That worthy man of God, the Traditional Catholic Priest, has a very interesting post outlining the long path to the priesthood used for many, many centuries before the usual “reforms” of V II. Father points out that the system is still in place, intact, not only by the SSPX, but also by traditionalist orders in what the Vatican calls “full communion with Rome”.
We see here at work something that is one of the very marks of V II: the dumbing down of pretty much everything.
The Church founded by Our Lord on Peter obviously developed Her own customs, procedures and ordnances in time, no doubt with the assistance of the Holy Ghost. This development was not a betrayal of the original “simplicity”, but rather the unavoidable consequence of the growing ability to better reflect in exterior acts, procedures, clothes & Co. the reality of the Church, and make Her work more efficient and more easily recognisable.
The “second Christians” (I call in this way, and forgive the joke, those who came after the extremely famed “first Christians”) weren't less Christian, or more interested in ceremony than their predecessors; nor were they lovers of useless pomp, procedural complications, or expensive vestments. They were, very simply, aware that things could be done better, and this is what they set up to do.
The entire process ended up in an edifice that made the Church not only better suited to pursue Her mission, but highly recognisable in all Her dealings.
Enter V II, and the desire – naive, or evil – to simplify everything. The dismantling of all those “complicated” parts of Church life – from the ecclesiastical career, to the Liturgy, to the dress code, to the devotional life to mention only some – have now been put in pace and “tested” for several decades. Result?
1. A massive crisis of vocation. If the priest is one of us, there's no reason why anyone among us should become a priest.
2. A tragic decline in mass attendance due, in part, to a dumbed-down, second-class liturgy.
3. Priests (or nuns!) who are often not even recognisable as such on the street, which again goes hand in hand with many of them barely recognising themselves as priests as opposed to, say, social workers. Again, this results in decline of attendance.
4. Massive loss of faith as the obvious result of people not even being taught to pray because hey, it's so arid and structured.
What do we learn from all this? Dumb down the way you do things, and you'll become dumb yourself. Priests who lose sight of their role become dumb priests. A liturgy that tries to be “easy” and “accessible” becomes a dumb liturgy. The “simplification” of the way the personnel looks leads to them becoming both invisible and ashamed of being seen for what they are. The encouragement to “spontaneous” prayer becomes the loss of the habit of praying.
V II has dumbed down not only the priesthood, but everything else. As a result not only the priestly vocations, but everything else suffered.
In time, more and more within the Church will discover this simple facts of life. Not, however, before the impious generation who brought us this mess, and possibly the one after, are six feet under. It is necessary that the punishment for our stupidity be paid according to the Lord's will before sanity goes back again.
We, dutiful sons of the Church, see and denounce the dumbing down. We are a minority now, but we are the spearhead. In time, our descendants will put a remedy to this.
As Francis’ antics continue unabated, the ranks of those who cry scandal grows. This puts those under pressure from whom it can be legitimately expected that they say something about it. I am not talking of blogging priests here – I have received messages of encouragement from several priests, all saying in various ways “we cannot criticise the Pope the way you do” -, for which obvious allowances must be made; rather I refer to those media outlets run by laymen, and without a hierarchical relationship with the Pope.
Most notable among those outlets is, of course, Michael Voris’ effort. Voris has, at least up to now, embraced a policy of almost total silence concerning the elephant in the room; or rather, the bull in the China shop.
When you visit Voris’ site, you still find very interesting contributions about the careless ways some of the employee handle the china, the way the windows are kept dirty and shabby, the chaos on the shelves and the lack of proper presentation of the china itself. What you do not find, is a word about the bull which, at the same time, is destroying the china with mucho gusto, and is being praised to the sky by those who wish to see the shop razed to the ground.
Now: Voris has all the right to ignore the bull, and I believe he is sincere in his thinking that to criticise said animal might do more damage than by allowing it to keep breaking china whilst complaining about the careless employees. I do take exception, though, when this arrives to the point of criticising those who criticise the Pope; because this means simply not to understand that those who criticise the Bishop of Rome do so out of love for Christ and His Church, and see in the criticism as much of a duty as Voris sees in his silence.
