Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cor Orans: Into the Woods

Earlier this month the instruction Cor Orans was released by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The document makes sweeping changes to the way women's religious communities are governed.

I am not going to attempt a summary of this document, but I want to recommend to you a piece by the Remnant. It is written by Hilary White, but the crux of the article is some commentary by an anonymous Carmelite sister explaining how the new instruction essentially demolishes the contemplative nature of her order. I have heard similar observations from other individuals who know much more about religious constitutions than myself. I recommend you read the article, but more so, if you happen to know any women in contemplative religious orders, get their insights on the document.

There is one thing I want to contribute to this conversation, however: The time is approaching when those who want to live out an authentic religious charism are going to have to do so outside the framework of the institutional Church. No, I am not promoting schism or disunity in any way. I am merely pointing out that, while the Church can exercise some control over religious institutes, it does not have authority over religious life in its entirety. And an authentic religious life might need to be found outside her existing structures.

Some examples of what I mean: The Church can tell you you cannot start a religious order or cannot govern an order in a certain way; however, the Church cannot tell a man he can't retreat to the woods and live alone in prayer and penance. An ecclesiastical stamp of approval is needed for a group to start taking novices or receiving solemn vows; an ecclesiastical stamp of approval is not needed for a group of single women to move in together and live an ordered life of religious discipline. A religious rule must be approved by a pope or bishop; a religious lifestyle needs no such official approval and can be lived anytime in any place on the simple initiative of the individual.

In other words, there is no prohibition on doing the things religious do, so long as it is not formalized. And in the current ecclesiastical climate, such measures might be the best way to live out a religious vocation and renew the Church. Obviously such people cannot  make solemn vows that are recognized ecclesiastically; such groups cannot call themselves "religious orders" or lead the public to think they are. But they can live religious lifestyles in accord with what they feel called to, and that's what is most essential here.

I honestly do not think this is novel. St. Anthony neither had nor needed ecclesiastical approval to move out into the Egyptian desert. St. Benedict did not ask anybody's permission when he retreated to the caves of Subiaco. St. Francis was certainly allowed by his bishop to live in San Damiano and make repairs there, but his initial renunciation of wealth and life of begging was spontaneous. St. Ignatius took to the cave of Manresa to study and pray of his own initiative, not because some bishop told him he could.

Obviously it did not always happen this way; in many cases a new order or a reform was established through official channels. But I want to recall to our minds that this was not universal. Often times what occurred was a man or woman followed a spontaneous prompting of God to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience and was subsequently so influential that the Church found an official outlet for their charism.

Yes, the days are coming when a group of women who feel called to serve God in the religious life, rather than join some existing order, will look at ways to fulfill that call outside the official framework - obviously still in full unity with the Church, but in a manner that is more about living a certain lifestyle than in receiving any official status. It looks like such "official" status is becoming less meaningful these days anyway.

Can such self-initiated efforts eventually be brought under the Church's official aegis? Given their good fruits and (hopefully) a change in mentality in the Magisterium or course. But distressing news should not stop men and women from living a vocation now if they feel called to it in whatever way they are able. If you are a single woman and feel called to religious life but you can't realistically find a convent that will be faithful to traditional spirituality, then find three other woman who feel the same, rent a house, study the discipline of the religious life, and start doing it yourselves. Just act. Be the holiness the Church needs. Trust God to attend to the details.

I've always been an advocate of this kind of "into the woods" sort of approach to these things. Our civilization was built in such ways. Christendom only ever existed because men and women walked into the woods in hopes of finding a quiet spot to pray. It will only be rebuilt in a similar fashion.

Walk into the woods. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Renovations of St. Mary Parish, Williamston

It is a happy thing that not all news concerning the Church is doom and gloom. Though there are dark clouds to be sure, there are always small little pockets where grace is operative—little sanctuaries and oases of light. 

Something that always lifts my spirits is seeing news of renovations by faithful pastors to make their parishes more beautiful. We all know that during the 70's and 80's a great many Catholic parishes had their artistic and architectural heritage destroyed in a process of willful rupture with tradition that has come to be known as the "Wreckovation"; this horrendous destruction of our physical heritage continues in many places to this day. For those who want to learn more about the Wreckovation, the go-to book is Michael S. Rose's The Renovation Manipulation

But this post is not about destruction but about creation; not about dissolution, but restoration. About renewal in the wake of the Wreckovation.

Fr. Mark Rutherford—a most excellent priest of the Diocese of Lansing, MI. and pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Williamston—has made some amazing before-and-after pictures of his own restoration efforts available.

