if he know me, my prof blurted, "Do I know her? She was my student!" He thought it was funny, but I suspect there were unintended consequences. 

Public life was less complicated when I stuck to writing heartwarming and non-partisan blogposts about Single Life. 

Anyway, Benedict Ambrose and I met at the railway station one afternoon this week, and we took a train to this mysterious location before walking to the cathedral. B.A. predicted only a small crowd, but he was wrong. The cathedral was heaving with people old and young, including babies. There were whole rows of Protestant relatives, which was edifying for my Protestant granny darkened the door of Catholic Churches only for weddings. There was a choir which gave us classic belter hymns and the Missa de Angelis as well as Peter Aston and other modern stuff. There were a few mantillas and a smattering of hats, so I pulled my scarf over my head. (My personal head covering rule is "Never be the only woman who does; always support the women who do.") With the processional hymn, there appeared dozens of priests--most of them a decade or more younger than us--and a cheerful-looking bishop. 

Mass is often moving, but this was moving in a particular way, as it was involved a young man we met years ago when he was a student, and invited to dinner, and prayed for when he was in hospital, and visited in Rome. It was also moving because we knew some of his pals--also students when we met them, either in Scotland or in Rome, who had been ordained before him. One of these pals vested him with stole and chasuble, and I felt all very sentimental. In short, although all these chaps were diocesan chaps, some of them were also/had been Our Chaps, which I mention as part of my ongoing battle against unpleasant Trad stereotypes. 

Newsflash: Most people in Scotland who go to the traditional Latin Masses under the aegis of the local bishop also go to the Ordinary Form when necessary. Many of us take part in the broader life of our dioceses. Those of us who get ordained are just as likely to become ordinary diocesan priests as we are to join the FSSP or "the Institute." Some of us are actually Protestants married to Catholics or discerning our way to conversion. Some of us are French ladies who refuse to wear mantillas and even wear trousers to Mass. But we're all restorationists, and we all love lace. (LACE! LACE!)

The Mass was about 2.5 hours long, and I thought the Protestant relatives held up marvellously. There were a pew of them in front of us, so during the kneeling bits, through which they staunchly sat, I knelt with my butt on the pew, whereas B.A. just breathed down their necks. 

Anyway, the Mass was marvellous, and there were two more teary moments: when the new priest blessed his kneeling bishop (weep, weep) and when he blessed his widowed mother (weep, weep again).  

Afterwards there was a party in the hall with ladies dispensing coffee and wine, plates of sandwiches and cake, cupcakes, Eccles cakes, chocolate-topped Rice Krispie treats, and all the other things a Catholic could expect at a Scottish diocesan church party. For some reason, I kept looking for the baklava that wasn't there, and was never going to be there, for this is Scotland, not Toronto. Come to think of it, there were no sugared almonds, either. In the UK, cake is king. 

There were definitely Coronation Chicken sandwiches, which I love. Cheese and pickle. Egg and cress. Tuna mayo. Ham. Other chicken. Naturally they were cut into triangles. There were cheese quiches. Scottish food is not really what you think it is. If I recall correctly, there wasn't any shortbread. 

There were a dozen young priests (at least) in black soutanes, and another very moving moment occurred when a goodly number of them sang "Ad Multos Annos" to the new priest. B.A. and I took this for the school song of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, and it hit with particular force for, as at the Scots College refectory, there were portraits of old Scots priests and bishops around the room. Since the 1560s, a Scots priest has been a minority among a minority, we all know what happened to St. John Ogilvy, and there will doubtlessly be unpleasantness in Glasgow next Sunday, or on the 12th at the latest, because Orange gonna Walk.

But I didn't have much time for such sober thoughts, for there were many priests and other people--laypeople and more Protestants, by the way--to greet and photos to take for absent friends. Eventually the room emptied out of families with children and the percentage of priests and their university pals was even higher, and B.A. and I decided to go to our hotel. 

The next day we met a family member for brunch--bacon butties and black pudding were involved--and then went for a long walk my shoes weren't made for, and finally turned up at a diocesan church for the new priest's First Mass, which in Polish I'm told is a Msza prymicyjna, and in Novus Ordo is a "Mass of Thanksgiving." 

Once again, there was a bigger crowd and much more Latin than we expected. There was a super homily from a Jesuit priest who told us that the new priest--not even baptised at the time--had at university become disenchanted with the "secular city," a place the homilist didn't seem that impressed with, either.  There was a strong suggestion that we had excellent lunch parties with Catholic pals to thank for the new priest's baptism, let alone his ordination, which I think ought to be a lesson to us all. 

There was another heartwarming moment when the new priest presented his mother with flowers. And there was a moment of comedy when I hastily readjusted my scarf just as I was receiving a Primi blessing, my new linen maxi dress of indestructible traddery having an unfortunate neckline. (I sewed it up when I got home.) 

This was after Mass, of course, and the new priest (or Primi) had to stand and individually bless dozens and dozens of people while everyone else stood about the foyer or in the sunny car park eating cake and sandwiches and drinking wine or coffee. The Uber-Scottish spread was about the same, and I mention it only to stress that Scots don't usually eat haggis or fried Mars bars. What was unusual was that it was 25 C (77 F), but felt even warmer for there was no wind, and wonderfully sunny, and there was a baby wearing actual sunglasses. 

One of the new priest's pals had organised some presents ("Speech, speech," I cried), and after this hardworking pal had made his little speech, those of us tasked with the duty handed over the gifts one by one, and there were many jokes, and it was all very pleasant. 

Shortly thereafter, B.A. and I bid good-bye to various acquaintances and toddled off to the station where we caught our train.   

Now I shall make one uncomfortable observation although on this two-day occasion, I can see why having the altar packed with priests works. In short, when you have 24 or so priests up concelebrating at the altar, but facing the laity, the difference between the priesthood and the laity is stressed in terms of opposition. In this situation, the priests are not at our head. They are not leading us. They have created a closed circle, with the altar-table forming a kind of visual barrier. They look like they are doing something together, and it is less clear that they are doing something on our behalf.

Now, I think it is pleasant to have a lot of priests in one place together, especially as I have heard about the priest shortage all my life and also because I enjoyed talking to groups of male religious when I was at my Canadian theology school. However, I am mindful of a lovely Catholic lady, a retired nurse, I believe, who  told me she had never thought women should be ordained until she saw an unusually big concelebration. At that moment, she felt opposed by a large crowd of men. Suddenly what had been an ordinary (if large) concelebration at Mass looked like a Old Boys' Club, and she very much resented it. 

I wonder if she would have felt the same way if all the priests had been "in choir", which is to say, facing the altar from both sides, in the traditional arrangement, and not gathered in a half-circle around the altar with their right arms outstretched.  

Friday 1 July 2022

Home Economics: June Report

The last day of the month is my favourite day of the month, for then I get to tally up everything we earned, spent, and saved. I'm not sure why I find this so satisfying, but it is. Try it yourselves! If at first it doesn't feel fun, keep at it for a year. The important things are not to cheat (that is, to not write down a purchase--the horror!) and not to feel sad if you spent more on a category than you thought you would spend. You probably needed that skirt, and sometimes a woman just needs a pistachio mazarin in Stockbridge, even if it does cost £3.60. 

Righto! So let us examine the McLean food spending and enjoy it while we can, for I will soon be studying in Poland, eating all my pre-paid food in the student canteen. This will naturally have an effect on our grocery and restaurant bills---or not, depending on what Benedict Ambrose gets up to in my absence. But one thing the Sacred Budget Book makes clear: I spend more money than B.A. does.

Anyway, the point is that there is unlikely to be either a July Report or an August Report because both are going to be rather complicated. Also, I'm taking a vow not to speak or write in English when I'm in Poland, except for the 10 minutes hour I speak to B.A. every day. 

B.A. How's Parseltongue going?

Mrs McL: Bzz bzz sh ch bzz. How's work?

B.A. Busy. I'm tired. How's the weather?

Mrs McL: Hot. How's your weather?

B.A. Not. Did you read the latest on Twitter about Fr. Martin?

Mrs McL: NOOOOOOOO! I don't WANT to know!

B.A. Sorrysorrysorry. Changing subject! Changing subject!

Meanwhile, I do not as yet know how fast I will be able to get caffeine into my bloodstream in Poland, and so I am slowing training myself not to drink coffee for a full hour after I wake up in the morning. I recall as a child just leaping up and getting on with the day, presumably just like our cave dwelling ancestors, only cleaner. I could do somersaults then, too, which boggles the mind.

