Many of us have ridden on an airplane, often more than once. If there is any trite and obvious part of riding on an airplane, it is those "public service announcements" they have regarding the safety features of the plane and what to do in emergencies of various sorts. If you have flown enough times (as I have) you could probably just about quote the drill from memory. Perhaps we know it so well that it goes unnoticed and we fail to realize an important safety lesson it teaches.
I refer to that part regarding the oxygen masks that come down out of the ceiling should the cabin depressurize. Airplanes may typically fly at altitudes of up to 48,000 feet. That's nearly twice as high as Mount Everest. And even the top of Mt. Everest could not be reached without some special equipment. When Sir Edmund Hillary first ascended its height, for the last few thousand feet he also needed oxygen to breath, as the air is too thin up there to sustain consciousness.
At 48,000 feet or so, it can only be all the thinner. A stray bullet or a crack or tear in the fuselage could depressurize the cabin in minutes, an imploded window in seconds. What is to be done in such events? This is where the oxygen masks come into play. There is however one interesting detail as to how these masks are to be used, which is of relevance here.
In the old days, they would talk about what to do if the person sitting next to you is a small child, and later on they added several other categories of people, such as with various mental and physical disabilities, etc. after some minor disasters occurred in which people took care of small children next to them but neglected persons with other conditions. Now of course, in a show both of political correctness as well as legal CYA savvy, they have reworded the standard spiel to go like this:
"Put the mask on [thus and so - the stewardess demonstrates], and then, if the person next to you requires any assistance…" No list of what sorts of persons or why, just "if they need assistance," whatever the reason.
The salient point however to all this lies in the two words "and then." The key message the airlines (and I) wish to convey, besides the specifics of how to put the mask on, is that you are to take care of yourself FIRST, and then, afterwards, see to the needs of anyone else around you who may need your assistance.
This runs counter to the usual generosity we are otherwise rightly taught. Normally, we go about, being unselfish, putting the needs of others before our own, loving them better than we love ourselves. And yet here in this life-threatening situation we are directed to think, not of others (at least not at first), but of ourselves. Well, that's selfish, isn't it? But there is a very real and practical reason that we are thus directed. We may or may not complete our assistance to others before we pass out from the lack of oxygen.
If there is a sudden loss of oxygen, we can lose consciousness in as little as 15 seconds. It could easily take much more than that to pull down someone else's mask, try to put it on their face, and secure it snugly in place, and obviously they will not be in a position to help you now that it is your turn. As it is, 15 seconds is barely enough time for you to realize what has happened, jerk the mask down in the proper fashion to release the oxygen in it (oxygen does not flow into the mask until it is jerked), and get it properly strapped on oneself and take one's first breath from the mask.
Though you could lose consciousness in such a short time, you could survive for minutes, if someone else is there to take care of you in your unconscious state. Even if you put your mask on and then took another minute just to get your breath back before looking to the needs of anyone else, you could still save their life every bit as well as if you had succeeded in putting their mask on first.
One other thing to factor in is that while you are conscious, so are they, and perhaps in their consciousness and panic they may be not only unable to assist themselves, but even impede your efforts to help them. A panicked person can wave their arms and flail about making it impossible to do anything for them. Lifeguards at beaches and swimming pools are taught the same thing: Wait until a person quits struggling before rescuing them. Better to wait until they are unconscious and then they will not resist. It's OK that they pass out for a short while; they WILL be fine.
So far, I am sure that this has had that dry boringness of some public service safety announcement, but there is a religious aspect to all of this. How often I have encountered persons who seem won to tradition, and yet continue to attend the Novus Ordo on the basis that "I can do some good here." Philosophically they may indeed like tradition (or at least they say they do), and yet they continue to turn to their Novus Ordo presider for sacraments and spiritual guidance.
"But I can do more good, working from within," they protest. "Within" … - what? The language itself belies their underlying mistaken assumption that they are "on the inside" by virtue of remaining spiritually rooted in their Novus Ordo congregation, and that we are "on the outside" by going elsewhere. Would they consider joining (for example) the Lutheran Church so as to "do good" from the inside? I don't see that.
They are comfortable where they are; they don't plan to leave. And it won't be a major problem for them if their efforts to "help" bring them back to tradition turn out to be universal failure. They like the people, they like their friends there, and they have gone to the same place so long they can get there in their sleep. Their car practically drives itself there. Go elsewhere (to a real Catholic church, for example)? They can't right now. "There is a parish council meeting tonight and the Liturgy Committee is meeting soon and I have to stop Mrs. So-and-so from persuading them to have those dancing girls again, and then I have to pick up those Confirmation class kids, and then there's choir practice, the 'Eucharistic Minister's' meeting, the…" - and so on.
What help is that? Fed nothing but the poisoned pabulum of the Novus Ordo they have nothing real to offer. The boat is going the wrong way, and even if they should row in the right direction it doesn't help. They are oarsmen with their oars in the air and not in the water. The people around them are dying spiritually and there is nothing they can do, as they hang about watching it happen, powerless to stop it or even slow it down appreciably.
That is as dangerous as trying to put on someone else's oxygen mask first. When it comes to seeking God's graces, we must indeed be "selfish" in the sense that only with our own spiritual progress can we truly do anything for the Kingdom of God. We have to put on our own mask first, get our own soul right with God, before we have anything of the Divine Life to offer others.
