And it came to pass yours truly directed his unworthy person toward the local church at lunchtime, in order to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass.
A huge queue (up to the end of the block) had formed itself outside of the building. As I went in, I noticed another huge queue had formed the other side of the entrance.
The Church had not one, but three masses at lunchtime, plus morning and evening. Obviously all packed.
At the end of my mass, we were made to go out from the fire exit to facilitate the entrance of the “huge crowd waiting outside” for the next one (so the priest, verbatim).
If it had not been for the Mass (which was reverent, but strictly NO) I would have fancied myself in 1957.
Those attending – working in a busy business district – were exactly the kind of people Francis bashes all the time: the well employed, going about their busy lives, almost all in suit and tie. They had nothing of “periphery” in them, nor was any sheep stink to be detected. They are the one supposed to be tepid, bashing in their own securities, and all that Francis rubbish we all know.
The interesting thing is that I attended the same Ash Wednesday mass in the same church some years ago, and there was absolutely nothing of the sort. Absolutely.Nothing.Of.The.Sort.
Now, let us make a little analysis here: is this the Francis Effect?
Clearly not. If Francis had such an effect on the crowds p, they would flock to Rome in droves before, during and after any Holy Year you can or cannot imagine. But they don't, and they actually seem to carefully avoid the place (the smoke of Satan stinks a lot after all).
What might, then, be happening? If you ask me, and unless this is an isolated episode, what is happening might be simply Providence. More and more people, of the more educated – and therefore informed – class, receive an echo of the controversies surrounding Francis; and this gives them a warm feeling of persistence of good values, a consoling, cosy sensation of “good things that won't go away”; and in time, this teanlates – with God's grace – in curiosity, and then interest, and then trial, and then regular practice.
Your humble correspondent could not hide a triumphant feeling, a total exhilaration at being out in the cold, queueing, and reminded of the packed churches of his early, blessed childhood in a Country where the Only Church was the State Religion. One tear, or three, of the purest joy might have escaped his old and tired, far too emotional eyes.
Today I was so proud of being a Catholic. So proud, that for forty minutes I almost forgot the Evil Clown and his band of thieves. It was exhilarating.
Bad Popes may come and go. They can inflict much damage.
But boy: the Church is – without a shadow of a doubt, and in a very visible way – the toughest shop on Earth.
Good Lord, how the times change…
When I was a child, cremation was actually not contemplated by your mainstream Italian (churchgoing or not) and from what I seem to understand not allowed in principle, though I think no one really cared. As to keeping them in urns at home, this is something you saw in American movies, and cringed.
If you want to know in what confused times we live, you can read here Italian Catholics are now not allowed to scatter the ashes or to have an urn at home.
If you read the article, you will notice a rather important thing: the mention of “burying the dead” as a work of mercy is not even mentioned.
Instead, we are treated with this beautiful snippet of post-Vatican II thinking: the Church will not defend a custom honoured by the centuries, and will happily allow Catholics to import masonic/protestant ways as long as long as they don’t do it in order to show hostility to the Church or loss of faith in the Resurrection.
Now, I understand this is not a doctrinal point, but come on: how can the Church hope to reinstate Catholic sanity, if she does not insist on traditional Catholic practices?
We see, once again, the equivocal mentality of the Vatican, in which a certain push or encouragement for the embracing of Catholicism goes together with a lack of courage to walk the walk after one has talked the talk.
So we see the Pontiff, and many others, insist on the loss of religious feeling, the growing consumerism, the void left by the abandoning of a healthy religious life. It just doesn’t seem to occur them to think that Catholicism has always maintained that this religious life is nourished and made more robust by countless practices and customs which, though not obligatory in themselves taken singularly, all together constitute the backbone of the Catholic life of a country.
It is very much like V II to think that a tepidly Catholic man or woman can be recovered to a traditional Catholic thinking, if the Church does not insist in a traditional catholic acting. This intimate union of spiritual life and everyday practices has always been a great strenght of Catholicism, and your grand-grandmother would even considered a life without Vespers or Rosary as deprived of a spiritual leg, even if – undoubtedly – there can be life without a leg. And would have told you, without the shadow of a doubt and without caring of what post Vatican II priests think, that to cremate bodies is un-Catholic, period; something you do only in case of absolute emergency, like pestilence; and which you otherwise do with rubbish or, in case, dogs.
The kindest thing I can say of this initiative is that it is not good enough, and shows a rather worrying love for gradualism in the best of cases, and a disregard for Catholic traditions and for works of mercy in the worst.
In case of doubt, always think WWMCGGT (what would my Catholic grand-grandmother think). Alas, I think this is a much safer guidance to what is authentically Catholic than many “guidelines” and “instructions” of these disgraceful times.