Why Tradition. Why Now.

Disorder begets chaos, not peace. 

In the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council western culture experienced rapid and widespread change. Marriage and the family, the very foundation of  society, were attacked at the core.  No fault divorce, contraception, and eventually even abortion, found increasing acceptance within society.

For Catholics, however, there should have been stability, constancy. There was the Holy Mass. There was Catholic education.  There were priests and religious sisters forming and instructing. There was always the Catholic faith. Timeless, immutable, and transcendent.

There had been the Council. Announced by Pope John XXIII only a few months into his papacy, the Council would neither seek to declare dogma nor denounce heresy, but rather was only pastoral in its intent. 

However, there were two great and ominous threats facing the Church. Threats that sought to destroy her, from within and from without. Modernism and Atheistic Communism.

Numerous popes, most notably St. Pius X, had warned against the Modernist heresy for nearly 100 years.  

Bishop Fulton Sheen had warned a 1950’s television audience of millions about the threat posed by Godless Communism.

Vatican II spoke not a single word against either. 

In the decades since the close of the Council we have seen the Church become a devastated vineyard (to borrow Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s phrase). We have seen the widespread loss of sacrality in worship and in the family.

Disorder begets chaos, not peace. 

The supreme prayer of the Church is the Holy Mass. It is, as St. Peter Julian Eymard  called it, the “holiest act of religion.” For nearly 1500 years the Roman Rite had gone largely unchanged. From ecclesial Latin, to the Canon Missae, to chant, all dated back to the time of St. Gregory the Great, if not older. 

Centuries passed and the Mass continued to develop organically. The Pater Noster, the Last Gospel, even priestly vestments…additions and developments to the Roman liturgy. Not by meeting or committee, but slowly, over time, by local customs and faithful Catholics. 

By 1970 disorder had become the norm. Chaos indeed followed. Instability and revolution molded modernity. What always was, was now questioned. Doubted. Clarity was for another era. A time past. Ambiguity was the preference of intellectuals and those who had no time for sacred mysteries and ancient rituals.

By 1970 the Mass of the Ages was gone. Not altogether, but nevertheless gone for all but a few of the faithful. At a time when storms raged and the ground shifted, the immutable and eternal…changed

Literally, nothing was sacred anymore. What followed was largely a rush to the bottom, as the pedestrian and profane was extolled and the transcendent was escorted from the stage. 

Disordered man brought chaos to the Mass:  

  • Ignoring all of Christian history, Catholics began to look at each other at Mass instead of God. 
  • Ignoring 17 centuries of tradition Catholics instead took their example from the western apostates and began to worship exclusively in the vernacular.
  • Dismissing both the sacramental priesthood and the very Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, man began handling God himself, as if He were just mere bread, or as if we (the laity) had the consecrated hands of priests.

Gone was the Roman Canon, now just an option: Eucharistic Prayer 1.

Gone was Gregorian Chant, and this in spite of the liturgical movement.

Gone was the beauty of high altars, communion rails, and Catholic statuary.

As we refused God our very best, denying Him truth, objective beauty and our very identity, the rest disappeared as well over time. 

Catholic education largely waned. Gone were authentic parochial schools. 

Religious orders slowly shriveled up, decimated by a post-conciliar culture that devalued contemplation, sacrifice, and discernment. Fewer religious meant fewer prayers and less grace. The world became less grace-filled. 

Authenticity, the perennial means by which we evangelize, was lost the moment the Church sought to reinvent itself. 

Amidst the ecclesial, cultural, and political chaos of the era the family often bore the brunt of the attack. 

The widespread acceptance of artificial birth control, the legalization of no fault divorce and eventually abortion, all took their toll.  Throw in feminism and its degradation of true femininity and the maternal nature, and the assault was complete. 

A Church in flux and in self doubt was no match. When peace and steadfastness were needed, the faithful were given chaos. When Catholics needed meat and potatoes and a fully caffeinated Catholicism, they were instead given rice cakes and decaf.

Tradition is that fully caffeinated Catholicism. 

An increasing number of the faithful have discovered  that we need tradition, and we need it now. We need order and peace. Restoring the sacred, returning to the Traditional Mass, is an intentional decision. It is fortification against disorder. 

Tradition is an acknowledgement that the faith pre-dates the 1960’s.  It is the discovery that there is an entire language, and entirely different points of reference, when we immerse ourselves in the traditions of centuries.  Not decades, but millennium.  

Tradition isn’t nostalgia, nor is it a fad.  It most certainly isn’t simply a preference either. It is finding the peace that comes from order, the order that comes from ritual, and the ritual that leads us to God. 

Tradition is humility. It’s a deference to those who have come before us, and the obligation to those not yet born. It’s the democracy of the dead, but also the future of the Church.  

Tradition is restoration. It’s the recovery of the sacred and an outright assault against disorder.  It begins within the family, moves out to the parish community, then onto the diocese, the Church, the secular realm, and finally into the larger culture.