For some days now a statement has been circulating, that is unduly critical of all those good Catholics who think it their duty to protect the faithful from the devastations of the Humble Bull. Someone posted it on my comment box. I did not like it one bit, and found it not Voris-like. I think it should be removed.
The thinking does not make sense. The Pope is not some kind of Demi-God. He is the successor of Peter, but every Bishop is the successor of the Apostles. If, therefore, criticism of the successor of Peter can confuse the faithful, then criticism of the successors of the Apostles should also be avoided.
Furthermore, the idea that when a Pope gives scandal the best thing to do would be to be silent in front of the scandal is utterly outlandish. It is, in fact, scandalous. A bad Pope alone gives more scandal than thirty bad Cardinals together. If scandal must be fought against, than the Pope’s scandal first. If it is better to shut up, than it is better to always shut up.
Thirdly, the strange mixture of half-admission and half-denial will not work in the long term. To say “we have seen that there is a problem, we merely refuse to deal with it” will in time anger both those who see the problem, and those who don’t. Catholicism has a way of its own of putting one in front of a choice: one can’t approve of Christ and not disapprove of Francis. Not, at least, if he isn’t a priest, whose incardination in a hierarchical system gives him, so to speak, an added public duty that can probably be legitimately exercised as long as Francis’ antics do not reach the level of formal heresy.
I do not know exactly who runs the show at Church Militant TV, and whether Voris has the last say on what goes there, and what not. But certainly, whoever takes the decisions there is responsible for what is presented as the sender’s opinion, and by being the most public voice of CMTV Voris must also accept to be identified with such statements. Again, the thing to do would be to remove the mini-manifesto at once.
I have lost interest in Church Militant TV, and for a while now have not posted or commented on any of their videos. I am sure the quality is customarily high, and I am also sure of the honesty of most of the people involved; but it goes against my grain to watch a programme dealing with some problems in some parts of the vast Empire, whilst Rome itself is burning.
Rome will not be destroyed; but Rome is burning all right. We need for more and more followed public voices to take a clear stance and say that this has to stop. As the number of the critics grows, the public opinion will be made increasingly more aware about the issues on the ground. Countless are now confused, unable to understand this madness, desperately trying to find a logic in this absurd situation, or simply disappointed in what they see as merely another political party on a popularity drive. It is time to do what we can to put pressure on the Humble Bull, and let him understand that we don’t care for his more or less blood-chilling motivations, whatever they may be. We will never be sold on this rubbish.
We side with Catholicism as God commanded.
The Bishop complains because when he was an altar boy “he could only keep his hands so far apart”.
A first parish priest tells him the Traditional Mass is invalid.
A second priest says it is prohibited. He seems to relent after being showed the documents, then tries to have the mass suppressed again.
The bishop says the people only understand Spanish, you see…
You may think this is a joke, and something like that could never happen in the Church after Summorum Pontificum.
You would be wrong.
May the Lord reward this good man of God.
It does not happen very often that the likes of Yours Truly (and of his readers, who must all be carved out of the same, or at least a similar wood) are called “trendy” by a magazine read all over the world. More often, adjectives like “backward”, “narrow-minded” and the unfailing “homophobic” will be used.
Of course, being a magazine with planetary readership does not mean that the magazine is any good; but what it certainly means is that when such a magazine decides to host an article about a certain “trend”, the world has started to notice. Therefore, when – as I have from His hermeneuticalness – the “Economist” suddenly discovers that we “traddies” are the real “trendies”, they do nothing more than registering a phenomenon less and less capable of being ignored: sound Catholics are taking over the grassroots and are – and this must also be said – clearly intentioned to demolish the wall of madness built – and still maintained – by fifty years of drunken, stupid, and cowardly V II masonry.
We, we “traddies” are the real “trendies”! We are the future, because we are the real past. We are the orthodox ones, and the VII generation is on our way. Our ilk already produces a shocking percentage of new vocations (look at the SSPX statistics for France!) and will, in a decade or three, produce a corresponding number of bishops and cardinals. This, in turn, will give us Popes actually able and willing to do their job properly.
