Monthly Archives: March 2018

Catholic Youth and the Old Mass: Worship, Reverence, and Doing Hard Things

Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis,
ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui,
ad utilitatem quoque nostram,
totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae.
[May the Lord accept the Sacrifice from thy hands,
to the praise and glory of His Name,
for our benefit and for that of all His holy Church.]


Catholic youths on pilgrimage in 2010 from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres. A three-day, 70 mile trek. Image found here.

It is a fact that what’s driving the return of (and to) the Traditional Latin Mass is, in part, Catholic youth. Search online for that topic and one finds innumerable articles about the growing love of, and demand for, the old Mass on the part of young Catholics. (I encourage you to go search. I don’t have space to list them all here.)

In short, it comes down to three things:

  1. Genuine faith seeking a proper form.
  2. Finding a lack of proper form in much of the modern Church, and especially in the Novus Ordo Mass and its ancillaries.
  3. Finding the proper form in the pre-conciliar traditions of the Church, and in particular the Traditional Latin Mass and its ancillaries.

The Youthful Choir at Saint Agnes Cathedral Latin Mass (found here) Photo Credit: J.B. Kelly

These three reasons are supported by the realization that the Novus Ordo Mass is linked, directly and indirectly, to so many problems in the Church today, such as loss of vocations, closing of parishes and Catholic schools due to lack of interest, loss of a corporate Catholic identity, and increasingly lax morals, especially in the area of sexuality (the very area the world sees traditional Catholics as being laughably foolish). The causal versus the correlative links between the new Mass and modern perils will be debated for ages, but the reality of the links seem real enough to warrant action.

I have seen some older Catholics show complete confusion about this. Why in the world, they wonder, would anyone want that old, rigid, dusty religion? But they do. It has been reported that even Pope Francis himself said about those who show a love for the Traditional Latin Mass: “And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.” I sense that the Holy Father, whom I love, has a fear that the old Mass will come back. My sense is that, while he has much wisdom, he is also of a generation that was formed by the spirit of the 1960’s. Alas. It has also been argued that what youth want is more of a desire for true reverence than the Latin rite, but there is certainly a connection. And there is more than enough evidence to say it’s also the usus antiquior, the ancient usage, that calls to them.

Ironically, the 1960’s was all about youth too, and listening to the youth, and letting the youth show us the way, etc, etc. And then, at the behest of the spirit of the 1960’s, it was all about casting off anything and everything that was traditional, including morals, conventions, and just about anything that smacked of liturgy. Now Pope Francis is saying something very similar about looking to the youth for answers. I say it’s ironic because those who were the youth of yesteryear, and who led the way from the 1960’s into the 1970’s Novus Ordo Church with it’s guitars and bongo drums, its liturgical dancers and the attempted eradication of Latin, are now saying that again the youth must show the way, and the youth are saying it’s time to move beyond the modernist hippy church — and many of the older Catholics are getting mad. Funny how that happens. For some reason many are still drinking the kool aid about how only in utter freedom (it’s a “freedom from” way of thinking, a kind of bra burning Catholicism) can one have a true relationship with Jesus, or have authentic faith, etc. Cast everything off. Even cast off the Church it seems sometimes.

But some older Catholics get it. And they can bring their wisdom to help guide the passion of the youth.

And some younger Catholics who have fallen in love with the old Mass are taking it to the streets. The caption for the following video reads as follows:

So over brunch after the Traditional Latin Mass one Sunday, we, a group of young Miami Catholics, thought it would be fun to visit the Florida Renaissance Festival… and even more fun to form a little procession, chant the Litany of the Saints, and hand out flyers inviting everyone to come worship like it’s 1399!

So we did exactly that.

I find this wonderful. It’s kinda hilarious and precious just how real it is. You want to know how to do real street evangelism? Well, there you go. (Take it from someone who has done some old-fashioned Protestant street evangelism. This is way way better.) I think the same is true with a good old-style Corpus Christi procession. We need more of those.

But it’s not easy. One has to put oneself “out there” as a witness and be willing to accept what may come.

There is also a “meme” of sorts going around where someone posts two pictures with the following text:

Left: What young Catholics want
Right: What old Catholics want young Catholics to want.

The pictures go like this: One the left will be a picture of something very traditional, like nuns in full habits, beautiful churches with stunning altars and tabernacles, priests in cassocks, etc. On the right will be pictures of “nuns on the bus,” bare and ugly modernist churches, liturgical dancers and priests playing folk guitars, etc.

