Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Quattuor Abhinc Annos

Today marks the fourth anniversary of my installation into the ministry of acolyte seu subdeacon. In a brief visit to the adoration chapel this morning (located on the premises of the school where I teach), I thanked God for the undeserved privilege to serve Him at the altar of sacrifice, now as subdeacon countless times over.
The giving of the instruments of office -
the moment the subdiaconal ministry was conferred

Rather than rehash the same reflections (I have nothing else to add), I am thinking about doing a reflection over the entirety of the last 15 years. The end of this month also marks the 14th. anniversary of moving to Southern New Jersey to be a parishioner of Mater Ecclesiae. As with life, so with Mater Ecclesiae, much has changed in the last decade and a half. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dominica in Vino (seu II post Epiphaniam)

The third manifestation we celebrated throughout the Epiphany Octave was Our Lord's first miracle, changing water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee. Today, we recapitulate that theme as the Gospel appointed for this Second Sunday after Epiphany.

This Gospel passage means a few things. The good wine symbolizes Christ Incarnate giving us His Gospel (S. Augustine) after the lesser quality wine (the Old Testament). Wine (and by extension all alcoholic beverages) give joy and make men's hearts glad (Ps. 103); God wishes us to make merry and use all the goods of His creation with moderation and respect; all natural virtue resides in the happy medium, neither to go to excess (drunkenness) nor defect (puritanism/teetotalism).

I wrote as much when, many moons ago, I applied to teach Latin at a Protestant Classical School, and in the essay section (!) of their job application, I was asked to express "my" views on drinking alcohol. "If such were evil, then why would Christ have made the wedding feast gladsome with wine," I penned to the thoughtful astonishment of the hiring principal. I never did get hired, but that principal, well versed in Aristotelian philosophy and Latin, had started occasionally attending the TLM and may have become a Catholic.

Eat, drink, make merry. Wine is not a woman's beverage; it's a Catholic beverage! Let us learn well from our MALE French and Italian brethren about how to incarnate this delightful drink into life. Happy "Vino" Sunday!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Quid est "Tradistan"?

I claim no credit whatsoever in coining the phrase, but "Tradistan", in my view, is a convenient term to distinguish real Traditionalism from the Traditionalist sub-culture. It is also a clear pejorative in a way more clear than the old canard of "Rad Trad". Rad Trad can, in fact, range in meaning from being synonymous with all the negative attributes contained by the term Tradistan, on one end, to being a false pejorative used by Neo-Cons to excoriate Catholics simply for holding to authentic Tradition concerning Liturgy and doctrine, on the other hand.

So what is Tradistan? We see this phrase thrown around by some fellow travelers in the small blogosphere of liturgical restorationists. I don't think we need to analyze the etymology of the word; to anyone with a modicum of knowledge concerning totalitarian, theocratic states, the suffix "stan" is well understood. Allow me then to proffer a definition of Tradistan.

Tradistan - a subculture, mainly present in the Anglosphere, comprised of individuals (and oftentimes the parochial elite) outwardly adhering to some iteration (1962, 1958, or pre-55) of traditional Catholic Liturgy whilst enforcing an uniform control of everyday life among its members concerning dress, manner, speech, commerce and the like under the auspices of restoring a pristine ideal of Christendom. Particular directives tend to be limited to Victorian era mores and practices and moral interpretations of known Catholic ecclesiastics of the same era, exhibiting not an insignificant import of Protestant/Calvinist Fundamentalism into the Catholic sphere. Liturgy is not valued in ipso but typically as a means to an end, and end namely to conform to rigid, uniform morality codes which are purportedly the one, true Catholic way of living.

Tradistan is not one place; it is geographically present at any number of Traditional Mass chapels, large and small, notably in the United States. No one Traditionalist organization has a complete claim to Tradistan; the subculture is found across the spectrum from sedevacantists to the SSPX to the FSSP and perhaps even to a small subset among diocesan TLMS, though the last is the best chance one has to be an authentic Traditionalist without the yoke of Tradistani culture.

