I have frequently been moved to a deeper faith by various moments when I left something to the imagination or, as it is in the soul, faith. I leave some room for questioning and later have those questions answered. I made a much longer post about this before that I’m not going to dig up both to spare me shame and save my time. But at that time, I was reflecting on how angels don’t necessarily have consciousness, or at least don’t rely on it, the way we have do. God, being all-knowing, is conscious of everything. To aspire to God is to build truth on top of truth, never quite gaining as much as God, but definitely drawing nearer so long as the truths you compile are true.
As God would have it, I’ve been doing this over time — slowly testing, measuring, and collecting truths and adding them in with the other ones I know. I know this is something in psychology, something about schemas changing or being replaced. I guess that’s where I first encountered the idea — which makes all this even more poetic since I was atheist then.
Yesterday at Mass for Good Friday, I realized something that was a further development of a previous realization I had about Latin in Mass. I had the idea in my head for a while that, just like celebrating Mass Ad Orientem, the Latin in the Mass really proves that the whole thing is not for you. Months later, someone told me their mother disliked Latin Mass because she couldn’t understand it. I could understand the emotion, but not the logic because I really saw Mass as a ceremony whereby a group of the faithful praise God. The Latin is almost beside the point, or at least I thought it was. Latin was just the way God revealed himself to us, the language in which The Church formed it’s understanding of God.
But of course, this simple fact, taken as enough to compel me to continue my faith though not enough to quell my curiosity, was indeed not the whole truth. Maybe now I don’t even understand it wholly. Still, what I now think is that Latin is as much tradition as everything else. It is Tradere — what we have been handed; what was good once that we believe God has sanctified with the hope that we would do it again; what was pleasing to God once and will be pleasing again. So whether one understands Latin is not so important as the fact that in the fullness of the faith of those who composed the Latin prayers, propers, antiphons, and responses of the Latin Mass, we can find a full expression of our Faith. We read with gravity the words of saints in books, many cultures (such as the Mexican or Spanish tradition of venerating the cross by kissing their fingers after making the sign of the Cross) create their own way of loving God, and indeed what was codified in the Mass was an assembly of things people were already doing. That is, Pope St. Pius V, saint and pope, recognized meaningful devotions, prayers, songs, and responses and said that those holy acts are to be done by all in the Roman rite. And so we did for most of our history, not because we all understood Latin — although it is funny that so many cultures can understand parts of Latin — but because the Church pronounced it good believing God did so first. That is the authority the Church acts with, that is why we have not updated the Ave, Pater, or so many other prayers. What would we truly gain from updating them? They are Tradition, good at the moment they were handed down, good when we hand them on.
The second understanding I reached also developed slowly. For years now, well, 2, I have been struggling with the incongruities between what led me to the faith (Latin Mass; papal authority that popes acted and wrote with in the past; solid teaching both terse and lengthy when necessary; the willingness for Catholics to shoot off any number of faults visible in the world) and what I was seeing in Pope Francis, his defenders and friends, and the responses from the current culture to his papacy. I was struggling, more broadly, to believe that the Church since Vatican II did not change from the One prior. I still struggle with that, but less now that I know what to rely on: Tradition.
This point, so far as I’ve explained it, will probably not come as a shock to either sedevacantists, traditionalists, or those that vehemently defend Vatican II. For different reasons, I’m sure they all have some opinion on the matter. But what may be most provocative is the fact that I truly think they are all equally subject to this principle.
When someone clarifies what Francis means, they don’t refer solely to logic and Francis’s own words. That may be a step above Protestantism but it’s still below the duty of a Catholic. No, the person will mention what previous popes have said or what other documents in Church history say.
When someone points out that Vatican II has inserted into Catholicism a multitude of novelties, they are relying on the precedent set by other councils, popes, canon law, and other documents.
This is what makes us Catholic, what keeps us that way. It’s best we all accept that, and most of all accept that it is true for other we disagree with in our very soul. Otherwise, the idea that traditionalists are really the novel ones will remain a roadblock for understanding them, and the concern that Vatican II’s defenders are naive about Church teachings will remain cause for calling them heretics.
Indeed the traditionalists have already owned the word, so my rebuke might seem more towards those who simply say they are Catholic. However, the hope is that both traditionalists and Vatican II defenders can see neither are as different as they suppose.