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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Distinguishing The Chaff From The Wheat In Parishes

Doug writes: “…Before the cup was filling up. Now it’s flowing over. Many cardinals, many bishops, and many priests are on the road to perdition and are taking many souls with them. Less and less importance is being paid to the Eucharist.

You should turn the wrath of God away from yourselves by your efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with sincere hearts, He will pardon you. I, your mother, through the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel, ask you to amend your lives….”
(Taken from the apparition of The Blessed Mother to the children of Garabandal, Spain, June 18, 1965.)

A local church, not my own parish, attracted my attention quite some time ago, and I occasionally go there for confession and mass. It is a conspicuously conservative, or more appropriately, traditional church. That is to say, that its priests and from what I can see, much of its laity adhere closely to Church doctrine and the Catechism without the various dilutions and changes rightly or wrongly interpreted from Vatican II.

This past Sunday, I caught “the last chance mass,” late in the afternoon. A young, very young, like 20-ish woman came in a few minutes late with whom I presume was her daughter, who I would guess to be in the neighborhood of 3-4 years old. I didn’t see “Dad,” which is not to say that Dad doesn’t exist in their lives, but I still had a heavy feeling in my heart for this young mother and her daughter nonetheless. They sat in the pew directly in front of me.

I’m not usually real happy when modern day parents plop down in front of me with the youngin’s. More often than not nowadays, the kids are poorly behaved and the parents are usually half-hearted about keeping them somewhat orderly, if at all. Such was not the case this time, though.

The kid was actually fairly well behaved, although fidgety, as most kids that age are. But Mom really caught my attention. I’m a people-watcher. I love to watch people. They fascinate me, and I find I can learn much from watching people, so I’m real big on body language, facial expression, and overall demeanor. Each is a form of subconscious communication. Mom was very devout in the way she prayed. She also knelt down, with her face very close to hear daughter’s, and she recited the prayers slowly and deliberately, teaching the little girl how to say them, and much to my surprise, this little girl already knew a good chunk of the prayers. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy. I detest trendy, militant feminism and I’m real big on chivalry. Men and women are equal. Neither sex is more or less important than the other, but each has different roles as well. Women are to nurture. Men are to protect and provide for women and children, so seeing this absence of a Dad evoked emotions in me of both anger (toward the Dad, assuming one is anywhere to be found), and deep sorrow for this young woman and her very young daughter. But seeing how beautifully, lovingly, and genuinely this mother nurtured her daughter with her faith washed away those negative emotions and I felt overcome by uplifting and euphoric warmth. The Holy Spirit had clearly come upon us.

I’m also a visual kind of guy. I tend to both interpret and describe my world more visually than audibly, so I also tend to see and describe just about everything in analogies. I’m a big dot-connector. I connect dots to just about everything. Hansel and Grettal were rank amateurs compared to me at leaving and seeing trails!

I then realized that what I saw from this young mother and her daughter was no coincidence at this traditionalist church. Many times, I have seen various examples of the notable piety of the laity. Then it made sense to me: the priests set the tone, be it good or bad, and the people just follow accordingly, just like how good fruit only comes from a healthy tree, as Jesus taught us.

Our liberalized Church is clearly coming back, but you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. Meanwhile, much of the liberalized and sadly, even corrupted residue still exists in our churches and seminaries. I think some priests and bishops are corrupt, evil and have an agenda, and some of them have already been weeded out or moved on, but only a minority of them still exists. I think most of the clergy that has the, for lack of a better term, “Post Vatican II mind set” are genuinely decent people who believe in what they teach but have been grossly misled by bad teaching and moral relativism, and when you look at the “fruits” of these “trees,” the evidence is clear.

Traditionalist priests will speak more often and more zealously about the Eucharist, Confession, the Ten Commandments, of Our Blessed Mother, of Heaven and Hell, good and evil, and with little to no compromise. Along the same lines, expect to hear much about abortion, contraception, premarital sex, infidelity, promiscuity, modesty (or lack thereof), pornography, homosexuality, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, euthanasia, divorce, etc.. Another good clue in such churches is the presence of at least one mass said in Latin. Also, the priest will tend to speak more reverently of the Pope, and less so about the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which has many fine bishops in its ranks, but as an institution, can’t get out of its own way and filters the Holy Father’s wishes through its own liberal agenda. Expect to receive a heavier penance of a more substance and meaning in Confession, and don’t be surprised to get asked a question or two, or to receive some unsolicited counseling. Laity in such churches will dress better and better respect the decorum, that being, of God’s House. More genuflection and reverence to the Tabernacle is common, as well as people lighting candles, holding Rosary beads, expressing adoration, etc.. Oh yeah, the keep their kids in check better, too, and often with less resistance from the kids.

