Some time has elapsed and I still pine the loss of the beautiful blog, “Ars Orandi”. In this particular case, the loss is made more acute by the seemingly senseless rant with which the author of that worthy blog decided to put an end to it.
I have wondered at times what Mr Werling’s sentiments are now; whether he is still persuaded that he has done the right thing, or whether he has perhaps come to realise his decision was rash, and his words to justify it the fruit of a state of heightened stress and lack of proper reflection.
It may even been that Mr Werling was, at the time, fully persuaded of what he was doing – and writing – but that he has in the meantime come to the conclusion that both the decision and the attitude were wrong.
I know that some of my readers will be tempted to comment on this blog with statements on the lines of: “his decision, and his problem”, “the bed he made”, “faber est suae quisque fortunae”, etc. But the Good Lord made me an optimist, and I cannot avoid hoping that, in the meantime, the man may have reached a different conclusion about the merit of his decision.
In this beginning of the year, the period when many look at the past and make proposals for the future, perhaps Mr Werling is seriously reflecting – or he is beginning to reflect – whether a comeback, with an explanation of the thinking process behind it, would not be the thing to do.
If this is the case, and if Mr Werling chances to read this blog – which would be an encouraging sign already, I allow myself to add – I would like to assure him that I would be an affectionate reader of his effort again, and there would be no recriminations or accusations at least from my part and, hopefully, from many of my readers.
We all make mistakes. We live and learn, and grow to discern them. I have lost count of the times I have cried bitter tears of shame and regret at thinking at what my outlook on life was, before my re-discovery of the True Church. A re-discovery which I owe firstly to God’s grace, and secondly to the London Oratorians, who introduced me to a coherent, truthful, solemn, profoundly devout but at the same time muscular, manly Catholicism I did not even know it still existed; and at the core of all this, to a Traditional Liturgy whose beauty and spiritual profoundness takes my breath away every time.
My little effort is the fruit of the desire to – after adjusting for my own particular character and inclinations – put out there in the world the same spirit, introducing Catholics to – or reinforcing them in – that truthful, solemn, muscular, manly Catholicism they might not have easy access to.
Mr Werling’s blog was, in my eyes, exactly the same. I am sure that it benefited greatly other people as it did me. I am here mourning its loss after almost two years, which in fact should say enough on the matter.
If Mr Werling ever reads this blog, I hope he will examine to prayer to reconsider. Best wishes to him and his family in any case.
Below is the text from Mr. Werling’s Facebook page, with the explanation of why he has closed the blog.
It’s probably best to put the rumors to rest. No, the Jews aren’t to blame for my sudden departure from the internet, nor the Masons, liberals or the government.
The reason is, is that I had an epiphany, a sudden realization that all of this and more, including my personal construction of “traditional Catholicism”, had turned me into an incredibly ugly person. How many people have I insulted and made to feel like shit? Is that the faith? If that’s your faith, you can keep it; I’m done with it. It was all nothing more than a façade, a double life that even had me fooled, and it was all fed by my narcissism and delusions of grandeur. It was those closest to me who suffered the most, and it had to end.I’ve always believed myself to be a better person than I am… no, I’ve never been happy with who I am, and that’s a sad and pathetic thing. Before all this, I was an ex-seminarian who wrote fantasy stories and poetry, and I played Dungeons and Dragons, listened to rock music, and enjoyed long car rides with my wife, blaring that same rock music as loud as possible. I was happy then, but that was the kind of person I came to judge and condemn with the most severity once I became the internet asshole all of you know. So you know what? I quit the internet to write poetry and fantasy, and I’m going to find a D&D game too! If you think I’m going to hell, then say a prayer for me. If you snicker and judge me, then, oh well; not that long ago I was just like you, sad and pathetic.Of course, a good deal of loony bigots and conspiracy theory kooks will conclude that this has been penned by some Satan worshipping Jew-Freemason. For you reasonable folks, take that for what it is… creepy cultish and destructive behavior.So, if you want to believe in something, stop looking for it on the internet. True faith isn’t an internet opinion composed by an internet asshole. Lighten up. Listen to music. God won’t hate us if we stop being jerks. As my daughter told me recently, if it just causes you stress, then what is it? Shouldn’t it comfort you?In conclusion, a quote from one of my favorite movies, Apocalypse Now, which seems to sums up internet people quite well: “There are two of you, don’t you see? One that kills… and one that loves.”
As someone who has endorsed his blog (a blog of far higher quality than mine in many respects) I would like to say some words. I would like, so to speak, to write to Mr Werling what I would say to him if we were friends (I do not have the honour; and a honour it would be) and we were discussing his blog closure in front of a good pint of ale. If Mr Werling thinks that I not his friend and therefore not entitled to offer my humble opinion, so be it; take, then, these reflections as relating merely to my own blog, and and explanation of my motivation for blogging.
