Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Everything New Is Old Again

I read here ( the following wonderful quote from a wonderfully holy man, Dom Prosper Guéranger (

“Since the liturgical reform [i.e., the protestant rebellion of the 16th C] had for one of its principal aims the abolition of actions and formulas of mystical signification, it is a logical consequence that its authors had to vindicate the use of the vernacular in divine worship.This is in the eyes of sectarians a most important item. 'Worship is no secret matter.' 'The people,' they say, 'must understand what they sing.'Hatred for the Latin language is inborn in the hearts of all the enemies of Rome. They recognize it as the bond among Catholics throughout the universe, as the arsenal of orthodoxy against all the subtleties of the sectarian spirit. ...The spirit of rebellion which drives them to confide the universal prayer to the language of each people, of each province, of each century, has for the rest produced its fruits, and the reformed themselves constantly perceive that the Catholic people, in spite of their Latin prayers, relish better and accomplish with more zeal the duties of the cult than most of the Protestant people. At every hour of the day, divine worship takes place in Catholic churches. The faithful Catholic who attends leaves his mother tongue at the door. Apart form the sermons, he hears nothing but mysterious words which, even so, are not heard in the most solemn moment of the Canon of the Mass. Nevertheless, this mystery charms him in such a way that he is not jealous of the lot of the Protestant, even though the ear of the latter doesn’t hear a single sound without perceiving its meaning. While the reformed temple assembles, with great difficulty, purist Christians once a week, the 'Popish Church' watches unceasingly her numerous altars visited upon by her religious children; every day, they withdraw from their work to come hear those mysterious words which must be of God, for they nourish the faith and ease the pains.We must admit it is a master blow of Protestantism to have declared war on the sacred language. If it should ever succeed in ever destroying it, it would be well on the way to victory. Exposed to profane gaze, like a virgin who has been violated, from that moment on the Liturgy has lost much of its sacred character, and very soon people find that it is not worthwhile putting aside one’s work or pleasure in order to go and listen to what is being spoken in the way one speaks on the town square. ...”
This is a quote from “The Anti-Liturgical Heresy” (the original title is "L'Hérésie Anti-Liturgiste," an excerpt of the "Institutions Liturgiques," v. 1), first published in 1840 over 160 years ago. The above appears to me to be both a historically accurate depiction of the 16th C reformers’ mentalities and a prophetic statement depicting some of the 20th C reformers’ mentalities… so alike in so many ways.
Clearly the Evil One has been long at it (well before Dom Gueranger wrote these words) in order to prevail against our Beloved Church. Although Our Lord will in the end have His victory over Satan, we still might want to consider rallying to His cause and defending the Church's arsenal for that battle here on earth.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Hidden Chapels

This photo was the Interior of Carmelite Sister Chapel,
which is presently undergoing a major renovation (
My great aunt and uncle and their children and their families live in and around Van, Texas. Van (,_Texas) is a small town of just over 2,300 souls near the buzzing metropolis of Tyler. I actually love this part of Texas and would even consider living there if the ties that bind us to our present location weren’t so tightly bound.

I also love my Aunt Deb and Uncle Marshall, their three children, their spouses, their 6 grandchildren and the growing number of spouses to those grandchildren, and the one great-grandchild that they have so far. This is a family who never, ever (I mean truly and for real) met a stranger. They are loving and genuine and God-fearing and moral without even breaking a sweat. They cook some of the best grub I have ever eaten, play some mean dominoes, and know how to laugh hard enough to bust a gut. They are the kind of people you’d go to if you were in one hell of a bind (even of your own making) because they are Christian in the deepest sense of that word. One of the grandchildren (now 24 years old) was getting married to a long-time friend of hers this past Saturday night in Kaufman, Texas (pop 6,500+). It was a beautiful little rented chapel with tulle and twinkle lights and as reverent as a cowboy preacher can make it.

May God bless the union of Nicole and Brett.

Since my grandmother (sister to my Aunt Deb) had a stomach virus, she kindly asked us to consider staying elsewhere (other than her house in Ft. Worth) and we obliged ever so willingly, not being particularly partial to intestinal upset. Since the wedding was in Kaufman and our clandestine meeting Sunday morning was in Dallas, we stayed in the gigantic town of Seagoville, Texas (pop 10,000+), just about the halfway mark between the two.

