Monday, December 02, 2019

Vita Intellectus, Vita Domestica?

The right honourable Rad Trad has opined on the topic of marital regret. In normal times, when (extended) family structures were mostly intact and when the Church was in a relatively more healthy condition in continuity with herself from one generation to the next, there would be little justification to excuse oneself from married life once contracted. Nowadays, these excuses abound and breakdowns are a regular occurrence. Is there more to this than the simple solution of stopping the excuses and bearing the Cross? I contend there are. Some people should be counseled strongly not to marry in the first place.

Fundamentalist Protestant culture, like Orthodox Judaism, and its Tradistani cousins all place a high premium on marriage among its young adults and particularly on fecundity. Tradistan and its part-time bedfellow, the Marriage and Family oriented Neo-Conservative Catholics, both place a high hope in the eventual succession of the "biological solution" to outnumber the secular and "religious" left; hence, they see themselves as active agents in its execution.

But the reality of today is that young men and women coming from Tradistani culture have been reared in an environment lacking warmth and proper emotional maturation. The reason so many of these second and third generation Trads defect is because of the harshness of the home life, a spiritual idealist environment met with severity and emotional coldness. This is not to say that every Trad home is like this, but there are enough cases of this that I contend that these young adults have never reached a point of emotional and/or psychological maturity, (assuming they have even remained Trad by the age of 25) in which to contract marriage validly or prudently.

Leaving that aside, the Rad Trad references idealism as an excuse for marital regret. Could it not be said that the Tradistan environment also breeds this kind of idealism particularly in men? This point I'd like to probe more.

In the movie Dr. Zhivago, one of the antagonists is a politically connected and immoral man called Viktor Komarovsky. After chamberings with a widowed mother, he woos and eventually rapes Lar(is)a, her 17 year old daughter (this is Russia just before the Revolution). Lara meanwhile is engaged to a young man named Pasha Antipov, who is a passionate revolutionary (i.e. an idealist), a cause to which he accords religious assent above all else. Pasha and Viktor meet one day in which the former shares his Red Religion while the latter says he may have sympathies to the cause while thinking to himself how he will ensure his Talleyrandist political connections regardless of who forms the government.

Later on, Viktor takes Lara home and with a sort of paternal admonition says,"There are two kinds of men and only two. And that young man is one kind. He is high-minded. He is pure. He's the kind of man the world pretends to look up to, and in fact despises. He is the kind of man who breeds unhappiness, particularly in women. Do you understand?...I think you do. There's another kind. Not high-minded, not pure, but alive. Now, that your tastes at this time should incline towards the juvenile is understandable; but for you to marry that boy would be a disaster."
Everything I am is for this Revolution - Antipov
Source: Warner Brothers

His words strike me as I consider that a man who takes happiness in the intellectual life and is an idealist is unsuitable for marriage. So, is it true that the idealist should forgo marriage and pursue life as an academic and/or clergyman? Is marriage really only suitable for people the world categorizes as "down to earth"? Does the intellectual class have to settle on reproducing itself in the university rather than the marital bed? Do people intellectually inclined have to turn themselves off once married in order to concern themselves with the practical and mundane necessities of life in order to maintain peace and concord? And if one does and the other does not, is this not a recipe for marital strife?

Rather than being an ex post facto excuse, perhaps the academic, the idealist, the practitioner of the intellectual life (and all of these are necessary for a proper civilization mind you) is a "prudential impediment" to seeking marriage in the first place.




Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Pontificalia

Not in over 23 years had this budding liturgist been accorded the opportunity to assist at two Pontifical Masses within as many days of each other. In my acadian days of SSPXness, Bishop Williamson pontificated twice (well, officially that is) over the last weekend of April 1996 - once on Saturday to confer confirmations and then again on the Monday following to dedicate the new church for the Dominican sisters (a delicious, once in a lifetime six-hour ceremony). Surprisingly, both of those Masses were celebrated from the faldstool, a rare instance of correct praxis for the auxiliary bishops +Lefebvre left for us.

Anyway, my Pontifical Mass log had been dry since the one in Philadelphia in September 2017 at which I served as bugia-bearer in cope. That drought was lifted by a close-to-last minute decision to travel to the District of Free Masonry this past Saturday to attend the Pontifical Solemn Mass at Throne celebrated by His Grace, Archbishop Cordileone, Ordinary of San Francisco at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception which the readers can view in full:

Then again this morning, I had the privilege to serve subdeacon for another pontifical Mass (at the faldstool - thus reprising a role I served with +Schneider three years ago at Mater Ecclesiae), this time at the Carmelite Monastery in North Philadelphia at which a nun received her black veil.