Some examples:

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I doubt this needs any explanation, but on the left is traditional, beautiful, historical, deep, Christ-centered Catholicism, and on the right is an aging, 1960’s, baby-boomer, me-generation, shallower version of an essentially smallish “c” catholicism (if it’s really Catholicism at all). Whether these images are entirely fair I can’t say, but the phenomenon of the meme’s popularity speaks to growing feelings and desires of younger Catholics for the substance of an older, historical Catholicism.

In other words, they want a liturgy given by God and not created by man. They want a faith of the ages not of the latest fashions (of course, and sometimes humorously so, for the Church “fashionable” means 20 years out of date, but oh well.) They want beauty not sentimentality.

Sentimentality is one of the worst features modern Catholicism.

Another example: Imagine well over 15,000 people marching for three days from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to the Cathedral in Chartres. They come as individuals and as groups. They carry banners and come from all over the world. They sing and chant along the way. Then consider that 80% of these pilgrims are under the age of 30 and you now have a picture of one of the Church’s most remarkable annual events. Here is a “video album” of the 2015 pilgrimage:

I love video documents like that. Simple, unadorned, merely presenting what happened. It’s long, but worth the time to watch.

Some older Catholics often seem to always seek ways to make it “easier” for young Catholics to be Catholic, and non-Catholics to be interested in the Church. This is true for Protestants too, who have been much better at applying modern marketing techniques to “evangelism” than Catholics. Make it effortless and you will win against the competition. But, in fact, young Catholics seem to thrive on what is hard to do. It is the challenge of holiness, not the low-commitment of a happy-clappy church, that intrigues them. Interestingly, in this sense many youth have the more Catholic view of the faith than far too many of their elders. And many young Catholics appear to have a clearer understanding and a greater love of what it takes to become a saint than even some Bishops. Talk about “active participation” in liturgy and in life, there you have it. Thank God for those older Catholics who get it, live it, and are examples to the youth.

In another story of how some Catholics just do not “get” the Catholic youth of today, there’s the example of some Catholic administrator or other sort of staff (I’m assuming a sweet, old-fashioned, 1960’s, well-meaning modernist — or someone directed by such a person) altering an image for a poster created to appeal to youth as part of a campaign to raise donations (and apparently to appeal to Catholic youth) in three dioceses France. A video was made and an image was taken from the video to make a poster.

Here’s the video:

Not great. They don’t look like they know each other, and the whole setup looks awkward and weird. Oh well.

But alas, and here’s the issue, Catholic youth would never think a priest in a cassock would be cool enough, right?? Obviously someone thought so, …so some graphic designer was asked to modify the image and make it look as if the priest was wearing blue jeans, because priests in blue jeans are what youth want right? Or is it what old Catholics want young Catholics to want? You decide.

And now here’s the blue jean wearing priest:


A total different priest — hip, with it, connected, relatable, relevant. Rather, he was all those things before, and now post edit, much less. Perhaps what Catholic youth want is not a priest who is really just one of the gang, just another youth like them, just another soccer playing priest or unicycle riding nun. Maybe they want to be called to something more than the quotidian. And maybe they don’t like to be manipulated and lied to. More profoundly, perhaps they don’t want to stay who they are and end up in Hell, but strive for holiness and Heaven. I bet they know holiness is hard and not easy.

The fuller story is here, and the comments are devastating. ouf! If a picture is worth a thousand words, this rather insignificant image probably says as many words as those published by the Second Vatican Council. Oh well. Catholics are human too, and often foolish. The Church goes on. No one was hurt. Right? Right???

Regardless, maybe we ought to listen to the Catholic youth of today. Or at least some of them. And then join them. Generally I am not for letting the youth lead, in fact I’m mostly against it, but this time that’s probably not a bad idea.

What are your thoughts?

Finally, a couple more videos for the curious:

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The Hidden Beauty in the Eucharist, Revealing the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity through Sacred Art

The following is a lecture on beauty and sacred art by Jed Gibbons, artist, designer, and vice president of the Catholic Art Guild, which is based out of the beautiful St. John Cantius Church in Chicago.

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We still have nuns, but not enough

Recently I saw a tweet (that’s a posting on the Twitter social application if you did not know) posted by American Magazine that said:

It is easy to see why #SisterJean has captured the hearts of millions. Her joy and holiness radiate through TV’s, radios and Twitter feeds. But there is another reason: We miss nuns.