Then there’s the other side. Like the one priest who once told me that “We” (The Church) no longer consider sins venial or mortal. Or another priest who excused a mother’s abortion because she couldn’t handle having another kid and the Church wouldn’t want her (the mother) to suffer. Or the priest who told me he regularly and knowingly gives Holy Communion to couples that are divorced and remarried outside of the Church without an annulment, or couples shacking up together, because in their minds, they are doing nothing wrong. Or the priest who pooh-poohed the Pope’s wishes, saying that the Church is too big, the Pope is too far removed, and as matters filter down closer to home they are interpreted, as they need to be. And one priest even has Christmas cards that coin the secular phrase: “Happy Holidays.” Such priests will overemphasize God’s love to the point that you’ll go to Heaven, despite whatever you do as long as you believe and mean well, or have a clear conscience, despite what truth is. These priests epitomize the song, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy.” From the pulpit, their words are vacuous, and humor, and sometimes, far too much of it, often replaces substance, significance, and the all-but obsolete ideal of reverence. These “Stand-Up Priestedians” think that incessant entrainment will keep the remaining 25% of mass-attending Catholics in the pews on Sundays, while blindly missing the fact that they and their loopy notions are part of the reason why the other 75% are long gone. (In dog food, a similar replacement for “red meat” is appropriately called “filler.”) In the confessional, they’re robotic. As far as those heavy taboo subjects I listed before, they will never part from their lips. After all, Heaven forbid they offend anyone during Mass. In the 60’s and the 70’s, which is the same era that polluted our seminaries and then our Church, the phrases of the day were, “If it feels good, do it,” and “Challenge authority!” In fact, I came upon that second one just a couple years ago when I perused web site of a New Haven area (Catholic) parish. As for the laity of these followers, they’re not hard to spot. Just look for people who resemble somebody who should instead be working in their garden, on their car, or playing in a softball game, or maybe even lying on a beach, trying to catch as much tan on as much skin as possible without getting arrested. They will go to Communion looking everywhere but at the Eucharist, with their hands in their pockets while snapping away on the chewing gum that will sadly and sacrilegiously soon share the same mouth as the body of Christ. Kneeling for this crowd means sitting, but with your knees on the kneeler. In fact, the position looks more akin to that of someone sitting on a toilet than on a pew. They’ll arrive late, leave early, and talk with each other through half of the mass, except for when the priest gives his sermon; only then, will they actually read the bulletin. If really bored, some of them will actually eat or drink, and toys, not parental supervision, baby-sits the kids, who are usually as obnoxious as their parents. But they excuse it all away with: “Hey, at least I’m here!”, as if to say, “Take it or leave it!” And that is why the priests in such churches don’t chastise them. Instead, they greet them at the door as they leave, shaking their hands and thanking them for coming, like a politician in October, or like the tail wagging the dog, as if God owes them something!

One priest once did give me some good advice. He said that I should attend any church in which I feel a sense of community, and I have. St. Paul wrote that as we grow in our faith, we should also change and mature accordingly. Geography, or more specifically, close proximity to home was once my criteria to join a parish. Then I looked for a priest who gave good sermons. Then I looked for a parish with many activities and ministries, and preferably, a web site. Now, I find that I am more attracted to more traditionalist parishes. So there are two schools of thought to follow from here. During the nomination proceedings of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Catholic, I heard or read somewhere that he is so devout that he actually left his former parish and joined another one farther away because it was more traditionalist. So, you could also seek a more traditionalist church, or you could emulate our Lord, Jesus, who defended his presence among thieves, tax collectors and prostitutes, because they were sinners who needed Him, just like a doctor goes to the sick, and not the well, because it is the sick who need healing. So, you might also choose to wage a campaign as a traditionalist and reform your liberal parish and liberal pastor. That is a noble endeavor indeed, but realize that you are waging a very steep uphill battle. Ask Father Corapi.

Father John Corapi of EWTN spoke similar words about such errant priests and bishops leading their congregations to perdition, as our Blessed Mother warned at Garbandal. Father Corapi also said he was often chastised for his traditionalist rebellion and once even thrown out of a seminary because of how the priests there were disrespecting the consecrated Hosts by locking them in a closet, instead of placing them in the tabernacle. (Father Corapi took the Hosts out of the closet and did a candle-lit holy hour over them.) He also said that when he was obedient to Church doctrine, which unlike dogma, cannot and does not change, the elitist know-it-alls would ridicule him that he didn’t know what he was talking about because they had all the education, so then he went and got 5 university degrees with honors and a PhD, and his answers were still the same because he was still right. (Ridicule to stifle dissent is also an old communist tactic.) You don’t need education to know the truth, just knowledge, and the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church should pretty much be all anybody needs, or at least, a pretty fair head start. So if you do take on that crusade, don’t be discouraged by pompous claims that others, including clergy, know more than you. Know your faith. Then be confident in it. Truth is still truth, no matter how little or much education someone has.

“I am the good shepherd: I know my own and my own know me.”
(John: 10, 14.)


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