Tag Archives: History

10 Years After Summorum Pontificum

Ten years ago this week, Pope Benedict XVi issued an apostolic letter called Summorum Pontificum that decreed that all Roman Catholic priests could offer “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite,” also known as “the Traditional Latin Mass” that preceded Vatican II.  In fact, Pope John Paul II had encouraged bishops to allow their priests to do this, but Pope Benedict went a step further in saying that priests did not need permission from their bishop to do the old Mass in private.  Restrictions were to be loosened for this Mass offered in public, too.  The Roman Catholic priest was also given permission to give the old absolution in Latin for penitents, extreme unction for the dying and early-Church blessings for anyone who asked.  The priest can now live on the old calendar for both the Mass and the Roman Breviary (a system of 150 Psalms a week slightly changed from the 6th century onwards.)

It is very interesting that Summorum Pontificum was issued on 7/7/7, or in European dating, 7/7/7. Three is the superlative in Biblical terms for anything in heaven or on earth, so three sevens means “covenant to the utmost.” Interestingly enough, we have seven sacraments. But this number goes even deeper into tradition: In Hebrew, to “seven” someone is to covenant them, to enter into a life-for-a-life relationship. This is done by “cutting a covenant” as the Hebrew for “covenant” takes the verb “to cut.” For example, God first “cut a covenant” with Abraham by cutting apart two animals and two birds (Gen 15) and passing through them. He would turn this violence on Himself 2000 years later on the Cross and in the Holy Mass, for “the priest sunders with unbloody cut the body and blood of the Lord, using his voice as a sword.”—St. Gregory Nazienzen. This is not Calvinism or even the Father turning against the Son. It is the Divine Word as God offering his sacred humanity in body and in blood through the pain and love of the cross to each one of us. Some priests before Vatican II used to go off to Mass saying that they were going to do “holy violence to God.” Why? Because Jesus gives His body and blood to us from the most unkind cuts of Calvary, perpetuated in the Mass. Was it any accident that the most ancient form of the Roman Mass was re-opened (albeit never fully abrogated) on the 7th day of the 7th month of 2007? God establishes a worldwide covenant with His people.

Strangely, Pope Benedict never offered the extraordinary form in public.  On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI called the ordinary form “a banal, on-the-spot-fabrication.” How then, did he expect the old rites and new rites to be streamlined together in a single parish?  Pope Benedict proposed “the hermeneutic of continuity.”  The hermeneutic of continuity holds that there is to be no rupture in liturgy (or doctrine) before the Council or after the Council.  I believe that this was the number one goal of his papacy and Summorum Pontificum.  Has it worked?

At least one bishop this year has repealed Summorum Pontficum by stating that “Masses are not to be celebrated using the Extraordinary Form without my permission” as seen in this article.  The new Mass is rarely permitted by bishops to be celebrated according to even post-Vatican-II rules.  If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the 2004 document signed by Pope John Paul II and written by Cardinal Arinze, titled Redemptionis Sacramentum.   In this document, it is clear that the new Mass can be done ad orientem (facing the altar.)  Latin is permitted (yes, in the Mass of Vatican II) and pastors were encouraged to effect an enormous reduction of Extraordinary “Ministers” of Holy Communion.  Pastors were permitted to eradicate reception of Holy Communion in the hand. Free-floating chalices were to be retracted anytime the Most Precious Blood of Jesus could be spilled. All of this is in Redemptionis Sacramentum, an official post-Vatican II document giving guidelines for the Mass of Paul VI.

But ad orientem worship was prohibited this past year as a clamp-down against Cardinal Sarah’s call for ad orientem Novus Ordo Masses (an echo of his African predecessor, Cardinal Arinze who wrote RS.)  The few priests who try to do the new Mass according to its own rules are sent to the boondocks of their diocese.  Priests who preach the truth of the Gospel are more and more frequently going into exile like  this courageous priest from San Diego.

On this one point I agree with the theology of Bergoglio more than the theology of Ratzinger: There is no hermeneutic of continuity after Vatican II. The former has not said so specifically, but that is clearly his message in every conference, every week.  Ratizinger’s envisioned “hermeneutic of continuity” was that the traditional doctrine, life and liturgy of Catholics would eventually make peace with, say, the progressive Cardinals of Northern Europe. Benedict tried to win them to his mild form of orthodoxy.  How did they respond?  They did something so mysterious that Dutch radio reported “that Ratzinger resigned because of” Cardinal Danneels and his friends. Benedict apparently denies this: 1  However, he looks strangely tired in every picture I see of him.  Is he just old?  Perhaps, but he actually looks disoriented, which I think is suspicious.  Before he gave up the battle, his eyes seemed to say:  “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”—Psalm 119/120.