It is a little like what Jesus spoke about when He said that we must first remove the beam from our own eye before helping to remove the splinter from our neighbor's eye. Though He mentioned that in the context of people judging other's faults while their own faults as yet still need work, the same lesson applies here as well. If a person is drowning in the sea, how am I going to pull him up out of the water if I myself am as much drowning in it as he? No, first I must get on solid ground (or at least a boat or raft) and then I can turn around and lend a hand to the drowning person to pull them up out of the sea, as now I have something to offer.
I say this with the hope of waking some people out of their comfort zone. They stay, not really because of any imagined "good" they claim to do, but because it is where they are comfortable. They are used to it, just like a person surrounded with pornography can gradually learn to tune it out and feel oblivious to it. "It isn't THAT bad here," they try to convince themselves, and often succeed. And of course, all their many commitments as well provide the final needed excuse. But are such excuses really valid? Won't the parish council meeting and the liturgical working group and all the other things get along just fine without one?
What arrangements do we make when we go on a vacation for a couple weeks? What arrangements do we make when, taking a higher-paying job in another state, we sell the house, get the kids out of school, pull up stakes, and move away? So readily we will do these things for earthly reasons, but what about eternal reasons? Guess what? Following God requires sacrifice. Are we willing to do that? We are willing to devote so much energy to so many other things, but not to God.
The Novus Ordo presiders tolerate and at times even promote people who can content themselves with such excuses for staying in their Novus Ordo "parishes" since they really continue to be part of what the Novus Ordo is doing. Indeed, such persons, as would even be interested in Tradition, generally tend to be the ones who give generously of their time to cook the meals, go door to door, chair the boring committees, and sweep up the mess afterwards. They are the ones who truly care enough about religion to devote their time and effort to it. And after all, there's room for all, even those stick-in-the-mud conservatives. Well, almost all. Let one of those conservatives get even more stick-in-the-mud by becoming fully and truly traditional and see what happens!
Let such a one begin attending the traditional Catholic Mass regularly, fulfilling their Sunday obligation that way, and cease Novus Ordo participation and even attendance as well. Let him gain the graces from the solid Rock of Saint Peter as only can be found in the traditional parishes and Mass centers, and now his oar is in the water. Only now at last is he is on the right boat, indeed the Barque of Peter.
Something to know is that what people who do this find is that as their spirituality begins to have something substantial to offer to the Novus Ordoites all around them, what increased good they can do them is frequently offset by the realization by their presider that they have been receiving their spirituality from elsewhere, from a real source, and they don't like the competition.
My own experience shows this. Once upon a time I was very much a part of the local Novus Ordo "parish." I was accompanist for the choir, taught confirmation classes to youth, President of the local chapter "presidium" of the Legion of Mary and Vice President, then Secretary of the next level up at the Legion "the curia," and much involved with and on the board of a group that organized retreats three times a year. But then I discovered Tradition, and in time with it, a place to go for the traditional Mass, and finally a Traditional Catholic bride, who with me wanted a traditional Catholic wedding.
As it increasingly became clear that the traditional parish was where my spiritual roots lay, I increasingly found myself removed from various local responsibilities. Confirmation class was given over to others, first some of the kids I taught, and then later various others. I voluntarily stepped down from the board of the Retreat group (since the retreats they featured invariably involved some grave liturgical abuses), and the choir, as it increasingly became clear that my participation in the Novus Ordo, even as a traditional accompanist, could create a scandal.
In the Legion, I was asked to resign from the Presidency of the local presidium, and in the curia, my recent transfer from Vice President to Secretary was never fully ratified, though they did allow me to function as "Acting Secretary" for another year or so longer since no one else was at all willing to do the job. Now all of that is over. They have become an old wineskin and I am new wine, in imitation of my Divine Master.
At this point in time, my participation in the life of the local Novus Ordo "parish" is now limited to leading a small monthly rosary (about a dozen people come). From a human standpoint, one would think that the good I can do is now far more limited than it was before. But this is as man thinks, and not as God thinks. It is only Pride that says "I want to do this," and by necessity such pride only works in one's own limited human power and glory.
The stand I have taken for the Truth has cost me much, and even now I still get invitations to "please come back" which I must politely decline. Simply being able to tell these people "Sorry, I'm a Catholic now and I must be faithful to the Church" as occasion arises does far and away more than everything I could have done (and had been doing) from the command posts of their various organizations and activities. So now, none of the glory is mine; all of it is God's. Though it be not much, it savors of a Higher Law, indeed the very Highest, and only that which savors of that Highest Law could ever accomplish anything for the Kingdom of God.
I think of St. Therese of Lisieux, who never went to a single "missionary land," who indeed remained all her religious life within the confines of a small convent, and yet she is the Patron Saint of Missionaries. Could she have done as much in any missionary land as she did in that convent? Could Jesus have done so much for us if He had made His peace with Ananias and Caiaphas, avoided the Cross, and lived a rich full life and died peacefully in his bed as an old man? Would anyone care to argue that if He had done so, then perhaps He could have reached and taught a great many more people, changed more lives, and perhaps even helped to deliver Israel from the Roman yoke?
Are you ready to pick up your own Cross? Will you even now rise from your spiritual slumber and go to a real Catholic priest, who says the real Catholic Mass, and who gives out the real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the real Savior? Will you even now accept the Cross of being rejected and put out of that contemporary Synagogue of Satan for no other reason than your faithfulness to the Faith and the Church?