Jun 24, 2006

I'd Like Your Vote

As discussed earlier in my "Latin Masses in Kansas City," some Catholic observers believe that the Pope will give some kind of gift to the SSPX, then wait for their response. So now seems the time to ask "What if?" under the set of assumptions listed below.

(1) Benedict XVI removes the excommunications
(2) The SSPX is active in a diocese.
(3) The local Bishop is favorable to the traditional Latin Mass

Rank the possible results listed below for their likelihood, with "1" for 'absolutely certain to happen' to "5" for 'not in a million years!' (Remember, think of a diocese like Kansas City where the Bishop seems very favorable to Catholic tradition and has significantly engaged common adversaries.)

1. Either the SSPX ignores the diocese or the diocese ignores the SSPX, or both
2. The local Bishop officially welcomes the local SSPX back into full communion
3. The local SSPX believes it is opportune for official contacts with the diocese, and the diocese responds positively to the SSPX initiative
4. The SSPX welcomes the local Bishop to offer a High Mass on a major Feast Day
5. A format is jointly established for regular meetings to discuss common interests
6. A joint agreement establishes significant relationships between the local bishop and the SSPX
7. The National Council of Catholic Bishops proposes/imposes its own rules on relationships between bishops and the SSPX
8. The SSPX has access to the diocesan newspaper to publicize some activities
9. The SSPX announces in The Angelus magazine that relations with certain dioceses have been successfully established and are bearing fruit
10. Marriages and funerals can have both a diocesan priest and a SSPX priest in attendance at both diocesan and SSPX chapels
11. The SSPX asks the local Bishop for permission to do something
12. The SSPX believes it is still not time for any significant relationships with any Novus Ordo Bishop--no matter how orthodox

I'm waiting for your votes. Mark them by number, i.e., 1--3; 2--5; 3--4, 4--3, etc. Alternative questions and caveats are also welcomed.

Raspberry Stickers and Scratches

Gardening always provides good lessons for Christian living. For example, the largest raspberries are often found on the stem below the main berries. Finding these large single berries requires bending down and looking up under the leaves. Think about it. Don't we find the greatest graces when we first kneel down and then look up to God?

Raspberry stickers and arm scratches from yesterday's picking are still somewhat bothersome, but now I've got three more salad bowls with berries in the refrigerator ready to be washed and frozen. Our family's great pleasure at holiday dinners is black raspberry pie. But it takes work and minor pain to raise and pick raspberries (unless you are one of the many birds that sit in the apple tree overlooking my garden). The lessons: (1) the most delicious blessings God gives us come with a little bit of sacrifice; and (2) God's blessings sometimes accrue to those who only sit, watch and wait for an opportunity! [Birds can't steal, can they?]

Jun 23, 2006

Children and Fuel Efficiency

One daughter recently took her six young children to the supermarket. When they all got out of their large vehicle, a woman bystander seemed surprised and told our daughter she really did need a big car! Think about it. For a family of eight (including the working husband), a large vehicle that gets 16 miles per gallon of gas is really very efficient at 8 x 16 = 128 miles per gallon for each individual being transported. Children--the key to fuel efficiency for large vehicles! And they're beautiful, too.

Jun 22, 2006

Latin Masses in Kansas City--Divided in Many Ways

Kansas City is an interesting place to live, especially with the two Catholic dioceses split by the Kansas/Missouri border and at least three Churches where daily Latin Masses are offered. We're not only in the center of the U.S., but we're also at the center of the divisions between those who love the old Latin rite.

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has its U.S. headquarters and publishing house in KC, and has been working out of St. Vincent's Catholic Church since about 1979. Archbishop Lefebvre dedicated the Church on 10 May 1981, with about a thousand Catholic traditionalists of all stripes at the Mass of dedication.

Seven years later, the four new SSPX bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro-Mayer were declared to be excommunicated. [The SSPX consistently has defended the consecrations (see http://www.sspx.org/SSPX_FAQs/q11_abexcommunicated.htm).]

Not unexpectedly, the SSPX conceived quite a few children (some they prefer not to acknowledge, but who are fine offspring!) in the 18 years since the excommunications of 1988. In Kansas City, indult Latin Masses thrive both in the diocese of Kansas City in Missouri and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. The Institute of Christ the King serves Kansas City, Missouri (and some Kansas) Catholics, and the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) serves Kansas City, Kansas (and some Missouri) Catholics.