I believe that the primary driver for the spiritual attack against Pope Benedict was indeed his decree of Summorum Pontificum.  Why?  Neither Pope Benedict nor his earthly enemies know this, but demons know that Summorum Pontificum is the priest’s main link back to a Mass that the Council of Trent calls “Apostolic.” This would mean that Benedict somewhat-naively re-released the single greatest weapon of spiritual warfare for the good guys.   2

Even if I am wrong about my above speculations, most people agree that the days of feigned peace between traditional liturgy and wacky doctrines are long gone.  Many men in power are now promoting a Hegelian dialectic where the “spirit” changes with human authority. The new Mass is no longer controlled through the lens of Church History, but through a nominalism condemned in Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg address against Islam.  Nominalism means authority can function in a manner willy-nilly:  For example, the Vatican may or may not be currently in the works of fabricating an “Ecumenical Rite of Mass” for joint worship with Protestants. Or, consider how random it is that priests in Rome are being admonished to abandon daily Mass in favor of group concelebration.

Nominalism is the name of the game in the implementation of the new Mass.  But is it only the implementation?  Archbishop Bugnini said that he wrote the new Mass so that every parish be different in its celebration from the neighboring parish.  See how wave-after-wave of semi-conservative young priests coming through the rank and file of America’s seminaries (with the promethean task of “doing the new Mass the right way”) always end up subsumed into the squishy pastoral-goo of parish life that has bled between 15 million and 20 million Catholics in the West following Vatican II.  Sheep without shepherds.  Soft-will-to power attracts few manly men to worship.   (But go see a Traditional Latin Mass parish and you will find at least one military family, if not many.)

The few young priests who shield their conscience in choosing the 1962 sacraments (as allowed by Summorum Pontificum) face a harsher punishment:  Just two weeks ago, a bishop asked his own priest (who I know very well!) to leave the priesthood and be “laicized.”  Look:  Bishops don’t even ask priests caught in homosexual relationships to be “laicized.”  This is additional proof that there is something more than natural attack (read: preternatural attack) coming against Summorum Pontificium and the 1962 sacraments.

CS Lewis once wrote, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”  The combination of Summorum Pontificum and the sad state of Rome-today ironically work towards the same goal:  Priests will have to choose either a Mass that was designed with ambiguity (and is thus susceptible to a Hegelian dialectic of theology and Nietzsche’s will-to-power under the prelate-flavor of the day…) or choose a Mass that goes back to the fourth century, nearly unchanged, nearly unchange-able.  Yes, it is becoming clear that the new Mass will never follow the rules of Redemptionis Sacramentum in even putatively-conservative dioceses of the world (except maybe Lincoln and Arlington?)  In any case, it seems that Summorum Pontificum is currently the West’s only spelunking rope in a dark cave back to the light of what the Council of Trent calls “an Apostolic Mass.”

Summorum Pontificum colliding with the current circus maximus of Rome actually creates a fork in the road where there is no more grey zone, no more sitting on the fence.  Finally, America’s smiley seminarians will have to man-up and choose either the living tradition of Divine Revelation or an ecumenical concelebration ad absurdum.   The latter is possible, considering that progressive prelates are tolerant of everything except the hermeneutic of continuity.  If I am right on this, then this means that Summorum Pontificum is currently the only road back to tradition.  It is a road fraught with thorns and priestly betrayal. Such is the glory of the cross.


  1. “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,”—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, expressed in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider.  

