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A Leaven In The World… Extraordinary Parish Life

February 5, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

I have had a most extraordinary experience in parish life. Not simply because of the “Extraordinary” Form of the Mass, also known as the Traditional Latin Mass, which has become the liturgical cornerstone of our life with doubled attendance over the course of my seven-year tenure. The Holy Mass is one part of the equation; what is needed to tell the full story of any parish are the faithful souls who are blessed by, and are the reason for, any apostolate.
Although the missa antiquior is the authentic tradition of the Church, its purity as a source finds its earthly end in the young people and families it draws, as well as the wise and well-read seniors, in every time and place. The purpose of the Mass is also the salvation of these souls made possible by its end as the true worship of God.
Souls we do have in our parish, though not many as some might account who pride themselves on something they haven’t built and which they sometimes destroy because they do not know the value of the effort required to build any edifice from the ground up. We are situated between two larger towns in a village left behind when vacationers moved on to the ocean, away from our river port, with the opening of a bridge over the Bay.
We do not have a school or the large physical plant with rows of children arranged for faith formation classes that so many expect to see when they show up to join a parish. Some have turned up their noses at the lack of these and after attending one Mass never came again.
Some fishing and boating remain among those who’ve stayed. A young couple, who join us on Sundays with their two children, has just moved in and built a new home, drawn not just by government work in the area but also because of the small-town atmosphere. They do so as older couples move away upon approaching retirement for a lower cost of living out of state.
Solid parish life cannot be built on those who move through the system only for the purpose of receiving the sacraments. These “poor” we will always have among us. Such is certainly an opportunity for evangelization into authentic living of the faith. Sacraments, however, are not a reward for faithfully attending years of catechism classes only. The keeping holy of the Lord’s Day is necessary for the graces thus received to fulfill their promise. As the superficial upon whom the community was built for so many years abandoned the pews upon reception of Confirmation, there was left a very uncomfortable period of rebuilding.
Rooting out heresy and corruption can mean the loss of a good number of habitués of the pews and for us that was indeed the case. As many as 20 people at a Mass normally attended by 60 or more can be demoralizing for the many Catholics who today judge the experience of Holy Mass not on Christ’s presence but, rather, on how many other people accompany us.
Reduced numbers of faithful can be a healing opportunity with ad orientem worship providing a more powerful, physical focus on the Lord, one acted on and lived out rather than simply described, as is the case so often today, with the faithful in a closed human circle.
So often we fear praising others because we do not wish to endanger their humility, but sometimes it is helpful to recognize those who have built up parish life individually as well as corporately. It is more than time to tell the story of a young man discerning the priesthood in our parish.
His piety and faithfulness have inspired and given hope to others. What drew him was a love of the Traditional Mass, as is true for many of his generation who have recommitted themselves to the faith. Those who attend the remaining two weekly Masses in English at our parish have benefited from his presence and example as well.
Today ours is one of very few non-FSSP parishes in the United States that offers the Traditional Latin Mass each day. We are praying that more faithful will join us, as in the case of a couple considering buying a house nearby so that they can take advantage of our rare apostolate.
To the picture of young homeschooling families, retirees, couples in their working years as well as the newly engaged, we add a young millennial, discerning a vocation to the priesthood as well as renewing and transforming our experience of the Church’s rich traditio of faith. His desire to serve the priesthood and discern his own call to it draws him to serve Mass daily.
The very low pay he tolerates for his very generous work on the altar and in the office is testament to his love of Catholic tradition. One day he told me, “You need a clerk,” and said he was willing to subsist on the very little pay we could offer in addition to a second infrequent part-time job in order to do so. Out of love for souls he and the young altar servers he supports and trains also help out at the remaining two weekend Masses in the new, “Ordinary,” Form in English, although they prefer the Traditional Latin.
His integral Catholic faith contrasts favorably with the error of one older parishioner who recently, in making known his decision to depart from us, stated that he wouldn’t attend Mass anymore if it was offered only in Latin. His opting for increased English in the Mass has become an end in itself and a fulfillment of the fears of those who predicted that making the Mass look Protestant would produce Protestants.
The vitality of a parish is found among those who attend Mass simply to do so and thus to love and worship the Lord. It is also found in the refreshing perspective of young Catholics who want to reassert the presence of Church on the street daily through sacred signs.
On a recent day I invited our young discerner to accompany me for a Communion call to the hospital. He disappeared to prepare, later presenting himself vested in cassock and surplice with prayer book and altar linens. He provided me also with a surplice as well as a stole.
When we arrived at the patient’s door we were met by a young orderly who directed us to put on a gown and gloves. As a secularly pious “boomer,” I immediately commenced to obey. But I was pleased to see this young millennial stand up to the orderly and tell him I could not wear gloves when touching the Blessed Sacrament to give Communion to our hospitalized parishioner. I did, however, put the gown on over my cassock, surplice, and stole.
I smiled from ear to ear as we made our way out of the hospital after the Communion call, pleasantly amused with the serious effort of my assistant to maintain an air of reverence out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. Such millennials will evangelize their peers and we should all support them as they seek to use our full Tradition to do so.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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