If, therefore, I were to sit with him in front of a friendly ale, I would say the following:
1. It is his blog. The sweat of his brow. If he wants to close it, destroy it, polverise it, and condemn it to the damnatio memoriae, so be it.
2. Not everyone is born for blogging. Not everyone reacts in the same way to the stress and controversy blogging causes. If one thinks that his blogging activity leads him further away from salvation, it makes sense that he should stop blogging. He is, without doubt, the best judge of that. I for myself can say to my readers that to run a blog does cause some stress, in my case particularly because it exposes me daily to a motherload of Modernist rubbish that at times I think I would be so happy to just ignore, and pray my rosary.
Having said that, and with all due respect, I also allow myself to make some slightly more critical considerations.
Ars Orandi was a pearl of Catholic wisdom and beauty. We may all be, as Mr Werling says, @ssholes, but then again the @ssholes are those in most need of beautiful words from, say, Dom Gueranger, and of beautiful and inspiring pictures and inspiration from liturgical texts. Once Mr Werling took the decision to stop blogging, perhaps it would have been advisable to keep the blog online. If then Mr Werling thinks his own blog posts are conducive to @ssholery, then it might have been advisable to cancel those only, leaving the beautiful devotional material and the beautiful pictures online. And let us reflect on this: one who visit his blog to read the liturgical and devotional pieces is, perhaps, not so irredeemable an @sshole after all.
I have always thought – and will always think – that ceteris paribus, between the old lady who looks so saintly in her utter desire to ignore everything evil going on around her, and the emotional fighter who gets angry and perhaps insulting, because he cares for more than his own peace of mind, the second is the one Jesus looks on with the more approving smile.
Unicuique suum, of course, and not everyone is made in the same way. Still, I do think that in the heat of the battle one has the right and at the same time cannot avoid to be, at times, overheated. It comes with the territory of being a human and a wretched sinner. What shall one do then, renounce to the fight because he is an unworthy fighter? Padre Pio got very angry at times. On occasion, he slapped people in the face. He has been known to shout in church. But he was padre Pio. I would suggest to Mr Werling that he cuts some slacks to the @ssholes, starting from himself if he really wants to put himself in that category (which, let it be clear, I don’t).
My impression is that this is a bad case of Anglo-Saxon mentality. If I criticise sinners, I have no right to be one. If I call for higher standards in prelates, I must have extremely high standards myself. If my life is full of the misery of sin, I should not tell other what I do not like, much less write a blog about it.
I wish Mr Werling were Italian. If he were, he would know our sinful nature is a given, and no one expects from us that we, say, do not listen to rock music because we write a blog. If Mr Werling had been Italian, he would have resumed long ago his rock music listening, and his car rides with his wife; and then perhaps – just perhaps – this would have given him the serenity and energy to continue his beautiful, beautiful work. At a slower pace, certainly. Probably with less stress. But continuing to give a great help to many, the writer of these words obviously included.
There is no either/or between being a blogger and a sinner. We are all sinners, and some of us are also bloggers. We aren’t special, we merely write better or have clearer ideas. At the same time, we have no obligation to be saintly – or else, hypocrites and @ssholes – simply because we can say what other feel, and those others resonate with what we write. It never ceases to amaze me how the Southerners live so serenely with their fallen nature, and the Anglos are always obsessing with the feeling if they criticise others they can only be Puritans or, well, @ssholes.
One day we will die. All our trespassesses will be all very clear to our mind. But I dare to think that our trespasses caused by our sincere love for Christ and his Church will, on that day, be looked upon with some leniency. Its’ easy to be beautiful when one refuses to fight the ugliness. If you fight against a shite cannon, there will be shite all over you. If one is interested in feeling the good guy, then I suggest one should be one of those oh so nice Anglicans whom no one would call @ssholes, but who will be judged on that fateful day, if Catholicism makes sense at all, with a different measure than the one who lost his temper because of his righteous anger.
I look at myself in the mirror, and I see one who never shunned a fight, but is not a specialist in being the kindle and gentle “more tea, vicar?”-Anglican chap. You know the type. Very serene people. No shite in sight. I wouldn’t be able to even have afternoon tea with one of those without starting to argue – pleasantly at times, unpleasantly at other times -. If this makes me an @sshole in Mr Werling’s eyes, so be it, and my esteem for him will be undiminished. But no, I prefer to die an @sshole in Mr Werling’s estimation (and countless others’, no doubt!) but be in the position to, one day, put my excesses and @ssholery to the feet of the Blessed Virgin and to say: “this, my Mother, is the horrible-looking crown of roses this wretched sinner could give you. I know it doesn’t look good. But it comes from my heart, and it is the best I found in myself the skill and virtue to do”.