  2.  The so-called “extraordinary form” of the Mass was ordinary in the early Church, for the Notre Dame publication The Liturgy Revived:  A Doctrinal Commentary on the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy, shows that although this Mass was first in Greek, the translation of the Roman Canon was done carefully over 120 years, culminating sometime between 350 and 382 with the current Roman Canon. (Notice how long a liturgical translation should take:  Over 100 years!)  The Roman Canon was used, not the prayer of St. Hippolytus which was injected into the new Eucharistic Prayer II in the 1960s.  In fact, the prayer of St. Hippolytus was simply a personal prayer, not a liturgical one.  Why we were taught that this was an ancient liturgy in seminary is beyond me.  The truth is that Hippolytus’ prayer was probably injected into the puny Eucharistic Prayer II in an Italian coffeeshop in one night following Vatican II.  This is no substitute for the Roman Canon, because what is known by the past two Popes as “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite” was known as “ordinary” for about 250+ Popes.  How is this an unruptured hermeneutic of continuity?  Unless, of course, Pope Benedict meant it as a theological sleight of hand in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass, since the Mass is by its very nature “extraordinary”!  But I highly doubt it.

The Over-Intellectualization of the Catholic Faith

I have only been a priest for seven years. About halfway through that period, I switched from the Novus Ordo to the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments. It was also during this time that I stopped saying a line that I was famous for in seminary: “We do not have a crisis of sacraments. We have a crisis of catechesis.” I used to say this because I knew how many people received Holy Communion in this country without knowing Who they were receiving. In fact, I put my money where my mouth was:  As a young priest, I taught a Eucharistic class just off-campus of Colorado State University, a school with 33,000 students. I called my class “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” after this excellent book by Dr. Brandt Pitre. Most weeks I had about 50 CSU students attending that class. Their hunger and faithfulness was my proof that “we do not have a crisis of sacraments but a crisis of catechesis.” And the students responded with fervor and a greater Eucharistic love.

Programs like Catholic Formed now flood the American parishes of younger priests and more orthodox older pastors. Formed is a new video program of catechesis designed to invite the ordinary Sunday Catholic into a deeper formation of video catechesis. These movies include good information on the sacraments, moral teaching, salvation history and Catholic Church history. Formed features the common lineup of orthodox lay Catholic celebrities who have gained their fame in apologetics and chastity topics. They really do a good job at tackling our current crisis of catechesis. But do we really have a crisis of catechesis instead of the sacraments as I had said for most of my priesthood?

Since switching to the Traditional Latin Mass, I have seen that most of our modern catechetical methods are geared exclusively towards the intellect. For example, the average rich, suburban American parish now has a small handful of devoted Catholics who would not have believed in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had they not read a Scott Hahn book. And God bless Scott Hahn for his great intellectual work.

But notice that in the previous paragraph I purposely used the word “rich, suburban parish.” By and large, these are the decent parishes which (thankfully!) have moved past the 1970s catechesis of exclusively-social-justice materials.  Formed and That Man is You and Scott Hahn “book clubs” are all great for budding intellectuals who don’t have to work 80 hours a week on a Louisiana oil barge. But what happens to the run-of-the-mill poor Catholic? How does the blue collar worker (who might be too busy to read a book by Tim Staples) receive catechesis on the sacraments?

The answer is that for thousands of years, the catechesis happened by kneeling at Holy Mass.  I do not mean that Mass is enough to catechize ourselves.  I mean that the serious Catholic learned and prayed during the week as best he could.  Then on Sunday, everything he learned or offered was forged in a mysterious and powerful ritual that incorporated all his senses, his intellect, his will. He would have have to kneel for most of the Mass. There was no question in his mind that he had to be “set apart” in baptism and grace to do something as strange as receive Holy Communion, even in poor mission countries of the illiterate.  He might wonder:  Why did he have to kneel at an altar rail? He stuck his tongue out while the priest blessed him with the Son of God. If not a sign of the majesty of God…if not a sign of the chasm between Creator and creature…this ritual was simply too weird for a non-Catholic to approach the ancient ritual! In other words, the Traditional Latin Mass engenders catechesis because it engenders automatic reverence and intimacy (or total rejection if one finds it “weird.”) The average illiterate Catholic learned that Jesus was truly present by simply attending Mass. He did not need a book tailored to a bourgeois intellectual group to tell us the Mass is still “valid” even if it doesn’t appear to be so:


It would take a PhD from the University of Dallas to accurately explain how this this is the sacrifice of Calvary.

On the other hand, an exhausted marine is easily forced to his knees with his head down at the Traditional Latin Mass in Saipan during the Pacific Theatre of World War II:

My sister and her husband are raising their children in a Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church. My niece began prostrating at the age of 18 months at the right time of the Divine Liturgy. She had learned by a full-body experience that she is not God. She learns to adore God and to prostrate before him even before she learns the term “transubstantiation” (a term she may never learn in the East.) But she already knows that her Mom is not allowed to hand out the Holy Eucharist in that Divine Liturgy.  There is an iconostasis separating everyone from the Holy of Holies, the Eucharist.  That teaches a lot.