Moreover, a couple of convents of traditional nuns are found on the Missouri side of the state line--including the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, a traditional teaching order founded by Fr. Eugene Heidt in Oregon and now served by the SSPX in Kansas City.

A new order of traditional nuns has also found a home in Kansas City. The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, is an order invited to the Missouri diocese by Bishop Finn to pray and make sacrifices for the sanctification of priests. Each of the two convents has about fifteen nuns and the Latin Mass is offered daily.

With the Kansas City Latin Mass scene in mind, listen to our fellow blogger at "http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/" who analyzes recent news about possible canonical regularization of the SSPX. Based on interviews with key players, he believes Pope Benedict XVI soon will lift the decree of excommunications and put the SSPX in the same situation as the Greek Orthodox Church. Pope Paul VI in 1964 met with Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem and both rescinded the 1054 excommunications of the Great Schism.

So far, so good. The 'kicker' in Rorate-Caeli's analysis is the required "correction of doctrinal mistakes" by the SSPX. And friends, it ain't gonna happen!

Why? Because the SSPX firmly believes (and has good reason to believe) that certain elements of Vatican II (e.g., religious freedom, ecumenism) are inconsistent with two millenia of Catholic teaching by Jesus Christ, his apostles, and canonized saints. Moreover, Pope Paul VI, in an audience on January 12, 1966, said that Vatican II “had avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner dogmas affected by the mark of infallibility.” So what "doctrinal errors" can the SSPX be accused of, if no dogmas were taught by Vatican II?

The SSPX adheres more firmly to traditional dogma than most Catholic dioceses. Currently, only the non-doctrinal Vatican II Council is the source of division between the Vatican and the SSPX. Sounds like a stalemate for now. Kansas City Catholics who deeply love the old Latin Mass will likely continue to disagree heartily with traditional Catholics from other groups--each saying the other group is outside the pale.

A Recent Story of Grandma's Hired Man

In the first part of the 20th century, an older widow with a farm had to find a hired man to help with the more arduous and difficult chores formerly performed by her husband. This hired man would live in a small house on the farm. My grandmother lived in the hill country south of the Missouri River near Kansas City but her husband died when she was not yet 50. Joe Yershe was the second of two hired man who lived in a one-room dwelling with a wood stove, bed, chair, and table, but not much else. The outhouse was not far away and was also used by Grandma, my Mother and my Aunt.

Joe was the hired man that I knew when I was growing up across the road from Grandma’s farm. He had come to the U.S. from the same “old country” of my grandparents. Joe grew up in a strongly Catholic village, and my Grandma said everyone without exception went to Sunday Mass, even those who could not receive Communion because of living openly in sin.

Joe was an expert in pruning fruit trees and he also could cut weeds, grass, and hay with his scythe so that it looked like they had been evenly mowed. He used Grandma’s horse to weed and till the soil between the many rows of vegetables and berries. He was particularly attached to Shorty. When the little colt was born, Joe gave it all his attention and it became a very docile and hardworking horse on Grandma’s farm.

One time when I was quite little, I pleaded with Joe to let me ride Shorty as he held the halter and led Shorty to the field. However, Joe had been told by my Mother never to let me ride the horse because she did not trust me not to fall off. Joe warned me not to tell anybody if he let me ride the horse. However, not being very wise at the age of four, I immediately told my Mother that Joe had let me ride the horse. Bad decision for both of us!

Before becoming Grandma’s hired man, Joe had worked to save money to send for his sweetheart in the old country. He planned to marry her when she arrived. Unfortunately, Joe’s sweetheart met someone else on the boat to the U.S., and she wrote Joe that she was going to Omaha to marry the other man. Some months later, she wrote Joe a second letter and said that her new husband beat her frequently and that she planned to leave him and return to Joe. Joe responded that she was already married and that he could not marry a woman who already had a husband.

Joe began to drink frequently and heavily, and stopped going to the sacraments and to Mass—except for infrequent occasions. After being hired by Grandma, my Mother remembers that Joe returned from a night of drinking, either at a tavern or at a friend’s house. It was late at night when he fell in the driveway before reaching the small white house in which he lived. When found in the morning, his coat was encrusted with ice and was frozen to the ground. Somehow he survived without permanent injury.

