Rorate Caeli

In the Darkness of Advent: The Light of Tradition that cannot be quenched

It is indeed difficult in these times in the Catholic Church for those of us who love the Tradition of the Catholic Church to have joy at the center of our lives.  The mean-spirited and dishonest attack on Tradition in the publication of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes has been followed by statements by the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Roche, that make it clear that these relics of the 1960s who are now in power in Rome are determined to erase from the Church’s memory the Roman Mass of Catholic Tradition. There are those of us who believe that the crisis of the Church today is no less severe than the crisis the Church faced when the “world woke up to find itself Arian”.  The Arian crisis was overcome not only because of the constant witness of great bishops like St. Athanasius to the Catholic faith but also because of the laity who continued to sing the liturgical hymns at Mass that proclaimed the full divinity of Christ as true God and true man.

I have been blessed in my retirement as a priest to be able to celebrate the Traditional Roman Mass in a number of parish churches both in my diocese and in other dioceses.  This past Sunday, thanks to the true graciousness of the pastor, I celebrated a Missa Cantata in a parish in Bayside, Queens, New York.  I remember the first time I celebrated Mass there over two years ago, perhaps even three years ago (the pandemic has made time fuzzy).  I remember a congregation of perhaps 50 people in a parish church whose ethnic roots are Polish, a small choir, and four altar servers.  This past Sunday the size of the congregation was well over 150 people, the choir had grown as well, and there were 15 altar servers, ages (my guess) from 9 to over 20.  The mix of people in the congregation was truly catholic:  old, middle aged, young, very young; various shades of black, brown and white; some women veiled others not, some men in ties, others in casual dress.

A priest always knows when he is celebrating Mass whether the people in the congregation are “with him”.  There are times in my priesthood when I was celebrating the Novus Ordo Mass in a parish that despite my facing the people I felt alone, for so many of the people at that Mass were waiting for Mass to end.  Their obligation would be fulfilled, and then on to brunch.  Of course, there were always those at that  Mass who really believed their response to my “Pray, brethren…” expressed something real in their response: “May this sacrifice…” And a number of those people have since then discovered the Traditional Roman Mass as the embodiment of what that exchange between priest and people really means.

At Mass this past Sunday there was no doubt that the bond between priest and people in the offering of the Sacrifice was truly there.  There was no sign of “traddie” stiffness or super-piety, just a group of heterogeneous Catholics happily entering into the Sacred Mysteries and coming to Holy Communion with grateful hearts.

I must say one more thing about the altar servers.  Before Mass all fifteen were in the sacristy and the camaraderie among them was inspiring to see.  It is neither reactionary nor misogynist to recognize and take joy in that special relationship that is the bond of male friendship, even at the level of “merely” serving at the altar together.  Of course, I hoped while watching this motley crew serving at the Mass that at least some would become priests.  But even if none of them become priests, because of their sense of that bond between them that comes from participating so closely in the awesomeness of the Mass, they will make good husbands and fathers, and good friends.

I continue to love the season of Advent with its dark and cold that anticipates the coming of the Light.  But I do not like the darkness and the cold of a Church manufactured in the 1960s that tries to cancel Tradition and has forgotten that the three names of God are Truth, Goodness, and yes,--Beauty.

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla