Traditiones Custodes has left me feeling, increasingly, like I’m in a novel. I don’t mean this is in a dissociative sense. I mean that it increasingly feels as if a lot of threads that, at one time didn’t appear to be related or important, are coming together.
Traditionis Custodes and the Survey
The release of Traditionis Custodes was, for me, not a huge shock. To quote an Internet meme, I was disappointed but not surprised. An inkling that this was coming down the sewer pipe appeared when the Vatican sent out a survey regarding the Latin Mass. A lot of people saw it for what it was but commentators waved off the concerns. And because nothing happened immediately after the survey, people forgot about it. I, for my part, chose to hope that the Pope, after seeing the survey, would realize that Latin Mass-goers aren’t the drooling extremists he seems to think we are.
That is, until TC dropped like an atom bomb and, in it, the Pope claims to draw his decision from the survey. Like in a good novel, the gun introduced in the first act was fired in the second.
However, it wasn’t only in the actions of the Church that it seemed we were being prepared for a shot to the chest. God sent us a virus and let fear do its part.
You are Not Welcome
This past Sunday, at my Novus Ordo parish, my husband and I crowded into the narthex “area” at the back of our church with around twenty other people. We watched the other parishioners go up to receive Holy Communion. No, we weren’t protesting. This is something “normal”.
Like in so many other parishes, the people terrified of COVID-19 are in control of policy or at least have the greatest influence. And part of that fear is that receiving Communion on the tongue somehow transmits disease.
Our last pastor, who was reverent, orthodox, and knew canon law, tried his best to reach a compromise. His idea was to have people who receive on the tongue come up last. He probably envisioned people just waiting in the pews, which is what happens at a daily Mass. However, on a Sunday morning, what that meant practically speaking was that 20 or more people now find themselves crowded into the back of the church to await their turn. It’s segregation, though not of the racial kind. While our last pastor was only doing the best he could, the people who pressured him into it were essentially telling us that they didn’t want us there.
As I stood beside my husband, I realized that this was not unlike Traditionis Custodes. Though, this time, instead of our fellow parishioners, our Supreme Pontiff told us to leave. Go to the garage. Or the school gym. Go to whatever space you can find that isn’t the parish church. But only if your bishop allows it. And if your bishop has been hankering for an excuse, all permission will be denied. Because you are not welcome here.
A second time where it felt as if things aligned was during my morning prayer time. I recently received the inaugural August edition of Benedictus (review coming soon). And it’s designed to not only be used during Mass but also during daily prayer. I thought it would be a great idea to read and pray with the Mass readings for the day.
As I did so this morning, it struck me that this is not unlike what a lot of people (me included) did during the lockdowns. When the bishops didn’t fight for our right to assemble for worship, and the voices of the faithful were overwhelmed by the screams of the terrified, we had to stay home and make do. That meant watching Mass on YouTube or television. That meant praying over the Mass readings of the day and making spiritual communions.
Many American bishops are telling their Latin Mass communities to keep calm and carry on while they “study” this document (a study I hope never actually ends) but some are already banning the Mass or restricting it heavily, leaving their faithful in the cold. These faithful are now reverting to lockdown mode with their only touch of the Latin Mass coming through a computer or TV screen. But instead to supposedly protect others from a virus, this new lockdown is to protect the Church from the contagion of Tradition.
I’m not saying Latin Mass-goers now no longer have a Mass to attend at all. As much as it pains me to say it, the Novus Ordo is still a valid Mass. We still have to fulfill our Sunday obligation. I know one spiritual writer who, to get through his NO Mass, puts in earbuds and listens to sacred music. He takes them out during the homily and then pops them back in right after. (This drives his wife nuts but he does it anyway, bless him.) I have a friend who pulls her veil close so that her view of the altar (and any scantily clad parishioners) are out of her view. I latch eyes on the tabernacle or the crucifix, especially in moments of liturgical abuse. We all do what we have to do.
Our Work Post Traditionis Custodes
When COVID-19 first hit and the planet collectively lost its mind, we did what we had to do to survive it. We still are, in fact, because there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Viruses don’t ever really go away.
We don’t know when TC will be done away with, either, or if it ever will be. No one can say when we’ll get another pope or even if the new guy will be any better than his predecessor. We are not the authors of this story. But we are followers of the Author of Life. He is the one ultimately in control.
What can we do? We can pray. Father Z has a wonderful initiative going that I urge you to join. We can respectfully write our bishops and express our concerns. But, most importantly, we can go on being lights on a hill and the salt of the earth. That will never change. Christ’s mandate to follow Him never changes. And if our Master and Savior was persecuted, how can we expect anything different?
This isn’t a fictional tale, for all the parallels. Welcome to real life. Grab a rosary and a bottle of holy water, cuz it’s going to be a bumpy night.