For nearly 2,000 years, the ancient liturgies of both East and West had catechesis built-in in a way that was not hyper-intellectualized. Catholicism needs to be accessible to the illiterate (as much as to the Christendom College grad student.) The above picture of the soldiers kneeling for the Traditional Latin Mass is the perfect example of this. Catechesis was a full-body experience of the majesty of God. For centuries, Catholic learning was done in all five senses: The sight of the priest facing God, the smells of the incense, the sounds of angelic Gregorian chant. Yes, all of these can be done in the Novus Ordo, but it is not just the externals of the Mass.  Rather, I am talking about the substance of tradition that was passed on within every sacrament, and substituted only 50 years ago. For example, when I used to do the new anointing of the sick, I put a little oil put on the head and then I moved on to the next hospital room. Now, in extreme unction, I anoint the mouth, the nose, the ears, the eyes, the feet, the hands and the forehead. It’s not my personal catechesis of the sacrament. It is required in the rite, probably anointing all those body parts since the time that St. James wrote about it in the Bible.

Everything in these sacraments (which can be traced back to the 6th century at the latest) taught man and woman that there exists a chasm between Creator and creature. The illiterate Catholic learned about the majesty of God and the evil of his own sin by simply hearing that he had to have his sins forgiven, those he had committed with his eyes, ears, hands, even nose, as the old rite extreme unction strangely says. (What sins can be committed by smell!?)  And yet, it is not strange. It is beautiful, for the ancient prayers for the commendation of the dying call more frequently on God’s mercy than anything I have seen in the new anointing books.

Yes, the rich Catholics of America now have a library of books by Steubenville grads. And I like these books. But they are all a replacement of what Catholicism taught by it’s very nature: A full-bodied, full-person experience of the majesty of God. The intellectual side was not as emphasized. The reason the Novus Ordo rites invite an over-intellectualization of the Catholic faith is first of all because the author of these rites, Archbishop Bugnini, actually consulted with five or six Protestants to write it. (Remember, faith for Protestants is a Credal and emotional act, where for Catholics, the Faith is best summarized in the book of Romans as “the obedience of faith.”) But because the new rites do not carry much physical actions, the lacunae must be filled by lay apologists. God bless them, but they should know that their jobs are concessionary existences for what we priests and the ancient rites used to carry in our very being.

Maybe the best would be to keep producing the Steubenville books but return to all the 1962 sacraments.  That way, the new presentation practiced by the Church Fathers could be forged in the very sacraments of the Church Fathers (erroneously named the “Tridentine Mass,” since the Traditional Latin Mass was nearly-fully crystallized between 350 AD and 380 AD.)  By contrast, the changes of the past 50 years to the liturgy present us some sad challenges, especially since we live in a era that has little time for intellectual or aesthetical learning on the mysteries of God:

The challenge becomes more difficult because one of the peculiarities of the old rite is that it makes itself accessible only slowly—unless the uninitiated newcomer to this ancient pattern of worship is a religious genius. One has never ‘learned everything there is to learn’ about the Roman Rite, because in its very origin and essence this enduring and truly extraordinary form is hermetic, presupposing arcane discipline and rigorous initiation…The great damage caused by the liturgical revolution after Vatican II consists above all in the way in which the Church lost the conviction with which all Catholics—illiterate goatherds, maids and laborers, Descartes and Pascal—naturally took part in the Church’s sacred worship. Up until then, the rite was among the riches of the poor, who, through it, entered into a world that was otherwise closed to them. They experienced in the old Mass the life to come as well as life in the present, an experience of which only artists and mystics are otherwise capable.”—Martin Mosebach, Return to Form, Crisis Magazine.

I experienced what Mosebach writes about during my mission trips to poor nations around the world. During my second trip to India, I lived with some lay American missionaries in Kolkata. One night, a mix of Americans and Indians were having a conversation about the Catholic Church. A 45 year old Indian was very thankful that Vatican II opened to Indians a deeper understanding of the Mass, now that they understood the language of the service. When posed with the question “Why do you go to Holy Mass?” he and I both agreed that most young Catholics from both the United States and India would say “To receive Jesus in the Eucharist.” We were both content that this is a better answer than the 1970s answer: “I go to Mass because of the community.”

