I am not qualified to discuss any of this as a theologian or philosopher or church historian or canon lawyer or even as someone with an opinion that deserves to be heard. I am just someone who has lived right through this revolution, who has seen it develop, who has watched the tragedy unfold right up to the disastrous pontificate of Pope Francis. I have seen and experienced it from within and in a sense have regarded it from without. Not in the sense of being outside the Church but in the sense of comprehending to a degree the bigger picture as the plot unfolded. I am an eye witness who is at least entitled to reflect on the tragedy I have lived through as a child, a youth and an adult, as a father and grandfather. A priest said to my family many years ago that, given constant exposure to the new mass, a family’s faith would be largely extinguished within two generations. This little vignette bears those prophetic words out, but it is not all doom and gloom.
I was five years old when Vatican 2 commenced in 1962. Obviously I was completely unaware of what it was let alone its possible ramifications. As I grew I went to the local parish primary school and became an altar boy serving novus ordo masses. However from my earliest memories I recall Dad having animated conversations and sometimes arguments with relatives and friends and even Mum about things happening in our Catholic Church and it was only over the course of years that I began to understand what was being discussed and what was at stake. I developed this awareness by osmosis rather than by lectures and study.
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In the early 70s my parents began driving from parish church to parish church on Sundays in the hope of finding a mass that didn’t contain gross novelties and a priest who still appeared to believe all the tenets of the Faith. I recall a priest at one of these churches saying in his sermon: “not that Jesus is really present in this bread and wine…”
That was red rag to the bull for my father and equally repugnant to me, even as a teenager. Another time the priest refused communion to us because we were kneeling at the rails. He insisted on us standing to receive holy communion, which we refused to do. Those parishes were crossed off our list. It was incidents like these that kindled in my heart a sharp awareness that there was a “good versus bad” battle raging within the Church, even though I was still largely unaware of the details. Like Dad, I just knew there was something terribly wrong and like him I had enough fire in my belly to be irritated.
Following the Council, a prince of the Church by the name of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was making headlines around the world by resisting the Vatican 2 zeitgeist. He came to Australia around this time (late 70s) and Dad was understandably eager to hear what this man had to say, since other bishops here in Australia whom he had approached were ‘understanding’ but at the same time unsupportive and inert, and that is how they remained. I met the archbishop, genuflected on the wrong knee and kissed his episcopal ring. Looking at that benign smile of his, I was simultaneously keenly aware of his sanctity and my sinfulness.
In the 70s I was a fairly typical teenager; I wasn’t floating around with my eyes and hands raised to heaven. I was attending modernist diocesan schools, obsessed with sport, growing my hair too long, enjoying the music and (regrettably) the fashions of the day, enjoying a relatively early introduction to alcohol and, not surprisingly, developing an interest in girls, fanned by proximity to the magnificent surf beaches of Sydney’s north shore where we lived at that time. The world was making some pretty convincing overtures and I, like most people my age, was listening.
Ironically, the Marist and Christian brothers running the schools I attended were giving out the same worldly messages. They were downplaying sin, even those unspeakable ones that have gripped society so tightly in recent years, showing immoral movies to upper high school students on Friday evenings at the school, talking up the “positives” of other religions while attacking the tenets of our own Catholic faith. Is it any wonder my peers developed doubts?
Most assuredly this was not all the brothers; many were holy men, but the radical ones were free to do as they pleased. Where two religion lessons finished the day at school I took the opportunity to leave early and catch the express bus. “Wagging school” was the term. Arriving home early Dad would make the obvious enquiry. “Double religion” was the short response and all that was needed for his approval.
There are so many moments in those years that I have long regretted, so many times when things could have gone horribly wrong, where loss of life would have spelt eternal disaster. Despite all this, neither I nor any of my four brothers rebelled and said “I’m not going to mass this Sunday”, like the majority of our peers did. I was a sinner but I had not participated in the mass apostasy that characterised my generation. I put this down to the prayers and sacrifices of our parents. In the end, who really knows why.
We went along to out-of-the-way places where a good old priest was still offering the sacrifice rather than inviting us to a meal. In these years a relatively small congregation of faithful in Sydney was spiritually nourished by a Vincentian priest by the name of Fr Fox who chose never to celebrate the novus ordo mass. As an aside, a young man about my age by the name of Mel Gibson was attending these masses with his parents Hutton and Anne and his siblings. Mad Max himself was attending Fr Fox’s mass. No wonder he was able to defeat the bad guys.
Anyway, fast forward a few years and our family moved bit by bit to Brisbane where we all settled into our adult lives. Here masses for a faithful few were celebrated in homes, halls and even an office building by a notorious diocesan priest, Fr. Buckley. Fathers Fox and Buckley sacrificed everything to provide the mass of all time to a small unworthy Catholic remnant. They endured censure, threats, ridicule, ostracism, calumny, you name it. As it turned out, what they were doing was heroically holding the fort for Archbishop Lefebvre who visited again in the early 80s and promised SSPX priests for Australia.
The next bit of the story I am sure has been repeated often throughout the world. The laity get together, buy a church or a property for conversion, an SSPX priest is assigned to that place, a parish is born and flourishes beyond all expectations. While some people come, experience the liturgy and the Catholic culture and then at some point disappear, as no doubt has happened throughout the history of the Church, the vast majority are deeply thankful for the privilege they have been offered.
