Saturday, October 13, 2007


In last Sunday's homily I heard once again the message that we knew as standard fare prior to Vatican II. It had no hint of the happy-clappy Catholicism that has been around homilies in recent years. There were no jokes, because it isn't a laughing matter. There was no charismatic enthusiasm. The virtue it conveyed was steadfastness--the cross that is our heritage. It's what I think of when I think of authentic faith. It is the core of "till death do us part", the secret substance that says "I will not give up on you".

It's what friendships are made of. Ultimately it's what faith is made of. It can take us soaring to the heights of happiness, but it can, and more frequently does, take us to the depths of despair as we see our greatest desires crumble to dust before us. It brings us to "Thy will be done" when it has done its work within our soul. It is a very sober virtue.

I don't find this virtue in "celebration", and "celebration" is what we are told our Mass is about in these modern times. Celebration is for the special times when things are going right, when we think we see our way to heaven opening before us. It belongs to the wedding march and the baptism waters and the first communion dress. Celebration belongs to beginnings that are always filled with happiness. But what is going to sustain us when the hope is not fulfilled, as invariably at times the hope will not be? What keeps us together and going forward when the difficulties start--when the husband takes up gambling or the wife has yet another miscarriage? What gets us through the newborn baby who has cerebral palsy or the teenager who walks away from faith and family? Celebration won't cut it then. Then it is the cross, and only the cross, that keeps us going. Then the Mass as sacrifice is what holds us together. Then it is knowing that if we find it hard, He found it hard before us and yet He was still loved. Steadfastness may be born in celebration, but it lives in sacrifice, and so a priest who reminds us of this core of our faith does us a far greater service than one who makes us smile.

I found this same message in Matt Abbott's column today. His column is about the homosexual ministry called Courage, and most of the column is written by a member of that ministry, David Morrison. He is speaking to gay people with his message, but he is also speaking to me, because he is speaking about the cross that love places on our shoulders and tells us to carry.

The beginning sacraments of celebration that bring us so much joy are followed by the sober sacraments of steadfastness--penance and anointing of the sick. None of us gets out of here alive. Death and judgment come after the celebrations. Trials and tribulations are the human lot. And failures. There are always failures. Others disappoint us and we disappoint ourselves. We hide our face before the face of God. It is then that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with its sober message of the cross is the balm for our soul that the happy-clappy celebration can never be. And it is then that we are most in need.

I'm not especially attached to the Tridentine, but if it were to come to my area on a weekly basis, I'd give it serious consideration because of that message of sacrifice and because of the sober environment of steadfastness that it conveys. It is a message that is missing from contemporary Catholicism.

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