However, I then reminded my new Indian friend about the history of Indian Catholicism. I reminded him about the missions of St. Francis Xavier and I said: “Any of your ancestors evangelized by St. Francis Xavier would have described the Mass with one word that your friends and my missionary friends would not use: Sacrifice. An illiterate 16th century Indian farmer or a little girl in Chicago in the 1940s Catholic school system would give the same description: ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.’ Why wouldn’t your friends or my missionary friends in the United States use that word ’sacrifice’?”  I suspect that the absence of this term (even among relatively-orthdox young Catholics) is because the New Mass no longer looks like a Jewish priest at a Jewish sacrifice. It no longer feels like that. That is why people think they have to receive Holy Communion at Mass, no matter what, even if they’re in mortal sin.  The True Presence is all they have.

I don’t mean to downplay the beauty of the answer, “The True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.” But the liturgical reality of “sacrifice” is still of supreme importance to the most proletariat of Sunday-Mass goers. Current liturgical theology maintains that the Eucharist is confected by the priest, but rarely is it mentioned by even orthodox CCD teachers that this happens within the very sacrifice of Calvary re-presented. Never have I heard it mentioned from a “JPII-generation Catholic” or even a professor at my seminary what constitutes the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass:  The separation of the body and blood of Jesus, under the species of the double consecration of bread and wine.  In fact, one “very conservative” nun who taught us sacramental theology mocked this theology as merely devotional.  She did not want to hear me point out that this was what was taught by everyone from St. Gregory Nazienzen to the Council of Trent to Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Even if you don’t remember the above reasons for why the Mass is a sacrifice, remember this: Sacrifice is key to explaining the Mass. You can’t just say “Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.” Why? Because the presence of God without sacrifice is Protestantism. The Franciscan University grads will talk all day about the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but rarely will they speak of the sacrifice of the Mass. Perhaps that is why their divorce rate is the nearly the same as they rest of the nation: They want presence without sacrifice. 1

Our Faith is founded on the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, which is the same as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For somewhere between 1500 years and 2000 years, Western Rites Catholics were always seen kneeling for about 75% of the duration of the Mass. All this kneeling taught something important to their children, children who could be found worshipping on their knees throughout the old Roman Empires, in Los Angeles in 1925 or off a river in Goa in 1540. Yes, children would have knelt before a sacrifice of Calvary that took place at the hands of St. Francis Xavier who baptized hundreds of thousands with those very same hands.  They knew Who was in his hands was somehow even greater than the saint, for the saint himself would kneel before the King of Kings (even if a Jesuit comrade to follow him would not kneel before the Eucharist five hundred years later.)

The conversation with that 45 year old Indian man continued in some different directions that night. About 20 minutes after the above conversation, he started explaining to me how important religion is in India. He said whenever there is a religious event, dizzying myriads of worshippers show up: Be it Hindu, be it Muslim, Be it Sikh, Be it Christian, there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who come to worship in pilgrimage. He told me about how 100,000 Catholics will frequently show up at a devotional event that has only one altar. Thus, the 8am Mass (on that single altar) will be in Tamil for 10,000 Catholics. The 9am Mass will be in Bengali for another 10,000 pilgrims. The 10am Mass will be in Hindi and the noon Mass will be in English. The 45 year old Indian had just forgotten about our mild debate on Vatican II just 20 minutes earlier, but I wanted to gently bring him back to that discussion on Vatican II. So, I broached the subject lightly by asking him: “And what did all Indian Catholics do before Vatican II?” The good Indian man hung his head a little. He quietly replied: “We all worshipped together.”


  1. I brought this well-repeated but undocumented statistic of FUS divorce to a friend who used to work for the development department of Franciscan University of Steubenville. I immediately believed he would balk at it, but to my surprise, he admitted it was true. To this day, I do not have statistics to back this up. However, several reputable sources have told me that this is true. This means that the national divorce rate is about 50%. The national Catholic divorce rate is about 50%. The divorce rate for FUS would therefore also be about 50%. However, this was told to me about 10 years ago, so I hope things have changed. I imagine that the rate has lessened, since most FUS grads are at least intellectually (there’s that word again!) against contraception.  But for Catholics who live a life without contraception, the divorce rate is 3% in all studies averaged.  That 3% is the average of numerous studies that are all statistically significant, including large populations sampled.

