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Opinion: From the ghetto with love

Our crime, it seems, is a desire to attend the same Mass for which the English martyrs laid down their lives for 150 years.

A sacramentary is seen on the altar during a traditional Tridentine Mass July 18, 2021, at St. Josaphat Church in the Queens borough of New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

For the past few months, I’ve been discovering what it’s like to be living in the ghetto. Ever since the issuing of Traditionis Custodes last July, I know what it feels like to be a second-class citizen in my own Church. I am considered inferior to other Catholics because I have endeavored to follow the wise counsel of Pope Benedict XVI, who entreated all Catholics to be comfortable with both forms of the Roman rite, the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Forms.

Having read The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict’s wonderful and scholarly exposition of the beauty of the Mass, written a few years before he became pope, my family and I started to attend Novus Ordo Masses that were celebrated ad orientem and that encouraged, or at least permitted, kneeling for Communion and the reception of the Host on the tongue. We also occasionally went to the Extraordinary Form, which was more widely available following Pope Benedict’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which encouraged the tolerance and acceptance of the Traditional Mass.

As I overcame my fear and ignorance of the traditional liturgy, I found myself falling in love with it. Every movement and gesture by priest and servers had theological significance. It was balletic, liturgical dance, with the Holy Spirit as the choreographer. I found my level of engagement was much more profound. I read all the prayers and readings for the Mass beforehand so that I could follow along with the Latin during the liturgy itself. My eyes were fixed on the drama unfolding at the altar and my heart and mind were transfixed by it. I was now able to go further up and further into the heavenly Presence of Christ in the Mass. The beauty was so sublime that it was almost an inkling of Heaven itself!

I was not alone. When we first began attending the Traditional Mass, we were only about a hundred or so in number. We few, we happy few! But the numbers kept increasing as others discovered the ineffable majesty of the Mass of the ages.

There were many young convert couples, with many children. After the Mass, the women gathered to pray at the Lady altar, while the men knelt in prayer at the altar rail. Then they gathered outside church in a weekly convivium. In all my years as a Catholic, since my reception into the Church in 1989, I have never been part of such a Christ-centered community of believers. I felt so blessed and so unworthy of such a blessing. Domine, non sum dignus!

And then came the bombshell from Rome, which made me and my brothers and sisters in Christ second-class citizens. This was followed by a directive from our own bishop forbidding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass anywhere in the diocese and by any priest of the diocese, except in four specially designated ghettoes. I felt as if my family and I, and the other families in our community, had been shepherded by our shepherd onto an Indian reservation, where the old ways will only be tolerated, albeit begrudgingly, as long as we don’t consider ourselves equal to the rest of the flock. Now, so it seems, we are awaiting the next wave of persecution, due to hit us like a tsunami next March.

Our crime, it seems, is a desire to attend the same Mass for which the English martyrs laid down their lives for 150 years. Martyrs, such as St. Edmund Campion and St. Margaret Clitherow, along with hundreds of others, priests and laity alike, risked their lives and laid down their lives so that the people of England could still have access to the very Mass that our own bishops are now forbidding. If this isn’t madness, or something worse than madness, I don’t know what is.

It is understandable that those forced into the ghetto or shepherded onto the reservation should feel anger. It is reasonable to expect that those who are forcibly marginalized will be resentful of those who have used force against them. But this is the way of the world. It is not the way of Christ, nor is it the way of the Christian. We know that we will suffer persecution for following Christ because Christ Himself told us so. We know that such persecution is a blessing because Christ told us so. We know that the mark of the Christian is to love those who persecute us. It is, therefore, with love, not with anger, that we who find ourselves in the ghetto should respond to those who have placed us here.

We are comforted by the presence in the ghetto with us of St. Edmund Campion, St. Margaret Clitherow, and those other martyrs who died for the preservation of the Mass for which we are now persecuted for attending. We are comforted by the presence in the ghetto of Pope Benedict XVI, who is being scourged and crowned with thorns for his teaching on the spirit of the liturgy and the beauty of the Traditional Mass. We are in good company. We are in the best of company!

