Friday, June 27, 2014

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Enjoy this piece from Matt Beck on this important feast. -Ed.

I: Preparation

“…the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.” These words, spoken by St. John the Baptist in respect of the Savior, could just as appositely be said by us in respect of John. Upon a prayerful survey into the readings assigned by the Church to the feast of his nativity, the prospective commentator, if he is at all illumined by the Holy Ghost, is impressed first of all by the great font of mysteries bubbling up before his eyes, by the febrility of so much divine largesse lavished in quick succession, and by the many and fine-grained allusions to prophecies that are here fulfilled, proclaimed, or interpreted. Although my heart leaps at the disclosure of all this, my mouth is restrained from glossing on it; for such an office has not been given to me, lacking as I do the teaching authority that Holy Orders would confer; and if it be objected here that mysticism is by no means confined to professed ecclesiastics, I would answer that my own lingering impurities but poorly dispose me burst forth in canticles. Heaven calls my will, but earth has sealed my lips. Thus, feeling most unworthy and unable to add aught to those commentaries that are of a mystical or exegetical nature, I have, in no small vexation of mind, proposed to tease out, to make available for reflection, some themes that are present in the account of John’s nativity in such a manner as will ignite the fear of God rather than presume it (for such virtues cannot be too little presumed these days); and in so doing discharge my obligation to magnify the holy forerunner, though I have perhaps but taken up a writing tablet and on it put, “His name is John.”

While there is no end to the wonderful things we might justly say of St. John the Baptist, and while the unicity of God’s self-revelation in Scripture would serve to make all those things applicable in some way or another, today we will hold to the spirit of the particular feast and its readings by focusing only on his nativity, the description of which is to be found entirely (and exclusively) in the first chapter of St. Luke, with some preparatory backward glances at Isaias and Jeremias. Therefore any extensive discussion of his life and preaching, his baptism of repentance, his identification of the Lord, or his persecution by Herod, must be left out of the account for the time being. These events belong, properly speaking, to a later phase of John’s life and, more generally, to a later stage of salvation history, the specific purpose of which was to prepare for and highlight the public ministry of Jesus Christ. In the present instance there is much that remains hidden; and how much more must it have remained hidden to John’s contemporaries who had yet to see the events play out in their fullness. It is a truth firmly established that the entire essence of John’s life, the very nature and purpose of his existence, was to “make straight the paths of the Lord,” to be a preparation for Jesus Christ. Insofar as the entire Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets—nay, the very nation of Israel—is itself a preparation for Christ, St. John the Baptist stands as the culmination of all that went before him; hence there is “no greater born of woman.” But the preparer himself was without any definite preparation of his own. We wish to avoid formulations of the sort “the preparation for the preparation was…” if only because they have the appearance of involving us in an infinite regress, when we know that revelation has a beginning and an end. Moreover, we wish to avoid them because they are wrong, because they belie John’s character as a forerunner. The coming of John was not “announced” by a previous revelation; he was himself an announcement. An announcement is a kind of signal that prompts us to orient our concern in a specified manner and direction. That which John signifies is the presence of the Messias in the world. We may take Isaias 28:16 to be a foreshadowing of that announcement, wherein we read the voice of God saying, “Behold I will lay a stone in the foundations of Sion….” If Jesus Christ is the stone in that description, then John can be said to have the character of the “Behold.” He is the quintessential “Here!” and “Harken!” and “Lo!” It is therefore no departure from truth to say that John’s life ought to mirror the ontology of an announcement. By viewing his nativity in that light we can develop the following themes.

II: Pregnancy

A sort of holy mist hangs over the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, which is the envelopment of grace descending. The story begins with the sudden, unanticipated, and most extraordinary pregnancies of two women: Mary, who shall give birth to Christ, and Elizabeth, who shall give birth to John. In both cases the archangel Gabriel is commissioned to foretell the good news. His appearance is abrupt and awe-inspiring—something decidedly supernatural which occasions the wonderment of Mary and the downright disbelief of Zacharias. The pregnancies he foretells each involve a circumstance usually thought to render such things impossible in the ordinary course of nature, for Mary is to conceive without having known man and Elizabeth will conceive in her old age after a lifetime of barrenness. The strangeness of these events, as well as their angelic heralding, are meant as signals to draw our attention. They are, to use a modern metaphor, a flashing red light which indicates something of immediate importance happening within our environment.

It is not possible to accurately interpret these data according to our everyday concern, or that which Christian philosophizing traditionally refers to as our “natural mind.” However, here we must distinguish “according to” from “on the basis of.” Strictly speaking, it is not possible to penetrate any divine mystery without the supernatural light of faith. A self-contained mind which understood only natural causes would not be capable of discerning anything miraculous in these pregnancies; hence “according to” such a mind certain elements of the story must either be superstitious or false. On the other hand, the proposition that there may be supernatural causes at work in the world as well as natural causes is itself a datum that our natural mind can comprehend. Any miracle or sign from God, in order to be understood as such, must involve an awakening of this sense of supernatural operations. These operations disclose themselves as a suspension of those effects which ordinary natural causes would enjoin; as a deviation from the expected outcome. The expectation pertains to our everyday concern, to the outcome we would calculate upon when making our way through the world under ordinary circumstances. In the course of a miracle this outcome is taken away; i.e. there is a very real sense in which we are deprived of something that belongs to us: our ordinary world (even though something much better is substituted for it). The loss of our object of everyday concern raises an alarm with us; it is “on the basis of” this disruption of nature that the awareness of the miraculous as such first obtrudes upon our consciousness. It is the signal of a divine operation. All Christian fear, awe, and joy is founded upon that to which this signal adverts. Miracles are a symptom of the divine presence. In a miracle God Himself does not appear, but His love and power are manifested.

So much could be said of any miracle, but how forcibly is the point brought home when the event in question is a miraculous birth! It marks the child as destined for God’s special handiwork all of his life. But as every birth are preceded by a pregnancy, the miraculous character of the birth can only be entailed upon it by the presence of the same specific character in the impregnation, by God acting literally as begetter of the child in a greater-than-ordinary way.  The question “And who is the father?” will naturally arise whenever a new pregnancy is first brought to our attention. It is primal; it insists on being asked, even though it is often suppressed out of delicacy. Zacharias is certainly the natural father of John; but we are given to believe that the act could not have been accomplished without divine assistance, and God wishes this to be known by everyone. This manner of birth links John back to such figures as Isaac, Samson, and Samuel, and all of them to Jesus their head. Here we see the “Behold” of God announcing itself in and through the miraculous birth of John.

But a pregnancy, though it reveals much, also conceals much. The greatness of the father is shown through the pregnancy, and the greatness of the son foreshadowed; but the inner workings are of necessity hidden. In the Gradual for today we hear the voice of God speaking through the prophet Jeremias saying, “Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee,” with the implication being that only God could know or sanctify anyone in those conditions. Pregnancy in general is a time of secrets, of brooding, of preparing, of silent and unobserved growth, of the rumblings of something about to happen, of being directed and oriented towards something that “is” but is not yet, though it is also something that must be and will be. What better metaphor is there for the vocation of the forerunner than pregnancy? For as pregnancy goes before birth, so John goes before the face of the Lord. Pregnancy makes straight the path of a new being coming into the world, just as John makes straight the paths of the Lord. And as pregnancy is the sign or symptom that points forward to new life, so John is the sign that points to Jesus, the life of the world.