Sermon on Islam

What do Muslims really believe? Although we hear alarming facts in this sermon, I draw from the Qur’an, world history and secular sources like Atlantic Magazine and Washington Post.  Towards the end, I quote Catholic sources like this African bishop as well as TFP’s Rosary campaign to defeat ISIS.

Second Sunday After Easter

aka Good Shepherd Sunday
This sermon recognizes the wolves that have caused the current crisis in the Catholic Church. In this sermon, I also describe the shepherds that God may be currently raising in order to shepherd the Church, as Christ and the early Apostles led and guarded the Church. This Sunday is appropriately called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” due to the Gospel from St. John chapter 10.

Today is the eclipsed feast day of St. Catherine of Siena in the old calendar. In line with today’s sermon, it is worth noting the seven things that God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena would restore the Catholic Church in times of crisis:

  1. Prayer
  2. Sweat
  3. Tears
  4. Fiery Desire
  5. Endure much
  6. Cast the light of your patience into the darkness of perverse men.
  7. Don’t fear the world’s persecutions.

—From Dialogue

Saints Peter and Paul

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Most of us Americans picture the early Christians of Rome being physically underground but spiritually free. Then, everything changed in 313 when Constantine’s edict of Milan reversed the course of history, allowing Christians to be physically “above-ground” but spiritually oppressed by the Emperor and Pope who inadvertently became strange bedfellows. The idea of the pre-edict-of-Milan Christians being “more free” is attractive to the American Protestant way of thinking precisely because of the separation of Church and State and preference to reject authority making demands upon one’s own personal way of worship.  1

But those who come to this conclusion are now realizing that the premise must be true. And the premise is essentially the million dollar question of early Church history: Was the hierarchical Church and charismatic Church separate in her very earliest days in Rome? If separate, it means that we Catholics have Apostolic Succession but the Protestants have the Holy Spirit. If united, it means Catholics have both. Why? Because the earliest saints in all of their ecstasies, miracles and tongues would have been subject to their bishop who was either in Rome or in union with Rome.

The funny thing is that this question may sometimes be personified in the life of St. Peter and St. Paul. In most people’s minds, St. Peter represents the hierarchy where St. Paul represents love. Protestants will hesitatingly admit that Peter lives in an unbroken line of Popes (as long as they first point out that Paul corrected him in Galatians.) The Catholic response becomes: “Ok, you guys got St. Paul but we got St. Peter!” (This is essentially “You guys have the charisms but we have the Magisterium.”)

Stop reading my blog if I ever turn my blog posts into a travel log, but I sincerely believe the answer to this question comes from an archeological find.  I was directed to this find by others, and I made it a point to visit a certain location as I spent Holy Week 2016 in Rome (and Easter Week on the coast of Italy.  Yes, it’s hard to be a priest in exile.)  I think the answer to the “million dollar question” is found in a small building called St. Pudens, located less than a kilometer away from the enormous St. Mary Major.  St. Pudens is sunken, as it is surrounded by a Rome that has been rebuilt around her several times.  I took this picture from ground level:

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This first century building was the home of a Roman senator named Pudens. After being converted by St. Peter or St. Paul, he was baptized as can be seen from this painting inside his “home,” attended to in his baptism by none other than the juggernaut Apostles Peter and Paul:

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He turned his home into a home-Church, as a staging area for the electrifying Christianity of both St. Peter and St. Paul. As Rome became the Central Nervous System for all of Christianity, Peter and Paul needed a influential bridge to the empire and the people. This was fulfilled by Senator Pudens (later St. Pudens in the Catholic Church.)  In fact, Pudens was so important to early Christianity that the Apostle Paul mentions him in his second letter to Timothy:

Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.  The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”—2 Tim 4:21

What this reveals is that the Roman Church was united in her hierarchy and charisms.  This senator-become-saint in his home-become-Church remains a physical symbol of the spiritual union between the hierarchical and charismatic Church. Yes, St. Pudens is dwarfed by the enormous St. Peter’s Church in the distance of the Vatican, but Pudens is still an active parish, containing the relic of the wood upon which St. Peter offered not his first Mass but rather his first Mass in Rome as seen in the first picture below. 2

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Yes, this Church is still a functioning parish of the diocese of Rome! It is mostly Vietnamese today.  There is a painting above the altar of Pudens with Peter and Paul:

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Yes, Paul corrected Peter in Galatians, but this does not mean they were not dear friends!  If you have ever known any middle-easterners, you know that they could yell at each other and still take a bullet for each other.  It is we who have the broken culture in thinking that a silent-backstabbing is better than an honest disagreement.   The hierarchical and charismatic Church remained beautifully united in Saints Peter and Paul,commemorating a first century relationship of brotherly love, respect and evangelization of Peter, Paul and Pudens.

