As there is such a discussion around, I have decided to inflict my own take on you.
I am a Catholic by God's Grace. A good Lord disposed that I be born in a still seriously – at least at the cultural level – Catholic country. I lapsed, like countless others, out of my own fault, and out of despise for a clergy unable or unwilling – as I see very clearly now, most likely unwilling – to teach the faith, and chiefly worried of showing you that they were your “friends” instead of old, stuffy people resembling your grandma. They were pathetic, cowardly, mostly unmanly figures unable to attract the respect of ordinary people, much less of young boys looking for manly guidance.
I lapsed. No, it wasn't a grace. It was a big disgrace. It was wrong, sinful, and stupid. There can be mitigating circumstances for lapsing, and I was certainly unaware of the significance of the decision, nor was I helped by my environment. But a sin it still remains.
I went back to the fold – meaning, to the Sacramental life; I never ceased to consider myself a Catholic, as millions of other non-practising Italians – after moving to the UK and finding a Country in which Christianity was merely an option, and rather an embarrassment. As so often, when something you always took for granted – a Christian Weltanschauung – is not there, you start to become more curious, because you now more or less unconsciously start to appreciate it more, and feel its absence. It was easy, and mainstream, in Italy you tell yourself a Catholic without practicing. Not only millions did, but no priest hammered into you the difference. Everyone was so modern, you see; but still, all shared an awful lot of values, and there was a strong basis of shared values among Italians.
I started to put my nose into the matter. Slowly but surely, a new awareness began to grow. The Internet, and the London Oratorians, made the rest. “Seek and you shall find”. The Internet opened to me a world so different from the Italian bookstores of old! Instead of the cheap V II, populist, kindergarten, diabetes-inducing rubbish – easily recognisable as fake even when you do not really know what is authentic – I found an endless well of old-fashioned Catholic wisdom. This wisdom was not only so beautiful, but so inexorably logical, coherent, complete, universal and still absolutely monolithic, that it immediately fascinated a man acquainted with philosophy, and (in his own stupid way) in love with Christianity. It was a block of granite, smashing the stale, sugary molasses of Vatican II into non-existence.
Reality itself was staring at me, because Catholicism is the only way to understand reality, and until you manage to grasp Catholicism life itself will remain outside of your grasp. My (always strong) thirst for knowledge of Truth and for God – a thirst that I could never quench with the babbling idiots of my youth – was now satisfied. I could drink at a well so clear, so fresh, so true, that it was a world of wonder. The Truth I always sought was just there, in the very fabric of the society in which I was born, in the very religion that still shaped so much of it. It was in the robust wisdom our grandmothers had often imperfectly, but always faithfully formulated. It was, in the end, all there. But because of my fault, and arrogance, I wasn't able to look below the thick layer of V II mud and recover the old religion of exactly those grandmothers; a religion which, if I had been determined to rediscover it, would have disclosed itself to me, in time, by God's grace, without decades of lapsed Catholicism; because God can never, ever want that you stop living the sacramental life, much less send this to you as a grace.
By my most grievous fault I decided, certainly before I was 14, perhaps before I was 13, that the Church wasn't worth my attendance; and ended up two decades later spending hours on my collections of several Bibles – I had no less than seven different texts – and comparing bible passages, for hours, like a thirsty madman, or reading around in a confused way; always thirsting, always toiling, never satisfied, never knowing whom to turn to, the German priests of my adulthood even worse than the Italian ones of my youth.
When I discovered Catholic wisdom, I felt elated and very stupid at the same time. It was all there, all the time. The most wonderful gourmet meal, already prepared for me by countless saints as God's exquisite chefs. All there for the asking, and reading, and praying. All there, most importantly of all, for my own salvation, if God's grace assist me and I cooperate with it.
The Catholic Church was right. Is right. Always was, always will. The Catholic Church has all the Truth, and she is the only Truth. The Catholic Church is right even when your priest is an idiot. The Catholic Church is right especially when your priest is an idiot, because then Her immutable Truth shines the more in contrast with the sugary blabbering of her unworthy minister. And then, you love Her more. And when an Evil Clown is Pope, you love Her most.
