Friday, April 8, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities... part 22

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 22

“Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”
The frogs were tired of their government. It was too old-fashioned, and so the cranes suggested they nominate a large log in the middle of the swamp to be their king. They would dress the log in royal robes so it could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty and rule them in a way that made no demands.

Until now, the frogs had hidden themselves among the reeds and grasses, but now they had a new and more open government. How tame and peaceable Old King Log was! In a short time, the younger frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly about improvements the government should be making. The cranes had suggested such a king in the first place, and when the frogs had forgotten how to hide, the cranes gobbled up the poor frogs right and left. And the frogs soon saw what fools they had been.

A frog about to be devoured, wept and pleaded with the cranes, reminding them that they had been the proponents of this new government. To which the cranes responded, “You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes.” And so the few frogs who still knew where to hide understood all the dangers that lurked in the swamp, even those dangers which seemed pleasant at the time, and they were better and wiser for the lesson. “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out!”

“Did you really mean what you wrote about motorcycles and pro-choice marches? How could you let things like that go on in your parish, Father, and still worse, how could the bishops and the pope let such things go on?”

You are not asking the right question. Better you should ask, “How could Almighty God let such things go if the Church is indeed His Church?”

There are two schools of thought at the present who say that God does not recognize the church whose pope is Benedict XVI, whose popes Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII and Venerable John Paul II also were. There are rebels on the right and rebels on the left. On one side, there are those who ordain women and on the other, those who ordain bishops both in defiance of the bishop of Rome. On one side, there are those who think the Church of Rome is outdated and, on the other side, those who think her throne is occupied by anti-popes. Some think the Second Vatican Council and its liturgy are heretical and some think that all councils before Vatican II have been superseded.

Both factions are, at heart, the same. They are rebels who have turned their backs on the Bride of Christ. They are both motivated by the same spirit though they come to seemingly different conclusions. “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you!” (1 Samuel 15:23.)

The radical traditionalist faction rejects the Second Vatican Council. They claim that the “new” Mass is, at best, corrupt, at worst, invalid. They somehow believe that the Holy Spirit has abandoned most of the members of the Church. The most radical among them are called “sede vacante” or “sedevacantists” (from Latin for “empty seat” referring to the teaching chair of St. Peter.) They claim to be the true Catholics, but are anything but Catholic in its fullest sense of “universal”.” They are a tiny faction who seem to think that the Holy Spirit has no power to protect the larger Church. They claim that the last valid pope was Pius XII. John the 23rd was invalidly elected, as have been all popes since.

Their reminiscences about the 1950's and the reign of Pius XII are flawed. They forget that the Liturgical renewal they so detest and the Biblical renewal were sponsored by Pius XII. The madness of the sixties and seventies were the fruit of the forties and fifties. The Church of the fifties, as I remember it, was “at the top of its game.” Soon after the Second World War, convents and seminaries were full to overflowing. The good pastor was defined by his skills as an administrator. We suffered from something called the “edifice complex.” The good pastor built new schools and new convents and churches and filled them with eager young candidates. The pressure to join the religious life was intense. If an eighth grade boy was in trouble with his teacher, all he had to say was, “Next year I’m going to enroll in the seminary high school.” Of the 50 plus boys in my eighth grade class, fully half went to the seminary. One was ordained.

When a boy got to the seminary, the pressure was really on. We didn’t live on campus. We went home at night like regular high school students, but regular stopped there. We were in school on Saturday and had Thursdays free. We were told this was the custom in Europe, but it was designed to “protect our vocation.” It was the duty of every parishioner to tell Monsignor at the rectory if they saw one of the seminarians in long conversation with a girl. Remember, these were 14 and 15 year-old boys! Leaving the seminary was a Herculean task. If one wanted to leave, it was necessary to have all your teachers sign a “pink slip” in order to have your credits transferred to another school. Each teacher gave you “the talk.”

“You would make such a fine priest! Why don’t you give it one more year?”

After facing three or four teachers, you gave up, threw the pink slip in the trash and told your girlfriend that you were going to stay in the seminary one more year, and no, you couldn’t take her to the junior prom. Maybe next year for the senior prom.

The pressure from outside was just as great. It was the dream of every pious mother on the south side of Frostbite Falls that, had she three sons, one would be the alderman, one would be the police or fire chief, and the gem in the crown, one would be Monsignor at St. Turalura’s down the street. Everyone was pulling for you. I remember a seminarian whose next door neighbor, a young girl, prayed two Rosaries a day for him, that he persevere in his vocation. When finally in the graduate school, he got up enough nerve to leave the seminary, the girl next door had a nervous breakdown. I remember going to the theology school on the monthly “visiting day” to see an older relative a few years ahead of me in seminary. He stood in his cassock at the door of the residence waiting for us. He had lost about 30 pounds and one eye was twitching. He told me later that he paced on the eve of his ordination wondering how he could get out of it. He had been an exemplary seminarian and did not long remain a priest.

At the same time, there was pressure from the inside in the opposite direction. It was hard to leave, but it was easy to be thrown out. There was strict demerit system and we all dreaded the words “Give me your demerit card.” It was always said with an icy tone of dispassionate justice. Something like Darth Vader, but more matter-of-fact. Then there were the academic demands. Every year, the bottom ten percent was routinely thrown out for grades, at least in the seminary I attended. If one had an obvious physical deformity there was simply no way to be welcome in our seminary. Let him go to a religious order. Perhaps they would take him In this incredible tug of was for what were essentially the souls of teenagers, the question was rarely asked, and then only by the pious few among the faculty, “Does this young man have a sincere calling from the Lord?” Some real saints were turned away from the seminary I attended. Some real (word deleted) excelled.

Then one day it all changed. There was going to be a council. It was like that scene in the “Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy inadvertently throws a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West and all her evil guards suddenly fall to their knees in thanksgiving for their freedom. Ding Dong the witch is dead! Catholicism was going to be fun! We would make up the rules as we went along. The same frightening disciplinarians suddenly became flower children. I remember a bunch of these old guys one year were dressed in cassocks and scowls and the next year they returned from a summer retreat sensitivity center at Big Sur, California wearing love beads and turtleneck sweaters. (I am not making any of this up.) A few of them started dating because the rule about celibacy was about to change. An older friend of mine went ahead with his ordination because he had been told by his teachers that celibacy would soon be abolished. One heard stories of some of the guys going on dates on the eve of their ordination.

Those in charge were not always different people. These were the same rigid disciplinarians that had controlled the seminary system and they were strangely rigid about change. The “new” became as rigorously enforced as the old had been. Young men were actually thrown out of the seminary for being “too pious.” My point is not that a new group had taken over the system. It was the same old crew. The pressure was off. The explosion was inevitable. The “spirit” of Vatican Two made everything acceptable for a little while, that is until the cranes started to devour the frogs. The attitude that makes the Gospel and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a personal plaything did not spring into life full grown, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. It was there all the time.

To be continued...

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