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I have been to Rome about five times, but I haven’t been there in seven years. I arrived with the hopes of finding St. Pudens, but ignoring St. Peter’s as if in a lover’s quarrel with the Vatican. (I literally was afraid to look at the Vatican with all the stuff coming out of it these day.) But that first night in Rome, when my priest friend and I came around the corner and saw the Vatican lit up at night, I literally fell to my knees at the sight of it, praising and thanking God for the Church.

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I know Christ tells us to not be seen praying in public, but it was dark that night on the Tiber and few could see me. Kneeling, I asked my Australian priest friend (who studies there in Rome) if I could pray for the Church there for a minute. He said yes and put his hand on my shoulder. I had definitely not planned on this. That enormous, glorious building—that I had planned on not looking at as if pouting—completely overwhelmed me with the sense of the glory of 250+ Popes and martyrs shining through it and all around it that night. I felt God transmitting to me a confidence in His Church in an overwhelming feeling of His power.

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We returned home, but the priest with whom I stayed in Rome had a spectacular view of the whole city from his roof at night. This overwhelming feeling of God’s power strangely continued every time I went up the roof over those two weeks to pray whenever I looked at St. Peter’s, alit. Every time I looked at the shimmering shining solid St. Peter’s at night, I did not see an individual Pope like I thought I would “see.” I “saw” my bride, adorned with the blood of thousands of Roman men and women who died—in some sense—for me to have the fullness of Faith. I saw that building every dark Roman night like a New Jerusalem already on earth, transcending certain individuals with the Faith that I love so much, uniting Apostolic Succession and extraordinary charisms in her saints, charged with the very glory of the crucifixion.

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  1. In fact, Protestant Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels pointed out in 1981 that early Gnostic communities believed that “one’s own experience offers the ultimate criterion of the truth, taking precedent over all secondhand testimony and all tradition.” This was quoted by Kathleen Kautzer in her book (and pay attention to this title) “The Underground Church: Nonviolent Resistance to the Vatican Empire.”  This should set the stage for the false-dichotomy tackled in this post.

  2. The second picture below is the plaque next to the relic.  My best attempt at a translation is: “In this temple, St. Pudens was the first host of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles, whose Christian faithful approach to receive the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.”  You can email me any corrections if my Latin is off.  

Ransom Note

Last week, Planned Parenthood was exposed for handing over the tissue of dead babies for research.  The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, immediately made a press release explaining that Planned Parenthood itself did not make any money on this. Here’s proof she was lying:

America will be shocked, but the question remains:  What will end abortion?  Today, a woman in Louisiana texted me the answer:  “Our Response: Prayer and fasting isn’t enough! We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.”

We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.

America has seen the evil of abortion, but we continue to slaughter 3,500 children a day.  Why?  Most women are afraid and alone when they walk into that clinic, but we as a country find ending abortion difficult because of our minor inconveniences to the libido and bank account.

Thus, the end of abortion will come only through Divine Intervention.

But maybe God Almighty is waiting for this Divine Intervention.  Maybe He is waiting for people to step up to the actual doors of abortion mills for peaceful prolonged-fasts or hunger strikes. Imagine who would follow Cardinal Dolan if he led a hunger strike in front of the Planned Parenthood in the East Village of Manhattan?  I would.

For nearly 800 years, young celibate men from Europe, under the mantle of Our Lady of Ransom, would offer to take the place of women and children who had been kidnapped by Muslims.  Christians were rescued through several different religious orders, but it took men who would not just give up candy in Lent, but young men would agree to be handed over to the forces of darkness so that others may live.

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With Planned Parenthood and ISIS promoting more death than ever in the history of the world, I believe that God is raising up young men who will give their lives in ransom.  I don’t mean figuratively.  I mean that we can use YouTube to reach ISIS to offer ourselves to be slaves for them.  Each man could then ask ISIS that they release 5 Christian girls and 5 Muslim girls for every celibate brother or priest given in ransom against the innocent.  These 10 girls (multiplied) could then return to their families.