Sister Jean: chaplain, mentor, superfan

This tweet is about the Catholic sister who is involved with Loyola University Chicago and its basketball team. Sister Jean has become a media sensation in relation to the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament and Loyola Chicago’s unlikely run to become one of the final four teams in the tournament.

Anywho, several people responded to the the “We miss nuns” part of the tweet  by saying that there are still many nuns and sisters and they are very much with us. Here is one response:

Nuns (Sisters) might not be in “habit”, but they are very much alive and well, in every corner of society, working among us.

Another said:

We still have nuns. Just that you don’t know who might be one because not too many dress in habits these days.

I am no expert on this topic (take everything I say here with a grain of salt), but it seems to me there are two things here worth considering:

  1. Just how many sisters/nuns are there in the United States and is it, therefore, fair to say we miss our nuns??
  2. Since we don’t always know there are sisters/nuns among us because they are not “in habit,” does that matter??

First, here are some statistics (found here) — and I know you know what they will say:

Year Religious sisters Registered Catholics Percentage Ratio
1965 179,954 46,300,000 0.39%
1970 160,931 47,900,000 0.34%
1975 135,225 48,700,000 0.28%
1980 126,517 50,500,000 0.25%
1985 115,386 52,300,000 0.22%
1990 102,504 55,700,000 0.18%
1995 90,809 57,400,000 0.16%
2000 79,814 59,900,000 0.13%
2005 68,634 64,800,000 0.11%
2010 57,544 65,600,000 0.09%
2017 45,605 68,500,000 0.07%

As you expect, the numbers don’t look good. Keep in mind that when the percentage ratio says 0.39% for 1965, that means the total number of sisters were less than one half of one percent of the total Catholic population for the United States at that time. That’s not a lot, but it’s quite a bit more than being less than one tenth of one percent in 2017.

If you need a visual, here it is:


Simply, we just do not have a lot of Catholic sisters/nuns anymore. If fact, one should rightly say that the population of sisters and nuns since 1965 has been decimated. If you want a comparison: 75% of the sisters/nuns population has disappeared in the US since 1965, wherase only 30% to 50% of Europe’s population was lost to the Black Death. (“only” — of course total numbers and the realities of the plague are more meaningful I know, but the ratios are still utterly staggering for the loss of Catholic women vocations.)

Another way to calculate this is to think of what might have been. The growth of total U.S. Catholics from 1965 to 2017 in the U.S. was just over 22 million, or about 48% growth (compared to a U.S. population growth of over 67% for the same period). If the same rate of growth applied to religious sisters the total number would be just over 266,000 instead of an unbelievable low of 45,000. Think of that. A growth rate for religious sisters that merely matched the rather bland growth rate for total Catholics would give us nearly six times as many sisters in the U.S. over that period instead of only one fourth as many.

While the Catholic Church grew slowly but substantially in total numbers, the number of sisters and nuns went down dramatically.

This is really sad. I believe the Catholic Church benefits greatly from having lots of sisters and nuns. In fact, the tremendous growth of Catholicism over the centuries was due, in a major part, to the tireless service of nuns and sisters. They fulfill a vital role in the life of the Church. And we have so few of them anymore. So… it is absolutely fair to say “we miss our nuns.”

The second question is, in some ways, a bigger question. What about habits? Religious sisters not in clearly religious dress makes them invisible to most people — consider the tweets above. I have been told by at least one Catholic that they can always “spot” a sister from the crowd. I can’t. Perhaps it’s merely my limitations, but I think that’s only part of it. Regardless, the question really is whether or not nuns wearing habits is better than not.


Sister Jean back in 1963 when she wore the habit of her order and Loyola won the championship.

A habit, among other things, is a sign, that is it stands for something, points to something. This is not a post about signs and their functions in human society, but pause a moment and one realizes human beings are sign-producing, sign-oriented creatures. This is very true in the way we dress. Business people dress like business people, bankers like bankers, etc. In a sense we all dress in costume and do so for an audience. But this is not fakery, or merely shallow behavior. We are communicating who and what we are to others through our choices of clothing, hair styles, etc. This plays out in the most subtle ways, and to such a degree, that we take it for granted and do not see it.