At this point I am clearly stalling so as not to admit that we went overboard on groceries. We were pleasantly conscientious about eating out, though.  


June 2022: Groceries: £393.09; RBCT (Restaurants, Bars, Cafes, Takeaway): £61.80. Total £454.81.

But that food total is not terrible for us, especially when we contemplate the pricey month of May:

May 2022: Groceries: £300.42; RBCT £303.26. Total: £603.68.

April is a better point of comparison:

April 2022: Groceries: £372.23; RBCT: £74.10. Total: £446.33.

But to keep ourselves honest, let us look at last June:

June 2021: Groceries: £389.75; RBCT: £67.60. Total: £457.35.  

That's not much of a difference, so I am pleased. Apparently we are not being socked by inflation as yet.  


Here is where our June 2022 RCBT money went, so that we can all enjoy it vicariously or in memory:

1. 2 Saturday ice-cream cones from our fabled neighbourhood ice-cream parlour.

2. 2 more Saturday ice-cream cones from our fabled neighbourhood ice-cream parlour.

3. Benedict Ambrose's beer outside the Royal High as he contemplated the marvellous view of the Old Town with the Pentlands in the background. The price of the view was clearly included in the price of the beer, but it was a once-in-a-blue-moon experience. What the heck: we have been known to buy the outrageously overpriced German sausages at the Christmas Market.   

4. Two Saturday panko-crumbed lemon sole suppers from our fabled neighbourhood high-end chippie.

5. Sunday cappuccino and cake with somebody and somebody's American girlfriend we had just found out about.  

6. Coffee and croissant bought at fabled local bakery and consumed on the beach by me. A day so unusually gorgeous, I called my mother over social media camera to show her.

7. The aforementioned pistachio mazarin in Stockbridge.


I have been putting together a capsule wardrobe for my Poland trip from charity shop and eBay finds. Everything is cotton or linen because Poland is very hot in summer. I have been staying out of charity shops while surfing eBay rather a lot, but during a very useful hour after Mass on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul (a Holy Day of Obligation in Scotland), I discovered that even the best charity shops were cheaper than eBay for what I wanted. The drawback is, of course, they might not have everything I want, or what I want when I want it.

Another advantage to charity shop shopping over eBay shopping is that the volunteers are not as interested in your tastes as eBay is. And I'm curious about why eBay has suddenly found me things that are cheaper than the exact same thing I so recently bought from it. I understand why eBay is sending me email about these things--clearly if I like navy blue linen, I might want more navy blue linen--but I don't understand why I did not see them before. Did it, um, hide them?

Meanwhile, I have been reading Johann Hari's Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention which, although partisan, asks some very good questions and provides some very good answers about all the time everyone is wasting online and what this waste is doing to us. (By partisan, I mean that Hari is sad that Facebook may have led to the election of Jair Bolsonaro but so far has not mentioned the tsunami of girls seeking medical intervention to resemble boys.) Despite Hari's politics, I recommend this book. I am heartily glad, too, that I track absolutely everything I buy and mull over every online purchase. 

Possibly I should start tracking every website I frequently check, too. RightMove--Britain's sweetheart-- probably knows more about me than I would like.  For some reason, I don't mind the universe knowing I spent £3.60 on a pastry, but the idea that someone is profiting off my property hopes and daydreams drives me wild.

Regarding distraction, I recognised that there was something wrong with my brain after being on the internet as long ago as 2005 or 2006. I got my first personal internet access (that is, not my dad's and not my college's) in September 2005, and I swiftly became addicted to checking my email. This addiction (which I no longer have) made me realise that I must never go near a slot-machine. I began reading about the phenomenon as soon as (irony) people were writing about it on the internet. 

The great thing about blogging is that, although you are on the internet, you are not checking stuff on the internet. It is possible to achieve flow--that wonderful state you get into while reading a good book or writing something funny or doing whatever it is you like to do best. Surfing the internet, let alone obsessively checking social media, interrupts that. 

And now I wish to go back to reading Hari, for it is Canada Day and I have the day off. Have a lovely weekend everyone! May you be rich in attention and in savings.  

P.S. I don't usually erase messages, but the reader who feels strongly about the use of Pfizer, etc., products in COVID-19 prevention asked me to take down her comments appended to the blogpost below.