We have said how God’s grace, as it pertains to these events, is like the mist, like the gentle rain descending to fertilize the earth with Jesus and John; however, it is also like the gathering storm clouds, which alike are described as “pregnant” with an imminent deluge. The supernatural character of the sign ensures that our everyday concern is disturbed. We are alerted here to the tremendous portents of what is to come. Let us not, therefore, fail to abide in this mystery. Let us not become functional materialists with respect to a miracle which, if we are honest with ourselves, has probably dimmed in our appreciation through frequent and careless perusal. The sign calls us to sit up, to pay attention. That we must.

III: An Imposed Silence

The impending birth of John was first foretold to his father. Zacharias was of the priestly caste, and it so happened one day that it fell to his lot to offer incense in the sanctuary. While he was doing this he unexpectedly meets St. Gabriel the archangel standing by the altar of incense and, himself being very much afraid, is treated to the typical angelic salutation: “Fear not.” Gabriel then goes on to tell him that his prayer has been heard, that his wife Elizabeth will bear him a son, and such a son as has scarcely been heard of in all the world. His name will be called John, the angel tells him. He will go forth in the spirit and power of Elias, and be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. As if this were not enough, we hear that his destiny is to prepare for the Lord a perfect people. Zacharias has much to be thankful for; but instead of gratitude, incredulity dominates his thinking. He returns a question to the angel, “Unde hoc sciam?” Now this phrase can be literally translated as “How shall I know this,” but that rather fails to capture the spirit of the thing. Sciam, the verb participle referring to Zacharias’ knowing, is cognate with the noun scientia, meaning the understanding of demonstrable knowledge. Zacharias is in effect saying that this makes no sense at all. A more colloquial translation of his question would read something like, “How do you expect me to wrap my mind around that?”—or perhaps, if we wish to be particularly uncharitable to the poor man, “What do you take me for, an idiot?”  Therefore Gabriel, much resenting this impudence, and perhaps astonished to find such unbelief in a consecrated priest of the Most High, imposes upon him the punishment that he shall not be able to speak until the child is born. We can imagine Gabriel departing from thence in a huff, with even more than the usual archangelic swiftness.

The ‘calm before the storm’ is a phenomenon familiar to all of us. Whenever you are caught beneath the final stages of a developing thunderstorm, before the outflow boundary hits, the winds fall, the clouds lower and darken, barometric pressure drops, and voices refuse to carry through the thin air. These are all signs associated with ominousness—in fact signs so engrained as such by experience as to be practically synonymous with it. And if these are the signs that attend a natural storm, how much more ominous must the supernatural calm imposed on Zacharias have appeared in the minds of all those about him? For nine months he could utter not a word. The gathering storm of God had sucked the voice right out of his bosom. It is as if God were saying: “I will allow no disbelief, no casualness, no ignorant speculation, no supercilious disregard, no intimations of doubt, to mar what I am doing. The storm shall announce itself by its own calm.” Zacharias becomes as silent as a stone, but in the eeriness of his reticence the stone cries out.

As the angel promised him, Zacharias’ power of speech is restored to him at the birth of John, whereupon he holds forth in an outpouring of praise and prophecy known as the Canticle of Zacharias. This is the Holy Ghost’s own “commentary” on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, so I advise everyone to read it today. It contains, at least in germ, everything that can be said on the subject. That is far too much mystery for us to delve into in detail, but in keeping with the theme of this essay I will briefly mention one particular aspect. Zacharias is said to be “filled with the Holy Ghost” when he speaks. In doing so he has become a personae (literally ‘a mask’) of the Holy Ghost, who is speaking through him. The Spirit of God reveals Himself while concealing Himself, preserving the truth of Jesus’ statement that “No one has seen God,” even though His revelation is even now all around them. What we see is the signal alerting us to His presence, the symptom of something which does not itself appear. The signal conduces to a state of fear and readiness to receive the Word, which shall be our final subject.

IV: Anxiety and Penitence

When Zacharias’ tongue is finally loosed, the Gospel records that “fear fell upon all their neighbors” and they wondered one to another, “What a one, think ye, shall this child be?” This tells us that the signal has gotten across. Disturbance of everyday concern, the apprehension in the face of the supernatural, has, for the time being, asserted itself. However, if the matter were to end there it would leave us standing on the edge of a precipice. The wonders of God have been displayed for us and, without being themselves chaotic or unreasonable, have flummoxed our ordinary understanding. We are now aware of the wisdom and power of God as well as our own dependence upon His sufferance, which is a most uncomfortable place to be in. The abyss of anxiety opens up before us when the miracle deprives us of our ordinary world. Having been conducted to such a state, it is necessary to ask the question, “Now what?”

The question cannot be answered by dialectics alone, for having gone beyond the boundary of the natural light we no longer have any premises to reason about. The answer, when it arrives, will not be contrary to logic, but it cannot be logically deduced from preexistent foundational knowledge. We need, as it were, a new premise which only revelation can supply. It would be cheating at this point to take what we already know from later in the text, and from the entirety of the Christian witness concerning John, and retroject it upon his birth narrative. Let us try to abstract from all that (even though it can never fully be done) and imagine ourselves among Zacharias’ neighbors, who had yet to experience anything further. What clue did they have as to John’s destiny? We turn again to the Canticle, wherein we read such lines as: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people,” and: “To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins.” We recall again that Gabriel declared he was to prepare for the Lord a perfect people. Do these statements seem to point in a definite direction?

John is here to signal the day of salvation, to give testimony to the Light. He is an indicator that Emmanuel—God with us—has entered the world. To this end he is very irritating, for so befits his role as a signal. Alarms, sirens, klaxons, and other instruments of warning are not chosen on account of their pleasantness. Their job is to raise anxiety, for through them the environment announces to us that something demands our immediate attention. By such devices we are brought to a state of readiness to receive what is approaching. In readying ourselves we must adapt ourselves to threat, and the threat that John announces is this—Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Season Your Summertime with Fresh Food Ideas

Wendy Haught does a number of things behind the scenes here at True Restoration and every now and then I can prevail on her to write for us.  Today she shares some summer food tips.  Remember that the Restoration is for everything.  I hope you enjoy her piece.  -Ed.

Hello dear friends!

I gazed out the window today at the promise of a vibrantly-golden squash bloom in my kitchen garden and thought about what a serious job cooking is--serious and so far-reaching in its implications.  I mean food is love.  Food is comfort.  Food is health.  Food is community.  Food is poetry, romance, and. . . Oh, my goodness!  I am feeling overwhelmed!

