May 30, 2011 § 2 Comments
One of the main things that drew me, at an early age, toward the Catholic Church, was the incredible solemnity, beauty, and reverence of the Mass. Not just any Mass, but the one that they still celebrated in my grandfather’s parish- the Latin Mass. Eventually, the ‘reforms’ brought about due to confusion about the meaning of the Second Vatican Council, took away the high stone altar, the communion rail, the beautiful Latin prayers, and the reverence of the Mass. My grandfather hated the changes and, though he remained a faithful Catholic to his death and assisted at Mass every Sunday, he never again felt the pure joy that he used to feel at Mass. I didn’t even know about any council or changes- I was not Catholic. My mother was a lapsed Catholic, and my father a Southern Baptist. It was my father’s church that I was raised in and taught about. The only experience I had at a Catholic church was when I would visit grampaw in the summers. He would take me to Mass every Sunday, and these times were my favorite part of my visits. I stopped visiting every year for financial reasons (we lived several hundred miles from El Paso, where my grandparents lived), but I never forgot the beautiful liturgy of the Catholic Church.
During my teenage years I gave up on religion. I had no use for it. I was a teenager, after all- I knew everything, and I knew religion was a sham. However, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of my Bible, or to outright condemn religion. And I, thinking myself learning of all the fallacies of religion, began an in-depth study of the Scriptures. Later, in my mid-twenties, I joined a very fundamentalist, evangelical church. I couldn’t find peace there with their doctrines. Though they held the Bible up as almost a Eucharist, Christ in the form of a book, their doctrines were based on a few cherry-picked verses and were negated by the very book which they seemed to hold in such regard. So, after much reading about Christian history, and especially the Catholic Church, and, helped along by God’s word, I had a renewal of faith, and decided that Christ lived, and that He resided in the Holy Catholic Church. So I decided to convert. That was the beginning of my struggle. Upon going to Mass for the first time since my youth, I didn’t recognize the Church. It was not the same Mass that I remembered with such fond affection. There was no Latin. There was little reverence. Guitars and drums distracted me from the state of worship I tried to maintain. I honestly didn’t like it.
Nowhere in this new church could I see the signs of those things I had read about in classic works by the Saints and other Catholics, nor even the Catechism. Reverence for Christ in the Eucharist was gone, almost as if nobody knew the doctrine of the Real Presence. In fact, there was little reverence at all. People came in dressed as if they were ready to go and enjoy their weekend- as soon as church was over. Jeans, football jerseys, short skirts- all the clothing we wore to our evangelical church, because, hey, God doesn’t care what you look like, man! Maybe not, but I do, and I want to look my best for Him. But whatever, I kept it up, and entered RCIA. It was in RCIA that I discovered the instructors didn’t even understand the Church! I continually found myself having to correct the teachers! Our class was told that baptism was just a symbolic thing, for instance. They did still understand the Real Presence, but in a kind of watered down form. They knew nothing of traditional prayers and beliefs. I wanted to quit. This wasn’t the Church I had learned about and been drawn to!
But I didn’t quit, because, like it or not, the Church is, and will always be. Just like in the days of Luther, the church was in turmoil, with Satan trying his hardest to divide it. That same Satan that my RCIA instructors laughingly said was more of a “symbol of evil” than an actual entity bent on the destruction of Christ’s church. But, just as in the days of the misguided monk, were I to leave the Church, to give up on her, I’d only be doing the Devil’s work for him. You see, the Church in Luther’s time had problems, just as she has had since day one. But she was already in the process of reforming herself. Luther, had he taken an example from St. Catherine of Siena, could have worked for change while still being loyal to Christ and His Church. Instead, he gave the Devil a hand and left, taking millions of misguided souls with him, their itching ears wanting to find an easier way to Christ. So I realize that being a “traditional” Catholic means remaining loyal to the magisterium, the pope, and the Church. After all, Christ promised that Satan would never destroy His Church. Don’t I trust Christ? Of course I do. That’s why I patiently wait for the Church to reform herself again, ridding herself of the taint of the Satan-inspired few who, misunderstanding the documents of Vatican II, proceeded to Protestantize the Church. And it’s going along nicely, I think. Our Holy Father, Benedict, is bringing back the traditional Mass for those who want it, just as his predecessor had begun. The dogmas of the Church are still set in stone, just many Catholics are no longer educated about what it is the Church actually believes, and this is in part due to the influence Satan has exerted over many Bishops and priests. Child molestation is a fruit of the spirit of Vatican II, for example. As is an ecumenism that doesn’t attempt conversion, and a modernism which leaves sound doctrine on the bookshelves. But if I want to be truly Catholic, I must be like St. Catherine, not Martin Luther. There is a reason that Luther is called a heretic and Catherine a Saint and Doctor. St. Catherine worked for change from within, guided by the Holy Spirit and trusting in Christ, while Luther did the Devil’s work and caused a schism that the world still reels from. I do want the Church to return to the right path. But I want to guide her and help work for change from within, rather than be another source of division. That, in my opinion, is true traditional Catholicism.