Tradition: A personal essay

Tradition: A personal essay

Please note: This is way too long, I just couldn’t figure out how to condense it. If I were you, I would skip reading the whole thing and just skim it.

This new forum is a great addition to Catholic Answers and I appreciate the efforts Jo Benedict–her thread on how the TC forum was going led directly to me thinking about writing this essay. I noticed that several people wrote about their unfamiliarity with those of us who consider ourselves to be traditionalists–lower case or capital t, I can never keep them straight. I am writing only about me, my essence, which makes me a person who believes that to be Catholic is to be Traditional. Or you can even state the converse–to be Traditional is to be Catholic. I think that the capital T is correct in this case, it is the Faith passed down to us from the Apostles, eventually written down into the Gospels and Epistles. The important part for me, passed down from the Apostles and while much was written, much was left unwritten but said and bequeathed to generation after generation.

Most people that read and post on these threads have much more education and knowledge of the theology of Catholicism than I do. I speak as a man who has a simple faith in the Church. I am sure that some will find fault with what I believe. They will point out passages in the Bible or the Catechism that prove me mistaken. My only defense can and will be that my conscience was formed by great teachers. I know the difference between right & wrong. There is a clear, bright line between the two. You may believe that that bright line has blinded me, I think it illuminates the road to Heaven.

I was taught by parish priests who were men of Faith. They believed with their whole heart in the Holy Trinity and the devil. They saw and passed on their view, black or white, of Good and Evil. By their example and sermons they filled us kids with the dread and the exhilaration of the anticipation of growing up and becoming Soldiers of Christ. They filled our hearts, minds and souls with not only the stories of Saints who were very pious, but even more of the Saints that fought with external and internal evil that threatened to overcome their souls. These men and women fought with satan, just as we fight with satan in our lives. They overcame the temptations that we too often succumb to. That’s why they are Saints. We can only strive to be the same.

The good Felician Sisters of St. Philip Neri Catholic grade school not only reinforced what our priests were doing, they taught us through their example. In their heavy brown wool habits, they taught us in un-air conditioned classrooms and never seemed to even sweat. And many a day was over 100º. They loved us enough to demand only the best of us. Excuses for misbehavior was unacceptable. Take your punishment and offer it up for the forgotten in Purgatory. Be the best you can be, but never endanger your soul to be the best. Humility is your best friend. It will deflect even the most virulent criticism into an opportunity to improve yourself.

Do you see what all these wonderful men and women that have given their lives to God were teaching us? They were teaching us to be Catholics. They were teaching us that while we may own our physical lives, we owed our souls to God. Our lives must be lived to please God, for God will judge us on not only what we have done wrong, but also on how we honored and glorified Him.

In the mid 1960s the Church was buffeted from without and within. Drugs, sex and rock & roll were beating at the gates of the Vatican. The United States was dealing with the mess in Viet Nam that the French had left behind. Heroin, LSD and marijuana were exploding in both the ghettos and the college campuses. Revolution was in the air. Liberation priests in South America were preaching that murder was OK if it furthered “social justice” (read communism). The Bishops in America and Europe were debating the “pill”. Many, if not most were willing to allow artificial birth control as long as it was not using a barrier. The United States was racked by assassinations and racial riots. Europe was split asunder over nuclear proliferation.

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Into this turmoil, Pope John XXIII boldly called a Council to consider how the Church could come into the modern age. Now I can’t tell you what all the Council decided, but I can describe some of the effects. Almost immediately following the Council we had priests entirely forget about the salvation of souls and throw themselves into a “social ministry”. It was more important to overthrow “the man” than it was to hear confessions and succor the ill. Masses should not be held in big buildings, instead they should be held in homes or businesses–kinda like a rolling **** game. Everybody gathered around the priest in the middle while they sat on pillows. The Church of Rome was corrupt and the only purity was to be found in the very early Church with each group making up their own liturgy.

The poor old nuns got it even worse. Get rid of those habits–you aren’t in the middle ages. You are modern women who are liberated. Liberated from the strictures of a male dominated Church and society. Dress as you want. Work where you want. Do what you want. You are woman. Can you believe that some psychologists actually set up businesses that catered to the convents. They were hired by the orders to teach their nuns and sisters to find their “inner self”. They even had programs to teach nuns to understand their lesbian self. The theory being that nuns only became nuns because they were repressed lesbians. So with films and live demonstrations they taught lesbian love techniques to practice on each other. Prayer was so old fashioned.