By now, I have been to more pontifical Masses than I can count. They have become somewhat second nature, but this is how it should be. I was already commenting to a friend that today I didn't have to reference the Bible Fortescue all that much, and that these ceremonies have become familiar enough to execute them well in the future. If only, they were common. If only our Roman Rite would be exalted again in triumphant liturgy like this every week.

What really struck me, though, about both Masses in these few days is how calm and measured the ceremonies were executed. The ministers knew their roles. The servers knew their roles. The MCs must have been descended from Quoex. Both Masses were replete with grown men, clerics and lay, filling most of the serving roles, with a limited usage of younger boys; this is how it should be. It makes all the difference in the world when the combination of competence, experience, and confident calmness come together to effect a seamless, smooth ceremony at which all of us ministers can simply and prayerfully serve the roles which we have. We need more boys growing into men who continue serving. During adolescence they should imbibe a kind of "infused knowledge" of the Liturgy from the veteran MCs, rather than see serving as a boy thing, who serve for a time as a disciplined exercise of childhood, never really accruing a conceptual ease with the ceremonies and books, only to "graduate" at the cusp when they could become the experienced MCs we need.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Anniversaria

Besides bringing cool, autumnal refreshment and colorful beauty, October brings anniversaries which ever are at the forefront of my mind. The casual observer would likely tell John to let go of the one and the modern secular would be baffled at the observance of the other. The world at large, Catholic or secular, doesn't usually appreciate or "get" people who have near photographic memories of the dates of events in one's life, but that's their problem.

The first day to recall is October 11, 1986. Thirty-three years have now passed since the great social and cultural upheaval of my early childhood in which the second and third generations of Neapolitan-Americans moved out of the somewhat ethnic Bronx into exurban NY. It could be argued then that the mid-Hudson Valley (more precisely Southern Dutchess County) was half-Upstate and hald-Downstate, but as waves of us city-dwellers flooded the bucolic lands leading up to the Taconics, that area is now firmly within the outer rings of suburban metropolitan NY, both culturally and even linguistically. The real, cultural Upstate-Downstate divide is further North, the border of Dutchess and Columbia counties. 

As one who is wont to decry both suburbanization and the transient American way of life over the last several decades, I am one of its very victims. At least in 1986, despite the cultural shift from city to suburbs, I still had another nine years to grow in age and wisdom (perhaps) in the same state and general nexus to my place of birth. More importantly, we were still close to and could enjoy the life of having extended family for holidays and other celebrations. That would all be destroyed in the great Trad-Migration of Ridgefield families to Post Falls in the mid-1990s. This week also marks that anniversary - the four-day drive across the country in the moving truck. From 1995, the futility of Trad-Utopia would morph into a life which became unrooted. For almost 25 years, I have never truly felt at home anymore in any place I've lived. But sadly this does not mean that returning to NY would fix this, because even my homeland is laid waste; there is no longer the extended family presence there and so much else of that original state of things from my childhood no longer exists. 

The moral is not to succumb to transient uprooting way of life and to restore roots for future generations. That is how civilization is restored, to say nothing of realizing a Catholic society. The problem with Trad-Utopia is that, like much else in Tradistan, it is built of a supernatural ideal whilst ignoring and not building on the natural - in this case, natural, family roots in a particular geography.

The other anniversary is of October 13, 1992. Twenty-seven years ago this day, my grandmother, Lucille, passed from this life at the age of 68. Her passing was the first real experience of death I encountered. Last evening and this morning, the Office of the Dead was appended to the Sunday's Hours as I do every year. Please say a prayer for her repose. 

My grandmother's passing does play into the above reflections, though. She died right at the time when the old order was in its last gasps; in fact, her death hastened the break up of the extended family life. Her funeral is to this day the last time I ever saw several of the other relatives; today most of them are also deceased while my distant cousins are scattered to the four ends of the country oblivious to their family's origins or the old way of life of the ethnic, Neapolitan Catholic diaspora. All of us have become homogenized, rootless Americans.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Viginti Abhinc Annos

Ah, August 29! The foolish dancing girl does the bidding of her wicked mother to have the Baptist's head served on a platter.

But the decollation of the Precursor is not the only significance of this date for me. It was exactly 20 years ago, this very day (it was a Sunday in 1999) that I tendered my resignation as Head Master of Ceremonies at the SSPX church in Post Falls, ID, and with this resignation, I also severed myself from affiliation with the SSPX, the organization which for nine years had formed and incubated my liturgical formation - which of course would be fine-tuned later on.

