Monday, 26 August 2013

The Penultimate Times and the Beatitudes

We often hear and read dark forebodings about living in the final last times. This is discussed at length in the "Heralds of the Second Coming, Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pope Pius IX to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI", by Stephen Walford: Forward by Cardinal Ivan Dias and Imprimatur by Bishop Egan of Portsmouth. Now we learn that on 12/13 October 2013 Pope Francis is to re-consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady. Surely we must sit up and take note?

We have been warned many times to stay awake and discern the signs of the times. Surely our loving God, the Father is reaching a point when He will do something to halt the global descent into the abyss? Many shrug their shoulders helplessly at more than 60 million babies, or one billion since the 1960s, murdered before and up to birth each year, the millions denied the gift of life through contraception and IVF, the emerging demand for the murder of babies after birth, the use of embryos in research, genetic modification of natural life, attempts to clone humans and designer babies within the test tubes of so-called science, and the overpowering desire to create and control life itself from the beginning to the grave. We have reached a state in which God is denied and evil is increasingly declared good and good declared evil, coupled with the legal condoning of the corruption of manners and the vices of the soul. Worse still, our children are being educated to accept the new man-made norms.

Followers of Christ are increasingly treated as freaks and worse still threatened on all sides globally by psychological and physical life-threatening persecution and destruction. The storm in the Middle East might be the birth pangs of global anti-Christian culture and even a global war on a scale never seen before. Do we have to remember WWI in this way and thereby betray all those who died for a better world for their children: us!

Added to this are the freak skies, weather patterns, famine and floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the burying of crime through under-reporting, crime and corruption condoned by weak courts, ineffectual world leaders, old conflicts refusing to die and new ones arising daily, with the world peace-makers at a loss for what do to damp down the fires of hatred. Are the emerging changes in nature and weather a sign of nature's very rebellion against man's global sinfulness?
In the 1950s our streets and byways were reasonably safe for children and murder was infrequent; now we have CRB/DBS to worry about and our children, especially the most vulnerable, remain continuously threatened, and we adults are reluctant to even smile at a child in case it is taken the wrong way. We live in increasingly isolated worlds fed by the media with pap to keep us happy according to their definition of happiness.
On top of this sorry brew is the flood of fear and filth poured out by the secular media into the eyes (souls) and ears of our society, thereby attempting to blot out from our minds what is good, with politicians aiding and abetting with their own brand of propaganda serving their own hidden agendas. So many are now predicting that the times are indeed ripe for the "Man of Iniquity" to emerge.
According to St John, there are many anti-Christs in the world, not just one at any time, and perhaps we are seeing legions of them emerging into our midst with vast numbers of christian tares aiding and abetting them. Evil leaders need followers and accomplices to do their evil global work. These followers soften up society to accept and condone increasingly evil ways or methods. From this unholy cauldron a new order of evil comes forth. Perhaps the growing fear and perversity in every era signals a new era of widespread inhumanity.
As there is one "Body of Christ" with Christ as its Head, surely it is not unthinkable to hypothesize that there might be one "Body of Satan" with Satan as its Head? The members of the Body of Satan comprise those who rebel against the good and love that is God Himself by choosing evil, against truth by lying, and against life itself by denying it and trying to control it for their own ends. They cry out in so very many and not-so subtle ways that "God is dead and all of those who believe in such nonsense are un-intelligent myth believers". Dorothy Sayers wrote that the Devil is crafty, or intelligent, but has a stupid core. So wisdom is much to be preferred to a coat of intelligence covering inner stupidity.
Turning to the one and only true Church following Christ through His passion and crucifixion, yes crucifixion, we see leaders of the world at many levels causing havoc and death using hidden means of influence, scourging humanity with multitudes of wounds, suppressing life, education, marriage, family life and encouraging all forms of disparate behaviour redefined as good, wholesome and desirably acceptable. Satan's lackeys everywhere are adding their individual and group contributions to the emerging new barbarism never seen before in the history of mankind. 

"Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptional." (Richard John Neuhaus, 'The Return of Eugenics', Commentary, April 1988, p.19)
A very sobering account of the period between the World Wars is described by Paul Brendon in his book, "The Dark Valley", which leads to the conclusion that World War II just had to happen. The world has got worse since then as the errors of Russia have fuelled the rapid march away from God and decline in worshipping Him. World War III-IV, as things currently stand, is likely to be the default result of the "Ever Darkest Valley" we have trapped ourselves in, with the world powers poised to inflict far greater inhumanity on us all. Just as in the 1930s, as noted by George Orwell: Everyone was 'sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs'. So it was then, so it looks likr today.
Frightening words, but even worse now emerges with the apparent suppression of the Mass going on in our very midst. It is being suppressed by priests and people who no longer really believe and just act as if they believe. It does not take much to spot these unfortunate individuals, just a little understanding of behavioural psychology. The result is that the efficaciousness of the Mass declines, leaving the people with a feeling of emptiness and lack of joy so they drift away, believing that today the Church has little to offer. Most noticeably in churches with suppressed or no Masses there is an apparent feeling of cold emptiness or lack of peace (Christ's).
With Mass suppressed and dwindling parishes, real love grows cold, and we appear to no longer know what love is and how to recognise it when we have it; the killing of the vulnerable in Belgium and the Netherlands are markers of a world without love. Love is God and without God you cannot begin to have or appreciate love: you are left with a chrysalis of hyped-up experiences, or personal needs, masquerading as love. With suppressed Masses we are left with Christ absent from our villages and towns, and consequentially these are enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. The Book of Revelation is opening up before our very eyes, driven open by legions of anti-Christs. This is why the call for re-evangelisation and the Year of Faith are so important to us.

Without doubt a Contraceptive Catholic Church will die out: no children, no people and no priests equate to no church. A Holy Catholic church is slowly emerging out of this darkness from the remnant who live for life in its abundance: this truly Holy Catholic Church will have the awesome power of God behind it, and its enemies will not prevail against it as its members adhere to its doctrines and the true Mass without dissent. 
What should we do in this difficult period so that we don't become overwhelmed? We surely want to belong to the one and the true Holy Catholic Church wherever we can find its roots among us here and now. However, without living the Beatitudes to the best of our ability, we shall not be able to discern it. We have to stay very close to the Pope and to all of those who support him. All of us of child-bearing age should trust the gift of life to God and welcome, without worrying but with joy, however many children He grants us, for He will provide for them so that we can rebuild the Body of Christ in the way God meant it to be. 
Each of us must move forward in faith: to stop still is to go backwards. We have to become centres of prayer and Eucharistic adoration, attending and living the unsuppressed Mass wherever we find it; from this will emerge beacons of love and hope as lights to those embedded in the escalating darkness. We need to keep before our eyes that, no matter how much this evil darkness spreads, Satan and his lackeys will never be allowed to conquer the world or us if we hang on in there, loyal to Christ and his true disciples identified by their adherence to the Beatitudes. Our little lights must become brighter and stronger, so that we shine out in this darkness like lighthouses guiding those who really wish to find the one and only safe harbour created by God through Jesus Christ.
For this to happen, each one of us has to grasp the nettle of understanding and living the Beatitudes: without doing this our progress will be stunted and to no real avail. We have to follow Christ along His narrow way and so become Christ-like or continue to drift at the mercy of the storms we are facing which are forcing us to accept so many different ways to keep us away from Christ's narrow way. This background presents my introduction to the Beatitudes, and is why we must do all that we can to live the Beatitudes so that they become second nature to us, and we will then, with God's help, overcome the darkness now swirling as a Satanic-driven fog enveloping the world and above all to help others out of this maze of despair.
The first blog on the Beatitudes of the Mount will start with the most important, and to many of us the most difficult, rung of the ladder to Heaven: Poverty of Spirit. It will concentrate on what Poverty of Spirit is not so that we don't delude ourselves.

Finally, if you remain unconvinced that we are in the penultimate last times, in "The Heralds of the Second Coming", there is a reference to Doctor of the Church St Hildegard's revelations which paint the period we live in as the Fourth Epoch - the Black Pig. St Hildegard's previous three epochs have come to pass with uncanny accuracy. I do recommend this book to you to find out that our era has been accurately foreseen. Our era will be followed by a relatively short and final epoch of the Gray Wolf or reign of the man of iniquity, Satan himself facing his final destruction by Christ.  We have been warned!

Monday, 5 August 2013

A server's view of the Traditional Mass

Recently, after Mass at the Cathedral, I was asked “What attracted you to the old Mass?”

A good question, and answered in the first instance by "Ummm...." It's a deceptively simple question at first glance, but it took me a moment to marshal my thoughts.

To put the question into a little more context, the question really amounted to "You're nowhere near old enough to have experienced it first time round, so after 32 years attending nothing but the Novus Ordo and 24 years serving nothing but that, how did you come to have been in the sacristy having just served Mass in the Usus Antiquior?"

