Robert Royal has written eloquently about the cruel and blinkered Saint Peter’s Suppression (SPS) at The Catholic Thing.
[I]t reflects yet another instance of the Church – or at least some high-placed officials in the Vatican – reducing the breadth and depth that Catholicism should offer to God’s holy people.
There’s a lot going on in that summation. “Reducing the breadth and depth”. I have in past often railed against powerful churchmen, whether at the top of the big heap or at the top of a little heap, like a parish, who seek ever to make the Church smaller, who are stingy with worship and the magnalia Dei. They are so stingy. In narrowing the breadth and depth, they narrow also the opportunity for the apophatic experience of the Mystery that is so transformative. Remember Paul describing the breadth, length, height and the depth of the Cross. There is that part of the Cross which is always out of sight, the part that was underground and holding it up. That unseen dimension must be met with in still, quiet moments… such as were the individual Masses at altars in the close crypt or the cavernous expanse of the Basilica.
Royal quotes John Henry Newman’s perception of a great church where many Masses are going on, including:
“all of this without any show or effort – but what everyone is used to – everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his.”
Isn’t that also part of what this Suppression is about?
The following presupposes that you agree that men and women really are different, however unquestionable it is that they are equal in human dignity. If you don’t agree with that, read on anyway and be really annoyed.
At times I teasingly refer to the FFLF, the “Female Fun Limitation Factor” which I picked up from a radio host of my native place. The FFLF is defined as that effect produced on one or more males having fun together – maybe being noisy or doing something a little risky – when a female, of any age, asks in that special tone of voice, “Do you really think you should be doing that?”, and in all its variations including The Look and other non-verbal signals. The FFLF suppresses.
Clearly there is more to saying Mass than having “fun”. However, the Angelic Doctor explains that there is a close connection between prayer/worship and play, because both of them are undertaken as goods in themselves. Hence, the FFLF is helpful to discern what is behind the Suppression of Masses at San Pietro.
Libs. Don’t give me B as in B, S as in S (another thing appropriated from the radio host) about my mischaracterizing the new situation in the Basilica because, after all, Masses are still being celebrated and because, blah blah blah. No. Masses by individual priests have been suppressed. Libs always – ALWAYS – demand that you deny the obvious.
Stick with me.
Today, during my own individual Mass – which allows for thought in a way that Masses with congregations don’t – I had A Thought.
This SPS… this Saint Peter’s Suppression… is like the FFLF. It’s what women do when men are enjoying themselves as men. I don’t mean by this to demean women. I could put it this way. In the context of the Vatican, St. Peter’s, etc., it’s what effeminate men, men who behave like women, would do.
Men and women fight differently. Men tend to have it out. They get into a scrap and then, with some frequency, they are better off for it. The air is cleared. Women go at each other in subtler ways. Exceptions? Of course. But you know what I mean. The air is never really cleared. Tell me I’m wrong.
There is something effeminate about the way these Masses… no… wait… there is something effeminate about the way the people who want these Masses are being treated through this FFLF-like Suppression.
Someone with power High Atop The Thing doesn’t like the Traditional Mass and he, they, really don’t like the people who like the TLM.
I’m convinced, by the way, that the SPS was more about getting rid of the growing TLM in Basilica than it was about the other lame excuses they made about “recollection” and about, perhaps, not having individual Masses in the same place, blah blah blah.
They came at the TLM and the people, sideways and in a slithery way. The poor guys who simply want to celebrated the Novus Ordo quietly at an altar in the Basilica, or who, passing through as a pilgrim, want the experience, are simply collateral damage, an acceptable count of casualties for the sake of The Great Plan. After all, you have to break eggs to make an omelet.
“Do you really think you should be doing that?”
Another important target of the SPS Decree was Mass ad orientem.
This decree came swiftly after Card. Sarah – a strong defender of Holy Mass ad orientem – was dismissed for reasons of age and lapse of quinquennium from the CDW. Connected? I don’t know. But I do know that a) Sarah is a defender of ad orientem worship and that b) he was Prefect at CDW, which does have competence in matters of the celebration of the Novus Ordo everywhere, including the Basilica. Now he is a) not Prefect and now there are b) no longer ad orientem Masses at the ad orientem altars in the Basilica, except for one underground (literally) TLM at a time.
“Do you really think you should be doing that?”
The phrase, so redolent of the FFLF, keeps coming back to me.