One does not take lightly such a momentous, life-changing decision. The proverbial fork in life's road came up suddenly, and whether or not it was the right choice (there are arguments to be made on either side), it was the choice I made at the time. Leaving the SSPX would precipitate a series of events which lead to a lot of spiritual tepidity (or worse). It was also be the catalyst to return to my native East Coast. At the time, I thought I was ushering in a "New Era", one marked by a so-called return to the "glory days" of my materialistic, comfortable childhood days in NY in the 1980's and early 1990's. Job, marriage, place to live - all of these things had to be same again as what my father gave up upon our family's Tradification. In all of it, there was such a pitiful lack of trust in God and unwillingness to accept His will, but rather a willful impatience to impose my mine according to my set schedule and circumstances. It would only be years later that I would even begin to sort through all the consequences of the decision I made this day, 20 years ago. How I wish I had a bona fide, trustworthy mentor (instead of Tradbots) to guide me through life at that critical age of youth and immaturity.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Persona

A while ago, I wrote about how some married men have a tendency to lose any sense of personal identity (assuming they had one before marriage) - that they had no defining characteristic other than the fact of their state of life as being husbands and fathers. They lack any (external) sign that they have any kind of hobby, interest, personal passion, thoughts, or feelings - in short, no personal identity and no way in which true friendships could be found or take root.

In a similar vein, I have anecdotally found there to be a growing similar profile among the younger priests in the FSSP. We can likely extend this to all of Tradistan. What is this profile? Quite simply it is the phenomenon of men (priests in this case) to lack any personality at all or any sense of humor. This seems to be limited to the younger members; the older priests can be quite jovial or at least have a normative ability to engage, have rapport, and...well...laugh with others.

So, is this the result of nearly all of newly ordained in this last decade being men who grew up exclusively in the bubble of Tradistan?

Is it the fact that a disproportionate share of them possess a kind of severe Midwestern hyper-gravitas? Proximity to more Protestant Fundamentalists perhaps?

Or do the traditional seminaries purposefully homogenize these men into shedding their personalities as if this is some kind of mark of holiness or the separateness a priest is supposed to have from people? I have personally witnessed a young man who used to engage in a normal, friendly manner turn on a dime into a stiff the day he was ordained a priest (not when ordained a deacon - he remained his normal self for that).

As a 40 year old man, I realize I am now older than a sizeable number of priests, and the recently ordained (i.e. in the last 5-10 years) are mostly of a completely different generation. Is what I am observing also a function of a sort of "millenial" inability to engage with people according to hitherto natural norms of society?

Whatever the case may be, I don't think this bodes well. Stiff personalities (not to be confused with quiet pensive melancholics!) are not doing any favors for the cause of Tradition. The lack of human personalities and emotion is not a mark or requirement of holiness, and such nonsense to the contrary is a modern day extension of the old and cold Jansenistic and Victorian mores. No thanks. This is not holy and it is not healthy...and it is utterly phony.

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box.

Gaudeamus in Domino!

Vanitas vanitatum! - A little photo gallery of the subdiaconal ministry at the annual Assumption Mass of the BVM at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul in Philadelphia. Depending on the potential change in the local Ordinary (+Chaput is soon to reach 75), this may have been the last time we would be able to use this cathedral for this Mass. Sed autem, the hope for next year is to get Cardinal Burke to pontificate for the Assumption Mass. Time will tell in either case.

All photos are screen shots of the video recording of this Mass by EWTN.

Epistle

The most sublime act of the subdeacon -
pouring water into the chalice at the Offertory
The veil obscuring the Holy of Holies

Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus!

The real Sign of Peace - Pax Tecum!

Guardian of the Chalice




Saturday, August 10, 2019

Numquam sine Ministro

Quo progrederis sine filio, pater? Quo, sacerdos sancte, sine diacono properas? Tu numquam sine ministro sacrificium offerre consueveras.

Whither dost thou go without thy son, father? Whither, holy priest, dost thou hasten without thy deacon? Thou hadst never been accustomed to offer sacrifice without thy minister.

These pleas were exchanged by our famous St. Lawrence, whose feast we celebrate today, to Pope St. Sixtus II four days hitherto when the latter along with the other Roman deacons went to their martyrdom. These words first appeared in the short, ninth lesson read at Matins on August 6 to commemorate Sixtus and companions, and they again are borrowed today to form an antiphon and a responsory at the Matins of St. Lawrence.

