One of the greatest things about the internet is that everyone has a voice. One of the worst things about the internet is that everyone has a voice.
It is a pithy truism that I like to peddle to my listening and reading audiences in order to sound smarter than I am, but it is a truism nonetheless.
Our age is simultaneously an era of misinformation while at the same time an era of so much information that we might miss the truth of a thing.
For every question we have about virtually any timely questions, we can consult a plethora of resources from a variety of experts who have full freedom to post their thoughts to myriad electronic publications. In our day, it is in some ways impossible to not find an answer to your question.
However, the situation is a bit different when we consider matters of religion and spiritual matters. Now, before the reader confuses what I am about to say with some sort of relativism or subjectivism, I ask for your charity in trying to understand my train of thought.
Presently, it seems as if the traditional sacraments are being sent to the dust bin by the Holy Father and his cronies. It is a sad affair, and many are worried—justifiably so.
I do not pretend to be a mystic or a spiritual master, but as far as I can tell, God is calling us to trust in a way we have not done for a long time. I am, of course, speaking generally and not about unique persons who are much holier than I am.
For the past couple decades, it can be argued that we have lived through a “golden age” of apologetics. Podcasts, radio shows, best-sellers, and conferences have offered curious Catholic faithful a panoply of responses to their under-catechized minds.
Want to discuss Aquinas’ five proofs? Tune in to Catholic Answers.
Wish to write a letter to your Catholic school debunking what has been taught in your child’s class? Cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church until your heart is content!
Who should we vote for in the next election? Pick up a copy of a book wherein leading Catholic philosophers prove that so-and-so is the best fit to implement an approximation of Catholic Social Teaching.
This is a good thing, and I am not poking fun at it in the slightest. It is truly a mark of God’s providence that, in an age of apostasy and milquetoast episcopacies, we can access the entirety of the Council of Trent on a free iPhone app.
However, there are certain things for which there are—in a sense—no good answers.
Throughout the papacy of Pope Francis, this has been on display if you have paid attention to the typical apologetical outlets. When Amoris Laetitia seemingly divorced the traditional consensus on marriage-related doctrine from the new springtime, it was a tad awkward to watch well-meaning and honorable men try and square a round peg of doctrinal novelty.
As Pachamama paraded through the Petrine gardens, an insistence on behalf of some of the same men that nothing gauche had happened was a bit harder to stomach. In addition, more apologists did everything they could to not touch the issue with a ten-foot pole—social distancing themselves from any heretical contagion.
Now, as an obrogation of traditional sacraments is rearing its ugly head—again—the conversation is even more tense.
What will you do if your Latin Mass is effectively cancelled?
Sure, your bishop has said he is only going to forbid some sacraments, but you can continue to rent a diocesan parish at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons for your Low Mass before Susan leads the eco-vespers with the local Episcopalian priestess.
With respect, many bishops are seemingly nothing more than politicians at this point, and they act as such. Those of us still suffering through “two weeks to slow the spread” understand full well that it is only possible to tell that a politician is lying when he is either awake or speaking—or talking in his sleep.
It may be that your bishop will stand up to Rome and allow you to continue your traditional piety in a liturgical ghetto—how nice of him!—but it is likely that it will not stand.
“Obedience,” “surprises of the Holy Spirit,” and “Unity” are all reasons that will be used to renege your TLM just before a major feast day, sadly.
At that point, how should you respond?
I dare say, do not consult a catechism, or an apologist, or an encyclical. What I mean to say is that this sort of situation is almost “extra-catechetical” in that it is a manifestation of the spiritual war of Ephesians 6 being played out among the hierarchy.
In a war, things are a bit messy—that is not to say consequentialist. It is possible to be in a just war and act unjustly; it is also possible to be engaged in an unjust war but act justly in a given circumstance. In a war you will be lied to, and you will be pushed into a corner—betrayed by a close ally.
Wars bring out the best and the worst in us, and they require heroism. In some moments, sufficient reflection and time will not be possible, and instinct formed by habit will be all you have. In addition, since a war requires strategy and speculation for a preemptive defense, it is possible to prepare for a danger that will not come—but with good will and sound intent.
We must look to the theological and ecclesiological wars of the past, the Arian crisis being the most apt, I believe.
I would imagine there were theologians and canonists who thought Athanasius was too brazen in his battle contra mundum, and they would have had their reasons. There would have been others who believed he did not go far enough!
We forget that there were thousands of Catholics who were confused about what to do during that time. Should they stay away from the exiled and apparently disgraced bishop and follow the whims of Arian and semi-Arian hierarchs? Or, should they trust what each and every person is given, even if completely illiterate and unsophisticated—their Catholic sense.
With total war against the faith of our ancestors on the table, there is no time for dissertations and dialogue—we will be on our heels before we have a chance to wait for the response of a Procurator Mandate from Rome.
We will have to decide what to do, sometimes despite what our normal channels of information and guidance will suggest.
Will we go Eastern Rite if possible? What about a private chapel? Are you brave enough to bear the brunt of bickering talking heads who decide how many percentage points of communion your priests enjoy? Whatever happens, it will not be easy, and no one can make the decision but you.
Before you decide—if the moment does in fact come—I recommend doing exactly what the heroic souls who followed Athanasius did as he bellowed, “They may have the churches, but we have the faith!”
It is not necessary to open any books, or blogs, or apps.
Emulate the unknown saints of the past. Kneeling in front of an Icon or lying prostrate in front of a Tabernacle will teach you more about what a Catholic ought to do in times like this than anything I or anyone else could ever write.
God gave us a Catholic sense for a reason—and exactly for times like these.
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