July-August 2008

Transformation Through the Atmosphere

I read with interest Paul Cat­alanotto's article "What Raptur­ists Miss About Rapture Theology" (May), especially his last sentence, "The rapture does not follow from biblical theology and should not be believed by any Christian."

It is evident that Catalanotto is uncomfortable with the word "rapture" (harpazo) in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, meaning "caught up," as having any theological significance. He certainly would not deny that the word "resurrection" has strong theological meaning, as the Apostle Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with escaping suffering, but has everything to do with the coming of Christ and the transformation through the atmosphere "when the perishable body puts on imperishability…" (1 Cor. 15:54).

Rev. John D. Billow, Pastor
Community Bible Church
Knoxville, Illinois




PAUL CATALANOTTO REPLIES:

I do not have any problems with the word "rapture." But I do have problems when people propose the Protestant view of the rapture based on misreadings and misunderstandings of Scripture. When read in the proper context, as with 1 Thes­salonians 4:17 and St. Paul's further explication in 1 Corinthians 15, it is clear that the rapture of which Paul speaks (being "caught up" or seized by Christ) is that moment when Christ gathers together the elect and the reprobate at the general resurrection at the end of time.

However, in Protestant rapture theology, the rapture and tribulation go hand-in-hand. The rapture cannot happen without the following tribulation, and the tribulation cannot happen without the rapture preceding it. What Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians begs the question: If it is the case that the rapture and tribulation are so closely related, then why does Paul fail to mention the tribulation? The most logical answer is that Paul's "rapture" (being "caught up") and the Protestant "rapture" are two different concepts.

Moreover, looking closely at 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul speaks not of a period of suffering after Christ's Second Coming, but rather of the end of time when the faithful will "always be with the Lord."

If Paul had intended to speak of something like the Protestant rapture, then one would also expect Paul to mention those who are "left behind" and what would happen to them, but he doesn't. One would also suspect that Paul would mention Christ's post-tribulation coming, but he doesn't. Paul indicates that Christ is going to come a second time — and only a second time. That is, to believe in the Protestant rapture is to say that Christ not only comes a second time in glory (pre-tribulation), but also a third time (post-tribulation). The idea of a third coming cannot be found in any early Church writings, nor can it be supported biblically without ignoring large portions of Scripture and massacring the texts at hand.






Prostrations in Eastern Christianity

The article by Shannon M. Jones, "Beware the Sajdah" (May) is very unfortunate. She describes a form of prostration as a "sacrilegious insult." She says it is "sacrilegious and constitutes an act of desecration," and contrasts it with "legitimate prostration in the Catholic tradition."

The sajdah form of prostration she objects to was in use in the Christian East for centuries before Mo­ham­med came along, and is still used by Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Mohammed simply stole this form of prostration from the Church.

I remember seeing the late Victor Sokolov prostrating this way during the Eucharistic Prayer in an Orthodox church. Victor was a Soviet dissident, one of those rare few who, like Solzhenitsyn, received the high honor of being stripped of his Soviet citizenship by a vote of the Supreme Soviet; he later became an Orthodox priest and was for many years the rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco. He passed away on the day celebrated as Orthodoxy Sunday.

At Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, one can see Orthodox faithful prostrate themselves in this fashion when they venerate the incorrupt remains of St. John Max­imovich.

At Vespers during Lent, Eastern Christians recite the Penitential Prayer of St. Ephrem of Syria (306-373), which contains three prostrations. These prostrations at Vespers are really something to see: The worshiper falls to his knees, brings his head to the floor, and then returns to a fully upright position, all in one beautifully fluid movement. It is particularly impressive to see the elderly do this.

It really is a pity that Jones does not have more acquaintance with the practices of Eastern Christians, more than a dozen years after the apostolic letter Orientale Lumen, in which Pope John Paul II enjoined Roman Catholics to familiarize themselves with the heritage of the Christian East.

Joe Scaroni
Menlo Park, California




A Messenger from Heaven

Regarding the article "Beware the Sajdah" by Shannon M. Jones (May): I am writing to offer my personal experience with the Children of Hope program she points to, some insight into the person of its founder, Fr. Antoine Thomas, and to share a mysterious phenomenon from our own parish children's adoration program.