Reeling myself back in, (a frequent task) I tamed my anxiety by brainstorming on how best to enjoy this upcoming summer season through food. Then I jotted down a few ideas that came to mind.   From this I developed the following categories:

Spices
Fruit
Raw Veggies
Chilled/Frozen 

So let's begin at the top, but please be patient if I hop around due to the overlapping nature of some of the categories and the general craziness of my thought processes.

SPICES  I did a quick Google search and found a list of "cooling" spices for hot weather that included:

Mint
Fennel seed
Cilantro
Coriander
Cardamom
Saffron
Dill
Cumin

Right off I noticed that spices that start with a "c" make up half the list!  Must be because "cooling" starts with a "c" too.  Yes, I am having fun, and my former anxiety has flown!  Onward and upward I say!

I resolved to look for recipes that featured these cooling spices and then experiment with creating dishes on my own with my exotic new summer-spice wardrobe and the help of The Flavor Bible.  A little tip:  A great way to try new spices without spending big bucks on a whole bottle is to shop at stores that make them available in bulk.  I love buying spices this way, not only to try new spices, but to refill my spice rack without having to add bottles to the landfill.  Many of my sample spice purchases have cost me less than fifty cents.   One was only 11 cents.  Honestly, I glowed with happiness when I set that one on the conveyor belt at the checkout.  Ok, so it was pride.  I admit it.

I did a quick review of my experience with the listed spices.   Grocery store fresh mint is an old friend.  But recently I purchased some fresh organic mint at the farmer's market, and I was shocked by how intoxicatingly fragrant it was.  Thinking only to to take a casual sniff, I found myself combating the urge to just smash the whole verdant "bouquet" right into my face and inhale it to my core.  Ahhhhh!   I described my reaction to my husband as he navigated us homeward.  He glanced at me, raised an eyebrow, smiled slightly, and chose to remain silent.  Such a smart man!   Love him!

Fennel seed I have no experience with, so that will be an adventure.  Fresh cilantro always makes me drool.  It's one of the main ingredients in Sofrito, a luscious puree of tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic that makes a beautiful green sauce, perfect for this time of year.  A Puerto Rican friend shared her family recipe with my daughter, and we fell hopelessly in Latin love with it, using it as an ingredient and as a condiment.

I discovered last month how ground coriander and ground cumin, mixed with sea salt and some freshly-ground pepper create a refreshing and delectable blend for seasoning roasted chicken leg quarters. (I spoon it on kind of heavy. We like spicy here.)

Cardamom, however, will be added to the adventure list, as I have only used it in cookies.  Saffron I have so little experience with, I can't even remember it.   Dill?  I've used lots with fish but I am looking forward to expanding my repertoire.  I've got my eye on a recipe called "Cool Dill Dip", which would be ever so tasty with raw veggies, and overlap with that category on my list.  For dips and dressings, do try making your own mayo.  Once you get the hang of it, it is easy, and once you try it, you will never want to moisten your tongue with the store-bought chemicalized concoction again. The tricky part is incorporating the oil in a fine trickle.   I do this by using a meat thermometer to poke a hole in the bottom of a plastic cup.   Then I just hold the cup over the feeding tube of my food processor and dump in my oil.   I like using a combo of walnut oil and olive oil.  Homemade mayo is what makes my friends exclaim over my tunafish salad, which I always fancy up with raisins, chopped red delicious apples, walnuts, and celery.

FRUIT  First off, I think of peaches in the summer--peaches fresh, peaches in oatmeal with cream but mostly peaches in cobbler.  I'm thinking I could go exotic and incorporate more tropical fruits like pineapple and mango, coconut and banana into my menus by serving them chilled in a fruit salad or used in a smoothie or homemade ice cream.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, I have a super simple and tasty method for making banana "ice cream" that is simply frozen bananas zoomed up in the food processor until it's creamilicious.  For a taste of Southern goodness and simplicity, I recommend that you slap together some pineapple and mayo sandwiches and some banana and mayo sandwiches with cold fruit.  Options are crispy bacon with the pineapple and peanut butter instead of mayo with the banana.  Then there is the old standby, fresh whipped raw cream and fresh berries.  So simple, yet so satisfying.  Find raw milk here.

Using citrus is an easy way to add freshness and cooling to a dish.  I frequently use a combo of melted butter and freshly-squeezed lemon juice as a sauce for steamed broccoli.  It's important to eat your vegetables with fat so that you can get the nutrients from the fat-soluble vitamins.  Melted butter is the easiest and tastiest.  By the way, stock up on summer grass-fed butter now.  I buy Organic Valley brand.   Or Kerry Gold.  Vegetable stir-fries are also a good place to experiment with citrus. Recently I cut up carrots and squash and sautéed them in lemon juice, butter, coriander, and the fresh mint I mentioned earlier.  Delish!

If you have children, definitely visit a pick-your-own berry farm.   It's a wonderful family outing that just so happens to teach the important lesson that food does not magically appear in grocery stores. Of course, if you have your own garden, then they already know this.  Standing in the garden and grazing on the latest ripeness is another excellent way of capturing the essence of summer, be it tomatoes or sweet corn or cucumbers.   My children learned to love broccoli exactly in this manner. My own memories of standing in the garden and scarfing up Candy Stick corn are some of my most cherished.  Speaking of corn, I have the sweetest memories of making corn husk dolls with my children at our campsite as we roasted unshucked ears in the fire.  But back to eating in the garden, my 80-year-old mother still gets dreamy-eyed reminiscing about sinking her teeth deep into the succulent meatiness of a giant tomato, still warm from the Alabama sun.  Find out what options you have for buying directly from a farmer at the Local Harvest site.

In addition to eating food as you pick it, by all means take advantage of any outdoor cooking options you have. Grilling, smoking, open-fire cooking. Use the sun to dehydrate some fruit, another great project to do with your children. Then make some trail mix with it and go on a hike.

CHILLED/FROZEN  I covered this previously in the fruit section, but I am also planning to valiantly take the cold soup plunge.  I glanced through my old copy of Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and was heartened by its assertion that Chervil Soup, Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Carrot Soup a la Normande, Exotic Chinese Cucumber Soup, Spanish Cilantro Soup, and Chilled Carrot Soup--all in the "June" chapter--could be served cold.  Yes!

Well, that covers my list, but one last thought: As Catholics, we are more in touch with the seasons because of the Liturgical Year.  I hope these suggestions help you deepen that connection as well as improve your health and better express your love for your family and friends.

