Archive for April, 2007

Saltbox Half Moon Bay

As my girlfriend Catherine and I were driving through the small coastal California town of Half Moon Bay, far away we saw this vision through the mists…a house…with a roof that looked, well, saltboxy. We approached closer.


It had all the characteristic features of a saltbox-style colonial house. The front was symetrical and pretty standard-looking, but the back had the large extended roof which was designed to allow for storage or extra space in the house. This one in particular, according the information outside it, has a Catholic chapel on the second floor. It was built in the1850s and more information about it is available here.  The website says it is the only saltbox on the west coast, which I find both fascinating and unfortunate.


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I do not particularly wish to make my blog an “all liturgy, all the time” sort of thing, but I am quite interested in the topic, and I do plan to post about it from time to time. Anyway, reading Mark Shea’s most recent liturgical comment I realized what I think is the source of some of the problems and misunderstanding between Traditional Latin Mass attendees and Novus Ordo attendees.
Firstly, I believe a major problem is the fact that there are radicals and crazies on both sides of the divide. Mr. Shea points out quite well in the post above that there are radicals among the TLM-side. Of course, there are radicals on the Novus Ordo side as well…they are well known to the point that it seems few orthodox Catholic writers feel a need to mention them. The liberals, the people who insert ribbon dancing and heretical hymns into the Mass, the people who look at communicants like they are aliens if they present their tongue rather than their hands, and so on, are very, very well known. They would never even bother to discuss the differences between a TLM and a well-celebrated NO, because to them its all the same. These people, alas, are often taken as representative of all NO attendees by TLM attendees. However, to orthodox NO attendees, these people probably do not look particularly important. In fact, given that such people differ very little from the average person in society, such people are not noticed as much as a radical Traditionalist, who seems very different from society and from everything else that most modern people have experienced. The radical Traditionalist in fact looks and seems crazier than the radical liberal, simply because radical liberals are a dime a dozen. Thus, many orthodox NO attendees see these radicals as typical of TLM attendees. Thus, each side views the other as a far worse thing that either actually is, if one counts only those who are truly Catholics devoted to their faith.

Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, both sides I think are on the defensive. No one, of course, likes to encounter those who consider them inferior. Given that I tend to be on the “TLM” side of things, I have seen many instances of the Mass I attend being seen as inferior. I’m sure that the NO attendees have encountered TLM attendees who see the NO as inferior. Each side, it seems to me, expects persecution, and therefore has a tendency to heap it on the other side. For instance, when someone else says they prefer the NO, I know I feel a twinge of defensiveness, like I must stand up and defend the TLM from someone who hates it. Now, in many cases the person in question does not hate the TLM at all. Similarly, I have heard people say “I just don’t like the people there who hate me for going to a NO Mass sometimes” about a Traditionalist community. Therefore, I believe that our natural defensiveness of our own “side” has resulted in the current situation, of both sides of the debate able to legitimately call the other side, at times, oppressive.

For one last thought, I believe that I must explain that I am not using the term “sides” to imply war between the two positions. I believe that they are both legitimate, and that while I may pray that more people begin to attend the TLM, I must also pray that the Church become more, not less, unified. I believe that by generous application of the TLM, the Church will indeed become more unified, not only to each other in the present day but also to the Church throughout the ages.

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First of all, this being my first post for today, I wanted to welcome all of you who have come from Mark Shea’s blog, and thank him for providing a link.  I hope you all enjoy my blog, and that my posts have proved interesting to you.

Anyway, I wanted to discuss an observation I have made, and see what my new-found readership thinks of it.  I have noticed that often, the ideas of prestige and merit have become completely disconnected in our society.  Of course, the most obvious area this has occurred is the area of education.  I know people who are completely unconcerned with the quality of their child’s education: to them, the purpose of four years at a University is a degree stating what University it is from.  To such people, the ease of obtaining employment and the potential starting pay of their child is more important than whether their child receives the intellectual and cultural benefits once associated with the idea of a University.  Of course, they think, prestige is the primary factor.  Why, if it were not, would more prestigious schools cost so much more?

I do not have all that strong of an opinion on the practical matters involved here.  I do not know what it is like to have gone somewhere besides where I went.  I am graduating with two degrees from the at least regionally prestigious Santa Clara University, and it is not particularly easy to find a satisfactory job.  I don’t know if someone from San Jose State with my same degrees would have a harder time of it, or if someone from Stanford with the same degrees would have an easier time.

However, I do have a strong opinion about the attitude that drives such differences.  The idea that “you’re paying for the piece of paper” is seriously destructive to the student and to the University.  Society becomes a game of obtaining better and better “pieces of paper” at the expense of your time and money, to the point that one may not seriously think about other things for a long time.  If a University exists to promote truth and wisdom, than the student is paying for something far greater than paper.  If a University exists to sell paper at an exceedingly high price, than a degree from that University would not seem to be worth the time, effort, and money that went into the education.

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I have noticed lately that a couple of the “big” Catholic blogs have had some debates about the Traditional Latin Mass and what the Motu Proprio will mean. Mark Shea has a couple of posts here and here which discuss the possibility of the Motu Proprio. Mr. Shea expresses his lack of interest, and several other commenters seem interested in expressing their satisfaction with the Novus Ordo Mass and disinterest or even criticisms of the Traditional Mass. Over at Jimmy Akin‘s blog, this discussion of prayers in the old Mass perceived of anti-Semitic becomes quite an argument, with some unpleasant comments from both sides. These arguments, especially those at Jimmy Akin’s blog, go on a long time, and I cannot summarize all of them. However, I am fascinated by the nastiness of such debates, and how quickly the issue of rites of the Mass becomes a contentious one.

