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A Leaven In The World… Liturgy In The Land Of Saints And Scholars

December 3, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

I chose this year to make my annual canonical retreat, required of all priests, in Ireland: in the month of November. If you know anything about Ireland, it’s most likely the fact that the weather is characterized by prodigious rainfall, especially in the cold months. Eire is called the “Emerald Isle” for a reason.
My first trip to Ireland, as a recently ordained a priest in 1993, was for the purpose of exploring my roots. That was in January.
The Cusick/Cusack clan hales from County Meath in Ireland where I am writing this. More important for me at that time, however, was a pilgrimage to the sight of the monastic city founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century. On that sojourn I lodged with the Dominican community in Dublin.
I put off my pilgrimage to Glendalough until my last full day in the country, on which day it snowed, unusual for Ireland. All the buses direct from St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin to Glendalough were canceled, so I took a bus from the main station which would drop me at the closest point to my destination: six miles distant from the “valley of the two lakes” and St. Kevin’s Bed, the deceptive nickname for the cave where legend says he slept. I got off the bus and began walking. And hitchhiking, for the first time in my life.
As I made the descent down into the Devil’s Glen, no kidding, the dark clouds gathered, lowering, and the snow began falling again. With that, of course, the temperatures also plummeted. A woman blessedly stopped, picked me up, and drove me past her own destination and all the way to Glendalough.
The sun came back out, the birds sang, and I drank from a spring that flowed between the lakes. I sang the current hour of the Divine Office, my chanting echoing from the stones of a twelfth-century oratory. As you can see, the memories have remained strong. The wonder and adventure of pilgrimage can be supported both by the saints who have been and who draw us in their footsteps, and the ones in training who will be and whom we meet along the way.
The hour was late by the time the pastor of the nearby new parish of St. Kevin hosted me, without prior warning, for Holy Mass and dinner. Though I asked him to drop me at the closest bus stop, he instead drove me all the way back to Dublin. Yet another of the kind souls whom I encountered on my intrepid adventure.
I remember him asking me why I raised the Host so high at the consecration after observing me celebrating Holy Mass. A sign of the different approaches, low church and high church, already evident at that time between differing generations in the priesthood.
My Ordination classmates and I even had maniples made with our vestments in the hope that one day they would be restored. Young priests are now indeed donning them once again, harking back to a scriptural reference that speaks of going out to the harvest weeping and returning rejoicing, carrying sheaves. Maniple is the Latin word for “sheaves” and a reminder that suffering and sacrifice are necessary for the fruit of joy.
But the question of that pastor of St. Kevin’s pointed to divergent ecclesiologies. One either looked back, informing one’s celebration of the so-called reformed rite of Vatican II through reference to the venerable tradition. Or one turned away, opting against any choices reminiscent of it in a rootless search for what was thought to be more primitive. The question being: Was the new Mass a rejection of the past in favor of a completely different approach, or should we continue to have roots, informing our public and common prayer by means of our venerable tradition?
For many young priests, Elevation of the Host above the head was a choice to hark back to the tradition along with a few other options available to us.
Many young priests, now with the freedom to do so, are capable of learning the Traditional Mass itself, not merely dressing up the new Mass with an antique vestment or gesture from the past, here or there.
You would be surprised at the young priests who tell me they’ve learned how to pray the Traditional Mass. Some of these are newly ordained priests working in chanceries and in liturgy offices. That is, men who have been hand-picked to serve in close cooperation with bishops.
They do distance themselves from being thought overly enthusiastic about tradition by saying such things as: “When I first met seminarians learning the Traditional Mass, they seemed angry, so I was turned off by the idea, but then I met guys who were not and so I decided to do it then.” This, of course, is merely burnishing one’s credentials, but it shows that there is still some discomfort with being discovered as knowing the Traditional Mass. The pressure to conform is great.
It is also an act of self-distancing from the stereotype of the “angry trad.”
Which brings me to the present day and my choice to make a retreat at Silversteam Priory in County Meath, Ireland. At this Benedictine priory you find monks, mostly young ones, from Australia, the United States, and Ireland, among other places. The community liturgy is entirely traditional with the chanting of the Breviarium Romanum and the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass.
The hospitality to tradition is the reason why I chose to visit here. No fear of attempting to offer Mass on a small shelf attached to the tabernacle, as I have been forced to do in the past while on retreat, in order to orient myself toward the Lord. Those who love the tradition are made completely welcome here.
The Church has come a long way in the 50 years of disorientation following Vatican II. Now men from Romania, Poland, and other places are discerning vocations here in Ireland. The order is busy building new housing, as well as a church, to accommodate the growing numbers.
Ireland has been in the news for disturbing reasons of late, with the abortion referendum vote in favor of killing the unborn and a Taoiseach living a publicly sinful life. The grip of Satan seems strong in this once holy land baptized by St. Patrick.
But there is hope. Prayer is the one thing necessary to save Ireland’s soul. Liturgical prayer in Ireland, the land of saints and scholars, is blooming again from its ancient roots in County Meath. And it will continue to grow.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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