And no one must read me in the first place, anyway; which applies to every other blogger, too. Therefore, if someone becomes a complete idiot because he reads me, it is his responsibility, not mine, to recognise that my blog does not make of him a better person, and does not help him on his way to salvation. No doctor ever ordered a patient to read “two blog posts of Mundabor’s (or Mr Werling’s) @assholery, daily, after the meals”.
Yes, discussions heat the spirit. Yes, you end up at times thinking things you shouldn’t, and losing your composure. Padre Pio shouted that the window panes trembled, and he one of the greatest saints. Those who never shout are, I would say, those who don’t care. Sinners, though, we all are. Mr Werling, myself much more of course, even Padre Pio who lost his countenance rather easily for the things he loved; and lost his temper greatly, because he loved greatly. Again, you never have to explain these things to an Italian; but alas, I write this blog in English.
My suggestion to Mr Werling, then, at the end of the above mentioned pint (or two), would be to keep the blog without his own posts, for the edification and help of those who take advantage from it; to, by all means, listen to all the rock music he likes, and spend wonderful hours with his wife and family without worrying about the blog; but to consider, perhaps, in a more tranquil hour, whether what he has done up to now was really so bad, and so worthy of destruction; and whether he would not find in his heart, perhaps at some point in future, to put the archive online for the benefit of us @ssholes and, perhaps, one day, start blogging again.
Ars Orandi is, as I write this, still down.
As we do not know what is happening, a good idea could be to pray.
One or three Hail Marys for Mr Werling, who has done so much for so many of us, are certainly in order.
From the always excellent Ars Orandi, a treasure trove of Catholic wisdom and beauty – not only the texts are excellent, but the magnificence and quality of the images published is simply way above what I have seen anywhere else – a short but extremely fitting excerpt from Dom Guéranger.
You can do much worse than visit this exemplary blog regularly.
The Liturgical Year
by Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.
The prophet, speaking to us in God’s name, assures us that, if we sincerely desire our conversion, we shall find mercy. The infinite distance which lies between the sovereign holiness of God and the soul that is defiled by sin is no obstacle to the reconciliation between the creature and the Creator. The goodness of God is omnipotent; it can create a clean heart in him that repents, and where sin abounded it can make grace abound more than ever sin abounded. The word of pardon will come down from heaven, like plentiful rain upon parched land, and that land will yield a rich harvest. But let the sinner give ear to the rest of the prophecy. Is man at liberty to accept or refuse this word that comes from heaven? May he, for the present, neglect it, in the hope that he will give it a welcome later on, when his life is at its close? No; God says to us by the prophet: “Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found; call ye upon Him, while He is near.” We cannot, therefore, find the Lord just when it suits our fickle humour; His nearness to us is not always the same. Let us take heed; God has His times; the time for mercy may be followed by the time for justice. Jonas went through the streets of the proud city, and cried out: “Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed.” Ninive did not allow the forty days to pass without returning to the Lord: she put on sackcloth and ashes, she fasted, and she was spared. Let us imitate the earnest repentance of this guilty city; let us not set divine justice at defiance by refusing to do penance, or by doing it negligently. This Lent is, perhaps, the last God’s mercy will grant us. If we put off our conversion, God may refuse us another such opportunity. Let us meditate upon these words of the apostle, which repeat the truth told us in today’s Epistle: “The earth that drinketh in the rain which cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs, meet for them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God; but that which bringeth forth thorns and briars is reprobate, and very near unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt.”
Following my blog post some days ago about the extremely interesting blog Ars Orandi, I would like to make some observations – perhaps controversial, perhaps not – about the way my poor lights understand the actuosa participatio.
We all agree if one sits on the pew thinking of the afternoon’s football match you he is way short of the mark. We also all agree one should try to participate to Mass according to his own ability. But after reading the very interesting considerations of the author of the above mentioned blog, I could not avoid reasoning that in times past (pre Second Vatican Disaster) there were a lot of not so well-educated people who insisted in praying their rosary or their devotion during Mass rather than, as S. Pius X so beautifully puts it, “praying the Mass”. I know that this is the case from what I have heard in my family of what happened in past decades, and for having seen “church scenes” on several occasions in Italian films of the past.
There can be no doubt – I think – the ideal form of following the Mass is the already mentioned “praying the Mass” so beautifully encouraged by Pope St. Pius X. Still, it is a fact several decades later many members of the (oh, blast the political correctness…) working class still preferred the method of praying their own prayers during Mass, at least in Italy.