Let us love one another as Christ has loved us, and let us love those who persecute us as Christ loves them. It is by the power of this love, the power of His Love, that we shall conquer.

(Editor’s note: This essay originally appeared, in slightly different form, at CrisisMagazine.com, and appears here with the gracious permission of the author.)


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About Joseph Pearce 31 Articles
Joseph Pearce is the author of Faith of Our Fathers: A History of 'True' England (Ignatius Press, 2022), as well as of numerous literary works including Literary Converts, The Quest for Shakespeare and Shakespeare on Love,Poems Every Catholic Should Know (TAN Books) and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press), and the editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions series. His other books include literary biographies of Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A native of England, he is Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Visit his website at jpearce.co.

15 Comments

    • Lucy, including parishes offering the Traditional Mass? It appears to me that Mr. Pearce does recognize what you claim that he doesn’t; but you don’t recognize it.

    • The issue is that the POPE sees them differently and has decided to oppress one form through the use of bishops who resent the TLM.

  1. Lucy, you suggest that the two forms of the Mass are interchangeable. If they are interchangeable, why did the Mass have to be “reformed” in the 1960s?

    It is hard to overstate how unprecedented Traditionis Custodes is. It is both a frontal atttack by the Pope on Catholic tradition — the very essence of the Church — and a persecution by the Pope of the Church’s most pious members. Is there any comparably evil act by a Pope in the whole history of the Church? If there is, I do not know of it.

    The outcome of the struggle over Traditionis Custodes has massive implications for any Catholic who cares about whether or not the Catholic Church ends up with women priests, gay marriage and all the rest. The present attack on the traditional Latin Mass has as its goal the clearing of the way for the “woke new way.” In this regard, the attack is very knowing and well aimed. It is the traditional Latin Mass, through its right worship and transmission of Tradition, that protects the Catholic Church from modernism.

    • Pope Francis opened the door to Vatican operatives very early, with his easily abused, superimposed four “principles” in Evangelii Gaudium (2013). Of which:

      When is “time is greater than space” at risk of HISTORICISM and, say, the “endless journey” of free-form “synodality”?
      When is “unity prevails over conflict” at risk of CLERICALISM—e.g., replacing 2,000 steadfast years of Tradition with the graffiti of the most recent eight?
      When is “realities are more important than ideas [concepts?]” at risk of NOMINALISM and accommodation of various stripes?
      When is “the whole is greater than the part” at risk of GLOBALISM, replacing unity with uniformitarianism?

      As Chesterton put it: “There are many ways to fall down, but there’s only one way to stand up straight.” Open, but always Steadfast.

    • To be blunt, I see TC as a rebuke of Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum. I am back in the Church precisely because of the Holy Spirit’s work through Pope Benedict and those in leadership who embraced the FREEDOM to reverentially and joyfully present and receive the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Any dilution, any effort to control the full faith and power of the Mass is harmful

  2. I gave little thought to the Tridentine Mass when I lived in Chicago. When I moved to the suburbs, I encountered the shock of my Catholic life, an awful, heretical, disgusting display of anti-Catholicism. That’s when I became a cheerleader for the Latin Mass and Tradition.

    • In Italy and Spain there are horrendous examples aa well.
      There are exceptions thank God but whenever there is a Vigil the ONLY ” music” offered is unspeakable noise with guitars and flamenco style voices shouting. Unbearable.

  3. Exactly Lucy. It is sad that this fact, that the NO is the very same rite, is not appreciated. It is also sad that some feel that they have been driven into a ghetto and being persecuted. I pray for them.
    BTW, saints were persecuted for their faith, and not for their defense of Latin.
    For the first three and a bid decades of my life, I attended thousands of masses in the older form, often as an altar server. However, when the NO was introduced it was like a breath of fresh air. Now, the altar server was not the sole responder to the celebrant but all the worshippers were involved. Jesus came alive on the altar in the midst of his people. I was fortunate to always have faithful priests who made the mass meaningful.