Today there are many hundreds of people in the parish and I can safely say more than half of them are under 30 years of age. The excesses and scandals of the current pontificate are pushing more and more people to tradition. More than 200 children, including some of my grandchildren, are learning the ancient faith and attending the tridentine mass in a SSPX school independent of the Archdiocese and bulging at the seams (the school is achieving exceptional academic results as well). The school’s motto is ‘Sine Deo Nihil’ – ‘Without God there is Nothing’. How true. All this is what you can expect when lives are centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass of all time. Remember too, this is all happening within a raging sea of apostasy and militant secularism.
As I indicated earlier, Dad and Mum had five sons. Four of the five married. One married an already tradition-minded Catholic, one married a convert from agnosticism and two married girls brought up in the post Vatican 2 church who embraced tradition once exposed to it. From there, twenty five grand children (7 married) and to date eighteen great grand children – 61 people in a growing family counting Dad who has passed on. All but two of the grand children have embraced the faith with enthusiasm, and prayers are constantly offered up for those two. Family get-togethers are common, rowdy and joyful affairs. God will not be outdone in generosity.
There are other families within this parish and I am sure around the world with similar or more impressive stories to tell. I mention all this not to brag but to make a point. The point is we are rational creatures and we have to make choices. This story simply illustrates the importance of the choices we have to make as Catholics and the consequences of those choices even in this life.
A choice between the faith of all time and the counterfeit dross served up as something catholic; a choice to pray or not to pray (especially the rosary); a choice between children and worldly possessions; a choice between the real men being formed into priests of God in traditional seminaries and the often effeminate (or worse) social workers trickling from novus ordo seminaries who can offer nothing but worldly platitudes to their ever-diminishing flocks (with apologies to those holy seminarians with genuine vocations and priests of the novus ordo who are wearing themselves out with the best spiritual interests of their flocks at heart). Most importantly a choice between the beautiful ancient liturgy, the central act of worship in the Church and the greatest source of grace, and the new liturgy stripped as it is of its sacrificial character and even of good taste.
There is nothing extraordinary about the families I just described. They were the norm when the Tridentine Mass was the norm, when it was not ‘extraordinary’. They only look extraordinary now because the novus ordo mass is the norm. The contrast between the fecundity of the sacrifice of the Mass that Jesus Christ, God Himself, instituted and the sterility of the novus ordo meal, the work of a committee, could not be more stark. This is the greatest choice we have to make. Proximity to the Tridentine Mass has been a prime consideration in our deciding where to live and even where and when to holiday/vacation.
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Now a quick look at those who did not choose as my parents chose. I look at our aunties and uncles of Mum’s and Dad’s generation who were brought up with the ancient culture and the Mass of all time but who chose to drift with the tide; who accepted the novelties, sometimes with grieving hearts, who continued to pray and attend the novus ordo Mass on Sundays, but who deep down knew that something was terribly wrong.
In their twilight years some look at their often fragmented families and sadly lament while others try to convince themselves that all is good with the world, that God will understand their ‘concrete’ circumstances. They have eagerly swallowed the poison of subjectivism. Their children, my cousins, many of whom I happily spent my childhood and youth with, are by and large naturally good people who have known nothing but the sterile novus ordo and who, it could be argued, have hardly been given a choice in this respect. Some attempt to practice their faith, some don’t. Their children by and large have nothing because they had by and large nothing to pass on to them beyond natural virtues. For their children’s generation the faith does not come into their reckoning. They blend seamlessly into our secular, anti christian society.
Two generations and the faith is extinguished. The prophesy has come to pass.
The results of these choices are sadness, regret, self deception, denial of uncomfortable dogmas, feelings of helplessness and sometimes hopelessness; in some cases apostasy. These are the very fruits of modernism which is the motivating principle, the essence of the Council.
I say again, I have nothing to brag about. The above is not in any way self congratulation. I didn’t earn or deserve the happy life I have and I have everything for which to be thankful. What I have learnt without too much pain is that every choice we make has ramifications for both our temporal and spiritual lives.
Looking back over nearly 60 years of Vatican II, I have concluded that firstly the world and the Church are as they are now because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been largely replaced by a man-centred communal meal. The principal source of grace for the world has been all but cut off. That is the ultimate aim and the primary crime of the revolution. Neither the Church nor this world will be fixed until the Mass of all time is restored.
On a cheerier note, allowing for individual situations and speaking generally, choose tradition and you will be exposed to the beauty of Catholic liturgy and culture in all its forms including a clear connection to 2000 years of church history – you won’t be drifting aimlessly; you will know why you are Catholic and you will love and value your faith above all things; the world will never be able to serve up anything to make you despair; you will always have serenity within the depths of your soul; you will very likely have many happy and well adjusted children and grand children, and your life will always have purpose and joy even in tough times. I acknowledge times will get tougher for our children and their children but as mentioned above, God will not be outdone in generosity.
I thank God that I was guided to chose wisely, not having any idea what the rewards would be in this life, let alone in the life to come if I persevere. I thank my parents, those heroic isolated priests and Archbishop Lefebvre and his Society of St Pius X for being the instruments to bring about such a happy and fortunate life in this world of apostasy and despair.
There is still hope and joy on offer for people who choose wisely.