Kansas is known as the "Breadbasket of the World." Wheat fields dominate our rural landscape, and Kansans are proud of that. If the physical realities reflect spiritual truths, this is no exception. The Diocese of Wichita is a eucharistic breadbasket, if I may respectfully coin the term. It is said that Wichita has the highest number of perpetual-adoration chapels per capita in the country, and worldwide we are second only to Manila, Philippines. In Wich­ita you are never more that ten minutes away from a perpetual-adoration chapel. It has been this way for years. Eucharistic adoration is not something we do; it is who we are. In 2002, when Kansas was exporting millions of bushels of wheat, Thomas Olmsted, then-Bishop of Wich­ita, was doing a little exporting of his own. He gave the Children of Hope materials the imprimatur and sent them with a cover letter to each of his brother bishops in the U.S., inviting them to review and implement the program if it met their approval.

It was over five years ago when I first saw a poster advertising the Children of Hope program. Like Mrs. Jones, I too was intrigued. Deep down, I wondered if I would meet something cute and watered-down — a plague that infects many modern children's programs. I attended two holy hours in two different parishes and observed children being taught to pray the Rosary while meditating on the mysteries and incorporating Scripture, other vocal prayer (usually the Fatima prayers, or Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love), guided reflections on Holy Scripture, and silent times to "gaze" at Jesus and ponder Scripture. They silently or audibly took turns offering their petitions to Jesus or giving thanks. They were led in an examination of conscience. Confessions were offered at the end of the holy hour.

Because of the duration, the children knelt, sat when given the opportunity, and had three moments of profound bows. Mrs. Jones describes this posture as a Muslim-influenced sajdah devotion or prostration. I did not observe then — or ever in my hundreds of children's holy hours since then — the sajdah-style prostration described by Mrs. Jones. I have never seen any body part elevated or any crass or vulgar expressions by disrespectful children.

I have also had the honor of observing Fr. Antoine Thomas lead children's adoration. I have never observed him teach the children the sajdah form. Rather, specifically referring to Moses, who in the book of Exodus "bowed down to the ground in worship" (34:8), Fr. Antoine teaches the children to bow down and make themselves "small" in the presence of God. He speaks to the children about the tender love of Jesus, he reads the Word of God and helps the children ponder it, and he speaks with devotion about our Blessed Mother. All of this is carried out with reverence and love; the children cannot help but imitate it.

Mrs. Jones suggests that making oneself little in Jesus' presence is misplaced — a symptom either of servile fear or spiritual pride. Spiritual pride is a danger for all of us, no matter what posture we employ at prayer. Yet Scripture bears out this "making oneself little" in the presence of Jesus. Recall the leper who "fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." Jesus did not rebuke the man's posture in expressing his humble thanks, but rather asked "Where are the other nine?" (Lk. 17:16-17). In fact, the people who besought Jesus' goodness frequently employed this posture: Remember Jairus, who "fell at the feet of Jesus" when seeking his daughter's cure (Lk. 8:41); the Syrophoenician woman who "fell at His feet" when seeking the cure of her daughter (Mk. 7:25); the leper who "fell prostrate, and pleaded with Him and said 'Lord, if you wish you can make me clean…'" (Lk. 5:12). Finally, Jesus Himself used this posture: "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will'" (Mt. 26:39).

Fittingly, Jesus later spoke of that moment with St. Faustina in the Divine Mercy revelations. He even predicted this worldwide children's adoration movement when He said, "Bring to Me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who would keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace…" (Divine Mercy in My Soul; italics added). When I first met Fr. Antoine, it was clear to me that he knew nothing of this "prophesy." Yet, it was equally clear to me that he was the messenger designated by Heaven to fulfill this desire of Jesus' heart.

Fr. Antoine is a priest with the Community of St. John, a religious community of priests, brothers, sisters, and oblates, founded over 30 years ago in France. Fr. Antoine currently resides at the community's priory near Peoria, Illinois. Mrs. Jones suggests that friends of the Children of Hope program are generally opposed to the Tridentine Mass. My experience is quite the opposite. In fact, as soon as Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, the Prior General of the Community of St. John gave all the priests of the community permission to offer Mass under the Extraordinary (Tridentine) Form. The Prior of the Community of St. John in Illinois regularly offers the Tridentine Mass for the Diocese of Peoria. In Wichita one diocesan priest who regularly offers the Tridentine Mass also uses the Children of Hope program in his parish school. To suggest that these two practices are opposed to each other is a bit careless.

Finally, I would like to share with you a mysterious phenomenon from the children's adoration program at my parish. After attending two children's holy hours, I received permission from my pastor to begin the program here. Several adults took turns leading the hour. Older parishioners attended from time to time to see what it was about. All of them used the word "beautiful" to describe it. Parents expressed surprise that their children were so rapt and well-behaved for an entire hour. The confession lines grew dramatically. The parent leaders discovered a great "blessing" after we began assisting with the program. Jesus blessed us with "surprise" additions to our families. My own John Kolbe was born exactly nine months after the Feast of Corpus Christi. I received this as a divine gesture of blessing on our children's adoration program.