With all good wishes for a holy, healthy, and happy summer, I wish you Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Forty Days Later: They still didn't get it

"Domine, si in tempore hoc restitues regnum Israel?"
"Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?"
Acts I: vi

"...apparuit illis Iesus: et exprobravit incredulitatem eorum, et duritiam cordis: quia iis qui viderant eum resurrexisse, non crediderunt."
"...and He appeared to them and He upbraided them for their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen Him after He was risen again."
St. Mark XVI: xiv

They had spent years with Him.  Lived with Him.  Watched Him work miracles.  Watched Him raise people from the dead.  Watched Him die.  Watched Him come back from the dead.  Watched Him walk through walls in His resurrected body.  And then you read the question, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?"  It's comedic, really.  Part of me wants to shout, "Are you kidding?  Do you people still not get it?"  The other part of me just wants desperately to see the look on Our Lord's face.  It was, as usual I'm sure, expressive of infinite patience for our stupidity and blindness.  Indeed, in the corresponding Gospel text for today's Feast of the Ascension, Our Lord actually "upbraids" the Apostles for their hardness of heart.  He who had done all these things in front of them knew they would be hard-hearted and they were there while He walked the earth!  How much "harder" can hearts be now, so far removed from Our Lord's loving and patient gaze?

And yet, as always, the Mass delivers the right message on the right day.  One can hardly believe that it has been forty days since the joy of Easter Sunday - and that forty days before that we had started the penance of Lent.  It all seems so far away now, doesn't it?  For us enfleshed beings who have not yet our resurrected bodies the cares of the world and the march of time keep us moving forward in the stream of our lives.  And yet today the Church stops us to direct our gaze in wonder as Our Lord rises to His throne and in a way "enthrones" humanity in Heaven.  He goes to prepare a place for us!  Surely we can understand why the angels had to shake the Apostles from their stupor and ask, "Men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to Heaven?"

If today we pause, forgetful already that forty days have passed since He conquered death for us, let us pause in the light of the brilliance of His Glory.  Let us pause in awe of His Majesty.  Let us, like the Apostles, be stupefied, if only for a moment, by the completed miracle of our forever-divinized humanity.  Then, let us get on with our work: building the Kingdom of God in our own lives and in those around us.  And leave the questions like, "Wilt thou restore the Kingdom to Israel?" (read: "When will the crisis in the Church end?") for another time.  We will have our Kingdom, we will see an end to the crisis, when we have merited it.  And nothing of the past 56 years indicates we are anywhere even close to that merit, if we have even begun.

So let us start today (again), within ourselves.  After we've spent some time gazing at Our Ascended Lord.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Here and There

May was a challenging month on a number of fronts, but a month of good progress as well.  Here's a brief catch-up.

We had our first Restoration Radio show in Spanish.  It was on the false canonizations of JPII and JXXIII.  Forward this show to your Spanish-speaking friends who are open-minded!  If you love Spanish churches you might enjoy this piece on them by Stephen Heiner on his personal travel blog.

He also took photographs of non-una-cum Masses in Poland and in England.  If you need contact information regarding these Masses you can email mail at truerestoration.org and you will be connected with the right people.

You may notice that very slowly, but surely, this site is returning to its roots as a blog and we are creating a separation between this page and our Radio site, where you can find all our Radio content as well as updates which review the content, like this one from earlier this month.  You can see this return via recent articles from Magdalene Zapp, Lucasz Paczuski, and Matt Beck.

Speaking of radio content, some might be wondering what happened to Pastoralia, the Liturgical Year, and the Summas in May.  Suffice to say we simply had some scheduling challenges.  Both Fr. McKenna and Fr. McGuire have very challenging mission circuits and as such we weren't always able to make our recording windows or remaster our work.  In the case of last month's Pastoralia, we did actually record and broadcast an episode, but when we remastered it we found the sound quality was so bad that Father and Stephen decided to re-record the entire episode.  That will be coming soon.

We should also hint that we plan to transition off blogtalkradio (which has a number of problems with it) onto our own platform, and as such, the current access to Restoration Radio will change.  The best way to ensure that you continue to get access to all our content?  Become a subscriber.

As always, keep us in your prayers!

St. Philip Neri: Humor and Holiness

Matt is the latest writer to join our stable at True Restoration.  We are happy to present his latest piece on this Feast of St. Philip Neri.  -Ed.

In 1622, a certain Father Pietro Giacomo Bacci of the Roman Oratory compiled a Life of Saint Philip Neri in two volumes which together total almost 900 pages. The 1847 English translation of that work, the fruit of project headed by Father Frederick Faber— who himself was an Oratorian and bears a name of no little repute among Traditional Catholics—can be read at no charge via the Google Books portal. We have slightly less space available to us today with which to explore the life of this singular saint, whose name, along with that of his contemporary and this site's patron, St. Ignatius Loyola, is almost synonymous with the Catholic Reformation that took place in response to Martin Luther’s revolt. Had we wished to wax loquacious the requisite material would not have been denied us, for St. Philip’s life was very long, very public, and exceptionally well-connected. Of the 80 years that God gave him (1515-1595), above 60 of them were spent in the city of Rome itself. He could number among his contemporaries some fifteen Popes and their Cardinals and courtiers, with many of whom he was intimate and remarkably free with his opinion. His good friend and student was the noted Church historian Baronius. His endless throng of penitents included the sister of St. Charles Borromeo, the sister of Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, and (reportedly) the renowned composer Palestrina. Unlike some of the obscurer saints of the first Christian centuries, St. Philip’s life provides ample fodder for the historian.

And yet our task is by no means an easy one, for it involves a good deal of archaeology, interpretation, and insight. The subtitle of today’s essay is “Humor and Holiness,” which locution contains within itself the seedbed of several pertinent questions. What is humor and what is holiness? Let us not just pass over these terms as if they were self-evident and readily available quantities we can factor into our assessment. What are the possible coordination-complexes between the two, and which of these did St. Philip Neri possess? Furthermore, what does it mean for a particular saint to stand out conspicuously in this regard, so as to be dubbed and remembered in the annals of sainthood as “the” humorous saint? How was this appellation chosen? How was it applied? Is it accurate? All this certainly can be asked without fear of impiety and indeed must be asked if we wish to meditate deeply upon the saint’s life, to figure out what qualities of his we can emulate and adapt to our own unique circumstances. The failure to properly ground the underlying concepts will result in us obtaining only a silly and unreliable caricature of the man when what we wanted was a model of sanctity; and this has happened before. The Novus Ordo sect is itself one gigantic reinterpretation, repurposing, and outstripping of Roman Catholicism. Many a saint, too, has been subject to a hagiographical makeover in the attempt to bring him up to date, to render him more acceptable to the spirit of the times, the new spirit of Vatican II with its openness, ecumenism, and earth-centered focus. In our day and age the possibility of misinterpretation remains a danger with any saint, but perhaps—for a generation which seems to value entertainment above all else—with none more so than him who was styled the “humorous” one.