This offering of love could be offered to the Blessed Trinity for the end of abortion, too.

ISIS is just traditional enough to partake in this exchange.  Did you know that over 1,000,000 Christian slaves (from 1200 to 1900) were returned by Muslims in exchange for monks, brothers, priests (and funds raised) during the Middle Ages?  Times are more ripe than ever.  Surely God is raising up men for ransom again, for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45 and “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”—John 15:13

 

America’s Passion

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     Driving across the country just two days ago, I came into DC during the night.  Fireworks had already started over our Nation’s Capital.  As I drove, I had been listening to the unabridged version of the book that probably many of you have read:  Unbroken.  It’s the story of resilience of an American soldier from WWII named Louie Zamperini, liberated from a Japanese concentration camp.  (See above.)  Louie belongs to what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.”  The Greatest Generation had what it means to be an American: passion.
     In The Greatest Generation, Brokaw interviews an older couple about divorce, and why divorce flattened future generations so severely.  The older woman’s remedy is a show-stopper:   “People don’t fight enough nowadays. They just give up.”  They just give up.  Somehow the passion to fight in marriage is better than silent back-stabbing or just floating into nothingness.  There was a passion in Zamperini and that generation that got them up in the morning.
   I think purity in marriage (or out of marriage) is tied to more passion, not less, ironically.  The attraction to sin is not due to a heightened sexual prowess, but the opposite:  Sorrow at a spiritual good.   We are tempted to experience the passion only offered by the stomach or lower organs.  But Zamperini and the “Greatest Generation” seemed to have a pan-passion for love, worship, service, sacrifice practical jokes, family, beer, singing choirs of angels, letters lost in the mail, resilience in POW camps….all the things that filled the life of those sung heros of Unbroken and unsung heroes of our country.
     At one point in a Japanese prison camp, the starving POW Zamperini was given an egg and a tangerine by a sneakily compassionate guard who did not want to see him starve.  Louie, near death, shares these two tiny treasures with his fellow bunk-mates.  He does this self-sacrifice act even before his conversion to Christ.  Louie, and many in that generation, put others before their own stomachs in dying for their brothers and country.  (“Could it be true — no, no, I can’t believe it — that in the world there are not men but bellies?”—St. Josemaría Escrivá, the Way #38.)
     Every generation laments lost generations of the past and complains that young whippersnappers don’t respect anyone.  But this time it’s different because we have undeniable statistical evidence that America has become slow, sloppy, and flabby.
So, here’s the solution:
     Passion is the key to purity and rebuilding this country.  “Flies don’t land on boiling water” said St. John Vianney.  Risk-taking-love will automatically lead to purity.  Try something crazy like tithing, going on mission, meeting all your neighbors who don’t talk to you, selling everything for a vocation to consecrated life, buying your wife flowers 7 nights in a row, giving most your money to the poor, destroying your TV, fasting:  This is the real passion that Jesus made us for. This is the passion Zamperini lived for—and doubled when he came to know Christ.
     There’s an intensity of heaven that only the passionate will inherit. It’s no wonder the pure in heart will see God: Flabby or bizarre patterns of libido will simply not be  passionate enough for heaven.
Happily, a true passion for a loud and messy life is still alive in America.  A family from here in Norther Virginia made headlines with this not too long ago:

Sons of Thunder

Boanerges

By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.

The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee.  These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ.  Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life.  After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.)  I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.

Now, it’s a Muslim country.  But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire?  The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey.  Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.)  Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist.  Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism.  Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey.  Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.

Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.

What happened?  This great loss is usually blamed on Islam.  It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.)  It was completed in the 15th century.

But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.

We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5

This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord.  The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish.  It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.

How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder?  Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country.  This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century.  She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.

The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere.  In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus.  (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.)  Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers.  In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.

Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam.  This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true:  Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name.  What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.

I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason:  We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.)  Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.

But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him.  Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.)   We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.

Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway?  One example is this:  When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:

His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55

In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this:  “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice.  But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”

Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:

1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?

2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers.  He chose fighters to turn them into lovers.  Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote.  Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote.  Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give.  He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.

Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions.  Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit.  But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary.  The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making  sacriligious communions.  Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.

Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima.  But how many souls will be lost before then?  I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring.  Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy.  Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.

The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.

Raise such men in your families.