But something more unusual happened. A retired English professor kept (and continues to keep) the adoration hour immediately following the children's. She often came early to pray the Divine Praises with us, and smile her approval as the children sang "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" while putting away their Rosaries and prayer books. She noticed the sudden onslaught of baby carriers and said to the only adult leader who had not been so blessed, "And I expect you to be carrying a new baby in nine months." The professor did not know that this woman was unable to have children. It had been a bitter and heavy cross to carry. Married for nine years, she had abandoned her desire of having her own children, and recognized — through a missionary priest's advice — that God desired a spiritual motherhood for her. She lived her motherhood through Children of Hope. But within a year, she gave birth to a baby boy. Yes, at my parish we have "children of hope" in the most literal sense.

There will always be skeptics — even holy skeptics — as we work for Jesus. In fact, St. Thérèse predicted that after her death there would be daily Communion for the faithful. Her own holy sister considered her irreverent to suggest such a progressive notion. Yet her prediction came to pass because she understood the Heart of Jesus. In my opinion, Fr. Antoine is under scrutiny by some, but he should count himself in good company. Mrs. Jones is obviously moved by her great zeal for Jesus, like the disciples in Matthew's Gospel. This is laudable. But we should keep in mind the words of the Gospel, "Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'" (Mk. 10:13-14).

Mrs. Marie T. Elliott
Wichita, Kansas




SHANNON M. JONES REPLIES

In the first few paragraphs of my article the subject and scope are clearly defined; it was not a personal attack on any one person or persons, but rather an investigation of a post-Vatican II paraliturgical innovation. My article in no way addresses what our Eastern Christian brothers do or don't do in their spiritual exercises. For the sake of clarity it must be noted that the St. Ephrem prayer referred to by Scaroni is strictly used as a penitential act reserved for Lenten exercises and has nothing whatsoever to do with eucharistic adoration. Eastern prostrations are not performed before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

My article dealt specifically and exclusively with those in the Roman rite who, on their own authority, inject non-Roman practices into traditional paraliturgical (i.e., public) eucharistic devotions that involve children. Scaroni attempts to legitimize the innovation in the Roman rite under question by asserting that the Greeks did it first and that the posture erroneously identified as a "prostration" is a derivative of Eastern Christian traditions. But Fr. An­toine Thomas, the founder of Children of Hope, doesn't claim that this idea comes from his study of the history of Eastern Christianity. Regardless of any similarities, intentional or otherwise, to the Eastern rite, the publicized and recognized purpose of Fr. Antoine's "prostration" is to emulate and imitate Muslim prayer. It is clear from Fr. Antoine's own words on EWTN that this innovative posture is designed, based on, and a derivative of the Muslim sajdah. (He makes no mention of Byzantine or Eastern rites, but does make multiple allusions to the Islamic world.) Cursory examination of his order's publication Aletheia indicates a prevailing interest in Muslim prayer worship, such as the Volume 12 issue, L'Adoration, which expresses an interest in adoration as it occurs in the Muslim world: L'adoration dans le monde musulman ("Adoration in the Muslim World") and Prière et adoration en Islam ("Prayer and Adoration in Islam").

Mrs. Elliott presents one extreme of the many possible reactions to witnessing the "prostrations" program. While one can appreciate the sentimental nature of Mrs. Elliott's observations, those observations offer subjective evidence that could easily apply to other situations. Girls in leotards dancing around the altar could be viewed as "beautiful." Replacing the homily with amateur theatrical reenactments of the Gospel could be construed as "beautiful." Parading children out of Mass under the guise of "children's liturgies" could be characterized as "beautiful." But the trained eye recognizes that none of these things is part of litur­gically sound Catholic practices. In the Western liturgical tradition, beauty is more closely related to order and restraint than to pleasure or feeling — it is an object more of love than desire, according to Catholic theology.

Clearly no one would dispute that the Wichita Diocese has a sincere eucharistic focus. After all, Wichita is home to Bishop Michael Jackels, a devout, orthodox episcopal leader. Bishop Jackels enthusiastically supports and encourages the faithful to adore Christ in the Eucharist. It is more likely that the "eucharistic breadbasket" effect has more to do with Bishop Jackels's orthodoxy and spirituality than with an innovative posture designed only for children.

An imprimatur does not approve everything an individual writer writes or does. Imprimaturs deal only with text, and not with the person writing the text or his subsequent actions.

With respect to the various scriptural references Mrs. Elliott cites, it is clear that those who fell at Jesus' feet did so spontaneously, and not as part of a rehearsed, spiritually exhibitionistic program. It is important to note that there is a span of approximately 2,000-plus years of liturgical teaching and disciplinary regulation between the time of Christ and the present, and in that time there has never been anything that resembles this posture in the Roman rite.

One misunderstanding that must be corrected is the statement regarding the Latin Mass. Nowhere in my article do I state or imply that Fr. Antoine is opposed to the Latin Mass. My reference to the "priest advisor" who suggested that the Latin Mass is "from the devil" relates to my own personal experience in a particular diocese.

While it's a real blessing that so many babies have been born in Mrs. Elliott's parish, I wonder whether Fr. Antoine's teaching four-year-olds to do the sajdah increases fertility rates. If the children had developed skin boils or warts would that also be attributed to Father? It is more likely that the actual adoring of Christ in His eucharistic presence produced those miracles, in spite of the type of posture the individuals assumed. The births could also be due to Bishop Jackels's energetic and enthusiastic support of Humanae Vitae.

In response to the various ad hominem attacks both against Fr. Antoine and myself that have cropped up on the Internet, I must make it clear that this dispute is over the innovative posture alone and not about the personalities who endorse, condone, or perform it. Nobody is questioning the holiness of Fr. Antoine and certainly not that of his community. Even the holiest of people can make uninformed decisions. Moreover, I absolutely believe that all Catholics should pray as Catholics pray before the Blessed Sacrament, including children, teens, adults, and the elderly. I do not think that any prayer posture or paraliturgical innovation should discriminate based on age, ability, or perceived level of holiness.

I leave readers to ponder these peculiarities regarding this posture:

(1) If the children were taught to adore in a dignified, approved Catholic manner — i.e., on their knees and in the pews rather than with their heads on the floor — there would be no scandal.

(2) The point of adoration is to focus one's eyes, heart, and mind on the Blessed Sacrament, and not to sing songs, seek attention, or receive a lecture by a priest or layman interjecting himself between the children and the Lord. These activities seriously distract from the act of adoring and should be performed in an appropriate location, such as a home or classroom. Making eucharistic adoration person-centered rather than God-centered is disgraceful.

(3) To date there has been no explanation regarding why this innovative posture is age-discriminatory, designed only for young children. Why, almost 100 years after the message of Fatima, are we just now discovering this new posture, and why aren't people of all ages encouraged to perform it?





The Angelic Doctor on Prostrations

With respect to the question of Catholic sajdah and eucharistic adoration, I note the following. Shannon Jones's article ("Beware the Sajdah," May) charts a clear course through the Scylla of Islamic enculturation and the Charybdis of postmodern liturgical free-play. But, in contrast, the frequent "updates" on the Children of Hope website are reminiscent of Heraclitus's phrase that "one never steps into the same river twice." A recent attempt to justify a non-approved posture, called variously "bowing" or "prostration," consists of a posting from St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae, without any accompanying commentary, explanation, or historical context. As a specialist in the work of St. Thomas, I was disappointed to see the Angelic Doctor's words marshaled without any effort at the reasoning process which sound interpretation requires. St. Thomas himself warned against those who fail to defend their views, merely speaking in the presence of children and simple folk who do not know how to judge about such difficult matters (De unitate intellectus contra Aver­roistas). It is ironic that his warning occurs in a treatise against an Islamic philosophical theory. At any rate, this phrase from Summa Theo­logiae (II-II 84.2) is highlighted: "[When] we prostrate ourselves we profess that we are nothing of ourselves." A few brief comments:

There are several levels of analysis here that have yet to be deciphered for a sound interpretation. First, there is the lexical issue of the term "prostration" mapped out clearly by Jones. The monastic "prostration" to which Aquinas refers has nothing to do with the "bowing"/sajdah posture, and it is highly misleading to imply their identity. Even if the postures were identical, however, this is no grounds for ignoring 700-plus years of Western liturgical development, canon law, and papal writings. Further, Aquinas himself would never interchange one alien practice for the canonically assigned "fitting" one. He states in II-II 84.3 that "bodily signs must of necessity be in some definite place and position" and must be "fitting" (secundum quandam decentiam). The value he placed on the truth was exhibited in his dying prayer, which included the instruction that "if I taught anything false, I leave correction of it to the Roman Catholic Church [Ecclesiae Romanae]" (In Articulo Mortis).