Here is the sanctuary of St. Mary's before Fr. Rutherford's renovation:

As you can see, fairly generic contemporary style reflecting the Catholic zeitgeist of the modern American Catholic Church. Minimalist wooden furniture against a drab, artless brick background. Scatter some plants about to create a natural ambiance, along with the sounds of flowing water from the overly large baptismal tub. Nothing here to suggest any kind of homage to the historic Catholic faith or the sensus fidelium.

However, in the hands of a faithful pastor, the sanctuary has been transformed. Now, the sanctuary is restored in a style that truly evokes the beauty of the Catholic faith. Look at Fr. Rutherford's pictures of the completed sanctuary restoration:

The difference is stunning! Amazing what some wood, marble, sacred art, and a genuine Catholic sensibility can accomplish.

I can already hear some trads whining that Fr. Rutherford left the table altar in the center. Whatever. Our bishop says every parish has to have one, so meh. It is certainly much more solemn than the minimalist wooden one that existed before and a definite step up. However, the restoration does also include a smaller altar against the wall atop which the tabernacle is situated (see below). Featuring the traditional typological Eucharistic symbol of the pelican, Traditional Latin Masses can easily be offered here. And Fr. Rutherford is definitely a friend of the Extraordinary Form.

One final note: Fr. Rutherford had not been at this parish very long when the plans for this restoration were put into effect. In most cases, any priest has sufficient authority within his parish to effect a similar restoration just by virtue of being the pastor, even if it's Day 1 on the job. All he needs is the will to carry it out. Funding is an issue, as such projects do not come cheaply, but in my many years in various parishes I have always been surprised how much money parishioners will step forward and contribute when the pastor wants to build something truly beautiful.  Beauty enriches everybody's lives and a beautiful parish is an investment in the faith of the community and a gift a pastor and congregation can bequeath to future generations of the faithful.

I hope this edifies you as it did me. God bless you.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Oprah has ALL the answers!

Back when I first started this blog, I spent a lot of time ripping on Oprah Winfrey. I later moved on to blogging about more weighty matters, but I have been meaning to get back to Oprah for awhile. In fact, I still have an active Oprah tag. For a quick synopsis of some of my previous work on Oprah, see the links below. A lot of these are old articles from my early days of blogging when I was more incendiary, but I still affirm the basic principles of enunciated in these older posts:

In fact, one of my old articles on Oprah's silly comments about God's jealousy even became the core of a chapter on the subject in my work on reconciling difficult Scripture passages, The Book of Non-Contradiction.

Back when I used to suggest that Oprah was prime material for the Antichrist, I only meant this in the sense that the false "feel good" religion she preaches would be of the same sort we would see peddled at the End of Times—as well as the fact that the kind of cultic influence she has on her followers would be of the same nature as the influence the Antichrist would wield. It was a comparison by simile.

However, following Oprah's speech at the 2018 Golden Globes - for which she was lauded with nothing short of idolatrous adulation - and the subsequent speculation that she would run for president in 2020 - I am starting to think that the comparisons I have drawn may be more than just simile.

I am not positively suggesting that Oprah Winfrey is the Antichrist, and there is always a bit of "tongue in cheek" present whenever I discuss this. But I do see the trajectory Oprah's career has followed, with the virtual mind-control she exerts over her followers and the uncritical praise she elicits from pop-culture, as something very much in the mold of the spirit of Antichrist—especially as her immense social capital begins to morph into political capital.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Please Help Injured TLM Choir Director

My brethren, I am coming to you today with a request for prayers and material support for a dear friend of mine, Mr. Bill Price, who has been critically injured.

Bill has been a personal friend of mine for ten years. He is a good man with a love of God and the Traditional Latin Mass. He is a talented musician; for many years he has been the Choir Director of the Gregorian Schola at St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Jackson Michigan, cantoring at the weekly TLM. He is also a talented graphic designer; he designed the covers to several of my publishing projects, including War Against the Papacy and Hermits and Anchorites of England. Bill is engaged and planning to be married next month to his fiance, Sipkje. I've played guitar with Bill many times; just last week we were eating dinner together laughing and catching up over a few beers.

Last week, Bill fell over 20 feet from a scaffolding. He broke his right leg in three places, both tibia and fibula. The breaks are severe; the injuries are requiring multiple surgeries to correct. In the meantime, Bill is out of work for at least three months, possibly more. He has no health insurance to cover his medical bills. Obviously, with Bill about to marry and start a family, these are pressing concerns.

In your charity, please consider making a contribution to help pay for Bill's mounting medical expenses. You can click here to make a donation to help Bill and Sipkje .

God bless you my friends. Even if you can't donate, please pray for Bill. He is a dear friend and a worthy Catholic man.