Even the “Economist” has noticed. No better way to say it.
One of the most striking practical differences between the Church of the past and the post-Vatican II one is an alarming fixation with “joy”. I cannot remember one homily from Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols and obligatorily read from the pulpit which did not insist on the concept. I also heard it mentioned from several NuChurch priests that the best way for Catholic to spread the Faith is to “give witness” with their “joy”.
This is, obviously if not explicitly, as opposed to vocally defend the Faith.
The image such inane waffling conjures (at least to my eyes) is of a bunch of not very intelligent looking men and women going around with a permanent grin on their face and in the meantime putting up with whatever error or abomination they see around them. This is in practice what happens on a daily basis, at least in what concerns the putting up.
Please contrast this with the clear message coming to us from traditional Catholicism: a sobering warning about the meaning and aim of life, and the terrible consequences of throwing away the only – if long – chance given to us. This obviously does not mean joy cannot have its place at the table of life; merely that things are a bit more serious and complicated than senseless feel-good waffle for the uninstructed masses (who should remain so).
This obsession with “joy” also has worrying new-age undertones as the dimension of suffering, on which the entire edifice of Christianity is built, is in this way all too easily downplayed or altogether forgotten. Christ died on the Cross for us, suffering unspeakable pain. Mary’s life was marked by a life of suffering not only in her (nowadays conveniently overlooked by NuChurch) Seven Sorrows, but on closer reflection in every day of her life with Jesus (ask a mother what it would be like to see her boy grow under her eyes, knowing he will be insulted, humiliated, tortured and sent to a most horrible death).
For centuries, saints and common people have offered their suffering to Christ, deposing them at the foot of the Cross with patience, humility and faith. It is easy to say that all this is not forgotten, but in reality this is what happens when joy, not suffering, is put at centre stage.
Then there is the already mentioned aspect of the easy capitulation on front of the world this “joy” thing drives to. I see it here in Blighty every day, with the priests’ and bishops’ call to “joy” and its “witness” substituting every call for serious cultural battle on the many, many issues on which the Truth and the world collide. It seems to me as if said priests and bishops would want us to believe this world is an amusement park (note: new age mentality creeping up again).
I thought it was a vale of tears.
From this “let us have fun with our joyous message” comes the utter silence in front of almost every abomination, in the childish illusion – real, or conveniently pretended – that the “witness” of “joy” will do the trick of its own energy.
Hence, also, prelates like Cardinal Dolan, a man who seems to insist in giving a public perception of himself as permanently exhilarated, no doubt a direct consequence of his so heartily felt “joy” (the wine at the Al Smith banquet must have been good, though..). In an occasional moment of jaw inaction he should be explained the meaning of the old adage Risus abundat in ore stultorum, and I am not sure at all the Cardinal is an exception to this wise rule of common sense.
It is time our Bishops and Cardinals take on the real issues on the table and point out that this life is, among other things, also a call to bear every suffering God pleases to send to us – or that we have merited through our sinfulness and stubborn behaviour – with a Christian attitude, in the firm knowledge that this life is a battle, not a walk in the park.
Enough with the feel-good waffle. Treat us as adults with a judgement to undergo and a salvation to obtain, rather than like children to be kept satisfied.
The Catholic Herald has a nice article targeting the questionable taste of much Catholic merchandise. The style is light-hearted, but the problem is real 😉
Yours truly also had his moment of shame, as the “luminous statue” therein portrayed reminded him of a similar (though technologically less advanced, no doubt) statue of Mary his sister used to have when a child. It was one of those blueish things which became luminous when you were in the dark. We darkened the room just to see it glow and were lost in wonder. Happy days.
In my eyes, there are two different problems:
1) the overabundance of tacky material and
2) the scarcity of good material.
I wouldn’t be too concerned with 1) as in the end de gustibus non est disputandum and if there is such a good market for these articles it means that a lot of people take the conscious decision of buying them 😉 . In the end, a questionable sacred image is better than no image at all and one can only be proud that Catholics do want to show their allegiance.