Today I do not wish to dwell excessively on the mere biographical details of St. Philip’s life, for these will aid us but little in our purpose and are in any case easily obtained from a hundred other sources after a quick internet search; however, since they cannot be entirely avoided in our discussion, we may let them serve as a valuable introduction to the problem we face. This first example will serve to demonstrate how difficult it can be to play the historian even with a life as eminently documented as Neri’s. In the first three of the several highly respectable sources I consulted in the preparation of this essay, I found Philip Neri listed variously as the eldest, the youngest, and the middle child of his parents. The fact of the matter, which can only be inferred not referenced, seems to be that Philip was the eldest of the four (or five) children born to Francesco Neri and Lucrezia da Mosciano who survived their infancy; he was the youngest of their two sons when reckoning modulo the survivors (his older brother Antonio had died young, and his two younger siblings were sisters, Caterina and Elizabetta); but he was in fact the second (or middle) in order of all those born. Thus, with the help of a few acrobatics, and making allowances for any confusion brought by mistranslations, unintentional elisions, and the effects of unfamiliar turns of phrase, the various accounts can be made to harmonize. Similarly, Philip’s parents are described in some places as noble, in other places as poor, and in yet other places as both (for the adjectives certainly do not exclude one another);—but either one of them taken individually makes an impression that differs greatly from the other, and differs also from the two of them taken in conjunction. Why carp upon these relatively unimportant matters? Because if the biographers can be in disagreement with each other concerning such apparently basic biographical data, it is only fair to wonder how well-traveled are the legends concerning the saint’s humorous demeanor. Humor, which depends so sensitively on the specifics of time and place, on the nuances of timing, language, and personality, can be read into or rubbed out of a story with the alteration of the tiniest details. Any tale tends to become more and more like a Platonic version of itself with repeated telling; in time the rough-hewn incidents of our lives are molded into the perfect war stories, the perfect love stories, and sometimes the perfect jokes. The air of humorousness has stuck to the story of St. Philip Neri and it is important for us to figure out why.

Not unlike the discrepancies surrounding his birth order, the stories told about St. Philip’s humor differ somewhat across the spectrum of sources. There are, however, a few which recur with greater frequency and are told with greater poignancy. Let us recount some of them now. It is said that he would sometimes go about town with half his beard shaved off. On one occasion he was observed to have delivered a Fr. Bernardi, a member of his Congregation of the Oratory, from a deep depression by inviting him to have a run with him. Another tale is made to illustrate St. Philip’s preference for mental and spiritual mortification over the bodily: A man once asked him if he might be allowed to wear a hair shirt as part of his penance. Philip responded that he might, provided he wore it outside his clothes. The derision heaped upon the man for this bit of sartorial silliness apparently did wonders for his humility. At a later date, after Philip’s great reputation for sanctity had spread very wide, a pair of Polish noblemen came to visit the holy man and found him listening to a priest read to him from a joke book. Finally, an especially memorable story is told about the time Philip chanced to meet a holy and devout monk in the street. This monk had earned for himself a reputation for sanctity as well as for being a bit of a tippler. He offered Philip a drink from the wine bottle he habitually carried about with him, which Philip accepted to the great amusement of the crowd. To return the gesture, Philip (who by that time had been ordained a priest) pressed his four-cornered hat onto the monk’s head and motioned him off, which drew even more laughter. The monk responded by telling the crowd that anyone who wanted Philip’s hat was welcome to it. Philip took it back and proceeded on his way.

The relative stability of these stories testifies to their probable derivation from a common source, which we can in all likelihood take to be the very materials drawn up in preparation for Philip’s Process of Canonization. I have searched for those documents and have been unable to find them; they are possibly not yet digitized and may be unavailable in languages other than their original Latin or Italian, in which case I would not be able to read them anyway. A list of probabilities, I know; but if these stories were not derived from an authoritative source then they can be nothing else than some individual historian’s collection of vague rumors. And where would a later historian first think to look for reliable information about the saint’s life but in his Process of Canonization (Philip was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV), the most authoritative source there is? Those accounts, in turn, almost certainly were drawn from the documents and the living tradition maintained by the Roman Oratory—the continuance on Earth of Philip’s unique spirituality and a community of men most devoted to the faithful preservation of his memory. So we may take it as proven within the limits of historical knowledge that a certain irony, gaiety, and charming demeanor were part of the impression left by St. Philip Neri upon his followers.

But it was neither the largest nor the most important part of that impression. We have already made mention of Fr. Bacci’s massive compilation of St. Philip’s Life. The first volume of his work comprises 452 pages. Within those  452 pages is contained one chapter entitled “Philip delivers many from melancholy and scruples,” which accounts for seven of them. No other chapter title touches upon jocularity in even so tangential a manner as this one does (and this chapter itself mostly consists of Philip delivering souls from demonic possession or the scruple thereof). Instead we are given account after account of Philip’s holiness, his fervors, his charity, his prevision, the miracles wrought through him, his almsgiving—the typical manifestations of an eminent sanctity. What is most notable in this long work, and what stands in stark contrast to the saint’s latter-day reputation, is the uncompromising severity with which Philip combated sin in himself and the world. He subjected his penitents to the most humiliating of procedures. Some were made to go about town in shredded clothes, others to enter churches and beg of the worshippers during the sermons, eating nothing that day but what they could obtain in this unusual manner. Still others had to submit to public confessions of their sins, or walk behind Philip carrying his pet dog in their arms. Philip once commanded a woman to die rather than yield to temptations of the devil in her last agony. None of this bears much resemblance to what a modern Catholic would desire of “the humorous saint.” It is true that a strain of levity makes its appearance here and there. One thinks of those delightful meetings of the Oratory and the informal gatherings which preceded its institution, where men met to read the Scriptures, discuss holy themes, and listen to sacred music. But we must remember that Philip strictly forbade any discussion of dialectics in his presence. Everything was discussed with a view towards its immediate practical application. If one of his Oratorians was seen to be taking too much pleasure in his disquisition, it was not uncommon for Philip to interrupt the man in mid-word and appoint some less talented speaker to finish the lecture. It was Philip’s charity, his rugged and simple love of God and neighbor, which brought such joy to those around him.

We may take Fr. Bacci’s work as the standard exposition of Nerian spirituality. Given the early date of its publication, the fact that its author was himself a member of the Roman Oratory, the evident care in matters of composition that permeates it throughout, and the enthusiastic reception it enjoyed among others who knew the man personally, it seems to be as authentic a portrait of St. Philip Neri as anything this side of Heaven. Therefore, the fact that it makes rather little of the saint’s vaunted humorousness prompts us to look elsewhere for the origination of that theme. The answer to this riddle seems to be Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In 1786 Goethe embarked upon a two-year tour of the Italian peninsula and Sicily. He kept a journal of these travels which he later edited into a book of essays published under the title Italian Journey. Although not published until 1816, the 30 years’ hiatus had not dulled Goethe’s memory and had permitted him to add his mature reflections and synthetic judgments to the work. Buried in that book is a biographical vignette called Philip Neri, The Humorous Saint—the first instance I’m aware of in which that moniker was affixed to him. Goethe, be it recalled, detested the Roman Catholic Church. The picture he draws of Philip Neri is insightful, appreciative, and even laudatory; but it is anything but Catholic. Goethe, with his panentheistic view of the universe, simply takes it for granted that the Church is a repressive institution and that St. Philip’s creative spirituality was a reaction against it. The reader may note that this is precisely the same hermeneutic by which Protestants are able to regard Savonarola, Neri’s fellow Florentine and one whom our saint held in beloved memory, as a forerunner of their own revolution. The Neri who takes shape under Goethe’s pen is not so much a saint as he is sectary, a man of deep passions and immense but confused spiritual endowments. He lives within the Roman system in a state of permanent but carefully channeled protest. His early fervors, including that rapturous encounter with God in the catacombs which broke his ribs and enlarged his heart, were the struggles of a tortured genius against “the system.” The frequent and bizarre penances he distributed to himself and others were his “jokes,” his ironical explosions and secret mockery directed against a stultifying world; this was his compromise and his attempt to remain authentic. Thus was born “the humorous saint.” It goes without saying that Goethe’s perception of Neri was romantic through and through.