Tradistan does not value the Liturgy as an end. As long as the Mass is in Latin and "pre-Vatican II", there is not much else they concern themselves with. Neoscholastic reductionism exerts its power by continuing to make the Low Mass the standard, and High Liturgies are considered "extra". Anecdotes abound about SSPX and FSSP priests forbidding weekday Sung Masses for occasions such as St. John's feast following Christmas (even when a competent schola and serving corps are available) with the dismissive that the parish is "not a monastery". The same dismissal forbids the singing of the full chants of the Tracts on Quadragesima and Palm Sundays. In short, liturgical minimalism abounds, just as it did in the decades before Vatican II, the precursor to the same old, same old in the Novus Ordo.

Tradistani practitioners (mostly male) are seemingly obsessed with how women dress. I have yet to see these same men give a fig about them and their boys dressing as proper gentlemen. The "modesty" gestapo is ever present. The beach is evil. Swimming (pejoratively called "bathing") with mixed company is evil. The opposite sex must be avoided at all times...until suddenly at 18 it is expected for you to court and marry someone with whom you never learned how to relate properly before your youth expires. Kids must be shielded from any possible occasion of sin by...introducing them prematurely to the very knowledge of said sins. Harp and obsess about everything to do with the Sixth and Ninth Commandments per omnia saecula saeculorum. There is only one, true application for every tenet of moral theology, and thou shalt adhere to it.

And then there is the hyperdevotionalism, the true mark of real Catholic prayer. Forget Liturgy. Focus on private revelation and obsesses particularly ad nauseam about Fatima. Saccharine devotions. Pastel art. Effeminate goop masquerading as sacred music. If the Novus Ordo is stuck in the 1960s and 70s; Tradistan is stuck in the 1940s and 50s. Neither twin cousin has any sense of timeless, real Tradition.

If I can condense Tradistan to one overarching principle it is this - minimalism in Liturgy, maximalism in devotionalism and private revelation, and black and white absolutism in moral applications. How would you define it?

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Annus Novus et Instaurationes

This is a short post to give interested readers an update on the latest developments of liturgical restoration at Mater Ecclesiae. Since Palm Sunday of 2014, a slow, long, and gradual process of restoring the unadulterated, true Roman Rite (and away from the SSPX-FSSP 1962 diktat) has been creeping along at Mater Ecclesiae. Here is a brief recap:

2014 - Palm Sunday restored

2015 - Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified also restored. 

2016 - All of Holy Week restored; first Tenebrae moved to Spy Wednesday evening (unfortunately,               the other days are still in the morning). Additionally, the installation of an acolyte (seu                         "permanent" subdeacon) at the parish which has contributed to a definite uptick in the                          frequency of Solemn Masses. Pentecost Vigil restored. New folded chasubles made.                            Candlemas Foremass restored to violet and folded chasubles.

2017/18 - Proper Last Gospels; first all Solemn Rites for the real Holy Week. No more omissions of                     the Prayers at the Foot and the Last Gospel at any Masses whatsoever.

2019 - Commemorations of saints and the seasonal orations restored at all High and Sung Masses in               accordance with the "pre-55" rubrics.

And now, we have gained a (soon to retire) deacon from the diocese. (Note how there is no unnecessary adjective before the word "deacon" because a deacon is a deacon is a deacon...and every TLM parish should have one or two). He has been attending Mass at Mater for months and has expressed interest in learning how to serve as a deacon in the Traditional Mass. We are currently in training, so Deo volente, we will have a functional deacon to allow us to have Solemn Masses on most Sundays and other feasts at some point later in this new liturgical year. Sacred ministers, all levels of orders at the parishes - we are again fulfilling the aims of Trent XXIII and restoring what is necessary for a proper liturgical life at every parish.

Vespers awaits its day...

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


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


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.