Surely many recount how St. Lawrence "had fun" with his executioners about being cooked on one side of the grill, but these earlier words of his perhaps give us a glimpse into the already well established liturgical norms of the mid-third century. How, indeed, does the priest offer the holy sacrifice without his deacon, without his inferior ministers? There it is, folks - almost eighteen centuries of Roman liturgical Tradition say it all, enshrined right there in these very sincere, matter-of-fact statements of St. Lawrence.  The Solemn Mass is normative; the priest offering Mass alone without the sacred ministers is not the normative Liturgy but the proper manner of the private altar alone. The diaconate is a proper order and ministry in ipso, not a stepping stone in seminary formation to the presbyterate. This is Tradition - not the minimalistic, Low Mass idolizing, hyper-sacerdotalism of the post-Tridentine/Vatican I (One) era.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Quis est vir?

This is a post I drafted seven years ago, but for some unknown reason, I never posted it. I don't purport to speak with any real authority on what true manhood is, but I do know that I reject the false choices modern society presents. So, from July 2012:

Life can be a struggle to know one's identity. We live in a world which now calls into question even the most basic definitions of things which nature clearly defines, among which are the absurd notion of homosexual "marriage" and the notion that gender is defined by society or custom rather than nature. Let's explore a bit more this matter of gender identity.

Firstly, being a linguistic purist, it is really incorrect to use the word gender to refer to male and female persons; rather, sex is the correct term because gender is a grammatical term (i.e. in most languages, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns are classified into masculine, feminine, and neuter which determine their proper spellings and uses in a sentence). So, the correct term is sex, a word which, unfortunately, both secular liberals and Puritanical prudes of all faiths relegate to the "gutter". Male and female is the sex of a person, a biological and ontological (nature of one's being) fact of nature, the two complementary manifestations of the one, human nature created by God. Therefore, I rephrase my topic to "sex identity".

We live in a world in which two extremes are present when it comes to what is meant to be a "man" or "woman". I'll lay aside the question of being a woman, for obvious reasons, and focus on what being a man is and should be. When it comes to being a man, the two extremes can be simplified into these slang terms: 1. Macho and 2. Sissy. Somewhere between these, or rather, above and beyond these stupidities, is the definition of a real man, but let's briefly explore these extremes and point out their basic errors.

The "Macho"
This is the notion that a man can never appear to be weak, never show any emotions or cry (except anger), never talk about or reveal feelings, be tight and stiff-lipped except about sports and beer, be preoccupied with tough and tumble activities such as sports and racing cars, and never treat women as anything else besides sexual objects. It goes without saying that such a "man" would never be capable of engaging in intelligent conversation with a woman as his equal intellectual, or more simply, to treat any woman as a friend.

The "Sissy"
On the opposite side is the effeminate man, exemplified by the term "metrosexual", who rightly rails against the errors of machoism above, but then manifests his own errors in return. Among these are learned helplessness, dependency on women (mothers in particular) to take care of them, lacking the ability to handle a crisis because he is ruled by emotions without recourse to reason, being preoccupied with vanity in appearance and dress, and being driven by money and materialism. Such a man rightly has no problem being friends with women as intellectual equals, but he takes it too far, and effectively becomes like a woman himself rather than complementing them.

Both of these are nothing more than two sides of the same coin of modern man's remaining stuck in adolescence.

So, what is the solution to the false choices the world gives us? With the aid of grace and centuries of Catholic examples of true manhood and friendship between the sexes, we can draw a picture of a true man. A true man is both gentle and firm, strong and noble in work and defense as a means and not an end. A true man has a heart and a mind, so he shows his emotions (e.g. crying at a funeral) but at the same time keeps them in control when reason needs to guide him through a crisis. A man has the ability more easily to separate and compartmentalize his emotions, not to suppress them but to control and use them for the good. A true man enjoys sports and good drink in due time and due season but he is also ordered toward the appreciation of higher things of culture and the arts, of leisurely contemplation of God's creation. A true man dresses as becomes a gentleman rather than remain an adolescent in appearance, not to show off and feed vanity, but to keep him disciplined and dignified as becomes his nature. The higher one's station in life, the more dignified his dress should be, and being a father of family is a pretty high station. A true man respects, engages, and shows affection to women as sisters and mothers in Christ, not by the "safe" distancing and segregation of Puritanical prudery and not by treating them as effeminate "buddies", but by the nobility of true friendship, as intellectual and spiritual companions, which is made possible by our corresponding to the graces of the Redemption.