Five New Year’s Resolutions for Catholics in 2018



Happy 2018!

‘Tis the season! Today, January 1st, is a big day for many people, for it is the day that they take on a particular resolution for the new year. Some of the more common resolutions include: losing weight & getting fit, kicking the habit of smoking/drinking, and even a resolution to “travel somewhere new”! While the naysayers say much regarding this (“what’s so special about January 1st?” “why not start another day?” “most people break their resolution”, etc), it remains true that, for some, the best time to start a new practice and way of life is on the first day of the new calendar year– and so here we are, January 1st.

January 1st also holds special significance for Roman Catholics. January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. This solemnity honors the Virgin Mary for her role as the Mother of God, the “God-Bearer”, she through whom the invisible God would be made visible. Mary is properly called the “Mother of God” precisely because she gave birth to Jesus Christ– a divine person with both a human and divine nature. Historically, this feast was celebrated to commemorate the octave (eight days) of Christmas, where the Church celebrates the birth of Christ. And, while January 1st is not the beginning of the Church’s liturgical calendar year (First Sunday of Advent, y’all), it still holds an important place in sanctifying the desires, hopes, and dreams for the new year.

Are you a Catholic desiring to make certain changes to grow closer to God and His Church during 2018, but confused where to start? Look no further– I offer five simple resolutions for Catholics during this new year:

I. Spend 15 minutes in prayer, daily.

Prayer to the Christian is what protein is for the fitness athlete– without it, we cannot grow stronger in our spiritual lives, nor can we heal properly after life gives us a rough workout. Prayer, according to St. Teresa of Avila, is nothing more than spending a long time alone with the one we know loves us.” If we say we love someone, but do not try to spend time with the person, is it truly love? Likewise, one of the ways we show God that we love Him is by spending time with Him, talking to Him as a friend speaks to a best friend. Prayer is simply union with God, but it requires an intentional disposition. You are given 1,440 minutes every day– take 15 of those, ignore the cell phone, find a quiet space, and just offer that to God. I recommend choosing a particular place at a particular time; for example, set a “prayer time” and a “prayer chair”: “at 10:00 p.m., I am going to sit in *this* chair, and spend 10:00 p.m. – 10:15 p.m. praying to God.” If you already have a regular rhythm of prayer, great! Stick to that. Maybe your New Year’s resolution could be to attend Eucharistic Adoration one day a week, pray a rosary, etc. The point is this: PRAY.

II. Make Confession a monthly habit.

It’s winter time in New England, meaning that my car is filled with salt, sand, snow, and just a general yuckiness that comes from the season. Similarly, our souls can also pick up some dirt and grime along the way of life– perhaps a profane word here, an snap of anger there. Soon, we start to feel gross, slogged down by the disorder of sin, which in turn affects our ability to love God with a pure and undivided heart, and makes us unable to love our neighbor with the same intensity. Thank God (literally), for the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whereby the Christian confesses his or her sins to God in the presence of a priest, who is the instrument by which God forgives a person’s sins. While the sacrament is the ordinary means by which mortal sins are forgiven, one needs not to wait until a mortal sin is committed before hopping in line for Confession! Saints, such as St. Francis de Sales, St. Padre Pio, and even Pope St. John Paul II sought the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly. Resolve to go to Confession at least once a month, and have God remove some of the gunk and grime from your heart.

III. Find a particular saint, and make them your spiritual best friend

The saints are our heavenly friends, men and women who intercede for us at the throne of the Triune God. They are the ones who constantly praise, worship, and enjoy the fruits of friendship with God in eternal beatitude. However, their job isn’t simply done– they want us to enter into heaven, someday, to be with them in God. There are countless saints for countless needs; St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases (*raises hand), St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint for students, St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of veterinarians, etc. Maybe you already have a few saints on standby, and you pray for their intercession daily. If not, I cannot recommend this practice highly enough! Are you wrestling with lust? St. Augustine of Hippo understands. Do you suffer from anxiety? Go to St. Dymphna. The saints oftentimes find us before we find them– perhaps consider striking up a friendship with one of the many recognized saints in the Catholic tradition. My friend Josh posted a link to this on Facebook– it is a random saint name generator. If you aren’t sure who to pick as a heavenly BFF, use this and ask God to send one of His many saints into your life! For what it’s worth, I did the generator thing, and I got St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559 – 1619), an Italian Capuchin Franciscan saint and theologian, a Doctor of the Church! I never really knew much about him, so I’m excited that his name was sent my way.

IV. Attend daily mass, and if this isn’t possible, pray with the readings from the daily mass

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the single-most important part of the Christian life– far from being a mere “church service”, it is the supreme act of God’s love for the world, as it is the re-presentation of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice on Calvary. In the Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Catholics are obligated by divine command to attend Mass every Sunday (the Lord’s day), but they are by no means discouraged from attending Holy Mass daily! The majority of Catholic parishes have daily mass, which is a laudable and pious practice for many a layman. Find a Catholic parish near you via Google, look up its Mass schedule, and see when their daily mass is. Hint: most of the time, daily mass is in the morning, usually no earlier than 6:30 a.m., although some parishes offer Mass at noontime for those on their lunch break. See if you can attend daily mass if it fits in your work/school schedule, and if you can make a small sacrifice (such as waking up 20 minutes earlier, managing your lunch hour to fit the Mass time), realize that no sacrifice you could ever make can equal the Sacrifice present on the Altar. If you cannot attend daily mass, then go on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website, and check out the Scriptural readings for the day. You can also do a “3 Minute Retreat” via Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry. While you work/eat/sleep/play, the Church is at prayer somewhere in the world. Consider plugging in and attending Holy Mass beyond the times of obligation (Sundays and other holy days of obligation).


V. Avoid Church gossip

Alright, I’m starting to think these resolutions are coming from an inner monologue. But in all seriousness, gossip is everywhere. When I was growing up, ‘gossip’ usually referred to stuff like, “Did you hear that X did Y?” and other local happenings. And, while this is still probably a form of gossip for many, a new form of gossip has infected the Church (and society as a whole, I reckon): online slander, gossip about the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. Yes, seeking news regarding events/currents in the Church is important, oftentimes, online discourse resorts to ad hominem attacks and an obsessive fixation on the Holy Father, Pope Francis, as well as the various ‘factions’ existing in the Church. I am guilty of this, at least. I spend way too much time talking about whispers in the loo-house, instead of focusing on the needs of the local Church in front of me. I spend way too much time on “the blogs”, following each word coming forth from the mouth of Pope Francis, and rushing to see the numerous ‘hot-takes’ on it. This year, I will try to avoid Church gossip and in particular, I will not engage every @ on Twitter insulting me and my views. To the Church-outsider, seeing people dedicate entire Twitter accounts to impersonating/mocking a certain, popular Jesuit priest would be enough to second-guess my desire to enter Church life more deeply. It’s like coming to your friend’s house for dinner, but seeing the parents threaten divorce, and watching as the siblings give each other a bloody nose. This, admittedly, will be the most difficult of the resolutions since I care so deeply about what is going on in the Church today, but the line between charitable discourse and gossipy slander is one I need to seriously pay attention to.

And there you have it! Five “simple” resolutions for any Catholic who has been given the grace of a New Year. Let us sincerely try to make this year focused upon God and His precepts, and may we always find refuge within the the Sacred Heart.



About Those Young, “Rigid”, Traditional Catholics

More and more, Millennial Catholics are flocking en massé to traditional practices and devotions, to the horror of many. But is such fear necessary?

awake to the sound of church bells, ringing. It is Sunday morning. Though I worked late the night before, I quickly brush my teeth, shower, and get dressed for the day. After putting on a navy blue blazer and adjusting my tie, I hurriedly dash down the stairs, and head to my car. As I turn my car on, the radio blares. I turn it off, and prepare myself for what is to come. After about 20 minutes of driving in silence, I finally reach my destination: a massive Gothic-revival church, built over 150 years ago, yet still standing tall. As I exit my car and dart up the marble church steps, I open the heavy, church door, and am greeted by the smell of sweet incense and the sound of utter silence — save a baby cooing . An usher hands me a program, and I look around the church, desperately trying to find an empty seat. It is filled to near-capacity. Providentially, a woman wearing a veil, smiling, gestures to me — there is room to sit next to her. As I enter the church pew, I genuflect, and upon entering, pull down the pew kneeler to pray a bit. My personal prayer is interrupted with the single clang of a bell — the Church’s greatest prayer has begun. Everyone who is able rises to their feet, as the pipe organ suddenly begins playing an ornate introduction to our processional hymn. This is the highlight of my week, the source and summit of my existence as a Christian: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.