Well….. I suppose it all started in 1985, when I made my first appearance east of the Altar Rails. Or, I would have, if there were any. Back then, there used to be two weekday Masses each day at the Cathedral, and over the week eight servers were rostered in pairs to cover them, with spares. We were allowed out of school for that- it’d be hard to believe that happening these days - and we were even let out to serve at funerals too. Over time, as servers move on, you find yourself moving up the pecking order, until eventually I ended up being the one at the back of the gaggle of servers on a Sunday Morning and directing the proceedings, and I found that all of a sudden, those bits of red text in that Very Large Book on the Altar were actually quite important! Say the Black, Do the Red, and all that.

Now, once you start looking into what we have to do, you start having to think about how we’re to do it, and why. For a while, the “we've always done it like that 'ere” line of reasoning will satisfy, but if you know that there was something else before, you have to cast your eyes further back in time.

Around that time, a certain Rev. Stephen Cross appeared in our parish, wearing a cassock, a biretta, and complete with chalice veils, burses, amices, Latin and a whole load of other things not seen for many years. I realised over a period of time that it’s possible to be entirely faithful to the Novus Ordo while still still being faithful to the care and reverence of the Usus Antiquior, but his obvious passion for antiquity lead to me being more aware of the fact that what went before wasn't that different after all, and what we have now is clearly derived from that, and so treating that like "the elephant in the corner" will only leave you adrift in a sea of speculation. My assistant and I used to have a phrase for it. "Liturgical Innovation". (NB this is a very useful phrase in another context. We don't make "mistakes", we have "Liturgical Innovations". Not that we ever get anything wrong, of course...)

A little more reading around on the subject will certainly give you an insight into it, but out of context it all seems a little unreal, like pictures in an illuminated manuscript.

However, one Sunday morning many years later, I found out two things:
  • Bob Latin (well done, that man) had arranged that there was to be a Mass in the Usus Antiquior in our parish in Morecambe;
  • There was space in the sanctuary for me if I fancied a go.
Of course, I said yes. So, it came to pass that Fr Cross said Mass, and Bob and I served under the watchful eye of The Oracle that is Michael Massey.

And there it was, real, actually happening, and there in front of me. We didn't do badly for a first try either. Since then, I've repeated the feat a few times, at Hornby, Lancaster and also in the chapel at Sizergh, and I've also served Mass on my own a couple of times. I still get caught on the hop by “sed libera nos a malo” though.

So, back the the question “What attracted you to the old Mass?”

Well, some of it is of course a matter of personal preference, but over the years I served Mass at the cathedral (18 years of it) I saw some weird and wonderful things at various functions, a number not very relevant, some completely trivial, many indulgent and very few reverent. It’s ironic, isn't it - traditionalists are often accused of being inflexible, intolerant and set in their ways, and yet when we attend the Novus Ordo we take a deep breath, let it pass and get on with it, but if you suggest singing the Gloria in Latin, well…..! Anyhow, after a lifetime of liturgies where, as someone once said “the only thing missing wur t’pantomime ‘orse!” several things struck me.
  • There was a lot less “going on” with everything done in a neat and timely way. No excessive “extras”, but when something needs doing you simply do it - none of this business of the Priest hanging around waiting while the Missal is solemnly carried out to read the collect!
  • It’s “Something” rather than “something derived from something else” and it wasn't so different that you watched, clueless and confounded.
  • The focus really is towards the altar, the tabernacle and God, and everything is directed towards that, not us.
I think it’s something I've realised through sitting to the side of the altar for many years, but that space between the altar and where the altar rails used to be (where you’d read the gospel at High Mass and carry out multifarious activities at Easter in the Usus Antiquior) has become physically the focus of things; sanctuaries have a large empty space - the people face it, and so does the priest, albeit over the Altar and the focus is…. nothing, while with the Usus Antiquior there is a progression ever more eastward and upwards, approaching God. Approaching, but never surpassing: even the priest is to the west of the Altar and after the consecration to the west of the Blessed Sacrament. Closer than the servers and congregation, but on the same side. On the other hand, facing each other over the Altar raises a question…. Are we on one side and the Priest on the other, or is the Priest on one side and we’re on the other? Which side is better? Does it make a difference which side we're on? Have we got God surrounded? (“Stick’em up, cowboy! We got ya surrounded!”….. I think not !) And then, you have the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar in front of the Priest, and in the Tabernacle behind him! And, as we all know, you never turn your back on the… Oh never mind….

You don’t get that ambiguity in the Usus Antiquior!

And really, I think that’s it, we’re doing what people have done, nothing less, and nothing more, with the same end and with the same focus: God , not us. What more is there? Liturgical Dancing anyone? No…?

John Rogan