I am more concerned with 2), or the difficulty one has in finding articles in a reasonable price bracket which are not diabetes-inducing. I have looked for ages for a fitting Sacred Heart of Jesus for my bedroom. All the ones I saw had Our Lord depicted with an expression (I am sorry to say that, but it is merely a reflection on the quality of the relevant artist’s product) as if He had eaten too much chocolate, was not completely awake or had doubts about his manliness. I couldn’t imagine having any of such images on the wall of my bedroom for who knows how long and so I continued to postpone the purchase until I found a beautiful one from the excellent Southwell Books, (unfortunately not on sale anymore on that site) which instantly persuaded me. A manly Jesus, extremely expressive, with a serious but at the same time loving expression, looking straight at you and opening his arms to you in a beautiful embrace. Can’t look at it without a small act of contrition and a sign of the cross. No masterwork of the Renaissance, but the artist who made it surely put some thoughts into his work.
Same problem if you want to find a crucifix. The all-metal ones I always found too cold; plus, a lot of crucifixes nowadays have unconventional forms (the need to constantly re-invent everything is one of the most disquieting signs of the times….); the ones with a clearly plasticky Body I always found a fist in the eye; the “Christ on the Cross but surprise, already resurrected”-ones seem to me to downplay the message I want to get from a crucifix in the first place. I settled for a wood-and-metal one from the beautiful “Padre Pio Bookshop” near Victoria Station. Wood with metal body; very classic; timeless.
But try to find something nice about padre Pio to hang at the wall and the problems starts again (it would seem that tacky plastic statuettes are all the rage…..).
Also, still looking for a beautiful Padre Pio window sticker because I have no intention to settle for this, though I am sure it is far more stylish than the Sacred Heart of Jesus you see in the image above or the Maria USD stick whose inscription also adorns the title of this entry. A short google reaearch showed that you can buy it for EUR 59. For a USB sticker. I’m sure the producers will thank Mary, a lot.
I have written yesterday about the drama of Anglicanism, where more and more people are discovering that they belong to the wrong shop without being able to draw the uneasy, but necessary consequences.
Today I’d like to point your attention to an article from the Anglican “Church Times” giving some insights of what is happening within the Anglican Communion and how most Anglicans will react.
Last weekend, a South East Asian representative of the Anglican Communion put to the vote the proposal to….. kick their American province out. It does make sense: once acknowledged that their theology has become so fundamentally different in a lot of key areas, it is plainly absurd to continue to pretend the existence of a unity which is not there anymore.
As a Catholic, one understands them all too well. To be united in one religious community means to believe the same things, failing which we have different communities. The Arians, the Nestorians, the Pelagians etc. have been declared not to be part of the Church because…. they didn’t believe what the Church believed.
Anglicanism seems to work differently, at least in its (as the Church Times says) “overwhelming majority”. No theological difference is so big that it would justify a separation. Rather, compromises are sought (and invariably found). For an Anglican, a separation would (and I quote again) “inhibit dialogue” and be therefore “unhelpful”.
As a result, the Anglican Communion will continue to have in its midst people who believe everything and its contrary; in transubstantiation, in consubstantiation, or in none of the two; who are in favour of bishopesses and priestesses, in favour of priestesses but against bishopesses, or against both; who consider themselves Catholics of the One Catholic Church (funny, this), Catholics of a separated church (funny that, too) or (correctly) Protestants; who believe in apostolic succession, or select their bishops through a democratic process; who consider homosexuality a perversion, or fine until one doesn’t commit sodomy, or jolly good and perfectly in order whatever one does; who want their bishops straight, or homosexual provided they are celibate, or homosexuals and living with their lover provided there is no sex (it gets funnier and funnier), or homosexual with a lover and full-blown sodomy and this is absolutely spiffing.