Sing a “New” Church

The Second Vatican Council, 1962–1965

When you think of “Catholicism”, what do you think of? Many movies which depict ‘old’ Catholicism, such as The Bells of St. Mary’s , offer an image of Catholicism probably not found in local parish: the Mass chanted in Latin, smoky incense rising to the ceiling, women dressed in veils, beautiful churches with vibrantly colorful stained glass, altar rails, and other external aesthetics of the Catholic imagination. But if you enter the nearby Catholic church, you probably won’t find much of this remaining. During the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the Catholic Church realized it needed a renewal, a way of engaging — and not fleeing — the rapidly changing, modern world. Five months after shocking the world with the announcement that he was calling for an ecumenical council, Pope (now saint) John XXIII outlined his vision for this council in his first encyclical, Ad Petri Cathedram. According to John XXIII, the purpose of the Second Vatican Council was to promote a renewal of Christian life, a defense of Truth, and an “appropriate adaption” to ecclesiastical disciplines. Contrary to popular belief in the Church today, the purpose of Vatican II was not to ‘change’ Church teaching or ‘modernize’ itself to appeal to the secular world. In fact, according to John XXIII, the only thing that can unite humanity is truth. As he wrote,

“Once we have attained the truth in its fullness, integrity, and purity, unity should pervade our minds, hearts, and actions. For there is only one cause of discord, disagreement, and dissension: ignorance of the truth, or what is worse, rejection of the truth once it has been sought and found. It may be that the truth is rejected because of the practical advantages which are expected to result from false views; it may be that it is rejected as a result of that perverted blindness which seeks easy and indulgent excuses for vice and immoral behavior.”

Ad Petri Cathedram, #61 (emphasis mine)

Tragically, John XXIII’s vision for the Second Vatican Council never actualized into reality. While this is not an essay on Vatican II’s implementation and reception, I’ll just say this: if you actually read the documents of Vatican II (especially Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document on the sacred liturgy, the subject of this piece) and look at what happened in the Church during the decades following, you will see a tragic disconnect. Emboldened by Church reforms, certain theologians criticized the Church’s stance on artificial contraception, birth control, gay marriage, euthanasia, and women’s ordination. Theology, far from being “faith seeking understanding”, became an exercise in sleuthy sophistry, a forum which tolerated all sorts of “strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9). Altar rails were ripped out, sacred art replaced by odd, modern conventions. Gorgeous cathedrals ripped down the high altars, and put a simple table in the front. Guitars, and not organs, took over the music. Chants sung at Mass for over a millennium were replaced by sing-songy tunes more appropriate for a night on Broadway than at the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. All of this (and more, trust me) was supposedly done to promote a more “modern” Catholicism, and nowhere was this modernization more painful and blatant than in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The proceedings of the Second Vatican Council have been a subject of hotly-contested debate. What was the purpose of the Council? How has the Council been implemented? Did certain members of the Council push for inauthentic reforms, or even succumb to the Modernist heresy? I will save that loaded topic for another time, but it would be helpful to read Dom Alcuin ReidMatthew Levering, and John O’Malley’s writings on Vatican II, its reception, and contemporary challenges to its interpretation.