Second, there is the theological issue of the prayer of adoration in the Roman Catholic Church. Trendy substitutions aside, there are conceptual distinctions between Eastern and Western Christianity, and between Catholicism and Islam, that warn against ecumenical capitulations in the name of "reverence." Divine mystery and human piety make for strange dancing partners without the twin lights of reason and tradition to guide our steps.

Third, there is the complex question of St. Thomas's Christian metaphysics. Without detailing the labyrinth of texts and interpretations, it is necessary to note that a stress on the creature's relative "nothingness" outside divine causality and providence is accurate (e.g., Summa Theologiae, I 104.1) but incomplete. As created in the "image of God," men are also the conduits of divine providence to the rest of creation as God's adopted sons. As rationally ordered agents, we are not only capable of expressing our ontological poverty before God through private acts of devotion such as authentic prostration, but, more importantly, we are also capable of a reasoned submission to Western Christian tradition that involves a particular theological anthropology and liturgical aesthetic. The strong intellectual tradition that has boldly shaped a nuanced eucharistic theology in the West militates against a simplistic focus on the contrast between finite nothingness and divine majesty. The free response to the divine invitation extended by the Incarnate God requires the full use of our intellect, the disciplined ordering of our emotions and gestures to accord with the laws designed for the community of the faithful, and demands humility before (not the ignorance of) Western Catholic tradition. If it is true that creatures are preserved in being by God, it is equally true that Christ preserves His Church and conforms us to Himself through her guidance, which is the mediation of His Spirit.

Heather Erb
State College, Pennsylvania




Get Serious

In your New Oxford Note "No Atheists in Earthquakes" (May), you cite the story of Katherine Maxfield, who left the Church to follow the "false god of sexual libertinism." What the Church fails to give Katherine and many (millions?) like her is an alternative. If priests only give "feel good, be good, love Jesus" homilies (which pretty much sums up the vast majority of those I have heard), if the Mass doesn't emphasize the sublime that attends the eucharistic miracle, instead playing up its amateurish-sounding, lite-rock praise songs, then how is Katherine supposed to believe that the Church offers her eternal salvation? How is Katherine supposed to believe that the Church guards eternal truths and is the vessel entrusted by God to save man­kind, and to bring her to Him? Why would Kath­erine reject and repent of her choices when the Church does not openly challenge them and does not appear to offer any real alternatives?

The sad state of the Church today is that she does not give the impression of being a serious place in which to solve serious problems. If the Church does not seem serious, then why would the wayward turn to her in times of crisis?

What Church leaders don't seem to understand is that accommodating modern attitudes doesn't bring back apostates. The Church needs to be serious, and that means doing things differently than godless society; it means showing the lost souls that she offers something they can't get elsewhere — that she offers hope and salvation.

Brannon Burnley
Dallas, Texas




Staying Put

Your New Oxford Note "No Atheists in Earthquakes" (May) really made me sit up and pay attention. You gave a very good explanation of the situation of Katherine Maxfield. Like her, I was away from the Church for a very long time and, like her, I never abandoned my prayer life. It was the EWTN broadcast that I watched for over three years that really motivated me to come back. Believe me, going to confession after a 23-year absence is not easy! But the priest who heard my confession was very kind and guided me through the confession and never made me feel like I did not belong back in the Church. I recall him asking, "Do you even remember the Act of Contrition?" I did remember — I said it often to myself, same with prayers to the angels and saints.

But I was taken aback by what I saw when I came back to the Church. Some of the people in the parish didn't welcome me back, and what some of these "good Catholics" said to me was enough to make anyone want to leave the Church. Luckily, I ran into an old friend from the days before I left, and she related to me all the changes that had taken place in the Church since I'd been gone, and all the new problems. "But," she said, "I don't care what they change or what they do or don't do — I'm not leaving!" I had no concept of all the turmoil in the Church before I returned in 1994, which is a good thing because if I did, I might not have come back. But now, as my old friend said, "I'm not leaving!"

Jacquelyn Mary Conn
Titusville, Florida




Out of the Mouth of Babes

A few months back, upon departing Mass (the Novus Ordo with all its lack of majesty and resonance), my 13-year-old son jokingly said to the priest, "Pray the Latin Mass, Father." This priest, one of the "living icons of Christ," as George Weigel put it, drew back his lips and sneered out the following discordant burp: "Teach him some respect!"

Of course, I could have debated this inflated lump of flesh and pointed out his lack of respect for the Catechism, the traditions of our Church, the liturgy, and the sanctity of even the current corrupted Mass. I could have protested his barbarous babblings about "gay rights" and tolerance. But what would it have accomplished?