The very thought that there were priests and people doing their own thing, quietly, at many altars… different languages, Novus Ordo, TLM, some with lay faithful, others not… drove someone with power High Atop The Thing to distraction. They – he – whatever – simply had to place limitations, force everybody into a mold. Snuff out that masculine joy of celebrating at altars side by side, doing your thing, live and let live.
Picking up again on the differences between men and women, see if this doesn’t sound right to you. Men often most comfortably communicate with each other side by side, often with a common activity. Women often most comfortably communicate facing someone, face to face. Men, with their hard-wired “apartness” (which manifests in them as God’s images something of God’s distance and transcendence), will not have to be looking at you to communicate. Women, with their hard-wired “connectedness” (which manifests in them as God’s images something of God’s intimacy and immanence), have a greater need to see people’s faces to communicate. Pushing this another step and into the topic at hand, I think that there is something about ad orientem worship that appeals to most men, viscerally, and viscerally, bothers most women. Similarly, versus populum worship appeals to women who want to hear everything, see the priest’s face, etc., which most of the men aren’t so invested in. Yes yes… I’m painting with a broad brush, but to make a point.
I wonder what is going on with men who prefer versus populum worship. No. That’s not quiet right. I wonder what is going on with men who demand that Mass be versus populum, who suppress or otherwise place limitations on ad orientem worship.
And when that comes from priests, it’s worse.
Circling back to that quote of John Henry Newman, above… the sainted convert reflected on not really grasping what worship was until he had his experience of watching what was going on around him in the great Cathedral of Milan. As cited by Robert Royal, here is a longer quote with my emphases:
[I] have said for months past that I never knew what worship was, as an objective fact, till I entered the Catholic Church, and was partaker in its offices of devotion, so now I say the same on the view of its cathedral assemblages. I have expressed myself so badly that I doubt if you will understand me, but a Catholic Cathedral [let’s say San Pietro instead of Milan] is a sort of world, every one going about his own business, but that business a religious one; groups of worshippers, and solitary ones – kneeling, standing – some at shrines, some at altars – hearing Mass and communicating, currents of worshippers intercepting and passing by each other – altar after altar lit up for worship, like stars in the firmament – or the bell giving notice of what is going on in parts you do not see, and all the while the canons in the choir going through matins and lauds, and at the end of it the incense rolling up from the high altar, and all this in one of the most wonderful buildings in the world and every day – lastly, all of this without any show or effort – but what everyone is used to – everyone at his own work, and leaving everyone else to his. (Letter, September 24, 1846)
All this… every day…. altar after altar… like stars.
Without any show or effort.
Mornings in the Basilica. Priests drift in and out of the door leading to the sacristy. “Lingua?” “Español… English, Inglese… Latino… Italiano… Deutsch…”. People follow priests to altars. Priests say Mass, asking anyone who showed up if they want to receive Communion and then counting out the hosts needed. Masses said, quietly, even if the priest turns around to read the Scriptures in whatever language. Another priest over there is doing the same, a different part of the Mass, still only at the Gloria, but far enough away that most of the time you barely hear the other guy. Priests finish up and leave the altar with a bow as other priests wait patient to take the available altar. They nod as they pass each other. People who were just at Mass drift off, to go to work, go to kneel somewhere else in the Basilica to pray. Newly arrived lay people, religious, wait for another Mass to start.
Everyone at his own work and leaving everyone else to his.
That’s what the Basilica of St. Peter’s is – was – like early in the mornings before the tourists came. Not perfect, but pretty good, all in all. I said my morning Mass in the Basilica for so long that they gave me my own locked cabinet for my things.
But, you can hear someone say,
“Do you really think you should be doing that?”
FFLF, friends. I think that explains something of what is going on with the Suppression. It is aimed at the activities (TLM and ad orientem, hence Tradition and the Roman ‘genius‘, Romanitas). But even more it is aimed at the people who want and enjoy those aspects of our common Catholic identity, our inheritance, our patrimony, our rites. And…We Are Our Rites.
Whatever happens, whether this debacle is reversed by a counter edict from SecState or Santa Marta, or whether it stays in place, it could prove to be what Tolkien might identify as an eucatastrophe, disaster that produces some good effect that could only have come about through some disaster. This is going to produce more interest, not less, among priests in the TLM and in seeking out places to say Mass elsewhere. Those places that are priest friendly have a huge opportunity.
Time will tell.