This was exciting since we could see one of the major federal penitentiaries ( across the highway from our hotel. We (not so) lamentably were unable to visit. While Dallas is as awesome and ugly as any big city can be and Kaufman is as charming and quaint as any 150 year old Texan town can be, Seagoville appears to be industry built up around the Pen and not really a town in the proper sense of the word at all. Still, it had a Wal-mart, a Mexican restaurant and a clean affordable Best Western. Need I say more?

The Catholic part of our adventure began Saturday afternoon when we went in search of the church in Kaufman for confession. My mother, addicted to old things sold for way more money than the original owner ever thought possible, was checking out the local antique stores. I asked the owner of the one we were in where the Catholic Church was. She started slightly, looked at me quizzically and said, “Well, honey, it’s real easy, just go around the square and turn over there by Scott’s Pharmacy. It’s a real pretty building at the end of that street. You can’t miss it.” She was right and so my older daughter and I went for confession. Isn’t it strange that they have confession from 3:30 – 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon in Kaufman, Texas, just like in almost every Catholic Church in OKC??? What is up with that one special hour?

We entered St. Ann’s Catholic Church and almost stumbled upon a GIANT life-size rough-hewn cross lying on the ground in the vestibule. It was roped off like in a museum with a beautiful statue of St. Ann holding our Blessed Mother at the head of this cross. As we entered the church, we came upon a handful of adolescent girls in charge of the music ministry practicing for their performance(s) the next day. This church was what people-in-the-know call “in the round” with the altar in the center. I looked around and couldn’t find the confessional anywhere in sight. I asked a woman in a back pew where they were and she pointed me to an area I would have thought to be the sacristy. In fact, one had to walk around behind the altar and up to the tabernacle to within touching distance and then to the left to reach the confessional, the door of which was strangely marked “Chapel of Reconciliation."
There was a jambox on the ground there in front of the confessional playing soft tranquil music which collided unhappily with the live voices a few feet away. I knelt and tried to pray. Then I got the uneasy feeling that I would have to confess sitting and facing the priest. I had the urge to run screaming from the church but quickly asked God to help me “stay the course.” I turned to the 8 year old Mexican boy on my right and asked him if there was a kneeler or if one faced Father to confess. He told me that one had to face Father. My daughter motioned to me the “Let’s get outta here” hand signal and I was again tempted to run from that place. But God musta been bombarding us with His Grace and we stayed. There was a kneeler inside and it was a choice to face him or kneel behind the screen. Whew, was I happy! Thank You, God. We had considered going to Mass in Kaufman, but our experience led us to believe that the Hidden Latin Mass Chapel of Dallas was the way to go.

We were not disappointed in it at all!!! First of all, it’s in a part of town to which my mother, a veteran Irving/Dallas-ite, had never been – a mixture of industrial and lush tree-lined park. The chapel is located inside a convent, the grounds of which are like an orchard. Although the gentleman had warned us to be early – surprise – we weren’t. Since my toddler was asleep and my parents aren’t Catholic, they stayed in the van while D and I went in. I know those of you familiar with St. Michael’s will not believe me, but I think it was smaller than our tiny chapel. It was literally packed with husbands and fathers standing in the side aisles (which were exactly the width of my hips BTW). There was no vestibule per se, but a small opening in which stood another 5-6 men. To their credit as Catholic gentlemen and presumably a few Texans as well, they felt very uncomfortable with us two women standing in the middle of them without seats. Another gentleman very kindly found us seats.

It is a humbly beautiful chapel. When they say renovation, they really mean renovation. It doesn't look ANYTHING like the photo. Above the altar and crucifix was a traditional tableau of large statues in niches. Although this was a more humble representation than in a gothic cathedral, this is my favorite type of altar. Directly above the altar is a large statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. On either side of and slightly below Our Lord stands Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Joseph. Then on either side of them stands a male tonsured saint with a cross (St. Dominic?) and a female habited saint with a dove pulling at her veil (I think). They had a very nice all male choir. But the really cool thing was that the entire church did the Latin responses that only our choir does including the Creed. I really liked it that way. Fr. Terra has a wonderful voice and his sermon on the Sacred Heart was fabulous.