Correct me if I am wrong, but is it perfectly fine to be divorced, homosexual, living in sin, and in general agreement that all that is traditionally Roman Catholic is vile and lewd and wrong, but to express some fleeting admiration for the Tridentine Latin Mass is to place oneself outside the corridors of power as they are currently composed in our local churches? How many parish priests knowingly give Communion repeatedly to those who offend our Lord by being in open rebellion to the word of God as expressed within the confines of the Catechism? Still, what offends them most is the Tridentine Mass — and for good reason. It is perceived (correctly) that this ancient liturgy forms the antithesis of Vatican II and its attendant licentiousness. Since its inception, Vatican II has contributed to the general destruction of the Church's bureaucracy and its ability to convey God's word to an often misinformed audience. Our Church has degenerated from peak attendance levels in the early 1930s to the empty pews and the nonobservance of the laity today. And no one hates those who would stop degeneracy more than the degenerates themselves.

Lodging my protest in detail with our bishop, I received a note back saying he would pray for my son. There was, of course, no criticism of the priest. To which my son and I have responded: We will pray for our bishop in the hope that he will one day refrain from abdicating his role as teacher.

All this borne on the wings of one small joke from a rather diminutive kid who is, admittedly, mischievous, playful, and teenagerish. So it is that I must take refuge in Holy Scripture. Witness the words of our Savior: "I confess to thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto little ones" (Mt. 11:25).

Matthew M. O'Connell
Lawrence, Kansas




Sincereity or Pandering?

While His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, was visiting the U.S., I was hoping that one of his Masses would have been the Traditional version. What a golden opportunity he had to reinforce Summorum Pon­tificum, his motu proprio that liberated the Traditional Mass, before the U.S. Church, and what a morale boost that would have been for the traditional movement! Alas, the moment was squandered. This begs the question: Was the Pontiff really serious with Summorum Pontificum or was he merely pandering to traditionalists?

As long as we have clergy who openly oppose the Traditional Mass — as reported in the May letters to the editor, "'Let Daddy Do It All'" and "Don't Go There" — the motu proprio will barely get off the ground.

In the circles I travel, I have seen no change regarding the further availability of the Immemorial Mass of our forefathers. It's still business as usual.

Raymond J. Mattes
Kissimmee, Florida




Too Much Choice

One of the problems in the Novus Ordo Mass is the four choices open to the priest when he invites us to "proclaim the Mystery of Faith" right after the Consecration. Nothing is gained by these choices. The Tridentine Mass never offered them. Who worries that saying the same old words will lead to some dreadful unthinking routinism? It doesn't with the Our Father and Hail Mary. Can't we return to one Eucharistic Prayer, which we would soon learn by heart?

The plethora of choices — an exception might be made for a few different Prefaces with wording corresponding to the specific season of the Church year — is diffusive and weakening. It's an almost silly example of the preference for alternatives over bedrock and enduring uniformity.

Dan Mattimore
West Seneca, New York




Rubrics? What Rubrics?

Mario de Solenni (letter, May) throws a bone to the Novus Ordo's scriptural emphasis by acknowledging the addition of "one reading from the Old Testament to Sunday Mass" and "fractions of various Psalms into the daily Mass." But he ignores the far more weighty adoption of three-year reading cycles for the Sunday Mass, and two-year cycles for the daily Mass.

He goes on to speak of his problems with the Novus Ordo, beginning with poor proclamation skills of lectors and dismal translations, but then continues through his list of aberrations, abuses, and idiosyncrasies — which he implies is solely the fault of (and perhaps unique to) the Novus Ordo.

I am the Lector Coordinator for my parish, responsible for both the scheduling and training of over forty lectors, and am quite sympathetic to the problem of inept lectors. Consequently, no new applicant sets foot in the pulpit until I feel that he is ready to proclaim the Word of the Lord with the confidence, passion, and certitude of St. Paul or the prophet Isaiah. I should add that some of our lectors read better than some of our priests and deacons.

As for the abuses, it will take a lot of time to eliminate them. A priest (who admits to having slurred his Latin in the old days) once said to me, "The rubrics? What are those? Do you mean the 'suggestions' printed in red?" Would the miraculous dissolution of the Novus Ordo change that kind of mindset? Unlikely.

My primary point in my December 2007 letter was to express the hope that increased availability of the (now) "Extraordinary Form" will lead to what I called a "healthy competition" with the Novus Ordo, thereby driving the abuses surrounding the Novus Ordo into oblivion, and restoring a keenly desired "sense of the sacred." Thus, when I read of Fr. Kloster's experience with the expansion of the Tridentine Mass in San Antonio (letter, May), I was filled with joy — and hope.

