Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Advocatus Diaboli: Prelude

By David L Alexander

The human condition is cursed with any number of failings; among them, the temptation to want something badly enough, as to become one's own worst enemy while trying to attaining it.

Recently, Father John Zuhlsdorf, author of the weblog WDTPRS (What Does The Prayer Really Say?), had a stern warning for those who use internet discussion forums and chat rooms for "publicly bad mouthing priests who have been celebrating the TLM and denigrating their ministry... They claim these priests [are] not Catholic enough, not fully or really Catholic. Not Catholic like they are..." The good Father is not overstating the problem. Such conduct has been with us from the days of the old bulletin board services and e-mail listservs, virtually dating back to the days of the original 1984 indult. It has been on the upswing since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. All this, thanks to a motley assortment of liturgical dilettantes who are doing considerable harm to their own cause.

There can be no dispute as to the bureaucratic stalling and dilatory measures being undertaken, throughout the Catholic infrastructure, to prevent the unrestricted celebration of the Mass of the Traditional Roman Rite. Despite the very clear wording of the papal decree, and despite the Holy Father's personal explanation accompanying it, the intelligence and the piety of countless souls continue to be insulted, by those for whom said decree does not suit their own plans. Even where celebration of the Traditional Mass is permitted, it is at times done so grudgingly, at inconvenient times and places, accompanied by unreasonable demands, and with very little if any means of financial or other support, either at the parochial or the diocesan level.

It is not the intention here to deny these things when we say that, while those who favor the Traditional Mass have little control over such minions, they must exercise some measure of control over themselves. However arbitrary or unjust certain conditions may be, they are what they are. It is not the hand we are dealt by which we are judged in this life, but how we play that hand. Those who expected immediate results from the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, however justified they may be, need to step back, get a good grip on their emotions, and take a more strategic approach to restoring Catholic tradition.

Such advice may seem inflammatory to those who have suffered from the effects that are described here. One might also consider a homily of Saint John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew. This is not merely an exercise in pious talk. Consider the times in which he lived, when the Arian heresy consumed nearly every bishop, and threatened the resolve even of the man who was Pope at the time (in this case, Pope Liberius, the earliest Successor of Peter to never have been canonized). Consider this and more, when reading what follows:

As long as we are sheep, we overcome and, though surrounded by countless wolves, we emerge victorious; but if we turn into wolves, we are overcome, for we lose the shepherd's help. He, after all, feeds the sheep not wolves, and will abandon you if you do not let him show his power in you.

What he says is this: "Do not be upset that, as I send you out among the wolves, I bid you be as sheep and doves. I could have managed things quite differently and sent you, not to suffer evil nor to yield like sheep to the wolves, but to be fiercer than lions, but the way I have chosen is right. It will bring you greater praise and at the same time manifest my power." That is what he told Paul: My grace is enough for you, for in weakness my power is made perfect. "I intend," he says, "to deal the same way with you." For, when he says, I am sending you out like sheep, he implies: "But do not therefore lose heart, for I know and am certain that no one will be able to overcome you."

The Lord, however, does want them to contribute something, lest everything seem to be the work of grace, and they seem to win their reward without deserving it. Therefore he adds: You must be clever as snakes and innocent as doves. But, they may object, what good is our cleverness amid so many dangers? How can we be clever when tossed about by so many waves? However great the cleverness of the sheep as he stands among the wolves - so may wolves! - what can it accomplish? However great the innocence of the dove, what good does it do him, with so many hawks swooping upon him? To all this I say: Cleverness and innocence admittedly do these irrational creatures no good, but they can help you greatly.

What cleverness is the Lord requiring here? The cleverness of a snake. A snake will surrender everything and will put up no great resistance even if its body is being cut in pieces, provided it can save its head. So you, the Lord is saying, must surrender everything but your faith: money, body, even life itself. For faith is the head and the root; keep that, and though you lose all else, you will get it back in abundance. The Lord therefore counseled the disciples to be not simply clever or innocent; rather he joined the two qualities so that they become a genuine virtue. He insisted on the cleverness of the snake so that deadly wounds might be avoided, and he insisted on the innocence of the dove so that revenge might not be taken on those who injure or lay traps for you. Cleverness is useless without innocence.

Do not believe that this precept is beyond you power. More than anyone else, the Lord knows the true natures of created things; he knows that moderation, not a fierce defense, beats back a fierce attack.

(Hom 33, 1. 2. PG 57, 389-390)

This piece is the first of an occasional series meant to focus on the challenges posed, by those who would revive the Catholic tradition in sacred worship. If what you have read so far has already gotten under your skin, this series is definitely meant for you!

Stay tuned...


Deo volente said...

Bravo! I took the liberty of linking to this article.


Dan Hunter said...

I have fiercly defended the faith on more than one occasion, and through the Grace of Almighty God have made great progress in bringing the TLM to two different parishes where an otherwise moderate defense had not worked for years.
Deo Gratias!

Chironomo said...

Bravo! However, I am afraid that those to whom this article addresses itself are the most likely to act like the Bishops and clergy that they criticize...believing that they are an exception, and do not need to be told how to act. How difficult it is to be a sheep and follow a shephed!

David L Alexander said...


Thanks. Please send the link.


Prove it. (In other words, please contact me offlist for a guest response.)


That's why it's called the HUMAN condition.

Dan Hunter said...

Mr Alexander,
I most assuredly would like to contact you personally about the two introductions of the TLM, but forgive my ignorance of your e-mail address.
Is it "manwithablackhat"?
Anything else?

David L Alexander said...

It's referenced in my profile and on my personal blog: manwithblackhat at yahoo dot com.

Brian Kopp said...

Very good, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.