Regardless of one’s views on Vatican II, the average layperson in the pews faithfully attending mass from 1959 to 1969 was able to realize that something… changed. After all, nowhere has the rupture between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church been evident as in the Sacred Liturgy. The priest, now facing the people, often fumbles with the microphone. Sometimes, before mass begins (or God forbid, during it), the priest or lay ministers will make announcements. The priest, thinking that he needs to “make people laugh”, will open the Mass with a joke or two, or begin to riff like Jay Leno on various topics of secular interest. Following Communion, after the sacred vessels are being purified, the priest will make an announcement about the youth group’s upcoming bake sale. Some deacons use the homily as a time to make “dad jokes”. Lay ministers walk by the tabernacle, where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed, as if they are in their living room, sometimes not even genuflecting or showing a sign of reverence. While some may claim that we have come a long way since the apocryphal “clown mass” & “puppet mass” (warning: watch those videos at your own peril), have we? Recently, a priest in Brazil decided it was a good idea to incorporate Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s summer hit, Despacitointo the mass. Have we truly rediscovered what it means to be a Roman Catholic, worshiping in the Roman Rite?

Certainly, it’s not like the 1940s were a liturgical paradise — oftentimes, ‘Low Mass’ (that is, mass with little to no chant/music) was the norm on Sundays. Priests would come out of the sacristy while mass was being celebrated, giving Holy Communion to parishioners before their own priest was even done with the Eucharistic Prayer. From the late 19th century in Italy, it became commonplace for the mass to feature opera music instead of Gregorian chant. Liturgical reform was indeed necessary. And yet, if we are honest, that liturgical reform still has not been fully realized. Many scholars have pointed out time and time again that how the average Catholic parish in America celebrates the sacred liturgy is not the way Vatican II envisioned it to be celebrated.

What has been the result? You tell me. I warn you, though; the statistics aren’t pretty. According to the Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), only 22% of baptized Catholics attended mass weekly in 2016, compared to 55% in 1965. Traditionally “Catholic” areas, such as New England, report historic drops in mass attendance and reception of the sacraments. In Boston (where I live), only 12% of Catholics attended mass weekly in 2016. To put this in perspective, that number is down from 70% in 1970. Parishes across New England are merging, if not closing. In Connecticut, the Archdiocese of Hartford announced that 26 of its 212 churches were closing, with 144 merging with others. Statistics point to the sad reality: fewer and fewer people are attending mass, participating in their local parishes, or even see the Catholic faith as an important part of their life.

Blame the culture, blame the Church’s stance on contraception , blame the priest dancing to “Despacito”— whatever you blame it on, the fact is that the Catholic Church in the United States has declined drastically since the 1960s. As mass attendance dropped following the Second Vatican Council, so too did the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). Traditional devotions and prayers, such as the Rosary and novenas, fell out of common practice. Even seminaries were places of confusion, with seminarians engaging in homosexual actions, disrespect to the Blessed Mother was tolerated, and mentally-unbalanced, predatory men were admitted to Holy Orders. The 1960’s — 1970’s, ripe with the spirit of “revolution”, surely had its effect on religious vocations. From 1966 to 1999 the number of seminarians dropped from 39,638 to 4,826. In 1965, there were 180,000 religious sisters/nuns in the United States. As of 2014, there were only 50,000 — a 72% drop in merely 50 years. As of 2012, the average age of a Roman Catholic nun was 74.

And yet, death does not have the final word. Many Millennials, including myself, entered a Church which was still trying to make sense of its mission and focus in the modern world, while remaining true to Sacred Scripture and Tradition. And it is we, the Millennials, the same Millennials who allegedly “kill” everything from Applebee’s to department stores, who are “at the vanguard of Catholic renewal” (as one author notes). Indeed, hope has dawned. True, Millennials are the least “religious” generation thus far. But while these aforementioned statistics look grave, they simply do not tell the whole story. An extraordinary (no pun intended) phenomenon is happening now, right before the eyes of Church leaders and ministers — the rise of the “traditionalists”. As Matthew Schmitz, senior editor of the journal, First Things, writes:

Who are these terrifying young traditionalists? Step into a quiet chapel in New York and you will find an answer. There, early each Saturday morning, young worshippers gather in secret. They are divided by sex: women on the left, men on the right. Dressed in denim and Birkenstocks, with the occasional nose piercing, they could be a group of loiterers on any downtown sidewalk. But they have come here with a purpose. As a bell rings, they rise in unison. A hooded priest approaches the altar and begins to say Mass in Latin. During Communion, they kneel on the bare floor where an altar rail should be.