Oremus!

F. Gregory Walsh
Ronkonkoma, New York




Unnatural Disaster

With churches closing nationwide, it might be of interest that Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans is closing 24 churches, 18 of which were destroyed by flooding. He blames Hurricane Katrina and the shortage of priests.

Those may be his reasons, but I believe this whole sad mess of having to close churches is a result of Vatican II. After the Council, homosexuals were readily ordained to the priesthood. Once they got in, they promoted their own. Homosexuals were assigned to recruitment, which insured their control. Heterosexual men were either not accepted or were driven away.

With the subsequent clerical sex scandals, the Church has spent over $2 billion to settle lawsuits. These monies could have been available to help churches destroyed by natural disasters. So, as a result of the homosexual clergy, we are short both monies and priests.

Perhaps there is nothing that can be done to save those parishes. Our only recourse is to pray that those in authority in the Church recognize the serious damage this Council has caused, and take the necessary steps to repair it.

Toby J. Russo
Chalmette, Louisiana




Beauty in Modesty

I have read with great interest the recent articles and letters on the subject of women and pants, and on the closely related subject of Christian modesty. Something of great importance is missing from this discourse, and that is comment on the sheer visual beauty of modest skirts and, still more, dresses. One has only to take a glance at, say, an Old Master painting of a Dutch interior to get the point. Whether young, middle-aged, or old, the women look not only dignified and modest but beautiful.

Alternatively, one might take a glance at photographs of present-day rural African or Indian women in their colorful dresses or saris. If only Western women would take a leaf out of their predecessors' or non-Western contemporaries' book, what a difference it would make to the everyday scene, and, in my view, how much better we would all feel!

Is it too much to hope that Christian women will set an example in the matter of restoring attractive, dignified female attire to the West?

Mrs. Mary Hopson
Tregate Castle, Monmouth
United Kingdom




You Can't Wear Pants All the Time

The letter from Carrie Tomko (May) categorized all the reasons, particularly that of modesty, why her mother always needed to wear pants. And so she wears pants as well, because she learned to do so from her mother. But I ask: Does she sleep in her pants? Swim in her pants? I doubt it.

There's a time and place for different types of clothing. And so why not wear a modest, feminine skirt or dress out of reverence for God when attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? So many women look so lovely, feminine, and devout in church when dressing that way — and that can help others in church toward greater reverence as well. And it frequently makes a woman feel pleased with herself to appear in such an attractive way.

Of course, no matter what is worn, it can be modest or immodest. Likewise, posture and speech can be modest or immodest. Much depends upon one's intentions.

While there are certainly situations where pants are best, church and social events most especially lend themselves to a dress or skirt. I hope Mrs. Tomko reconsiders her choice of clothing in such situations.

Jessica Munn
Foster City, California




Checking It Out

I am a 71-year-old arthritic male with a knee wrecked in a skiing accident fifty years ago. At the Consecration of the Mass I slide forward with my backside "resting against the pew" and my forearms resting on the pew in front of me so that my head can bow at the Elevations. If I "would remain sitting" as Donna Kruger suggests (letter, May), it would be awkward for the person kneeling directly behind me. She says, "Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament must surely be offended" by my posture. Who knew?

It is silly to purport to know what postures in worship offend our Lord. The root of her letter — i.e., reverence at Mass — is valid. This particular application is thoughtless. Why is she checking peoples' postures and posteriors when she should be in eucharistic adoration?

Peter Reilly
West Palm Beach, Florida




Space to Kneel

Concerning Donna Kruger's letter "Half & Half" (May): Imagine my surprise when I visited churches in eastern Poland and found that the kneelers are way under the pew in front, and are unmovable and tilted, so that the only possible kneeling position is "half and half"! I suppose this is a space-saving measure, but some folks now view the half and half position as the Church norm.

As we Americans get bigger year by year, half and half may be the only way some of us will be able to kneel, unless they increase the space between the pews!

The Very Rev. Myron Effing, C.J.D.
Vladivostok, Russia




The 'Cure' That Kills

Your New Oxford Note "Wonderful Are Your Works" (May) raised the relationship between amniocentesis and abortion. There's more to worry about. Testing for "nuchal translucence" will soon be all the rage. By ultrasound before the 12th week of pregnancy, a doctor measures the space in the back of the baby's neck. British studies show a relationship between fluid collected there and Down syndrome. Plug in the millimeter measurement with mom's age and voilà: early diagnosis. It happened to us. The "cure"? Abortion. Early. Now. Or else take that amniocentesis risk. We did. He'll be a healthy one-year-old this month. The test is now recommended for all moms.

