The 2016 New York Times Bestselling book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging was recently discussed by the author Sebastian Junger on a podcast by another host. Neither the host nor his guest, Yunger, have a Christian worldview, but they both said something very profound to Catholic men out there “who have ears to hear.”
Junger described on the podcast (and in his book) that when the Nazis bombed London in the early 1940s, the British banded together in fire brigades to put out the fires; they slept shoulder-to-shoulder in the tube; they found meaning and camaraderie in pulling the living and the dead out of the rubble amidst 30,000 deaths. Most of my readers who know WWII history already know this. But Junger then added that after the war there was “enormous nostalgia for the blitz.” Why? Because according to Junger, “English society felt like they were together” in wartime in a way they were not together in peacetime.
I recently traveled to California and Texas to give talks at a University, baptize a baby, hear confessions, offer Masses and help lead a camping trip of Catholic fathers and sons on the Mexican border. On my last two trips, I met many great men who did attend the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and many great men who did not attend the TLM. Some of the latter group recently started bringing their families to the TLM precisely because of the idolatry of the P*ch*m*m* statues found in the Vatican. If this population sample of my travels is indicative of the country at large, this means that the crisis of idolatry recently tainting Santa Maria Transpontina in Rome has led more people to the Latin Mass than any talk they have ever seen on YouTube by Archbishop Lefebvre (as much as I admire that late and holy missionary to Africa!)
On this camping trip, the most common questions that came from these holy but simple dads were more-or-less: “How do I lead my family to heaven amidst a fractured Catholicism and confusion?” “What is up with the P*ch*m*m* statue?” “Should I bring my family exclusively to the TLM?”
The fact that they were even asking these questions proves to me that they were already soldiers of Christ. Thirty men and boys on the Texas/Mexican border worshipping God, living in tents for a few nights, hiking 10 miles while praying the Rosary and hunkering down to be a battle-worthy but joyful Church Militant is the answer to the Church crisis in the Vatican. I don’t even need to answer the above questions in this blog post. The fact is that the crisis in the Church (reaching boiling point after 100 years of modernism) is oddly producing more converts to traditional Catholicism than anything I or another priest could say to encourage a return to tradition.
One traditional priest at a parish in California told me that many Novus Ordo Catholics are now coming to his TLM parish in the middle of a Mexican barrio in his big SoCal city. Surprisingly, this priest told me that the new-comers are not coming specifically for the Latin Mass, but “just because it’s the only thing that even looks like Catholicism in this city anymore.” Think about that: People who don’t know how to worship at the TLM are simply coming to it because it’s the only thing that even looks like Catholicism in this city anymore.
Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe, finishes the podcast: “Adversity produces pro-social behaviors in people. Adversity makes people act well. The lack of adversity—safety and comfort—allow people to act selfishly. So, after 9/11 the suicide rate went down in New York. The violent crime rate went down. Vietnam vets reported that their PTSD symptoms went down after 9/11. What happens is people suddenly feel that they are needed by their society, by their people. And if you feel needed, you are able to ignore your own personal troubles. As an English official said during the blitz in London, ‘It’s amazing we have the chronic neurotics of peacetimes driving ambulances.’”—Sebastian Junger
In short, wartime produces sanity, camaraderie, fortitude and even a unity that does not exist in peacetime. This is true in a Church crisis, too. So, stop whining.
Here’s my two fold suggestion for the war against the Church from within:
1) Stop blaming God for the crisis of bad leadership in the Catholic Church, even implicitly in your heart, since “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”—Rom 8:28. If the English in WWII needed less psych wards in wartime than in peacetime (as Junger says) than many of us trad Catholics wouldn’t even be good Catholics if it weren’t for modernism. No, God did not positively will this crisis of modernism (in fact, He staved it off through inspiring Pope St. Pius X to warn us all, but no one listened.) Nevertheless, God is raising up children of very powerful supernatural faith despite this leadership crisis, maybe even because of it. Maybe it’s even like Star Wars that the rebels against a rebellious Empire would only be saved in rebellion at this certain time in Church history. God has us born now because He knew only we could exclusively follow Christ in a time of adversity, even against bad leaders like Emperor Palpatine. (Sorry for all the mixed analogies, but you should be able to decipher my code.)
2) Welcome the stragglers into traditional communities. Many neo-cons tell me they don’t go to the TLM because trad families are too judgmental. Now, half of this is an excuse (as there really are many humble families at the TLM) but half of it is true: Some TLMers reject neo-con stragglers as Johnnies-come-lately. Some newcomers are rejected from the TLM as “less-holy” for having come from the Novus Ordo.
Imagine a fire brigade in a London tube saying: “Well, we’ve been fighting the Nazi’s fires for a long, so we don’t need you now.” Such puerile and selfish behavior needs to end immediately, for the love of God. Literally, for the love of God. Anyone who mildly recognizes the crisis in the Church now (neo-con, Novus Ordo, Byzantine, TLM) needs to be employed in the London fire brigade against modernism. And this doesn’t mean sitting around and being grumpy about the Nazis. It doesn’t mean saying blasphemous things like: “God must hate us for letting this happen.” It doesn’t mean talking day and night about the Nazis. It means rebuilding communities in fortitude and joy. It means teaching our families Apostolic Catholicism, regardless of what comes against us from the top. It means having a sardonic, triumphant Churchillian sense of humor against the Naziesque modernist hierarchy that is distorting the Catholic faith.
Of course, a joyful Church Militant does not mean we have to ignore the fact that certain members of the hierarchy are firebombing the Church from the inside. The point is simply that we just shouldn’t be defeated by their malice. For example, the Nazis launched 2,448 separate “V-1 Flying Bombs” aka “The Vengeance Weapon” against the allies.
But the English mockingly called it: The Doodle-bug.
This is the humorous approach we need to have against modernists’ attack on the Church who—yes—are harming our families’ souls. But remember: They are mostly harming their own souls, as did the Nazis. Real Catholics now recognize the Church crisis, no matter which Mass they go to. We are all on the same team. Unite the Clans, as Michael Matt says. The early Christians all thrived together because they were united not only under the cross, but literally on the cross. Yes, men, women and children were crucified together in the early Church, singing triumphantly that they were the real winners because they were on God’s team.