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Traditional Latin MassChristopher Sanchez

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(LifeSiteNews) – The following exchange of letters is real, although identifying personal details have been left out. It is all the more poignant in light of Pope Francis’s motu proprio Traditionis Custodes and its accompanying letter, which make plain the progressives’ end game: to rid the world of this plague of a liturgy so hated and feared by the ecclesiastical flower children of the postcouncil era. Since there is no vaccine for the Tridentine virus, resort must be had to vain attempts to legislate it out of existence.

The background to the exchange is as follows. A young Catholic discerning a religious vocation got in touch with me to ask for advice. He had told his spiritual director that the discovery of the traditional Latin Mass had changed his mind regarding which community to enter — he could not imagine not having this powerhouse of prayer at the center of his life. But the priest responded that since his relationship with Jesus and his vocation had been formed by the Novus Ordo, he should continue to attend it — and that he should “resist the temptation” to attend liturgies in the traditional rite.

He added, moreover, that the directee should think and pray about how we need to “die to ourselves about attachments, distractions, or attractions that appeal to us and would become difficult to let go of.” (This spiritual director, I should add, had no personal experience with the Traditional Latin Mass {TLM}.) To quote directly from my correspondent:

While I can to a certain extent understand where he is coming from, I also believe that the TLM cannot be reduced to a distraction or some kind of ‘extra,’ like a vitamin or a special jacket. I have realized that this is the Mass that fully preserves our Catholic Faith and expresses our Catholic heritage. This is not something that I can simply forget about or give up, now that I know it. I firmly believe that the old Mass is the rock foundation on which religious life should be built.

I have been reading Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, which has helped to solidify the crucial importance of the Latin Mass for me. I am saddened that my spiritual director does not seem to understand the utterly transcendent beauty of the Latin Mass. I hope that God will lead him (and everyone) towards the TLM in His own good time. It is hard to move forward with tradition when most of the Church as it’s been for the past 50+ years seems against it. It is humbling to accept that my family and I have, in a way, been living in “the Matrix” for most of our lives. But I am so grateful to God for guiding us to the indescribable treasure of the Latin Mass! It has made a huge difference for all of us. Our faith has never been so alive, and we have never so much looked forward to going to Mass!

Here is what I wrote in reply.

Dear Discerner,

The situation you describe is quite common in our “transitional” times, when some Catholics are rediscovering their holy traditions, and others have not yet made that discovery. There are many good priests, genuinely devoted to their vocation, who are nevertheless clueless when it comes to what the Church has lost and how Catholics suffer from being deprived of what Our Lord had generously provided over so many centuries of faith and devotion.

You are right that there’s no need to speak of persecution; rather, one may simply see incomprehension, an inability for another to stand in your shoes. Since you are not yet a religious who is under holy obedience to a particular superior, you do not need to consider yourself bound to follow his advice, especially when it is possible to know on objective grounds that one thing is superior to another (e.g., the TLM to the NOM, or a fully traditional religious life over one that has been “reformed” after Vatican II). The priest will not understand where you are coming from, but that’s okay; keep praying for him. The awakening happens not so much from arguments as from intimate experience.

So, in your situation I would proceed peacefully and confidently forward with the tugs on your heartstrings that Our Lord is giving you. He is not “teasing” you by showing you something grand and beautiful and worth giving your life to, only to pull it away and say “Ah, but that was just a mirage to test you!” How absurd would that be! On the contrary, He has led you step by step in your life, first to a profound faith, then to a desire to give yourself to Him as a religious, and finally to the splendor of traditional Catholicism. The last of these you could think of as a special gift He is giving you to enrich your vocation with a source from which it will draw lifelong strength.

It seems that many Catholics today — through no fault of their own — really do think and speak and act as if many aspects of our 2,000-year old Church tradition were totally accidental and indifferent, as if you can just “take it or leave it.” This was never the way the saints thought about tradition. St. Teresa of Jesus said she was willing to die for the least of the Church’s rubrics (and obviously, that meant the traditional ones!). I’ve written an article that might be helpful to you, in which I talk about how the spiritual advice of the saints presupposes a traditional life of belief and worship.

Also, one has to think about the fact that in religious life the liturgy is central and definitive, so you want to go where you can yield yourself most freely, fully, trustingly, and joyfully to that great mystery, and — as little as possible — with a critical or troubled spirit (see “Mosebach’s Paradox,” and, for a more humorous presentation of the same truths, “Healthy and Copious Food for Grown-Ups”).

The Church’s liturgical traditions, which she practiced so consistently and guarded so jealously throughout her history, have truth and right behind them, and the long-term renewal of the Church will come especially through an ever-greater embrace of these treasures. It’s a great privilege to be on the vanguard of this movement of the Holy Spirit, a special grace that calls a person to a new place, somewhat as Abraham was called from Ur into Canaan. My suggestion, concretely, is that you continue to discover the wonders of the TLM in the churches that have it in your area, instead of forcing yourself to “stay local” where the liturgy is poorly done. Tell the priest that you are grateful for his advice and will take it into consideration and prayer. After all, that’s what you’re doing — even if you don’t agree with him in the end.

As you’ll find out, it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t have experience of the things you have come to love. Those who are in love look foolish to sober-minded bystanders. The latter will think you are “daft” and need to be “talked away from the edge” before you “jump off the bridge.” That’s how tradition-lovers always look to those who are content with a basic reverence and a basic catechism (if I could put it that way): they think “we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got the sacraments, we’ve got the new Catechism… What more could you want? If you want more, it means you are placing more emphasis on secondary things than on primary things.”

The trouble with that mentality is that the primary and the secondary are always inextricably intertwined, at least in this life, until we reach the beatific vision when all is simplified. We cannot worship God without having liturgical rites, ceremonies, art forms, music, symbolism; we can’t just isolate the essence and get rid of everything else. We have no access to what’s essential except through what tradition gives us. So the difference is not that mainstream Catholics have the essence and not the tradition, whereas tradition-loving Catholics have the tradition and overlook the essence. In reality, the mainstreamers have a diminished tradition and diminished reverence, which in turn places roadblocks and speedbumps in the way of their full assimilation of the essence, while those who attend the TLM and begin to live a richer Catholic life outside of Mass have the fullness of tradition to assist them. Sure, one can always become preoccupied with how someone looks at the expense of knowing them more intimately, but normally, in a healthy relationship, external and internal beauty work together to increase our love.

There are many good people, like the priest you mentioned, and the community of ——, who are making the best of what they have been given, and who perhaps see no need for anything more, because they don’t know what they don’t know; and it is possible, by God’s mercy, to become holy in almost any circumstances.

Nevertheless, God wants the most for us, not just the minimum necessary, and this is true on many different levels, both natural and supernatural. Just as we say marriage is good but consecrated life is better, so we can say the community you had originally thought about joining is good, but the traditional communities you have discovered are better. They are better because of their full and traditional observance of religious life.

The great mercy of Our Lord is that, in spite of that “Matrix” you mentioned, He has always been there to call you and me to Himself, and He has always kept tradition alive in the Church so that we could still find it today, as more and more are doing: Deo gratias!

Yours in Christ and His holy Mother,

Dr. Kwasniewski

Postscript: Were I writing this letter after what happened on July 16, 2021, I would change nothing — except perhaps to say that it is more important than ever to find ways to live according to Catholic Tradition, precisely because it is under attack. For God in His wisdom and love created us at this place and in this time so that we could be His instruments in handing on the fullness of the Faith.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website,