    • Mal says: “Jesus came alive on the altar in the midst of his people.”

      When, exactly, was Jesus dead such that he then must come alive?

      Inasmuch as the priest at Mass acts as ‘in persona Christi,’ whether or not he is faithful does not make Mass ‘meaningful.’ The job of the priest is to offer the Sacrifice of Jesus to Our Father, and to offer the sacrificial Lamb to the faithful.
      The priest is to do as Jesus commanded, to speak the words of Consecration that Jesus commanded. JESUS makes the Mass meaningful. We participants make the Mass a messy modern jamboree, or we make it reverential and respectful, a solemn commemoration of Christ’s Sacrifice as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever.

      Whether the participants at Mass talk or not signifies nothing. As a representation of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, the Sacrifice of the Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus in which worshipers participate. Talking has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘being’ present at the sacrifice of Our Lord. Is a needless prattling-on at the deathbed of a loved one a sign of value or indicative of worthwhile ‘being’?

      • Your spiritual experience at mass might be different from mine. When I say that my priest helps to make mass meaningful does not, in any way, suggest that mass is not meaningful. However, actions and words can cause distraction but I am glad that my priests have all celebrated mass faithfully. One of the priests was so focused on God and us IN, With and Through Jesus during mass that he did not allow the choir to sing Marian or other hymns to saints during mass. Yes, he allowed them before and after mass, and on feast days. The present priest does the consecration very fervently. When he lifts us the host, he says very audibly: MY Lord and my God. And then we slowly lifts up the chalice he prays” My Redeemer, my Savior”.

  4. Every valid Mass is the one sacrifice of Christ made present. In this most fundamental sense all valid Masses are the same. The Novus Ordo Mass is every bit as Traditional, with a capital T, as the Tridentine and the Masses of each of the eastern rites. Justifiable hurt over Traditionis Custodes should not blind us to this. At the Novus Ordo Mass at my local parish, I am present at the same sacrifice as was St. Edmund Campion at every Mass he served or celebrated.

  5. It’s unfortunate that Pearce is literally making things up for why Pope Francis issued the motu proprio. Pearce said, “Our crime, it seems, is a desire to attend the same Mass for which the English martyrs laid down their lives for 150 years.” That is 100% false. Nowhere did Pope Francis even hint at something like that.

    Pope Francis explained his reasons quite clearly; “I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’….ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true Church.’ One is dealing here with comportment that contradicts communion and nurtures the divisive tendency.”

    In other words, the Traditional-ist movement has grown dangerously close to heresy and schism. Pearce is not required to like Francis’ decision on this, but if he wishes to retain credibility, he needs to be fair and accurate in his opinions and deal with what the Vicar of Christ actually said; not make things up out of thin air and strawman the entire issue.

    Also, the English martyrs like Campion did not die for the Mass of Pius V. They died for THE MASS, no matter what it looked like in their particular historical moment. If the Mass of Paul VI had been the one of their time, then that’s the one they would have died for. They died by remaining loyal to Christ and His Church. They didn’t become saints by calling the Pope’s reasonable decisions “madness.”

    St. Edmund Campion said, “The man who refuses consideration and weight to a Plenary Council, brought to a conclusion in due and orderly fashion, seems to me witless, brainless, a dullard in theology, and a fool in politics.” (Ten Proposed Reasons, #4 on Councils) If Pearce loves Campion so much, he ought to be attacking those within his movement who constantly disparage the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II.

    St. John Henry Newman said of the papacy, “We must never murmur at that absolute rule which the Sovereign Pontiff has over us, because it is given to him by Christ, and, in obeying him, we are obeying his Lord. We must never suffer ourselves to doubt, that, in his government of the Church, he is guided by an intelligence more than human….Even in secular matters it is ever safe to be on his side, dangerous to be on the side of his enemies.” (sermon on October 7, 1866)

    I apologize if this comment was too passionate, but I was quite shocked by what I read by an author that I’ve long respected.

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