A nun’s habit is a substantial sign, a clear message of the nature of the person wearing it. To not wear a habit and instead to dress like everyone else is to proclaim that being a nun is not something fundamentally different than other life choices — the “costume” of ordinariness speaks of being just another ordinary person. It is, in a sense, to hide in the crowd. To wear the habit is to proclaim that one is set apart. Statistics say that there are few nuns in my immediate world, but their chosen visual invisibility further reduces their potential impact on the world (or on me) for Christ.

None of this is to say that nuns are not wonderful people who love Christ and seek to serve him. I’m sure they do, and I’m sure Sister Jean is wonderful. Certainly because of the media attention she has an unusual platform to share the message of salvation. But, of course, that’s probably not why the media loves her. (And let’s be honest, basketball is not very important.) Regardless, I think the world needs habited nuns and sisters. The power of the sign of the habit, just like the clerical collar or cassock of the priest, is great.

People search for meaning. They are at least curious about others who exhibit a commitment to something greater than themselves. People are looking for transcendence. The habit is a this-world sign of a that-world connection and service. It says, in a powerful, visual way, “I have given myself to someone greater than I.” It is a form of evangelization to the lost and encouragement to the Church.

So… to answer the second question, I would emphatically say yes. The habit does matter. But I also said this question is perhaps the bigger question. Why? I think it is fair to say that the free falling numbers of nuns is directly related to the abandonment of wearing habits. I won’t say there is a direct causal relationship, but clearly there must be a strong correlation. Human nature tells us this must be true. Bring back the habit and it’s arguable the number of women religious vocations will significantly rise. In fact, a quick search reveals that while many women’s religious orders populations continue to fall, traditional (in part meaning wearing the habit) orders are on the rise.

Thus, in summary, we need more nuns, and more nuns in habits. Boom!


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One of America’s great Christian heresies: Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism is ugly.

I find it interesting and rather amazing at just how much I was indoctrinated into the Christian Zionism heresy. It is a fundamental belief in the church in which I was raised, and later in a group of Christians with whom I fellowshipped. Christian Zionism is one of those easy heresies to latch on to. It just sounds right if one believes other heresies, like sola scriptura or dispensationalism. Brother André Marie gives two excellent talks on the subject of Christian Zionism, and shows clearly why it is a heresy condemned by the Church, and popular with many Protestants (and some Catholics), and what its implications are.

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Need some Traditional Latin Mass right now??

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Daily Mass at Fribourg, Switzerland

At this link you can get both Sunday Mass and daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form from several locations around the world: Warrington, England; Sarasota, Florida; Fribourg, Switzerland; and Guadalajara, Mexico.

Of course it’s not the same as actually being at Mass, but it’s something.

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My Pope


I love Pope Francis.

I am not talking about the warm fuzzies or the swooning that seems to follow him everywhere. There has been an awful lot of swooning. I’m not sure swooning over any pope is entirely healthy anyway. And I hope I am not inclined to illusions or delusions. I see him as a man with limitations and passions. I cannot say I agree with him on every little thing. And he and I certainly we will not share many opinions on any number of topics. But he is my Pope. And I love him.

Why do I write this? As someone who is gradually learning and appreciating the Traditional Latin Mass, I come across a lot of negative attitudes about Pope Francis. I find many of these attitudes on “traditional” Catholic websites and social media. Some would say the Holy Father is merely good at making a show of good works, but that there is no substance behind the show. Some would say he is unorthodox in his beliefs, which is to say not fully Catholic. Others condemn him for decisions he has made and signals he has sent. And even some say he is actually mean and manipulative, one daring to call him a dictator. Then, of course, there are the sedevacantists who don’t call him pope at all.

The thing is I get that. I see what others are seeing. I understand their arguments. I too am not always happy, and sometimes I am very troubled. I worry about the Pope’s agenda, and about some of those with whom he surrounds himself. I am convinced the Vatican is a hotbed of political maneuvering entirely unbecoming of churchmen. And I definitely have issues with what seems to be clear and strong (strong-armed some would say) movements in unhealthy directions regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, movements that seem encouraged by the Pope. Could the Pope be undermining the Church in some way? For how crazy this may sound, he just might be.

I am not uncritical.