Let me tell you, the Council unleashed untold, unrealized pressures that just exploded throughout the religious in the Church. I was a teenager at the time and I watched the rock of stability, the Catholic Church dissolve into near anarchy. Priests and nuns started leaving by the score. The bishops tried to hold on to the troops by granting (appeasing) the dissidents most of what they were demanding.

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By then, the people in the pews were becoming disillusioned. What was true anymore? Father A said missing Mass was a mortal sin, but Father B said it is OK because God loves us and he would not want us coming to Mass unless we really wanted to. I confessed to Father that I was “impure with myself in thought and action” and he said it was OK. Just a natural part of growing up. We should not weigh ourself down with worrying about sin. Guilt only makes us feel bad. God loves us and we will make happy at Mass and you will never again have to feel guilty.

So how did Pope Paul VI address the turmoil in the Church? He commissioned a new Mass. He replaced the Mass we had been raised with, the Mass of all time, the universal Mass said in Latin the same all over the world, the Mass with the prayers to the Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to all the Saints–for the Pope, Bishops, all the people and for the poor souls in purgatory. A sacrifice of our Lord, a consecration of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Canon praying that God find it acceptable and that he find us worthy to offer Him this most perfect sacrifice. Now we would have a Mass that was noble in it’s simplicity. Instead of so many repetitious prayers, we would have readings. We will have full participation of the people. We will have the priesthood of the laity come alive. We will celebrate the Last Supper and retain the Sacrifice, but only as being necessary for the Consecration so we can participate in the Communion of the Faithful. We will leave the judgmental God behind and celebrate the Glory of God. No longer will we have to live with “Catholic Guilt”. We know that love is our purpose on earth. Love of God and love of our fellow man. Evil is an abstract that love will overcome.

And the new Mass may have worked for me if they hadn’t made the rules so nebulous. Way to many weasel words & phrases like “may, or, options, usually, for pastoral reasons, extraordinary circumstances” and so on. It became open season for “innovative” priests and liturgical committees. My new N.O. missal was obsolete before the ink dried. Nobody, nowhere said the Mass according to the missal. Didn’t like the Mass, go at a different time. Didn’t like the any of the Masses, go to the next parish over–none of their Masses are like ours. Get with the times, this ain’t your father’s parish any longer.

If you have plowed your way through all of the above, you are probably wondering just what I am trying to say. I know that this is already too long, but I could write more and still not make myself clear. But try this on for size. Traditionalists can be attached to either the TLM or the N.O. It has less to do with which Mass than most, even ourselves, would like to believe. It has everything to do with continuity, consistency, and commitment.

Being a traditionalist begins with Sacred Tradition. You don’t have to be a genius to know that something that has lasted for centuries has a lot going for it. Besides the Tradition of the Apostles, we rely on the Wisdom of the Ages. There is a reason the Church started giving Communion on the tongue. We really ought to find out why before we give the option of Communion in the hand.

We look at good and evil as being with us and a constant battle. If something was evil in 1200, it is evil today. Times change, but people are the same millennium after millennium.

And commitment? We commit ourselves to leading the best lives we can. Eternity is a heck of a long time and we, as Catholics, have an obligation to lead ourselves and others, through word and deed, to Heaven. And if we suffer along the way, don’t change the rules, just offer it up.

All the above has formed me into what I am. I have a firm belief in right and wrong. The Church allows some things that I think are wrong, so I don’t do them. But you know, if the Church says something is wrong, it always seems to agree with my conscience. Isn’t that odd? And if I still go ahead and do something wrong I accept that I sinned, knowingly and with intent. I don’t try to fool my conscience into believing wrong is right.

In October of 66, I turned 18. Not the best year to turn 18 in as I later found out. I along with thousands received a nice letter from the government requesting that I join them in some fun times. Not having the grades to go to college or the money either for that matter, and being afraid of being deported or worse if i didn’t accept the invitation, I accepted their offer and after my physical I was offered the opportunity to enlist in the navy, rather than go into the Army. Since my Dad had been in the Navy, I knew a little about it and went and ahead and enlisted.

The next 6 years of my life were a mix of things that I don’t really like to remember too much and talk about even less, but I will allow that I spent a total of 27 months in the Republic of South Vietnam altogether spaced out over the 6 years. I was what you would term a boat driver or in the official language a Coxswain. When I could find a Mass there or in the Philippines, where we spent a lot of time as well, they were very traditional and as I remembered them In country we had a lot of inter faith services mostly, but did have confessions available , usually before we went out.