Vincent Manning
Freehold, New Jersey




Hope for Babies With Down Syndrome

It is distressing to read of preborn babies with Down syndrome being aborted ("Wonderful Are Your Works," New Oxford Note, May). About 18 years ago, Dixie Lawrence Tafoya realized that her baby, who was not born retarded, was gradually becoming retarded. After much research it was found that the genes from the extra chromosome were over-expressed and caused metabolic imbalances. These imbalances caused the baby to become retarded. The researchers found that they could manage these imbalances with supplements. With proper supplementation, people with Down syndrome can lead normal lives. Instead, preborn infants with this trait are discarded or not given the supplements they need.

Renee Scheil
Mission Viejo, California




The Nature of Moral Evil

Alice von Hildebrand yet again provides deep insights ("The Natural Law & Ritual Laws," article, May). She sets forth three sources of immorality: acts that are intrinsically evil, disobedience to the commands of legitimate authority, and trespassing on others' rights. I suggest that another source underlies all immorality — namely, turning away from God.

Adam first turned away from God by wanting to know all things. In essence, he wanted to be other than that for which he was made. He was not made to know all things. He was made to be dependent on God. By appropriating for himself what in truth was not his, Truth did not change. His dependence on God remained, but he chose to live in a false, incomplete state of independence. The decision unleashed great fear for all mankind — the fear of insecurity and an unfulfilled life.

The turning away from God is the core answer to the questions posed by Dr. von Hildebrand: What is "the nature of moral good and of moral evil," and "Are all immoral acts immoral for the same reason." The nature of moral good is turning toward God; the nature of moral evil is turning away from God. In this sense, turning away from God to lessen the fear of insecurity leads to idolatry, lying, murder, stealing, and the like. Turning away to achieve perceived self-fulfillment begets such immorality as envy, adultery, rape, and sexual perversion, among many others.

God knows the importance of our critical choice and has provided us with a conscience in order to live in a way that leads back to Himself, the only means of obtaining true security and fulfillment. Therefore, we know the difference between moral and immoral acts.

W.B. Forti
Claremont, California




In the Service of Satan

Mr. and Mrs. R.P. Ganzer (letter, May) ask, in response to my article "Is God's Love Unconditional?" (Feb.), "If we are able to change God's love by our actions, how is He God?" I believe some of God's ways will never change (commandments), but others (mercy, punishment) can be changed by our prayers, so says Jesus — repeatedly. The Ganzers' references to 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:10 on God's love are correct, but let's not forget the words of our Lord in John 14:21, "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him…" (emphasis added). Conditions for His steadfast love are often mentioned by Jesus and His Apostles. If God's love were unconditional, why didn't He exercise it, for example, after the fall?

In response to Tom Fath (letter, May), who says that "this thesis of 'unconditional love' is implied in Scripture, just as the Trinity is implied": The Trinity is not implied in Scripture, for Matthew 28:19 reads, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The word "Trinity," it seems to me, is more of an acronym than an implication. Furthermore, even if the Trinity were implied, it is official Church teaching, not unfounded speculation like God's unconditional love. Fath continues, "Scripture scholars are almost unanimous in agreeing that whenever the word 'hate' is used, it means to love less, which I believe more accurately defines God's reaction to sin." To be "loved less" by God is meaningless if, by failing to repent of ours sins, Hell still awaits us.

Fath uses as his example "the father [who] would not have rushed to embrace his repentant prodigal son" if he hated him. The key here is the word "repentant." God does not hate repentant sinners. Repenting restores us to His love. But to say that God's love is unconditional implies that there is no need to repent of one's sins — which permanently alienates us from His love. This is the problem with the notion that God's love is unconditional: It benefits the devil, not unrepentant sinners, for by suppressing the need to repent, it will only lead them to his lair.

Carmelo Fallace
Lake Grove, New York




Can a National Shrine Be Moved?

In 1969 the original National Shrine of St. Joseph was gutted and moved from the present Old St. Joseph Church in West DePere, Wisconsin, to the Norbertine Abbey on the east side of DePere. It presently resides in the Abbey's basement.

This is how well known or unknown this shrine and the Arch­confraternity of St. Joseph is: A new shrine in Grass Lake, Michigan, had to rescind its claim to being the first National Shrine of St. Joseph in the U.S. because the Norbertine Community made claim to the National Shrine located in DePere. (No signs are posted to say this is a National Shrine.)

This prompts the question: Can a national shrine be moved without permission from Rome?

Mary Desotell
Green Bay, Wisconsin



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