But I also know or am convinced of several things:

  1. Pope Francis loves God. This does not mean he is all wise, nor that he always acts correctly or makes the right decisions. And I do not mean he is not prone to vices. But loving God is huge. This is where it all begins. I believe I love God too, and I ask for prayers that my love is and remains true.
  2. He is a sinner. He even says so, and he goes to confession, and asks for our prayers. Do you pray for him every day? I try too, and often fail, but I know I should.
  3. Is he of another generation and culture with different views than I have? Certainly. His experiences are fundamentally different than mine. I have come to believe that human beings are immensely complicated. We not only have a hard time truly knowing others, but also knowing ourselves. He sees the love of the TLM as being a love of rigidity. He was schooled in the spirit of Vatican II. I disagree with him, but I cannot fault him for that. The Pope is just going to see many things differently than I will. And Perhaps rarely I will be right and he will, in fact, be wrong. What else can I do but pray and serve as best I can.
  4. But could he actually be caught up in believing false doctrine? Of course. He is a man and a sinner. Being Pope doesn’t make him perfect. Other popes have believed and promoted false doctrine. What am I to do with this? That’s fairly easy: pray for him and the Church, also pray for my own faith, continually learn and hold fast to orthodox teaching and practice, encourage others to do the same, seek unity, be humble, offer charity, and love as Christ has love us.

If you are still reading, then I will say that I do worry somewhat about this pontificate. I love Pope Francis, but I think he may be doing a poor job at running the Church and the Holy See. I also worry he is under the sway of powerful theologians and thinkers and politicians who are pushing to further the modernist agenda begun before Vatican II, flowered in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and continues today. He himself may be a through and through modernist. And he might actually be a dictator — from what I’ve read this is likely. So I have concerns.

BUT… I cannot know his heart. I do not know how the Vatican works, or most everything that goes on behind the scenes. I recognize that almost no reporting about the Pope, pro or con or apparently neutral, is without some kind of agenda and is therefore skewed regardless of which “side” it comes from. I find myself, in my “mature age” becoming skeptical of absolutes, except when it comes to dogma. I want to trust in God, and I do. I refuse to get caught up in the speculations, at least not too much. And I certainly do not know what God is up to. So I pray for the Pope, the Church, my Archbishops and priests, my family, and the world.

Simply, I am pro-Pope. I am pro-Church. I don’t think it’s a good thing for Catholics to publicly criticize the Pope. If they want to in private, with the right people open to discussion, and with thoughtful Catholics who can and might challenge their complaints, then that’s fine. But they shouldn’t be too public about it, and they shouldn’t be in an echo chamber either. Satan is the real enemy. Don’t open cracks for him. And the world, because it loves Satan, is already the enemy of the Church too. No need to give it any more ammo.

YET… I am not terribly worried. In fact, I’m not really worried at all. I have come to believe at the core of my being that God is love, that He does work all things together for good for those who love Him, and that His providence is real. I also believe that suffering is good, and that deeply knowing this is one of the reasons I came into the Church — not so that I would suffer more, but that I would be in the Church that actually embraces suffering and understands it, incorporates it. It’s just too important to go anywhere else.

Finally: I know something about what it’s like to be a Christian without a Pope. I lived many decades as a Protestant. I cling to the Pope, at least to the office itself. I sense many Catholics don’t understand this — at least they don’t see with the kind of clarity I do. My desire is first to help the Pope, not to denigrate him, to lift him up, not to bring him down. Catholics need to see how truly important it is to have a pope. Today Francis is our Pope.

He is my Pope.


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Is this you? No, no it’s not you.

The following is a panel from the Saint Edmund Campion Children’s Missal, published in 1954.

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Let’s consider some of the following items. If you are a modern, post-Vatican II Catholic:

  • Do you have a crucifix above your bed? Probably not.
  • Were you or your family actually planning on going to Mass? Fairly low chance.
  • Did your mom actually think you were up? No. Of course not.
  • Did your mom say “you’ll be late for Mass?” No. She said “hurry, we’re already late for Mass.”
  • Do you say “huh?” to your mom? No. You whine “whaaaat?! I’m trying to sleep!”
  • Does your mom dress this nice? No. And your dad dresses even worse. We live in a slob culture, so jeans and a team jersey will do just fine for Mass. In fact, why doesn’t she assume you can just go in your pajamas? Right?
  • Does your mom suggest you go to a later Mass. No. You’ve got a soccer game later, so you couldn’t even if she thought you should which, in fact, she does not.
  • Do you say “okay” to your mom’s command to go to a later Mass? No. In fact you throw a fit and argue.

Well, it looks like Bobby did make it to Mass after all.

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Oops, stand up Bobby, put your tongue back in your mouth, and hold out your hand.

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