So I just finished watching an old 2003 EWTN interview of then Cardinal Ratzinger about the troublesome state of the Church. At the end Raymond asked how we can maintain hope in the Church during this period of Crisis. His answer was, like the good Bavarian that he is, very simple, to maintain our "faith in the Lord, especially in the Eucharist."
I'll be the first Trad to confess this is difficult in today's Church. There are constant temptations to despair over the Faith today, and I do give in now and then, at least to discouragements.
Do you ever?
Looking down deep inside, I have to admit to myself I am not entirely at peace being alive during this time in Church history, both as a Catholic within the Universal Church, and also as a traditionalist member in the Latin Mass movement.
I have to challenge myself, has my necessary adherence to Catholic tradition been drawing me closer to God? Has attendance exclusively at the TLM and almost exclusive interaction in traditionalists circles in in Church given me greater peace, a deeper spiritual life? Catholic tradition is integral to a living faith, but being a traditionalist in itself does not necessarily equate to a vibrant faith. I think you would agree. These are questions I ask myself from time to time as I navigate the Latin Mass movement itself, since attending the truly extraordinary form of the Mass beginning nearly two decades ago.
When by all appearances the authentic liturgical, spiritual, and theological life of the mainstream Church has been largely set aside, it becomes a very relevant question--how to maintain one's faith, peace of mind, and sanity during this time, even when, as any trad priest will admit, the traditional movement itself is fraught with division and dysfunction?
I think most trads are aware of this, but not all are okay about openly discussing it.
The Seven Sacraments
But I'm finding myself more and more lately reminding myself that our faith is not in men, or priests, or eachother, or the traditionalist movement, but as Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) said, our "faith is in the Lord, especially in the Eucharist." Focusing on the errors in the Church today, being overly preoccupied with traditionalist polemics, about which traditionalist Society is worthy of support, on the problems of Vatican II or the new Mass, one can weaken their faith in God. I've fallen into that mentality before, and I can report firsthand that Yes, that does weaken your faith.
Traditionalism can be paradoxical. As a movement it is necessary, for access to a lived Catholic tradition, but in my experience sometimes the focus is on the wrong things. Just follow the threads in trad forums; they often obsessively delve into polemical topics being discussed for the umpteenth time, like a broken record.
Or consider your experience joining a TLM parish or chapel. Perhaps your experience is the exception, but from my own experience, and most trads I've talked to about this (online and in the flesh), the TLM community has a tendency sometimes to be semi-closed off or even privatized. Nice people who can sometimes pick up their pitchforks in fear of the newcomer, easily explained by years of ecclesial shellshock. When a stranger jumps into the trenches, it's understandable to raise your rifle, but later discover they share the same faith and values, despite differences in temperament and character.
The trad parish/chapel is a semi-strange phenomenon to me, growing up in the parochial system. In my experience, the group dynamic very understandably tends to turn away from the drowning, institutional Church to private devotion, from the diocesan structures to separatist-like enclaves, or from treating the parish (or potential parish) as a "private association of the faithful" rather than what the Church says it really is/should be: a "public association of the faithful."
In general though, I don't think this is deliberate. As individuals, I find your average traditionalist Catholic to be more virtuous than your average non-traditionalist Catholic. After all, most are really there at the TLM with the clear intention of being a faithful, orthodox, practicing, and therefore virtuous Catholic.
But traditionalism can become a distraction. I think of wasted mental time I myself have used up dwelling too much on the problems in the Church and the inner workings of the traditional movement. Haven't many of us trads focused too much time on these things?
When your vocation is to being a husband, father, and professional, your priority is--or should be--daily work and prayer according to your domestic and work life.
I guess what I'm confessing in this post is that I am not exactly 100% at peace as a traditionalist Catholic, in any sector of the Church, which is as much my own fault as it is of our church lesdership. Finding spiritual peace during this period is a major challenge. Perhaps you can relate.
I've come full circle more than once in my journey of faith. As a teenager I studied Catholicism seriously before deciding to be confirmed, which was a kind of conversion experience. Later embracing Tradition was another step. Embracing the advice/point of view of Archbishop Lefebvre was another. But, something has been stirring in me for a while to take another step. Its hard to put in words.
Let's put it this way. Here's a crazy idea I'll throw out there, for a rad trad that I am: according to canon law, I belong to my territorial parish. As liberal as it is (and it is!), there ARE jewels of traditional Catholicism to be found on its grounds. What is stopping me from going to Adoration there, getting to know the pastor (imagine the conversations I could have with him about Catholic Tradition) or going to the occasional parish Bingo or Fish Fry? There's normalcy in those kind of things, and true normalcy is an essential nutrient to sustain human nature.
I must admit, I've never quite fit into a traditionalist mold, or tried to. If a guy at Mass likes wearing baby blue suit coats or green suspenders to Mass, I'm A-ok with that. Odds are if you follow this blog and can appreciate my point of view, for what it's worth, you are too.
So my final thought is, perhaps my fellow Okie Trads can relate to what I'm putting out there in this post. Our love of Catholic tradition and the traditional liturgy is what binds us together in a special kind of friendship. We do tend to be a bit crazed and anti-social at times (that includes yours truly), but usually its no more than mild neurosis and difficulty coping with the ecclesial situation. My personal goal, which I'd wish for all my fellow trads, is to be at peace during this time in the Church.
Thus ends my soliloquy. Pax vobiscum!