But Goethe’s perception may not have been an entirely entoptic phenomenon. He was said to have made a careful study of the source materials before composing his essay on Neri. No doubt he would have visited the Oratory and conversed with the fellows he found there. He was in any case, despite his philosophical flaws, one of the most brilliant men of all times and a sensitive physiognomist who often discerned the inner forms of things. His visit to Rome could not have taken place any later than 1787, but could it be that by that time a touch of romanticism had already begun to infect St. Philip’s Congregation there in its heart? We have not the space available to explore that question now, but as circumstantial evidence let us return to Fr. Faber, whose translation of Fr. Bacci’s work we have relied upon throughout this essay; and who, along with John Henry Cardinal Newman, was instrumental in bringing the Oratory to England. Now Fr. Faber says of Philip Neri that “he had a keen appreciation of the growing subjectivity of the modern mind,” that “he was emphatically a modern gentleman.” Faber intended these words to express nothing but the most innocent praise of Neri, but something about this still seems amiss to me.

Who were these men, Father Faber and Cardinal Newman? Hallowed names to be sure, and rightly respected within Traditional Catholic circles;—but what sort of men? They were both the eccentric sons of well-to-do English families, the second man of shy and reserved temperament, the first man merely odd; well educated men, bookish types, writers of poetry, scholars, solitaries, clergymen. They both converted to Catholicism well into adulthood after having first been Calvinists, then Anglicans. They had also their differences, to be sure: Father Faber was a Bizet who was intoxicated with the lustiness of the Latin south, while Cardinal Newman was an Oxford owl holding silent commune with his soul through the long northern nights. But both these men were fundamentally thinkers, brooders, and connoisseurs of the spirit. How remote they were from St. Philip Neri, whose whole life was bound up with the practical and the immediate! The thought of either one of them being practical is too much to countenance without a chuckle. Just imagine Cardinal Newman playing drinking games with a boisterous monk in the street. And yet these men had each visited Rome in the 1830s and 40s, and they each became Oratorians in the end. Is it possible that their experiences where somewhat skewed by time and circumstance? Is it possible that they mistook their bookish admiration for St. Philip’s simplicity, for the same simplicity within themselves?—that they loved the Scriptural readings in the Oratory not as a propaedeutic for immediate action as St. Philip had, but for its own sake, for the intimacy of the setting, for the warm oriental glow of the words and the communal dip in Christ’s radiance? Is it possible that something of this same attitude had  by that time taken hold in Rome as well? Indeed, how could these men have experienced the Oratory in any sense other than the romantic?

Whatever the case may be, in the present day St. Philip’s identity as “the humorous saint” is firmly fixed in the Catholic mind, to the exclusion of every other quality. We need only examine St. Philip’s biographical entry on a Novus Ordo website to see how far the situation has deteriorated:
In his footsteps:
 We often worry more about what others think that about what God thinks. Our fear of people laughing at us often stops us from trying new things or serving God. Do something today that you are afraid might make you look a little ridiculous. Then reflect on how it makes you feel. Pray about your experience with God.
 Prayer:
 Saint Philip Neri, we take ourselves far too seriously most of the time. Help us to add humor to our perspective -- remembering always that humor is a gift from God. Amen.
Gone is the saint who would have, with a perfectly clear conscience, commanded a woman to die rather than risk temptation. In his place we have nothing more than an affable buffoon, a man whose character is familiar to all of us today in the person of Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who never seems to be photographed except in a state of mid-guffaw as he yuks it up with Joe Biden and Barack Obama—the modern rendition of “humor and holiness.”

Let it not be so with us. When you remember St. Philip Neri, remember his ever-palpitating heart, always aflame with the love of Christ. Remember his determination to reconvert Rome at any cost, beginning at the humblest of beginnings. The Apostle of Rome entered the city without a plan, without provisions, and for 60 years he ruthlessly fought the enemy for every human soul he met. Let your humor be the golden laughter of conquering knights who think no more of sorrows, but only of serving their king. This alone is humor and holiness: To laugh at sin while crushing it, and to burst our hearts with love.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Clarifications or Trial Balloons? A short commentary on SSPX-Rome Relations

Most of you will not know Luke as he hosts our Polish show with Fr. Rafal Trytek: The New Religion and the Catholic Answer.  I've had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with Luke and his wife since I've been here in Europe and I'm pleased to present him for the very competent English speaker that he is.  -Ed.

The story of relations between the Society of St. Pius X and the modernist organization occupying the Vatican for over half a century now is quite an intriguing one. Despite constant contention the apparent differences arouse, this story should rather be viewed as a mutual attraction rather than repulsion. No matter what one would like to say or think, the bottom line is that the two are linked together by the chief and most glorious form of communion” (by naming a red-nosed clown in the canon).

The attraction has not only been on the Vatican’s side, since it wants to absorb everyone in its one-world pantheon of religions, but also on the SSPX’s. Let it suffice to say, and it is a known fact, that all those who never wanted anything to do with the modernists were always removed from the Society’s ranks or its collaborators, even in Archbishop Lefebvre’s time and even from among Ecône’s most fervent supporters (1977, 1983, 2012)… Abp. Lefebvre and his successors were always intent on receiving approval of “Church authorities (although there are quotes going the other way too).

One of the most peculiar aspects of these fluctuating relations in the most recent past is their almost entirely secret character, where meetings and documents have been kept away even from the knowledge of most of its members (just ask your local SSPX priest how frustrated he was, say, in 2012). Apparently it was not so at the time of Archbishop Lefebvre, if we are to believe the testimony of one of his drivers (Max Barret in “Courrier de Tychique”). Anyway, because the goal of these recent secret contacts was easy to guess but strongly opposed by many, the leaks abounded.

For quite some time, even when I was sharing the ideas of the so called “Resistance” (only until I stumbled upon an article and studied the question further), I was really not quite sure what to think of all these security breaches in the SSPX (letters between SSPX bishops, between bp. Fellay and Benedict XVI, the “doctrinal declaration”, etc.). On the face of it, it is quite astonishing to see how easily top secret facts and documents from this organization were divulged into the world-wide press. But its effects are more surprising yet.

Before going on it is imperative to note that the SSPX is not as uniform and unanimous as most would like it to be. There are some (more and more?) opinionist sedevacantists in its ranks, some plain modernists and the majority that just follow il Duce and his present party line. There are the right wingers (in decreasing numbers since the application of Bp. Fellay’s clean-up policy), the left wingers and the unagitated center.