Scratch away the layer of mud, my friend. What you will find below is better than the purest gold.
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.
Delightful sketch of contemporary Catholic life from the Provost of the Brompton Oratory, and reported by Father Ray Blake.
Recently the Oratory Fathers were taken to task at the end of a Sunday High Mass. An elegant woman marched towards the Provost through the lingering fog of incense and demanded to know what we Oratorians thought we were playing at. The causes of consternation included expensive-looking flower arrangements at the Lady Altar, vestments and golden vessels that had been spotted in the Sanctuary. Surely these extravagances were from funds that should have been given to the poor?
It was explained that the flowers were leftovers from a wedding the day before and that the silver gilt chalice and ciborium had almost certainly been picked up for a song in the 1850s when ecclesiastical Swabian rococo was not much in vogue. The vestments are thread-bear from a century and a half of use and, while still charming for their faded beauty, are too far-gone to fetch good money at auction. The dialogue ended in a slightly more serene atmosphere than it had begun and the articulate woman drove away placated in a gleaming new car which Google searches revealed to have cost £90,000.
The elements shown by the older lady are extremely à la page, and yours truly is lost in wonder at seeing how the older generations are ready to embrace the signs of the time. From the hostility to beauty, to the Judas-like remark that money spent for Christ is better spent for the poor – not even spent in this case; but this is beside the point -, and from the obvious show of humble attachment for the less fortunate to the lavish expenses that go with it, the lady’s intervention embraces all the latest trends.
I seriously wonder if she wore black shoes.
Be it as it may, we see here the beautiful effects of Pope Francis’ Pontificate, with the Pewsitter coming forward and daring to speak for the poor. I don’t know if the champagne tastes better after this, but there will be some occasion for small conversation, and discreet self-aggrandisement.
How is it called now? Oh yes.
The Church was packed.
The celebration was extremely reverent.
The music was breathtaking – and inspiring – as always.
I haven’t spotted any woman among the viri selecti; who were, I assure you, all belonging to the Christian faith.
The photos are here.
I always liked Father Julian Large, and his extremely brave homilies were a great factor in my process of rapprochement to the sacramental life after decades as a lapsed Catholic. I particularly remember one beautiful homily, when he said incendiary (read: catholic) things about sodomy and invited any pew sitter not in agreement with them to denounce him to the police, adding it would be a privilege to be jailed for Christ.
I had never heard the like before. The style of the Oratorians in general (and of Father Large in particular) was so different from the “don’t kick the cat”-homilies of my childhood and early adolescence that I felt greatly motivated to deepen my neglected Catholicism and discover the treasures hidden, alas, under several strata of Vatican II mud.
This is the kind of man we want as a Pope.
Nowadays Father Large is the Provost of the Oratory, and his position might counsel him to be a tad more moderate in his utterances. Still, the man hasn’t lost his rather blunt writing style, as you can see from the phrase below, taken from the Oratory Website:
Only slightly less annoying than the predictable speculation on ‘Vatican power struggles’ are the pious platitudes that tend to emerge around the time of a Conclave: “Oh Father, we can relax. It’s the Holy Spirit who will choose the new Pope.” No. It is actually the cardinals who will elect the Pope, and the College of Cardinals is a fallible group of fallible men.
The refreshingly blunt character of the man is showed by the fact that he is positively annoyed by the pious platitudes concerning the Pope’s election. I was very glad to read his words, because I also experience a more than slight increase in my adrenaline level when I hear the one or other faithful talking as if the Church were a wireless toy car with the Holy Ghost firmly in charge of the remote control. To think so shows not only a worrying degree of naivety, but it even sounds to my ears remotely blasphemous, as it implies that the long list of utterly inadequate, positively corrupt or utterly disgraceful Popes of the past were carefully hand-picked by the Holy Ghost. Besides, it encourages inaction and passivity, another specialty of the V II church; and in fact, it’s impossible not to notice that those who talk about the Holy Ghost making all the work tend to be the least willing to put up a fight for Christ themselves.