My background, as a convert from no religious background, who was baptized as an adult in the extreme liberal world of Santa Clara University’s Campus Ministry, is somewhat different. Much of my introduction to true Catholicism, and not just what was taught in my rather pedestrian RCIA class, was from websites and blogs like the ones I mention above. However, I had somehow come to think, foolishly, that there were only two sides to the debate: bongo-beating liberal liturgical abusers on the one hand and Latin-loving orthodox Catholics on the other. I was wrong, obviously, but I still do not entirely see what the great division is between the people who favor orthodox liturgy in either the Novus Ordo or the Tridentine rites.

I have noticed that there is a sort of myth, at least I believe it to be a myth, that those of us who go to the Traditional Mass tend to be unpleasant “liturgical police” who want everything to be absolutely perfect or else we will declare the priest a heretic. I have not noticed any such thing. Perhaps it is true of some people, but as far as I can tell most Traditional Mass-goers (traditionalists? this is a difficult word, as so many people, when presented with the kind of argument I am making, say essentially “no, a traditionalist is just one of the mean ones”) are just like anyone else. When I go to the Traditional Mass in Santa Clara, at Our Mother of Perpetual Help, I talk to people who were going to that chapel for years, before its status was normalized. I never went there then, because I am intent on obeying the rules and going only to approved Masses, so I expected that surely at least those people would be bitter and angry. But the ones I talked to were not. They were friendly, clearly have a preference for the Traditional Mass, but even there I have never heard anyone speculate that the Novus Ordo Mass is illegitimate. Perhaps my experience is unique, but even if it is I can say that most Traditional Mass-goers are just normal people with a preference.

I prefer the Traditional Mass. I do believe it is a better reflection of the Catholic faith, and that the changes suggested by Vatican II should have been smaller and more organic. If I did not prefer it, I simply wouldn’t go to it. However, I also recognize that if the Novus Ordo Mass were celebrated the way it should be, most simple Catholics who haven’t studied the matter would probably not see much difference. Thus, it seems to me that since all of us who are orthodox should care about liturgical correctness, the Traditional Mass-goers should not be held in the kind of suspicion that we very often are. While it happens sometimes that a traditionalist will attack the Novus Ordo Mass and its attendees, it is not common, and I find that often the Novus Ordo supporter in a debate is on the defensive against the semi-mythical “mean trad” before the debate even starts.

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I have often heard people discussing whether or not it is acceptable to “priest-shop” for confession.  Of course there are many reasons to do it: the priest has heard you confess that sin before,  confession is only face to face and you know the priest, you don’t wish to be embarrassed, or, more spiritually, you believe that priest may not give you good advice or a sufficient penance.  Furthermore, I have yet to see anyone produce an actual quote of a restriction against it: we are permitted to confess or not confess to any priest who is validly and licitly able to hear our confessions.

However, I have done it before, and I can say that it definitely feels sinful.  Once I did it because I had confessed to the priest before and I knew he was rather stern, and I got frightened.  Another time I did it because I knew the priest in question and knew that he would know my voice, and I did not wish to confess in particular to him.  I believe that while perhaps the practice of priest-avoidance is not specifically banned, it seems to me to be based in a desire to maintain pride.  While other forms of “priest-shopping” such as that to find a good adviser and spiritual mentor, may be beneficial, it seems to me that the kind I describe is a misplaced sorrow.  If I commit a sin, I ought to be sorry to God and to the Church.  If a feel a sense of guilt and even shame about it, I should turn that into a desire to never again commit the sin.  Sometimes, though, rather than a desire to never again sin, I find that I merely wish I didn’t have to confess a sin.

I don’t know what kind of advice to give about this topic, and I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice.  I can say that what I do is simply go to confession often and keep trying, and I think that, while it hasn’t made me perfect, it has helped me to know where to turn for repentance, and not to lose sight of my goal.

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Today’s Poem

As promised, I plan to post poems from “Poems of Marie” by Harriet M. Skidmore. Also, I forgot to give the other, and I think more beautiful, name of the book, which is printed on the spine: “Beside the Western Sea”. Anyway, here is one such poem, a short one this time.

“There Stood, By The Cross of Jesus, His Mother”

By Harriet M. Skidmore

With a weight of grief o’erladen,

Weary, helpless and forlorn,

Stood a sweet and sinless maiden,

Close beside the tree of scorn.

Ay, while He, our God, our Brother,

With His life redeemed our loss,

Bravely stood His Maiden-Mother

By His blood-empurpled cross.


Silent, meek, and uncomplaining,

By that cross whereon He hung,

From all coward grief refraining,

Till the end that Mother clung.

Learn, O heart with grief o’erladen,

Weakly fainting ‘neath the rod!

Patience from that mourning maiden,

From the Mother of your God!


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Sorry to have left so soon after starting my blog…I was out of town for the weekend, and I expected to have internet access but I did not.  And then I got sick with a bad cold, and I was unable to even think about blogging for a couple days.  Anyway, I’m back, and I have a few posts planned for tonight and tomorrow.

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