This is modern Anglicanism. Its only commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Split”. No difference is so big that it should “inhibit dialogue”, even when the differences are clearly insurmountable. Some of them will one day, unavoidably, recognise that this has become a parody of a Communion (and Anglicanism in vast parts a parody of Christianity) and will leave; but they’ll be a minority, no doubt considered “intolerant” and “judgmental” from the rest.
Imagine now Christianity of the first centuries. Imagine the Church saying to the Arians that there are differences, but they will be dealt with in a spirit of dialogue; telling the Nestorians that to declare them heretics would be “unhelpful”; telling the Pelagians that they will not be excluded from communion because the work of the Church “would be diminished if it lacked a range of opinions”.
“Ahh – I hear you saying – but the Church would never do that because the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and these ecclesial communities aren’t; which is why they change theology, split continuously or remain together with different creeds and end up believing in inclusiveness and niceness as only guiding values”. And you are right, very right.
It remains a mystery to me how Anglicans can see the scale of the mess and still believe that the Holy Ghost is in any way, shape or form behind the Anglican Communion; how they can see the transformation of their communion into something completely different, nay, into many things completely different from each other and still pretend that it is the same thing as, say, only 100 years ago; how they can see the Holy Spirit inspiring one generation to believe the exact contrary of what former generations have been inspired to believe.
When we Catholics complain (as we should) that the one or other priest is heterodox, the one or other bishop socialist or the one or other cardinal outright devilish we should still reflect that no Pope or Council has ever said that divorce, abortion, sodomy, priestesses, bishopesses, consubstantiation & Co., & Co. are, henceforward, to be considered just fine. We should consider this and say: Thank God I’m Catholic.
A Novena is a cycle of prayers repeated for nine times (generally every day for nine consecutive days, in urgent cases every hour for nine consecutive hours) either in public or at home as a private devotion, generally in order to obtain a grace or blessing. It started to spread during the middle age and was practiced with increased frequency in the following centuries. From the nineteen century – with the attachment of indulgences to certain novenas – they received official recognition. Novenas are part of those once extremely popular and then – in the wake of the aggiornamento – almost forgotten traditions now experiencing a revival in line with the general recovery of Catholic practices and devotions.
Novenas are very numerous and different in structure (say: a Padre Pio Novena is different from a Francis Xavier Novena) but all of them contain invocations specific to the one who is invoked and various combinations and repetitions of traditional prayers.
Their origin seem to be in the special significance of the number nine. Jesus died on the ninth hour of the day according to the Jewish (and unless I am mistaken, Roman) hour counting (starting at 6 am in the morning). In addition, the Romans knew the parentalia novendialia, the yearly celebration of a set of rituals for nine consecutive days to remember the family’s dead. Moreover, the number nine seemed to be an apposite number because as the number ten symbolized perfection, the number nine symbolized the flaws and sinfulness of human nature. As already stated, it is generally acknowledged that a Novena is rather strictly linked to a situation of petition for the granting of some grace, whilst for more festive occasions the Octave is the favourite form.
To start a private Novena is extremely simple: google the text of one Novena particularly suited to you among the very many available and recite the prescribed set of prayer every day for nine consecutive days. The first thing you will notice is that a Novena forces you to a minimum of discipline and it is ideal to start creating a habit. If you are inconstant in your prayer life, there’s nothing better than a Novena (which doesn’t allow you to “skip a day”; if you do you’ll have to start again) to give your prayer life some discipline and structure. Public novenas may be recited in a church near you, at certain times of the year.
The author, who is devoted to Padre Pio, suggests the beautiful “Novena to Padre Pio”, which is modelled on the Novenas padre Pio himself used to pray. As you will see if you follow the link, this beautiful Novena is comprised of the following:
1) an invocation to Padre Pio, reflecting every day on a different aspect of this wonderful Saint;
2) a quote from Saint Padre Pio, also different every day and in keeping with the tone of the invocation;
3) a set of prayers (click on “Prayer to the Sacred Heart” to let it appear). In this case, the set of prayer is the “Prayer to the Sacred Heart”, which is in itself a set of traditional prayers.