“Why worry? The Holy Ghost is in charge!” Seriously, this is the stuff out of which persecutions of Christians are made.
The Church is run by men, and these men have all the qualities (good and bad) of the kind. They will choose more or less wisely according to their ability to discern wisely what the Church needs; but they might get it wrong, and even massively wrong, which is why a conclave is always such an important event. We must pray for the election of a good, strong Pope.
Father Large says the next Pope should be “Catholic, holy, wise and strong”. Personally I would, in my fear for the election of the wrong man, gladly settle for the first, third and fourth of these qualities, leaving the rest to the cares of the new Pope’s confessor. After John Paul II’s experience, I am very scared of another Pope chosen because of his holiness, without looking too hard to whether he has the character to lead a vast apparatus, and to be a King rather than a monk.
Oh Lord, please, please give us a strong Pope.
I have written some time ago about the Anglican madness (not the initiative of some obscure hot head, but the brainchild of the board of education of what calls itself the church of England) of limiting the places reserved to the Anglicans in their own schools to ten percent. If you don’t believe it, please read here.
Thankfully, I now receive the news that, among the best Catholics, there are those who do things in a diametrically opposed way. The London Oratory School demands that the parents of the prospective pupils attend Mass at the Oratory in a demonstrable way ( I think that there are registers to sign; this must be atrocious for the 68-ers generations, but it actually makes a lot of sense). Already this shows the great difference in mentality between those who believe in God and those who believe in political correctness.
It would now appear that the rules of admission might go beyond that, extending to the participation of the parents to the parish life beyond Mass attendance. Whilst this may or may not be an efficient criterium, it is clear to me that we are in front of people to whom Christ is truly King; people who see their educational mission as directly linked to the Christian faith, and the Christian faith as the shaping element of the life of the family.
I can’t think of a better way to describe the distance now separating mainstream Anglicanism (once again: look at the source of the above mentioned Anglican proposal) and orthodox Catholicism.
Thank God for the London Oratorians.
I am extremely disappointed in having being informed only yesterday that it was the “boycott Mass” Sunday. Had I known it before, I wouldn’t have missed the bigger part of the fun. Pity, really.
I attended at the Brompton Oratory, as usual. Eleven am Mass. Full, as usual. Perhaps (just perhaps) a bit more mantillas than usual. I might be wrong. Otherwise no, no differences. Surfing around it would seem that mass attendance was rather higher than usual, as in places where the initiative has been drummed people have chosen to show the wymyn what they think of them in the right way. The ways of the Lord….
Anyway: for those of you who don’t know, apparently some soi-disant “Catholic” wymyn has called for Catholic women to “boycott Mass” (I kid you not!) to protest against the oppression of the wymyn not allowed to be Popess, not even Bishopess, not even Parish Priestesses! The ignominy!
I am now waiting for their demand to have an artificial penis implanted at taxpayer’s cost, but I think for that we’ll have to wait a couple of years yet and it might be necessary to “boycott Confession”. It will be fun.
The concept of boycotting the Mass is so stupidly blasphemous that one is afraid that not even the stupidity of these wymyn may save them from actual mortal sin. To willingly, deliberately skip Mass was, last time I looked, already an objective mortal sin. I am scared of thinking of the subjective element in people inviting not to attend Mass for…… feminist reasons. I truly am!
What is really funny, though, is the idea that you can boycott a religious organisation by just not showing up. This is like saying that I have damaged Islam on Friday by not showing up at the local mosque. Or perhaps wymyn think that they are indispensable because of, well, the dough? This is rather strange, considering that for 20 centuries said dough has not really come in from women in any significant amount and the Church has expanded everywhere.
I would, anyway, encourage the wymyn to not call themselves Catholic and – most importantly – not to dare to receive the Most Holy Communion. If one thinks attentively about it, it can well be that this initiative has avoided 10 or 12 unworthy and sacrilegious attempts to receive the Real Presence. I therefore heartily invite all the unreformed feminists to continue with their protest until repentance or death. Better to die in mortal sin without a huge string of desecrations than with them.
Feminists of the world, wake up. You just don’t count. No, really.