My elderly cousin remembers Joe as very quiet and always polite to her as a little girl. She remembers being in his little white house a couple of times, really a little shed with only studs and outside boards. She observed that the little house was so empty, but Joe had a crucifix nailed on one wall. My cousin thought that he was very lonely because he would sit alone for hours in the evenings and on Sundays when he was not working.

Grandma’s farm was auctioned off and sold in the mid 40's, and Joe continued to drink. For a while, he lived in ‘Jacob’s House’, a 2-story old house that had been abandoned. The new owner of the property discovered Joe sleeping on the floor, and Joe had to find another place to stay. A local apple orchard hired him but he was quickly fired. He then did occasional work for others to earn money, especially using his scythe to cut weeds.

By about 1950, my Grandma was living with my Aunt and Uncle and Joe was living in the county ‘Old Folk’s Home.’ One day he left the Home, walked several miles to my Aunt and Uncle's house and asked to stay. My Aunt got a cot and my Uncle installed a very small bathroom in the basement. Joe stayed there while helping out on their five acres where the two women raised berries. Sometimes, Joe would put my Aunt and Uncle's only child, Ron, in a wagon and pull him to a nearby country store to buy him a drink and candy.

I would often see Joe when I visited Grandma. One time I asked him to stop drinking and say an act of contrition—which I didn’t think he remembered. Joe then said the complete confessional prayer in Latin he had learned as a young altar boy in the old country, “Confiteor Dei omnipoténti, beatæ Maríæ Vírgine, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Joánni. Baptíste… I concluded he must have said this prayer regularly because he recited it quickly and easily.

Shortly before his death, Grandma asked me to cut Joe’s hair because he didn’t have the money. Joe was still quite good looking in his early seventies and had a full head of white hair. He was not feeling well, and had had recent surgery that identified an untreatable cancer. After the operation, he returned to live in my Aunt's basement. Grandma said Joe's pain increased over the next couple of weeks, and my Mother remembers him groaning with the pain.

Grandma was the one who found Joe’s body lying on the floor in my Aunt's garage. He had set up a ladder to attach a rope to a rafter and it appeared that he was trying to commit suicide. The flimsy rope broke, or he was unsteady and fell off the ladder—we never knew for sure. When the police and ambulance came, the attendants determined Joe had died from the fall.

After the funeral Mass, Joe Yersche was buried in an unmarked grave in the southeast corner of the small parish cemetery. Our family prayed that he had repented of his planned act before his soul left his body. We hoped that he had at least reached purgatory, and that God would be merciful to this poor sinner. But as years do, they pass quickly and we no longer remembered to pray for Joe.

Recently [April 2006], my Aunt's 23-month old great-grandson was at her home “helping” with yard work. He was busy following his Aunt around the yard and started to follow her into the detached garage, but wouldn't go in. His Aunt asked her little nephew what was wrong, and he responded, “Man, Man.” His Aunt knew there was no one else in the garage and asked the child to show her where he saw a man. The little boy pointed to a corner of the garage and said “There!” The boy appeared reluctant to enter the garage and and continued to say he saw “that man”. His Aunt picked him up and went to find his mother and grandparents who were helping with the yardword for my elderly Aunt.

Everyone concluded that it must be Joe that the small child was seeing. Ron told his grandson that Joe was a good man who used to take him for rides in a wagon and buy him candy. Joe would never hurt little children and it was okay for him to go into the garage. Later that day the little boy did enter the garage with his Mom and continued to say “Man! There”. He no longer was scared but was still adamant about the presence of someone that others could not see.

My Aunt, my Mother, my elderly cousin, and I have wondered if God was merciful and Joe is now in purgatory. We have concluded that the toddler's apparition is a sign that we need to keep Joe’s soul in our prayers. And if he does not need our prayers, then the Virgin Mary will use the merits of our prayers for other souls.

If Joe, the hired man, is in purgatory, he has been there for forty years since his death in the mid 60's. Does anyone reading this post have an extra prayer for the respose of Joe's soul?

Vanity of Vanities

People who are almost seventy don't publish blogs, do they? Especially when they are more involved with contemplating sickness and death and have seen vanity after vanity for more years than they care to count. So is a blog a vanity? Yes, probably, yet when given a long time on earth, we do learn and can share much about sin and repentence which are very important to God and to our own future life in eternity. "Dust I Am" are the words of ashes, said by the priest. This blog will keep our earthly end in mind.