We are in the midst of some very busy and significant events. Saturday George W. Bush will be sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States, and there will be new hope once again in the White House in restoring morals and decency to America, and preserve her soul. But satan is dead set against this and he has launched his entire arsenal at Bush's appointee for Attorney General John Ashcroft. As the inquisition - erh - senate hearings for his confirmation continue, liberals like Ted Kennedy act as Torquemada in trying to convict Bush's conservative nominee of having principles. Because of those virtues, the Left wants him out. Because he has declared "We have no king but Jesus" they are out to crucify him just as Our Lord was berated by the Scribes and Pharisees and ultimately condemned to death. Only prayer and Ashcroft's principles will conquer the forces of satan. The evil one definitely does not want someone of such ethics and decency as the head "cop" of this country. Lucifer's legions are even trying to sell uninformed Catholics that Ashcroft is anti-Catholic because he spoke at Bob Jones University. Please, give us a break! Alan Keyes also spoke at Bob Jones University and he's not only a staunch Roman Catholic, but black as well. The media drivel we are being fed greatly exaggerates the negatives and plays down the positives. How can there be unity when there is so much division within the ranks?
That same question can be asked within the Roman Catholic Church as we begin tomorrow the official Week of Prayer for Church Unity. This encompasses a wide spectrum of hope that our separated brethren in the various Protestant sects and those in schism since 1052 in the Eastern Orthodox Church will reunite that "all may be one" - "ut unum sint!" While Pope John Paul II has made tremendous inroads with other faiths in ecumenism, there is still one goal that we hope and pray he will focus his attention on in accomplishing an immediate goal within the Church of "ut unum sint." That is solving the schism of the far right. Many bishops give more credence and time to leftist movements such as call to action, we are church and the abominable 'catholics' for a free choice. Yet they consider those who promote the pre-Vatican II liturgy - the Latin Tridentine Mass as dangerous? Sad but true. What are they really afraid of? Could it be that they do not want to heed the Holy Father's motu proprio decree on July 2, 1988 "Ecclesia Dei" in which the Pope took into consideration those who had a yearning to practice the liturgy the way they were weaned - Latin.
As we know, the Pope established the Ecclesia Dei commission to deal with those who had previously followed Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a good prelate who refused to buy into the modernism and drastic changes of the Novus Ordo Mass as it was being passed down and diluted after Vatican II. Though he was right in his thinking and a visionary in scope, he was wrong in refusing to obey. For that he was excommunicated and rightly so. It pained John Paul II greatly to extend the bell, book and candle and it had to pain Cardinal Bernardin Gantin who had to sign the edict as well. It also pains many who long for the reverence and edification offered in the Latin Mass. There are those who stubbornly refused Rome and left through the right door, opting to follow Lefebvre. They became known as the Society of St. Pius X and, though their liturgy is beautiful, it is wrong because it is not in union with Rome. They are not being obedient to the Magisterium of the Church.
To appease those Catholics who wanted to remain obedient but fulfill their need for the solemnity and edification of the Tridentine Mass, His Holiness made it quite clear to the bishops to make the Latin Mass available in their dioceses. A few listened and responded; but many more either ignored the Pope's request or set up a token Tridentine schedule for Sundays only in one or two churches in the entire diocese.
Sadly, many bishops, like ours in San Diego, are of the mindset that the Tridentine rite is a thing of the past and will soon die out. When approached numerous times over the past several years on establishing an additional Tridentine Mass in the northern section of San Diego County, our shepherd said no. Presently there is one at the Holy Cross Cemetary near downtown San Diego. It is believed to be the first approved Tridentine Mass site after the Second Vatican Council. There is only one Mass on Sundays and the church, a unique cross-shaped traditional architecture with a maze of corridors leading in and out of the main sanctuary, is always packed. You need to get there an hour ahead of time just to get a pew. Yet Bishop Robert Brom is reported to have told those who sought a similar rite 50 miles north here in the teeming, upscale Carlsbad-Oceanside-Vista-San Marcos area, that there wasn't that much interest and those who seek it are dying off anyway and soon there won't be the clamor for it. He, along with so many other bishops, have failed to see the demographics of those who attend the Tridentine Mass in San Diego and every other diocese that offers it across the United States. The faithful are young families, teens, young adults, older adults of every shape, size and culture who attend the Latin Mass because it fulfills the void in their spirituality. We know. We would gladly attend the Tridentine Mass currently being held just a few miles from us by a priest who journeys south from Orange County each Sunday. But since the bishop has not approved it, we will be obedient. Obedience bears the greatest fruit, but it hurts. Oh, does it hurt.
Compare it to the opportunity to go to an excellent restaurant where you can take your time and satisfy your hunger and palate and soothe the soul with peace of mind and rest. Instead of being able to do this, the doors are closed and the only thing open is a McDonald's - on every corner. Though one may satisfy a hunger by downing a Big Mac or two and some fries, they truly are not soothing the palate or the soul. It's a restless world we live in.
The same for the parish churches. So much emphasis being placed on modern music, the "feel good" fellowship and the rest of the horizontal banter and verbal engineering that it has taken the sacredness and reverence out of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and replaced it with a protestant-like service that has very little resemblance to what we once loved and where we could go when our souls were hungry and be satisfied.
Jesus says in John 6: 35-36, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I have told you that you have seen Me and you do not believe."
Yes, Our Lord knows how much we hunger and thirst because we are not being fed properly in our parishes today due to the new wave of liturgical aberations. You'll note the picture on the front page of today's issue. It is taken from Una Voce's excellent site. You'll note the reverence and solemnity of the Mass and how the vertical is emphasized so rightly as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. All eyes are on God, not each other. Christ is the focal point of the Mass, front and center. We could write volumes on the differences between the Old and the New, the deconstruction of the Novus Ordo and how it in no way resembles what the Council Fathers intended. It is a diluted version that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has acknowledged. Yet his confreres in the Magisterium have refused to hear or act on the Bishop of Rome's recommendations. And so, with the divisive spirit and ridiculous architectural course over the last thirty years, today the sedalia has replaced the tabernacles and crucifixes. Man has replaced God. Sorry, but our souls are not being satisfied.
And we are not alone. Many express the same longings and needs. There are many, many good people who have been mislead on both the right and the left. We need to come together. We hear the bishops celebrating the wide diversity in the Church as they praise various liturgical expressions. Sadly lacking in this assessment is the Latin rite, the one that sustained Holy Mother Church for centuries. There are many who had remained loyal for so long and recently have declared "sedis vacantis" over this very issue - the Latin rite and the bishops' concerted effort to undermine what the Pope has requested. They have become frustrated by John Paul's inability to corral the bishops and tame their modern tendencies. We know the chair is not empty. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is very much the Sovereign Pontiff and the rightful successor of the first Pope Saint Peter. Yet, there are a growing number of Catholics who, out of sheer frustration with the deconstruction of the New Mass, have turned back to their roots and are punished for it either by not having it available or ignoring the bishops and going ahead. The latter is disobedience. Yet, in the same manner, are the bishops not being disobedient as well by not providing more Tridentine Masses? Isn't that what the Holy Father and his chief lieutenant Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have called for? Like the SSPX, those who have gone against their bishops have disengaged themselves from Rome and thereby earned self-excommunication. But it doesn't have to come to that. We can be one.
I say so because the reuniting of those who profess loyalty to the Old Mass, those who find comfort and a deep-seated spiritual satisfaction in the Latin rite have far less hurdles to overcome than the Orthodox situation or the Lutherans, Anglicans, and many others have. In fact, there is only one count in which they disagree with and that is the liturgy. There is no disagreement over the Doctrines, the Sacraments or any of the Dogmas. There is no "patriarch" to appease, no political landmines to defuse. It is very simple.
We humbly call on the Holy Father to reconcile with the Society of St. Pius X and those who have wandered not because they thought they had a better idea, but because the Church and rubrics they were taught no longer resembled what they knew. During the Jubilee Year the Holy Father called for reconciliation with many faiths. We ask him again to devote the remainder of his great and noble pontificate to bringing back into union with Rome our dear brothers and sisters who love Holy Mother Church so much and who, for the past few decades have been away. The great East-West schism is within half a century of a full millennium; the Protestant heresies are nearing 500 years. Surely 20 years is long enough for our separated brethren who are so close, yet so far merely because of liturgical differences.
If the Church truly wants to celebrate the wide diversity, it cannot do so without extending forgiveness and reconciliation to the followers of St. Pius X Society. Truly it would be the crowning glory of John Paul the Great's long and illustrious pontificate if he could indeed reunite the schismatic right and extend to the universal Church the opportunity to choose either the Tridentine rite or the Novus Ordo so that all may be one as he expressed in his excellent encyclical "Ut unum sint!" That is our prayer for this Week of Prayer for Church Unity.
We have diversity with the Byzantine Rite and the Maronite Rite. Why not the Latin Rite? I can assure you the numbers would amaze you if we had the opportunity to choose between the New and the Old. Could it be that many of the bishops fear that their agenda will be shelved in favor of reverence and a return to respect for the Holy Sacrifice? I hate to say that, but when they refuse to heed the Pope's request, what do you think? If only they would give up the whole autonomy issue and conform with what the Holy Father is asking all would be nourished in the way that best suits their soul within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Too many set the bar too high in expectations that the Orthodox Church will reunite or the Lutherans or Anglicans. Why not offer the carrot of reunification with the schismatic right and see where that leads. If we are truly One Bread, One Body, we cannot exclude those who realize this possibly better than most Catholics today! We pray ut unum sint! and soon!