The latter way was, as a modern business consultant would put it, sub-optimal. But I wonder: was that not actuosa partecipatio, too? Could it be that the lady telling her beads was not also following – in a more generic way – what was happening at Mass? Could it that she missed the fundamental structure of the Mass, did not know when the Consecration was, and did not have at least an inkling of what was happening on the altar as she prayed? I think we can safely exclude it (for example, try to overlook the dramatic spiritual intensity of the Consecration in a Traditional Mass, if you can…).
Fast forward to the present times, when the wonderful reforms of the Second Vatican Castration force us to repeat many times what the priest has just said as if we were in kindergarten. Is this participatio more actuosa than the one of the old woman once going through he rosary beads; or does it tend to become rather a mechanical repetition of a ceremony not really lived in its spiritual intensity (much diminished in the Novus Ordo anyway), and not understood in its supernatural significance?
Mind: the old semi-illiterate woman telling her beads did not have any doubt about the significance of the Consecration whilst the Novus Ordo pewsitters, who are considered unable to even listen to a Psalm without repeatedly parroting one line, seem to struggle massively with the concept.
If we reflect on these and other examples (does the frantic hand-shaking help to stay near Christ? Or does it lead us away from Him, plunging us in the “community” dimension?), we must agree that actuosa participatio must not be defined within the limits of what is physically “done” at Mass in response to of accompaniment of the Priest’s doing, but must be extended at the way the pewsitter – and be he as uneducated as you like, and uncomfortable with anything other than his rosary- is “with it” as the Mass happens, fully aware of what is happening if very probably unaware of the minutiae of the procedure.
Of course, the priest’s attention in saying the black and doing the red must be, I think, obsessive. But this is in order for the priest to be able to forget himself as he celebrates the Mass and take every personalised or ego-driven aspect out of it. As in every kind of formal procedure – take the famous “Zen tea ceremony” – the celebrant forgets himself as he strictly follows a complex procedure not leaving him any space for ego-digressions, which is the reason why such kind of strictly regulated procedures – even outside of Christianity – never fail to attract the admired approval of the public.
But must the pewsitter be a parrot of the priest? Must he try to become another Zen master of ceremonies? Of course, the nearer he can follow the Mass, the better; but failing that, isn’t the old peasant saying her beads vastly better in her participation to mass than the modern crowds even – I have seen it many times – playing or drawing with their little children on the pews? Pray, what kind of “participation” is this? And why is such a kind of participation nowadays almost universally approved of, whilst the old woman saying her beads was suddenly not good enough?
Therefore my conclusion is: let the translated missals be distributed and used as widely as possible, and let us encourage everyone to “pray the Mass” as closely as they can. But let us put in the centre the actual understanding of the supernatural function of the Mass, and let us allow those who are not educated enough to feel comfortable with the strict following of the Mass to follow the Mass in their own prayerful and devout way.
It is the priest who must “say the black and do the red”, not the pewsitter.
I have become aware of this blog as the author has recently started to link to my blog, thus making me aware of his existence through the clicks coming from there.
This blog is so good, that upon first perusal of the most important links I have decided to immediately put it in my (ahem, extremely exclusive) “Blogroll” list.
As the name indicates, the blog is mainly concerned with liturgical and devotional matters. What makes it very interesting, though, is the different perspective given to the liturgy, seen not so much from the side of the priest, but rather examined closely from the side of the layman.
To discover the richness of this site, I suggest you read the “about this blog” page, (Achtung! This is an extensive programmatic statement rather than the usual short declaration of intent). Extremely interesting (and rather complete, too) is also the Q & A page, giving a vast background on the blog author. Vastly important is in my eyes the section (which you find on the right-hand column) about the “Methods of Hearing Mass by Lady Lucy Herbert”, with the brilliant “Blogger’s introduction” and, following, the various parts of an (as I suspect) enlightening book about less intuitive ways of actively participating to the Mass.
I intend to read this blog as I would read a book, as it is my impression that (besides containing a real book in the above mentioned “Methods”) its content is highly structured and a coherent ensemble of instruments helping the laity to profit from the Mass. The variety of topics will, in due course, inspire one or three reflections, with which I will of course afflict my patient readers.
For the moment, I can only suggest that you click the site and “take the tour”. It is really one of the best blogs I ever came across, and being written in English it is accessible to a worldwide audience.
My congratulations to the anonymous author, a man who has undergone rather severe trials in the past through the madness afflicting the Church (see the Q&A section), and has managed to maintain his intelligent loyalty to the Church intact.
Enjoy the blog.