But it starts with the family. It’s the principle of subsidiarity applied to prayer. It’s the conscious decision to choose tradition. 

We choose tradition.

Posted on September 25, 2016, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Treasa van Ommen Kloeke

    Thank you Brian Williams. Perfect.

  2. Inocencio Rangel

    Thank you indeed! Your post made me think of Joshua 24:15.

  3. I love this. But can a regular parishioner at a modern parish help, other than to pray? We have to drive 45 minutes for a Latin mass – the kids would riot!

    • @Marianne. I drive 2 hours and it is worth it. Try reciting the family rosary during the ride.

    • We drive an hour to our Latin Mass! My children, ages 10,7,5, and 2 love it. Truly! The beauty and transcendence and “bells and whistles” and order and ritual appeal to children because it appeals to their senses and their innate love of Truth. Try it! We would never go back!

  4. Im pretty sure Gadium et Spes addressed both communism and modernism.

    • From what I have read of Gaudium et Spes, it does not directly condemn modernism but does address some modernist ideas. I would be most interested in a quote from this V2 document that directly condemns communism.

      • Spot on Mark. No outright condemnation of Modernism, but some ideas were addressed…though often in words seemingly in conflict with prior magisterial documents. Also, communism was not condemnation in order to permit the participation of Russian Orthodox priests/bishops at the Council.

  5. All I want to know is if the Liturgy Guy is a cleric or a layman. Please do not put me on a list for updates. It’s just a simple question.

  6. You say the minor changes made to the Mass and vestments were organic. I have heard criticism of the “development” of the Roman Chasuble (fiddleback). Personally I like the fiddleback and the Gothic (Ample) Chasuble reminds me of modernist priests too much. What are your thoughts? Is the “innovation” of the Roman Chasuble the new “Tradition”, or should we be going back further to the Gothic chasuble?

    The same applies to the Baroque: apparently it was a rupture with Tradition, and yet today, Baroque looks traditional. It seems like you could keep going back further and further, why stop at Gothic, let’s go back to Romanesque, and even further until we get to Antiquity. But then that’s just antiquarianism, no? Where do you draw the line?

    • Actually, the “Gothic” chasuble is more traditional. The conical form was probably the earliest. This is why in the TLM you see the altar boys lifting the back of the chasuble at the consecration and the sides during incensing. The old chasubles were so heavy and bulky, the priest needed assistance to lift his arms. Fabric worthy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was rare and expensive back then…so you gradually see the chasuble getting cut down/trimmed and decorated more…until you get the “fiddleback” style. There are many forms of chasubles. This page has a chart of many of the different forms: https://rhodeislandaltars.org/2008/11/11/chasuble-shapes/

      …and a friend of mine wrote an interesting paper on design of chasubles. There is a section on the history that you may be interested in: http://vestments.homestead.com/Design.PDF

      The bottom line is all forms can be done nicely or poorly. Hope this helps.

  7. Perfect summation of the perfect geopolitical spiritual storm. Completely agree, especially that the restoration begins with the family then to the parish then to the culture as detailed here:

  8. At the time I became wounded for Christ just several years ago, I was skeptical of what our beloved sacramental Church had become. I was confused and suspicious of this new desire for something (later to become clearly evident that I desired Someone) greater than myself. So, ignorant of the prayerful and spiritual life, I delved into 2000 years of the history of Christian (which is really all Catholic) spirituality, coming to rest on the 3 ways of the spiritual life. I didn’t know why exactly I was attracted to this spiritual path until I pondered your article. I find that the most solid evidence for your argument is the traditional and seemingly-disciplined approach to God. It deliberately incorporates much of what we Catholics fear that we have already lost—that Catholic Culture that our ancestors lived: The love and appreciation for the traditions of the Holy Mass, all the sacraments, all levels of prayer, and especially the communion required with both God and our Neighbors on our journey to heaven. It is how I sanctify myself by sanctifying my family.

    Thank you for writing this article. It has brought me much spiritual and intellectual fruit!

  9. I agree that the pre-Vatican 2 Mass, and general way all was was very different and had a very depth that was very visable-beautiful too. I do not disagree with what the Church decides, and am encouraged that like most things that are changed, there are things going back to the past and reviving things from the old. I am glad there are those today who are picking up and teaching those of us about contemplative prayer. In this Diocese, women can bring the Eucharist to those in the nursing homes or homebound in between Father;s visits. I am 72, and worked 42 years as a geriatric care nurse and it has been so beautiful to share the Catholic faith with those who cannot get to Mass anymore. Father has given those of us training and he stays in close contact with us each time he fills the pyx. He is the consecrated one and I listen, for I am not worthy to have this privilege to carry Jesus on my person, let alone gove to His chosen ones at the nursing home. I do it in love and great humility. And yes, I wish women-libbers had left thigns alone so a women could have respect again…they accomplished nothing more than cheapening femininity for all of us, and my posterity. God bless you and thanks for letting me think out loud.

  10. cultures come and go. The Catholic Tradition Is.

  11. Thank you. Sadly this is all too true.

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