Rise of the “Trads”

The Church of the Holy Innocents (NYC), where the Latin Mass is offered daily.

Yes, it’s actually true. More and more, Millennial Catholics are flocking en masse to more ‘traditional’ practices and devotions. Churches which offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form are being filled by young 20-somethings and 30-somethings. Chapel veils, once considered a sign of women’s oppression, are finding more and more support among the young. Religious orders and communities which use the Latin Mass are bursting at the seams with vocations. Most recently, groups like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King had to turn away applicants, because they could not fit any more men into their seminaries. Traditional religious orders for consecrated women religious have seen a surge in growth, as well. For the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who rocked the Catholic music world with their album of Gregorian chant, the average age of a member is 26! What gives? Is this a sign of retrograde Catholicism?

Some think so. Pope Francis has expressed his confusion at this recent trend of young people seeking out traditional liturgy and devotions. Speaking in an interview this past November 2016, Francis lamented this growth:

“I ask myself about this. For example, I always try to understand what’s behind the people who are too young to have lived the pre-conciliar liturgy but who want it. Sometimes I’ve found myself in front of people who are too strict, who have a rigid attitude. And I wonder: How come such a rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, sometimes even more … Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”

The claim that Latin Mass attendees are “rigid” is not a new one, by any means. Often, the charges are as such: those who attend the Latin Mass are ultraconservative in their theology, especially on things like sexual morality and Church doctrine. In other words, those who attend the Latin Mass, labeled “rigids”, happen to support Church teaching on matters of faith and morals. And, because these young trads actually agree with Church teaching, they are “rigid”, because they are trying to put God in a box (or something like that). Sometimes, the “rigid” label is applied with political connotation: Those who attend the Latin Mass probably voted for Trump and hate the poor. Many times, the claim is that, by focusing on the Sacred Liturgy, we are somehow neglecting important Christian teachings, like care for the poor and outreach to the marginalized. However, such a claim is made in pure ignorance. This is to say that every saint since the 16th century, including St. Vincent de Paul, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Jean Vianney, St. Peter Claver, among others worshiped in the Tridentine Latin form of the Mass, somehow discouraged social justice. It would take some serious mental gymnastics to ever defend this. If anything, one could argue that the Latin Mass fosters a more wholesome and excellent effort at living out Catholic social teaching.

We who attend the Extraordinary Form are used to such pejorative claims. We get it — we are “rigid”, “ultra-conservative”, and “backwards”. But here’s the thing — we’re not. If the fear is that we hate Vatican II, rest-assured, we don’t. If anything, we are the ones desperately trying to do justice to what the documents actually said. And when it comes to the Sacred Liturgy, the “source and summit of the Christian life” according to a document from the Second Vatican Council (LG #11), we are trying our best to preserve a sense of continuity between pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II. We’re often portrayed as snarky, close-minded, and excluding, but cannot the same be said about “liberal” Catholics ? Interestingly enough, many of us who prefer the Extraordinary Form actually attend the Ordinary Form often and faithfully. In other words, “traditional” Catholics attend mass in both forms… can the same be said in reverse? Is there any effort from opponents of the Latin Mass to actually attend it, without resorting to flippant claims against it?

Another claim made by some is that the Latin Mass promotes clericalism, that is, the belief that the priest is somehow better, holier, or more important than the people assembled. Their basis for this is in the priest’s facing ad orientem, towards the east, as pictured here:

An example of “ad orientem” worship

“His back is facing us”. Such claims of clericalism assume a few erroneous things — first, that the Mass is somehow about the people. Hint: it’s not. The Sacred Liturgy is about God’s gift to humanity, which humanity (in the person of Christ, the High Priest) returns back to God. Thus, it is God — not us — who should be the center of all worship. Are Orthodox priests “clericalist” because they face ad orientem? What about Jewish people in their synagogues, or Muslims at the mosque — both religions which stress the importance of bodily, liturgical orientation? Facing a common direction was historically a sign of unity of mind and purpose — not a sign that the principal celebrant was rude or selfish.