So, how does that add up to the “surprising” leaks? An important fact or document would be divulged which would be scandalous to the right-wingers. The left-wingers, the only ones authorized by Menzingen to speak publicly on the issue, would defend it by applying the “what-would-abp.-Lefebvre-do” hermeneutics of continuity with the Founder. The majority, as usual, would just keep quiet and maybe warn the faithful against the evils of the Internet. Then it wouldn't really be retracted by the SSPX HQ and afterwards nothing... I started to think that all of these were just trial balloons to “feel out” the internal resistance to an SSPX-Rome agreement and the public opinion. Exactly as is done in our modern-day society. It’s called social engineering, “prophesized” by the likes of Orwell, H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley.

It is absolutely clear to me that the recent news of the Bergoglio-Fellay meeting should be viewed in the light of these considerations. The pseudotraditionalist blog Rorate Coeli published a note on May 10, 2014 saying that in the past few months the top three of the SSPX met with Bergoglio, adding the next day that they also assisted at his private Novus Ordo service (RC post).

Then Menzingen cleared things up, essentially saying there was no Novus Ordo and that the meeting was a fortuitous encounter in the St. Martha refectory (SSPX communiqué). But there was a somewhat secret Rome visit that did indeed leak out.

This is, however, merely the latest episode of the never ending relationship story. And all of them, interestingly enough, always follow the same pattern. It was only slightly over a year ago that another controversial fact was brought to public notice by Countercardinal Cañizares Llovera, the then Prefect of Counterchurch rites and sacraments. He claimed that Bp. Fellay and others, having been present at a Novus Ordo in Latin and with incense at a Florentine abbey, came to see him in Rome. The SSPX Superior General purportedly stated then: “We just came from an abbey that is near Florence.  If Archbishop (Marcel) Lefebvre had seen how they celebrated there, he would not have taken the step that he did”. (the original coverage in Spanish, CNA Report in English).

Many were extremely upset at this. The so-called Resistance was in utter uproar. The comment gave a whole new spin to the SSPX-Rome narrative. Then, of course, came another clarification which actually did not clarify anything (Bp. Fellay’s communiqué). The fact that they were actually present at a Novus Ordo service was never retracted. And if it was not true, it should have been, since the news came from a top official of the organization the SSPX considers to be the Catholic Church and with which they “negotiate” on doctrine.

Again, keeping strictly to the most recent past and some public actions, such clarifications from Bp. Fellay abound. On October 12, 2013, at the annual Angelus Press Conference, the SSPX Superior General stated that his April 15, 2012 “doctrinal declaration” (again, abhorred by the right and defended by the left) “maybe […] was too subtle”. Two days later he proffered the famous Bergoglio condemnation: “We have in front of us a genuine Modernist!” (source). This was applauded by many, leaving others perplexed at the severity of such a statement.

So one more clarification and a new “strong fact”.

Only a month later in another one of those internal SSPX interviews we could all learn that Bp. Fellay was misinterpreted again. The Swiss bishop elucidated on his strong statement: “I used the word modernist, I believe it was not understood by everyone. Maybe it should be said a modernist in action. Once more, he is not a modernist in the pure, theoretical sense, a man who develops an entire coherent system, there is no such coherence.” (DICI)

Too subtle for everyone again? I honestly do not think so. There is clearly social engineering going on here with calculated goals. As time passes people will get more and more tired of this internal fight against the one perceived as a legitimate superior, be it Bp. Fellay or Bergoglio. They will give up and submit (with some exceptions, of course, keeping to the other interpretation of the “Abp. Lefebvre hermeneutics”).

It would only make sense that the profound logic behind all this mess of incoherence, contradiction and clarification is the irresistible attraction to the person considered the “Pope”. This consistent drive towards a necessary reconciliation (remember that book, For a Necessary Reconciliation by Fr. Lelong?) has been a trademark of the SSPX’s history from the beginning and that will not change, even in the Age of Bergoglio.

I even dare say that since the advent of Mr. Unpredictable it is all the more predictable.

And I am sure that for those who are being conditioned for the reconciliation of toleration simple trial balloons will turn into real cheerful balloons of celebration.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Calling for a ban on goofy Jesus

Since we are traditional Catholics with an appreciation for that which brings us closer to God, rather than what pushes us away, there is always a concern about what we expose ourselves and our children to.  We seek out the traditional, the modest, and the conservative, and often times it is in the process of this seeking that we are reaffirmed in our convictions as traditional Catholics.  We see things that don’t raise our souls to God and we rue the fact that there is so little available for us.

Recently I had just such a “reaffirmation.” While searching for Catholic coloring pages, again I was disgusted to find that 99% of “religious” pictures, even those toting themselves as Catholic, depicted Our Lord and the saints as ridiculous disproportionate and vulgar caricatures of humans. And if it’s not club-fingered and balloon-like- features Jesus, it’s over the top superhero Jesus with rippling muscles and chiseled jaw.  

I can only attribute these ridiculous renditions to an attempt at secularizing the Divine.  They are all a version of “What if God was one of us?”  But the question leaves out the implication intended, “What if God was one of us without His Divine Nature?”  Because it is impossible that anyone would imagine Our Lord, being both human and Divine, the way He is presented in modern children's art and literature..  Apparently the current Christian stance holding sway with the public at large is that He would be super-friendly, super-human, super-nice. Never mind that He was unafraid to “lay down the law” as Matt Walsh so truthfully states here.

 He was one of us, in His humanity, but because of His Divine nature, there is a dignity owed to the person of Christ which necessarily precludes treating Him as a merely better version of ourselves.  Superhero Jesus doesn’t cut it.  He was and is more than that, infinitely more. 

I don’t want my childrens’ reverence for Christ and His Church to be the fluffy, nice sentiments of a cartoon Jesus with a great big goofy smile, or the worldly reverence of a world wrestler fan club.  I don’t think the representation of Our Lord to children as a comic clownish hand-shaker or a pumped up rock star compels them to consider Him in the light of King and God.  Just when did treating Christ as a mockery and a buffoon in our art, even if it’s just in our coloring pages and children’s books, become the norm  – didn’t He receive enough of that during His Passion?  Does anyone actually buy into the idea that garish ugly cartoon equates to “bringing religion down to their level”?  In actuality all it does is bring it down, period.  

Let’s not “dumb down” religion under the exchange of simplicity with simple-mindedness.  Simplicity doesn’t mean ugly or stupid.  It’s insulting to a child’s intellect and in opposition of our hopes for them. Much in the same way Curious George’s patronizing idiotic episodes make a pretense of learning and self-discovery (monkeys are somehow more intelligent than 8-10 yr. old boys), religious art and books for children make a pretense of religion and the beautiful.  Beautiful illustrations in children’s religious books and art have almost disappeared in the misguided notion that children “can’t relate.” But it’s not true.  Every human can relate to and desire the true, the good, and the beautiful.

