If you are a regular reader of these posts you will have noticed that I was on summer vacation. I took some time to go back to school and learn about the beginnings of religious life. When I got home, before I could get back to writing, I was blindsided by the Holy Father’s moto proprio, Traditionis custodes, concerning the Mass of the Ages. It has taken a while for me to figure out how to respond in charity.
It is well known that if you have nothing nice to say, it is advisable to remain silent. There is really nothing nice to say about the Holy Father’s restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). As an adherent to the TLM, I felt personally attacked by the mean spiritedness of both the moto proprio and his letter of explanation.
But there is often an upside in even the most unfortunate of occurrences. On the matter of the Holy Father attempting to shut down the TLM, my upside is the final clinching of that which I have been somewhat aware for a while: We are each responsible for our salvation.
Somewhere along the line, a large number of Catholics, perhaps even the majority (at least in the US) fell into the trap of thinking that all one had to do was follow the Pope and one would follow him right into heaven. But really, he’s just a guy. A guy with the graces of his office at his disposal, but no guarantee that those graces will be fully embraced.
I probably started my life as a Catholic convert (20 years ago last Sunday) with that misapprehension. But as each year rolled by it became more clear that we must each “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.”
Our faith does not rest on the whims of one modern day man who happens to currently hold the office of the Vicar of Christ, but on the God-Man who is the Christ and on the 2000 years of development of doctrine and practice through the auspices of the sensus fidelium. As many have said better than I, the form of the Mass celebrated for 1500 years by the faithful does not somehow become illicit overnight.
It is my duty, as a Catholic, to consider the full deposit of faith when making decisions about my faith and my practice of that faith. That’s rather a tall order for a layperson. But we have our Lord’s good advice as something as a short cut: “judge a tree by its fruit.” The fruit of the current Pontificate is well known: a great deal of confusion on matters of faith and morals.
The coping mechanism I use is to pretend that I’m living in the Middle Ages when pronouncements from the pope might not reach a remote corner of Christendom. Rather appropriate as I actually live in a rather remote corner of Christendom. As I am blessed to have access to the TLM from orthodox priests who will not be affected by Traditionis custodes, I can ignore it.
I hope that those of you who are attached to the TLM will not find it taken away from you. I will make that my intention for my next Mass.