If anything, those who consider the Latin Mass to be “clericalist” would do well to spend their energy fighting what I call “reverse clericalism”, such as when the priest decides to ad-lib the liturgy, making up his own words, paraphrasing the words the universal Church prays to God. For example, during the Agnus Dei, what you’re supposed to hear is: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” How many times, however, have we heard something different than the text as written? A few Sundays ago, I attended Mass, and I heard the following: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Jesus, the Gentle Shepherd, Prince of Peace, the One who takes away all of our sins, all of our failings, all of our weaknesses. Happy, how truly happy are we, who are called to partake in His Eucharist.” Priests who treat the Mass like a game of mad-libs are, ironically enough, clericalist in their own right, because they assume that the congregation is too dumb to understand the language of the Mass as it is already written. They take the Mass and make it about them, their personality, their tastes. Such actions are foreign to the nature of true, solemn, Catholic worship.

These are but a few, yet commonly-held objections by those who see the rise of the Trads as a dangerous thing for the Church. Personally, I don’t want to call myself a “traditionalist”, but I can see why some people do. There wouldn’t be a need to call oneself a “traditionalist” if many in the Church were not split on matters of faith and morals, if we didn’t have priests and even bishops acting in a way which scandalizes the faithful, and if there wasn’t a decently (yet aging) contingent within the Church who sees things like Gregorian chant and beautiful churches as a threat. Opponents of Tradition call us “nostalgic”, but if anything, it is they — and not us — who are nostalgic. They are the ones nostalgic for a time when the Mass was seen as an experimental play-thing for our pleasure. They are the ones who continuously try to make the Holy Mass “hip”, “relatable”, and “accessible” to modern man. However, they need to realize that we, the youth, do not want a religion which accommodates the latest fashion and novelties. Generations of younger Catholics feel like they were robbed of their rightful patrimony and heritage. On numerous occasions, I have received messages from people who, after I suggested they attend the Latin Mass, ask me: “Why did they get rid of this?” “Why doesn’t every parish offer it?” “Where has this been all of my life?”Our grandparents and great-grandparents built some of the most beautiful churches in the United States, yet they are closing at a rapid rate, leaving us with churches which look more like a spaceship than a proper temple for God. Many of us are scratching our heads, wondering how someone could ever think that, by ripping down beautiful churches, removing sublime chant, and simplifying the Sacred Liturgy to look like a gentleman’s handshake with a “nice” God, we would somehow be closer to God than the saints of numerous centuries who were nourished by liturgical beauty. However, change is on the way, and more and more people are rediscovering the beautiful traditions of our Church. The Trads are here to stay. And no,that shouldn’t be a cause for fear.

With the exception of a handful of wackos on the Internet, most of us who attend the Latin Mass are actually pretty decent people, if only by God’s grace. We are not liturgical idolaters, nor are we blind to the needs of our marginalized brothers and sisters. We do not hate community — we actually embrace it. After every Latin Mass I have been to in the past 6 months, there has been a coffee hour & social following. One parish I know of cooks meals every week for the homeless and economically disadvantaged. Another parish has mission trips to Appalachia, one of the poorest areas in the United States. Is this the work of individualistic, narcissistic haters of the marginalized? I don’t think so.

Still, that doesn’t mean we do not have work to do. All too often, we “trads” can huddle up in our own self-referential circle. We make the Latin Mass look like a prize for the perfect, a trophy for the “frozen chosen”. We have much room to grow, especially in the area of evangelization. The “Tridentine Option”, that is, the idolization of everything pre-Vatican II, the pejorative calling of our Holy Father Pope Francis “Bergoglio”, the refusal to listen to those who think differently than us — all of these and more contribute to our own self-fulfilling prophecy of being known as the weirdos who fetishize the ‘old’ just because it’s, well… old. All of these things are hindrances to authentic evangelization. This is an area where growth is needed, but such failings should not characterize every young person who veils.