When I returned fully to the US, 1970, I went to Mass off base in Oakland, California and at first I thought I had walked into some Southern Baptist revival by mistake. Lots of hand clapping, hallelujahs and amens from the congregation. There was absolutely nothing that looked familiar. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just kind of played it by ear. I did get a lot of very nasty stares though.

When time came for Holy Communion I went to receiver and knelt as a few were doing and waited. The Priest, who was wearing what we called love beads in those days, came up to me, told me that I was unworthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, especially since I had the nerve to be wearing my uniform and that I should leave the Church immediately. I had essentially the same experience for the next three weeks at different Churches in either Oakland or Alameda. I didn’t wear my uniform but my haircut gave me away. I purposely had avoided San Francisco due to the wonderful welcome we had received at the airport, where some of our greeters were what I assume were sisters of some order or another as well as a Priest or two. At one Church I went to the congregation was led in what I later found out was Buddhist chanting by the Priest? wore no vestments at all. At another the Our father was changed to a prayer to Sophia, the Mother God.

My introduction to the Pauline Rite and the rampant experimentation that was going on at the time. For the next 30 years or so depending where I was the experience was either milder or in a certain case in South Texas much much worse:bigyikes: or in a few cases better. But I hung around although I did flirt briefly with the Children of God cult:thumbsup: Now that was a truly radical group.

I guess the reason I wrote this is because so many people on these forums seem to think that Traditionalists such as myself were dead set against change and rigid feenyites at best and schismatics at worst. No far from it.

I firmly believe that if it hadn’t been for a few who stood up, and the rest of us that kept hanging on, we would still be stuck in the endless mindless experimentation that was so prevalent in the early years after the Council and the Traditional Mass would be dead and buried, just the way not a few people wanted it to be. And make no mistake that was a prioroty of many.

I think it would be good for people these days who weren’t around back then to take a few minutes and look at the changes that happened and more importantly how the changes were implemented and why it happened the way it did… Then maybe just maybe they’ll understand why we feel the way we do.



Read the whole thing. Read yours too palmas. Both leave somewhat saddened and inspired at the same time. Saddened that the Church has gone through this pain and inspired that men like you have held on and ultimately kept the faith.

Being only born in 1969 and a convert (since February 18, 1991) I obviously cannot relate to your experience. But I can say that finding the Traditional Mass and fully embracing His Church and her teachings not only have made me a happier man but a better man as well. And it is that attitude with which I and my wife raise our children.

So I thank you and all of those who came before me that held on to preserve something so precious that it could only come from the Lord Himself. Thankfully though, it looks as though more and more in my generation are rediscovering what it truly means to be Catholic; something your generation seemed to have known so well. Thanks for weathering the storm.

Vivat Iesus,

Oh, my brothers! I rejoice in greeting you! Palmas and I are fellow Y’ats - He’s a little bit older than this graduate of St. Aloysius (69) and I didn’t enter service to our country until 71. And, my friend, Palmas, yours truly was a yeoman.

My friend from Oklahoma, I grew up and was taught by the Religious Sisters of Mary (RSM) which was pretty appropriate for an Irish kid who prayed for the canonization of now Blessed Father Seelos and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

We three are of an age. We three grew up with the Mass in Latin and all the Sacred Traditions of our Holy Mother Church. I left HMC for nothing (I simply quit going to Mass) until the late 70s when I found my (now) cathedral parish which offers a reverent NO. I sang in the cathedral choir for 18 years. I am waiting for the universal indult. Father has asked me and others our age to form a Gregorian choir.

I am so glad I am not alone.

Fascinating post, SoonerNation. I hope everyone reads it!

First, to all the posters who served, thank you!

Over and above that, no one cares about people like us (I was born in 1961 - there I’ve said it). Only we can stand up for eachother and raise children to think as we do.

One day my children will be the backbone of the religion. They will have many Catholic children, all traditional like their Grandmother. Growing up with the devotions and the love of the traditonal Catholic church, makes them want things to be this way. I know I did my time in the guitar masses and ecumenical groups. Then I grew up.

That is our only hope.

You, young ones are always try to make me feel old. :frowning:
I thought that it was my son’s job. He does it well.:smiley:


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