This Novena will require around five minutes a day and, most importantly, some discipline and attention. Catholicism is not primarily about dramatic conversions and spectacular enlightenments, but about the simple, humble habit to stay with the Lord and the Saints every day. The idea is that real spiritual advancement is more easily achieved through slowly improving one’s habits than through the seeking of explosive emotional experiences in “Blues Brothers”-style.
Gutta cavat lapidem. Tell this to the friendly Protestant near you when you next hear him complaining about Catholic “superstitions”.
On June 22nd the Church remembered St. Thomas More, a martyr of the faith.
Thomas More is particularly relevant to our time because besides being a scholar, philosopher and author he was a highly successful and influential politician. Born in a wealthy family, he rose to the top of the English political establishment through intelligence, competence and honesty. These virtues were also what put a premature end to his life, as he preferred to die on the scaffold rather than compromise his allegiance to Jesus and His Church.
Let us reflect on this: he who had become the most powerful man in King Henry’s government, respected and privileged, wealthy to the point of having his own zoo, freely chooses to die rather than adjust his beliefs to the political climate of the times. Granted, he had always been an extremely religious person – and had played with the idea of monastic life in his youth – and the writer does not suggest that heroic virtue to the point of self-sacrifice be taken as the ordinary standard of a politician.
Still, people like Thomas More (and Bishop John Fisher, put to death for the same reason and canonised together with him) are a sober reminder of the scale of betrayal of Christian values daily perpetrated by people like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and the multitude of other politicians calling themselves Catholic whilst trampling upon everything Catholicism represents.
Thomas More is the more relevant today, because today’s politicians are the more distant from His probity and courage. He puts the Pelosis and Bidens of this world to great and greatly deserved shame.
I have reported about the irreverent and possibly blasphemous anti-Catholic Hyundai ad.
I found this on my email inbox:
Hello and thank you for your feedback regarding Hyundai advertising.
Hyundai Motor America would like to thank you and other consumers for sharing concerns about a new ad titled “Wedding” which aired during the opening games of the FIFA World Cup broadcast last week. We take comments of this nature very seriously. Because of feedback like yours, we have removed the ad from all Hyundai communications and stopped airing it.
We credit the passionate World Cup viewers and Hyundai owners for raising this issue to us. The unexpected response created by the ad, which combined both soccer and religious motifs to speak to the passion of international soccer fans, prompted us to take a more critical and informed look at the spot. Though unintentional, we now see it was insensitive. We appreciate your feedback and hope you will accept our sincere apologies.
Hyundai Motor America
The American Papist informs that Hyundai are now also cancelling the adv from youtube.
It is beautiful to see that when Catholics mobilise, results are obtained. One cannot avoid to think that Catholics should mobilise more often. Catholicism is defended by being vocal, not by being “nicely” coward.
The Psalmist’s rod and staff are traditionally used images to convey the fact that the faithful will invariably need unpleasant correction. As the shepherd uses the rod and the staff in a way which is not pleasant to the sheep but keeps them away from harm or sudden death, the spiritual shepherd must at times use his spiritual rod and staff to make clear to his sheep that they are headed in the wrong direction and a correction of course is needed. This kind of correction is unpleasant – more so in modern times, where more and more people think that they are the creators of their own moral coördinates – but is nevertheless necessary and salutary.
For too long, we have been led to believe that the good shepherd is the one who is popular among the sheep; the one whom the sheep consider a frightfully nice chap, a smiling tolerant inclusive fellow and, in short, a pleasant bloke all around. For too long, our spiritual shepherds have tried to be our friends rather than our guides, have thought that we would naturally grow out of all our shortcomings instead of charitably but clearly pointing out to them and have in general tried to avoid every occasion of making themselves, well, less popular. The first result of such a shepherd’s behaviour is that many of his sheep start to die; the second, that more and more sheep start to question whether they need a shepherd at all; the third, that an increasing number of sheep lose the sense of why the shepherd was there in the first place other than to entertain them with platitudes abundantly available everywhere.
Thankfully, all this slowly begins to change. As the post-Vatican II (and post Sixty-Eight) generation of priests slowly retires and a new generation of more orthodox priests begins to fill the pulpits, a clear tendency to a more assertive style of spiritual guidance is frequently noticed. The rod and the staff are coming back. You can see here that the Holy Father himself insists on the point.
The Holy Father’s words are particularly important, because they come at a time when the push toward tolerance at all costs is particularly strong within the secularised West; strong, in fact, to the point that such an “inclusiveness” seems to have become the new religion, the moral absolute and the ethical compass of a growing number of secular – or simply not properly instructed – individuals.
We need more of these assertive shepherds. We need more Fulton Sheens and less Roger Mahonys. We want our shepherd to use his rod and his staff to help us to grow instead spoiling us rotten so that he may be popular and have an easy life.
I have reported yesterday about the extraordinary opinions of Prince Charles regarding the so-called “religion of peace”.
We now read in the London “Times” of the hanging of a 7-year-old boy for being, it would appear, a collaborator of the US and NATO forces, but the fact that his father – a tribal elder in the village – has spoken out against the Taliban might, well, just have played a role…….
The motives are still unclear and the Taliban deny any responsibility for the fact (they would, wouldn’t they?). Perhaps it was a local feud; perhaps the Taliban wouldn’t dare to go openly against a village elder and have murdered his son; or perhaps it was just a spontaneous outburst of environmental zeal due to the fact that over there there is – as the Prince deigned to inform us – “no separation between man and nature”.
Whoever the responsible of this atrocious murder may be, could someone please tell Prince Charles that in Christian countries – where there is a separation between man and nature – children of seven are not found hanged at nearby trees.
One of the consequences of the remarkable levelling to the minimum common denominator of almost every conceivable activity is the scaling down of those elements of ceremony once cherished as beautiful and today considered arrogant or elitist. In fact, one can go as far as to say that nowadays whatever is not absolutely and tragically plain is at high risk of being labelled as “elitist” or “snob”. We see this everywhere but what I would like to mention with you today is the style of Papal appearances.
There was a time where a Pope would – on certain and particularly solemn occasions – be carried on a sedia gestatoria. This was a kind of movable throne, splendidly adorned, offering the advantage of making the Pope visible by a large crowd whilst at the same time beautifully stressing his (literally) exalted position. It goes without saying that the entire exercise was not entirely “democratic”, but as the Church never was and never would be no one really cared for such matters. On the contrary, in former times – before egalitarianism started to infiltrate every aspect of public life – such shows of authority were expected, respected and not disliked at all. Men need symbols and something like a sedia gestatoria had a highly symbolic meaning.
Not anymore, at least for now. John Paul II first refused to use it, evidently considering a Pope unworthy of being revered and honoured as such. John Paul II also started to dress down in other ways (for instance: no papal tiara).
If you ask me, dear reader, this is all very wrong. Men need symbols. They breath them. Few things are more natural and speak more directly to the human mind than the visual or aurial experience of power and authority. The Pope is powerful; he has authority. A lot of it, in fact, as we would be at a loss to find another person on the planet with the authority to remove or fire anyone of more than 400,000 employees of his organisation at will and with the only appeal given to…. himself; let alone a person with such a high moral authority over 1.15 billion faithful.
Men need symbols and those in position of power and authority have always naturally availed themselves of various means to stress this authority and to make it visible, palpable, audible. There is nothing wrong with that.
Pope Benedict is showing some timid signs of wanting to recover the rich symbolic tradition of the Papacy, but he has still not revived the use of the sedia gestatoria (nor that of the papal tiara). The nowadays omnipresent “security reasons” cannot be brought as an excuse because the use of the sedia gestatoria can be modified to make it safer (say: only within a church) and increase both the visibility and the safety of the Holy Father. Had a sedia gestatoria been used, last year’s episode in St. Peter could not have happened at all.
We are now seeing the first signs of a change of direction, albeit things proceed – as so often in Church matters – rather slowly. We can only hope that, in time, the vast symbolic patrimony of the Church will be fully recovered and proudly considered a powerful symbolic weapon instead of an embarrassment.