Still, there are those in the Catholic Church, such as Pope Francis, who fear and worry when they see young people flocking to more “traditional orders”. Such fear is unwarranted and simply unnecessary. Young people desire truth, goodness, and beauty. If Instagram tells us anything about the minds of the youth, it shows us that they do not want these things for themselves, but rather have a desire to share these things with others. By defending Church teaching, the youth are saying, “Yes, I believe that this is the Truth worth living — and even dying — for.” By seeking traditional liturgy and devotions, they are manifesting such allegiance to Christ and Christ’s Church by seeking to remain faithful and true to the way Roman Catholics have worshiped for centuries. As Sacred Scripture tells us, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:8), and “perfect love” is found nowhere else than at the Sacrament of the Altar — the Holy Eucharist, which by sacred silence and altar rails is seen as the sublime, precious gift from God that it is. Still, for whatever reason, irrational fear regarding the rise of traditional practices remains.

Most recently, Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, expressed disbelief at the genuineness of this trend. Fr. Ruff, a renowned liturgical scholar and administrator of the left-leaning Catholic liturgy blog, Pray Tell, expressed the following:

The Catholic Church will have to live with the incongruity of a small but fervent minority at odds with its own liturgical vision, probably for decades. But long term, it can’t last. The arguments don’t hold up. The principles of the Second Vatican Council will not go away and will ultimately prevail.

You mean that the principles of the Second Vatican Council, which stated that:

  1. Gregorian chant has “pride of place” (SC #116)
  2. It is forbidden for a “priest [to] add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (SC #22.3)
  3. “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (SC #23)

…will prevail?

Oh, I sincerely hope so.

View story at

View story at

8 a.m. Amtrak Thoughts

As I depart Philadelphia for Boston (actually made my train, this time), I am reflecting upon the great experience I had at the Society for Catholic Liturgy’s annual conference. Presenting a paper and discussing theology with numerous scholars is always fun and exciting, but this conference went a bit deeper.
I am not a stranger to Philadelphia; as many of you know, I began my undergraduate experience at a college seminary down there. After leaving seminary formation in 2016, I have been wrestling with the question: “How am I now to serve God, the Church, and the world?” This conference helped confirm a lot of what I have learned since leaving the seminary.
Between my time at Boston College and living with the Assumptionist community in Brighton, I have come to realize that the future of the Church is largely dependent on a collaborative effort between ordained/consecrated religious and the laity. Yes, we need good & holy priests and consecrated religious… but we also need holy laymen and laywomen. But here’s the thing– they already exist.
At BC, I have met a ton of folk who are far more spiritually advanced, mature, and self-sacrificing than I am… and most do not wear a priestly collar. That’s not to discredit the many holy priests and bishops I know of, but in my experience, I always viewed “holiness” as something belonging to the clerical/religious state. Yet, since I have been at BCSTM and even by attending the conference, I am blown away at the many devout Catholic men and women who serve the Church in numerous ways. At the conference, I met Catholic theologians both on academic/pastoral tracks, musicians, architects, artists, and parish employees/volunteers, all who are striving for holiness, living out lives of love of God and neighbor in the various roles they have. Some were mothers/fathers of 5 children, others were single lay parish volunteers, but all were on fire with the Holy Spirit and were single-minded in their mission to make Christ known and loved, especially through the Sacred Liturgy.
The most impressive example of this, however, is in the hospitality and kindness shown to me by a former seminarian brother of mine, Brian. Brian and his roommates throughout the years have not only provided me shelter when I have been in Philly over the years, but they have put forth an amazing example of what it means to ‘be’ Church in 2017. Brian, especially, has proven to be a good example of how to live the Gospel. Whether it’s in his work with the underprivileged and needy, his efforts on the streets to help those most in need, or even just living a life of faith, hope, and charity, Brian and countless others have demonstrated that following Christ takes on many forms.
I am still unsure of the future (who isn’t?) and what I am meant to do in life, but I feel rejuvenated and inspired by the numerous folks I met these past 2 years, including this past weekend. I am thankful that this conference provided me not only with an opportunity to present a paper in an academic forum, but also to show how the Christian life takes many shapes and forms, and one needs not to be in the clerical state to make a difference in the Church.
Anyhow, I am thankful for all of your prayers and support over these years, especially to those who have been very patient with me even when I have been a jackass! I’ll close by sharing this poignant passage from Lumen Gentium.
“The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished.
Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself “according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal”. (LG, #33).