Act like they are too stupid to understand, and for sure, they won’t understand; act like they are too young, immature, or intellectually simplistic to appreciate religion, and they won’t.  I am convinced children have a greater capacity for sanctity than I, for one, gave them credit.  Shouldn’t we do everything we can to foster that rather than trivialize and lessen it by presenting religion as a simple minded goofy joke?  Right Religion isn’t about fun time.  It has an inherent dignity and beauty that, yes, even children can appreciate.  Why set them up for failure?  Expect more.  Publishers, please step up.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The New Religion, its canonizations, and the SSPX

Among our working group here at TR I'm considered one of the "hardest" on the Society of St. Pius X.  (Whereas other of our fellowship are harder on Novus Ordos or Indult/Motu types, etc.)  As I reflected on the horror that was the JPII "canonizations," and as I was confronted here in Krakow almost everywhere I turned by the smiling visage of this horrible man, I thought this might be a good opportunity to do my best to understand, rather than to be understood.

"Yet we are living through an unparallelled crisis. And I think the magnitude of the crisis calls for a great deal of charity and compassion, 355 degrees, almost all around the compass, and more charity and compassion with each day that passes."
-Bishop Richard Williamson

I'm writing this piece solely for those in shell-shock that the man who kissed the Koran, who believed and taught in Universal Salvation, who abandoned the Uniates to the machinations of the Orthodox, who received the mark of Shiva, and who hosted the supreme offense to God that was the apostatical Assisi event, has been named as a SAINT of what THEY consider to be the Catholic Church.

They aren't just shell-shocked at this occurrence.  They are confused that the congregation they now attend has told them that the Church is not infallible!  Canonizations called into question!  I can already hear Fr. Peter Scott on the eve of Francis announcing the lifting of eucharistic sanctions on the divorced and remarried: "Remember, that who may receive communion is merely a disciplinary matter, and doesn't touch on infallibility!"

Let's review, shall we?

There was a Council that revealed itself to be a robber council that promulgated false teachings.
There was a New Mass
A New Catechism
A New Code of Canon Law
New Saints (with the dumping of old ones)
A New Calendar
A New Rosary
New Rules for annulments

In each and every one of these circumstances the Society of St Pius X would have us believe that they, as the designated interpreters of Tradition, are to tell us what to accept and what to reject.  They hold on to the odd notion that something called the "Conciliar Church" and the true Catholic Church can be headed by the same person.  And yet, what are all of those things mentioned above but what a new religion does to establish itself?  Did not the Anglican sect do these things in their own way?  The Lutherans?  The Jansenists?  So too with the "Recognize-and-Resist" traditionalists of every stripe, but most notably seen in the parishes of the Society of St Pius X.

It takes a real map to keep up with the winding road of their contradictions.  The new Code of Canon Law, an object of infallibility, is okay when it proposes a new one hour fast, but bad when it allows Protestants to receive communion.  The new Mass, an object of indefectibility, is "intrinsically evil" and a "bastard rite" and yet is the Mass celebrated every day by the man they consider to be the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.  They consider the New Rite of Episcopal Consecration valid, but almost never refuse conditional ordination to a Novus Ordo priest who has requested it.  They conditionally confirm almost anyone who was confirmed in the New Rite, while ignoring that the Catholic Church cannot promulgate invalid sacraments.  They accept the validity of Novus Ordo annulments, but have also set up their own tribunal, in opposition to the tribunals of the structures of what they consider the Catholic Church.  They claim to be submitted to the authority of the Catholic Church, and yet that authority through its official spokesmen (and "popes") denies that claim.  And now, they wish to tell us that canonizations, which any properly catechized child can tell you is part of the "faith and morals" of the Church, are not actually infallible but are subject to the approval of Fr. Peter Scott and/or Menzingen.  We hear things like "defective intention" (as if canonizations are sacraments) or "not intending to bind for the whole Church."  Really?  Try this on for size:

"Most Holy Father, Holy Church, trusting in the Lord's promise to send upon her the Spirit of Truth, who in every age keeps the Supreme Magisterium free from error, most earnestly beseeches Your Holiness to enroll these, her elect, among the saints."

"Let us, then, invoke the Holy Spirit, the Giver of life, that he may enlighten our minds and that Christ the Lord may not permit his Church to err in a matter of such importance. "

That was read by representatives of the Novus Ordo sect on the day of the false canonizations (emphasis mine).

This is all because the SSPX is set on sandy theological ground.  They have never answered the questions of what is the status (then and now) of the Council, the Mass, and the Pope.  It's all about gut feelings and hazy, fuzzy, poor theology and incomplete ecclesiology.

Was Vatican II Catholic or was it not?

Does the New Mass proceed from the Catholic Church?

How can a man be the head of a heretical false church and the head of the Catholic Church simultaneously?

Try getting a straight answer from anyone from the SSPX on these simple questions.  And as they swerve right and left, accuse them, justly, of the same relativism and lack of precision that they attribute to the Conciliar Church/NewChurch/Catholic Church, whatever they call it.

Instead of dealing with these fundamental a priori questions, many SSPXers go around the back (it's always easier and more fun to eat dessert first!) and launch in with objections like:

Well what's your solution?

What about Our Lady of Fatima?

Where are YOUR fruits?

None of these questions substantively deal with the Godzilla in the room: an organization claiming to be the Catholic Church has just canonized a man who blasphemed Our Lord numerous times.  When faced with a contradiction Catholic faithful have a very simple choice.  They can either:

1)  Say that 2 + 2 = 5.  John Paul II is a saint, because canonizations are covered by both indefectibility and infallibility, no matter what Fr. Peter Scott says (Padre Pio Yes! JoseMaria Escriva No!).  Remove your brain and check it at the door, but keep some points for consistency.

2)  Realize that insisting the Church has to have a Pope at every single second even if he is a heretic is not just a factually incorrect position (every time a Pope dies the Church is without a Pope) it's also historically dishonest.  Over 60 antipopes have "reigned" in Church history - more than one of them not declared as such until after their "reign" was over.

It's time to get consistent.  Realize that the New One World Church had a great coming-out party almost two weeks ago.  Are you going to continue to pretend that you represent the "true" part of that religion?  Or are you going to realize that being faithful to the True Faith means that you must repudiate this false, wicked, evil counter-church, the Novus Ordo Sect, and call it what it is: an Anti-Church set up to bring its members to damnation, not salvation.

If John Paul II is a saint, then all the work of the SSPX and groups like them since the catastrophe of Vatican II has been a waste.  It takes honesty and good will to realize the best way to honor the good the SSPX has done (and it has done me personally much good, through education, retreats, etc.) is to reject their lunatical claims that even canonizations must now be approved by the hierarchy of Menzingen before being given the assent of Catholic faithful.  All good Catholics gravitate towards "Rome" and the Pope even when they are absent or missing.  It's part of our DNA.  But we must never set up a replacement for it during a temporary absence, even if the location is just a short flight north.