It was fun to see all the large families, hear all the screaming babies, and watch another wonderful priest as he took it all in stride. In fact, my mother observed while sitting in our van outside that there wasn’t a cry area and people had to come outside onto a covered ramp in the rain. She said, “You know what was cool. It was all the fathers, not the mothers who were outside holding their children.” I said, “Well, being head of the household doesn’t mean demanding another beer in a loud voice.” Thank you Hidden Chapel Catholic Fathers for making another good point in the favor of Our Lord’s Church to my stubborn mother.
So, that’s it. Our Catholic Adventure to the Hidden Chapels had come to an end.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Modern Catholic Adventure Story

Here's an adventure story. I hope you enjoy it.
The weekend after next we're going to a wedding in central Texas. We’re driving back to my grandmother’s house in Fort Worth late Saturday night after the wedding. Of course, you know the first issue up for consideration -- “Where are we going to Mass Sunday morning?”
The last time we just waltzed into an unknown church for Mass was in San Antonio. You would not believe the free-for-all that was. Let me see if I can summarize – the tabernacle was off to the side, the priest apparently didn't feel like wearing vestments as he flippantly walked out of the sacristy to begin Mass, there was no structure to the N.O. liturgy that I could recognize, the Scripture was all mixed up and badly paraphrased in his homily which lasted at least 30 minutes or more and was punctuated with laughter, clapping and cheering from the “audience”, women altarboys scantily clad in shorts and flip-flops were busy on the altar or kneeling at prie-dieus facing the priest NOT Our Lord in the Host. Of course, these groupies then handed out Our Lord while he sat back like some Jim Jones on his throne in front of the altar. You remember where Our Lord’s throne was, right? Yea, that's right -- off to the side. Needless to say, I’m gun-shy about just walking into a parish I don’t know anything about.
Usually when we stay at Grandma’s, we go to a scary (but much better than above) N.O. Guitar Mexican Cowboy Mass down the street from her house. The pews seem to be made for skinny giants since they are about a foot deep and so high off the ground that my feet dangle. This is especially ironic if you know that I share the general proportions of the average Mexican-American. I could just kneel the whole time and pray (which is probably what I should do) except that hardly anyone else is doing that and there’s a constant presence of Tejano-laced protestant-inspired guitar hymns. By the time the Mass is over, I’m nauseated from the music (thinking that even the dreaded “Lord of the Dance” hymn would be welcome) and have no circulation in my lower extremities. I’m afraid if I have to go there again, I’ll bum rush one of the "extraordinary" Eucharistic ministers before the consecration and drink the wine down in one needful gulp.
Ya’ll will understand that I felt very liberated when I made the decision not to do that again and try to find a Latin Mass. Fort Worth, I thought, is an average-size city. Surely, they must have one. Well, they do. They have exactly one Latin Mass a week on Sunday at 5:30pm. This is just a reminder to us here in little Ole OKC that we are indeed blessed to have St. Michael’s.
So, next I looked at Dallas. Dallas is a huge city in size and population, and should have several Latin Mass options, right?
They have one covert chapel with a daily Mass and two on Sundays. Yippee!
Now, for the rest of the story…
This chapel is in a Carmelite convent in central Dallas (near a golf course) about an hour from my grandmother's house. I had to e-mail a very nice gentleman in Dallas for directions because they can’t list the address on the internet at the request of the nuns, who are cloistered but not particularly interested in the Latin Mass. They're just charitable with their space --May the Good Lord bless their generosity. He says that both Sunday Masses are so crowded that it’s standing room only. You’d think in a big place like Dallas, they’d have a sizable church (or two) in an easy to find part of town.
I feel like we’re going to meet with members of the Cosa Nostra to conduct some criminal activity instead of going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It sorta reminds me of what living in the days of the Roman Catacombs must have been like when you had to know a password to get into the Mass.
What will it be – “Mackerel Smackin’s the only way to go” or “Once you’ve gone Latin, you’ll never go back” or maybe they’ll just keep it simple and traditional with “Ichthus” or "Down with Nostra Aetate"?
Whatever the case, it’s sure to be an adventure. I'll keep you posted.