Vatican Asks Millennials for Input in Online Questionnaire

Are you a Millennial with Internet access and opinions? If so, the Vatican may want to hear from you.

In preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome , the Catholic Church is asking bishops from all over the world to survey the youth of their dioceses, asking them various questions regarding the 2018 Synod theme,  “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” As a result, the Vatican has launched a website with information about this upcoming synod and a link to the questionnaire, which can be found HERE. (Note- you may need to change the language from Italian to English; the setting is in the top right corner)

As Josh J. McElwee reported in the National Catholic Reporter:

Pope Francis also issued a separate public letter to young people Friday, asking them to consider the document and think of it as a “compass” on the path towards the synod.

“The Church … wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism,” the pontiff told youths. “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”

“St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because ‘the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best,” wrote Francis. “Such is the case, even in the journey of this synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to ‘work with you for your joy.'”

Questions on the survey include ones such as the first one, which reads: “In what manner does the Church listen to the lived situations of young people?” Having taken it myself, I was pleased with the phrasing of the questions, which reflected a sort of honesty, openness, and willingness to hear my lived experiences in regards to Church, participation, and life. Pope Francis, whose pontificate has been marked by famous quotes like “Who am I to judge?”, seems to be steering the world’s bishops in the direction of accompaniment, joy, and listening with a pastor’s heart. I am happy to see that this questionnaire launched ONLINE, especially because the questionnaire for the last synod (the 2014 Synod on the Family) was awkwardly distributed through parishes via hard copy… and many Catholics reported that they themselves hadn’t even heard about the questionnaire, let alone received it.

Clearly, in this digital age, it is easier now more than ever to make your voice heard. The Vatican is asking young people for their input… now it’s simply time for Millennials to give it. Take the survey (link above) today!

Summorum Pontificum: 10 Years Later

10 years ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum: On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970. In it, he not only specified the permissions of Catholic priests to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal (aka “Latin mass”), but he also broadened its reach, asserting that the 1962 Roman Missal was  “never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Church’s Liturgy.” (Art. 1)

As Crux’s Elise Harris reports:

The document established that the post-Vatican II Roman Missal, first issued by Blessed Paul VI, is the ordinary form of the Roman rite, and that the prior version, last issued by St. John XXIII in 1962 and known as the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass, is the Roman rite’s extraordinary form.

In the motu proprio, Benedict noted that the Traditional Latin Mass was never abrogated. He awknowledged clearly the right of all priests of the Roman rite to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, and established that parish priests should be willing to say the extraordinary form for groups of the faithful who request it.

Benedict also established that the faithful could have recourse to their bishop or even the Vatican if their requests for celebration of the extraordinary form were not satisfied.

One need not look far to see how, in merely 10 years, the desire for the Latin Mass has increased astronomically, and newly ordained priests are far more likely to be open to learning/celebrating than those of the Baby Boomer generation. That stated, it is important to remember that the Ordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the form common to most Roman Catholics since the 1960s, is by no means invalid… Pope Benedict himself even stated that “these two expressions of the Church’s lex orandi (law of prayer) will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi (rule of faith); for they are two usages of the one Roman rite.”

Today, we give thanks to the Holy Spirit for the gift of both Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis, and in a special way (and this is my personal opinion), for the way the former focused on honoring the Church’s liturgy, and the way that the latter teaches us to live out the liturgy’s fruits.


Orthodox Monk on Climate Change

Climate change and ecology has been in the news quite a bit recently, especially regarding the Paris Agreement. The Very Rev. Fr. Tryphon, Abbot of All-Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery in Vashon, WA, had this to say regarding the recent discussions of climate change:


“We ignore, in our pride and arrogance, a clear message. God has called us to repentance, for our planet is spewing us up like so much vomit. Our sin of over consumption, and greed, has led us to forget that God anointed us to be good stewards of the earth. We’ve been worshiping the false gods of prosperity, gluttony and consumption, while ignored the invitation of our Creator to place our hearts and minds at His disposal.”

Fr. Tryphon’s full text can be found here: