Sunday 18th March 2018

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A Leaven In The World… A Quiet Storm Of Tradition Builds To Reshape The Church

September 11, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


On a recent national holiday in a seaside town packed with vacationers, I attended a daily Mass and took note of the clientele. The church was nearly full and could be said to thus constitute a fairly reliable test group.
The majority of the people were retired men and women, in this case as elsewhere serving as the backbone of the parish. They undertake much of the volunteer work required to stay within budget and shoulder most of the financial burden of running a parish. They are marvelous disciples and certainly bring much richness to parish life with their wisdom, experience, and generosity.
Members of the retired set are, however, as everywhere in need of near-term replacement as they continue to age and are increasingly less capable of taking on more than simply taking care of themselves. True parish vitality requires more.
Also present were a couple of families, children attending along with their parents. This is a great sign of living faith in the basic cell of society where it should first be handed on. However, the evidence of mature faith for such young people is still a few years off as they continue perforce to imitate the behavior and habits of their parents while still at home.
The evidence that faith has been effectively handed on will be in the choices these young people make when no longer in the constant care of mom and dad.
Upon further inspection I became aware that there were no people in their twenties or thirties, with one exception: a couple chatting after Mass with the organist in order to review music for their upcoming ceremony.
I congratulated them on their engagement as I inquired about their upcoming nuptials, informing them it was for journalistic purpose of finding out who was in church and why.
Granted, the worship I describe was not that of a Sunday Mass and no one that day was present for the purpose of fulfilling the Lord’s Day obligation. It was in a vacation destination and for that reason also might be judged inadequate for gauging current broad-based trends in Catholic life.
It is for these reasons, however, that I believe such an occasion is an ideal barometer for measuring the overall health of the Church in the postconciliar era. When people do something not because it is required of them, one discovers all the more the truth about their interior life.
As our Lord Himself taught: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.” We seek to be where our hearts lead us. On a holiday when work does not as usual dictate our movement and location, in a beautiful seaside resort where nature so powerfully lures us, the fact that some take time for morning Mass reveals all the more the spiritual beating heart of a body of believers.
Many parishes today, especially the larger ones, make their living by moving young people through the process of preparation for a reception of First Communion and Confirmation. It is certainly wonderful and necessary to receive sacraments for the first time and this, too, is the work of the Church.
Many parishes also do a bustling business in weddings, but the true test of Catholic life is not whether someone does something for the first time but in how many are going to church simply to attend Mass, simply to worship the Lord on Sundays as we are commanded to do. These are great means for boosting parish Mass participation but are not necessarily in and of themselves signs of a true vitality of faith.
In light of this, signs that a parish will continue into the next generation are the young adults attending who are in that span of time between leaving home for college or work and getting married.
They are attending simply for the purpose of attending Mass. They don’t have children in the sacramental prep pipeline or in the parish school and they are not currently preparing for marriage. These are not in the final analysis the reasons for the Church whose purpose is to get people to Heaven. They are, however, very commonly found to be the motives for young people who do attend Mass and who also for those reasons do so only temporarily.
The age group that will lead the Church in the not too distant future was mirrored among a group of priests with whom I recently spent time in order to train them in the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass. With the one exception of an African priest closer to my own age, the priests fell into the age group most often missing at the typical parish celebration of the new Mass: ages 20 to 30 years.
The event where I encountered these young priests was earlier this month at our first Traditional Latin Mass training camp. A mention of thanks to the generous benefactors who made it possible is in order. Two of the priests attending are from Kansas, one of whom was newly ordained and the other still very much a young priest. One of the priests is a member of a religious order on the East Coast. They live more or less at peace, some with older fellow clergy who are welcoming of tradition or with others who wish it “banned” for good.
These priests, and a layman discerning the priesthood who assisted with the training, represent a broader group in the Church of young people within the ages between leaving home and starting a family of their own. They are an age group which many priests lament to find so often absent in the regular course of parish life from week to week. The exceptions are found, as in my own experience, where the Traditional Latin Mass is offered consistently on Sundays.
Single young adults at my parish are a part of a growing cohort, a quiet storm building in the Church which will become a wave of change, bringing us “back to the future.” This quiet tempest is hard to detect because it characterized by silence, reverence, serenity, and true prayerfulness as it is being gradually reintroduced into our parish experience of the worship of God.
We will of course pray, and should, that those youngsters attending with their parents will also do so later, on their own, without such parental direction. We also pray that the young engaged couple and all of our newly married couples will breathe divine life into their marriage covenant every Sunday with the praying of holy Mass.
But the young priests in training and the age group they represent, so absent that day at the Mass I described, may perhaps provide the best hope that all of these for whom we pray will be drawn by Traditional beauty and solemnity to attend church weekly at the immemorial Mass. Pray with me that their efforts to study, learn, and offer our Traditional worship will bear fruit in renewed life and faith for all.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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