"Open the churches, Your Excellencies. Follow the guidelines until April 30th but, in the meantime, do not let the anti-God, anti-family and anti-life secular state lock us out of the very places where hope springs eternal and where men are emboldened by God Himself to resist oppression. For God's sake, open our churches and let our priests bring the Lumen Christi to dispel the tenebrae of fear and debilitating panic. Trust in Almighty God, not the World Health Organization. For God's sake and the future of our country, open the churches now!" - Michael J. Matt
Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, USMC, was the most decorated and famed Marine of World War II, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant General. There is not a US Marine today who is unfamiliar with the history and the exploits of this legendary officer.As a regimental and then battalion commander in the South Pacific, Puller was on the receiving end of various complaints registered against his Catholic chaplains.
It seems that many Protestant marines, to the consternation of their chaplains, were eschewing their own services and attending those of the Catholics. At one point, a group of Protestant ministers requested from the commander that he issue a regulation requiring Catholics to attend Catholic Mass and Protestants to only attend Protestant services, that no crossing over between denominations was to be allowed.
Puller also received letters from more than one displeased mother complaining that Catholic priests were taking their Protestant sons and turning them into “Romans.”
“Chesty’s” answer was always pretty much the same to all objections. Although an Episcopalian, he was adamant in proclaiming that the Catholic chaplains were always at the side of the men in the midst of combat. When artillery shells were ripping bodies apart and bullets were killing and maiming, it was the Catholic priest in the midst of the carnage offering comfort and the Last Rites.
While the Protestant ministers could often be found at headquarters (Puller’s words, not mine) during a conflict – perhaps concerned about wives and families in the States – the priests were on the front lines, suffering and dying along the side of their “boys.” His answer to the complaints of the Protestant chaplains was for them to imitate the priests in their bravery and their flocks would return.
After the war, Puller complained to an Episcopalian bishop that the Episcopalian chaplains were of the lowest quality while the Catholic Church sent only their best, their most courageous, their most patriotic men. We Catholics know, however, there was no such initiative; these men were simply the natural product of the strict, spiritual, military-type training they were exposed to in the seminary. It was just a normal outcome for them to immerge manly and self-sacrificing. It was part of the atmosphere, and they imbibed it well.
Many readers of this article are familiar with Father Vincent Capodanno, the Navy chaplain assigned to various Marine units in Vietnam, and who was affectionately known to his men as “The Grunt Padre.” One has to appreciate the love and devotion attached to this seemingly innocuous title. It signified that when “grunts” were in a fight, when death and danger were in the air, their Padre – their Grunt Padre – was beside them providing comfort and, in many cases, eternal salvation.
A Remnant Video on Fr. Capodanno:
On September 4th, 1967, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the unit Father was assigned to, was ambushed and came under intense enemy fire. A navy corpsman rushed to the aid of one of the wounded, and both were subsequently pinned down with unrelenting machine gun fire. Although wounded himself, Fr. Capodanno rushed to their side. When his dead body was recovered, it was found to be riddled with no fewer than 27 bullet holes. He was literally cut to pieces. There was no shortage of moist eyes among the bloodied “grunts” when word spread like lightening throughout the battalion that their Padre had been killed. Among Father’s citations were the Congressional Medal of Honor (posthumously), the Navy Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. There have been countless chapels, halls, buildings, etc., named in honor of the heroic priest, and perhaps none more honorable than the frigate, USS Capodanno, whose motto is “Duty with Honor.”
Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet, SJ is little known today, but in happier and more truthful times would be the subject of his own chapter in histories of the American West. Father’s bravery and virtue were attested to by none other than Sitting Bull himself, and when the Sioux nations signed the historic peace treaty of 1868, they agreed to do so only if Fr. De Smet were to be present. He was described by one of the chiefs as “the white man whose tongue does not lie” and “more powerful than an army.”
These holy and heroic priests are being mentioned, not because of their individual bravery and heroism, but rather because they represent the natural fruition of the training imparted to them in their seminary formation. “Spiritual boot camp” may perhaps be an apt description. The pros and cons of the methods employed may be debated, but what is without question is the fact that what immerged from the process was a man in the truest sense of the word, a man dedicated to others.
That was then ... this is now.
The emasculation of the priesthood is no secret to the readers of this publication, but the fact has never been more in evidence, more on public display than at this present time of trial. The prelates and clerics who were most diligent in transforming the Mass of Ages, the most glorious ritual in all of Christendom, into a hug fest and celebration of community, are now cowering behind locked doors, afraid to hear Confessions, afraid to offer sacraments, just simply… afraid. Where are the effete priests who love to sashay around the altar (table) hugging all the ladies in the sanctuary and whose favorite part of the Mass appears to be the “sign of peace?” In more than just a few instances, they have gone AWOL – “over the hill.”
There are many sincere priests in our midst (both of the Traditional and Novus Ordo variety) who are striving with much ingenuity to bring the sacraments to the faithful. This essay is being written in the middle of Passion Week. On Passion Sunday, a stalwart priest offered no fewer than eight different sessions of Eucharistic adoration, Confession, and Communion. The number eight was chosen to keep the attendance low enough to be within the guidelines of the secular authorities. This Friday – First Friday and the feast of The Seven Sorrows – we will be attending Mass in a home, offered by a priest who will be driving 210 miles round trip to make it available. These are priests who, I am certain, would be willing to brave bullets if there was a soul to be saved.
I would submit that the ones who are missing in action should be shunned, ridiculed, and abandoned. They are cowards at best and traitors at worst. They are worthy of nothing but contempt. When this all passes, and it will, they will return with smiles and hugs, hoping that no one will remember that when they were needed the most, they were invisible. They were back at headquarters while the troops were under fire.
I am not suggesting that priests should defy the secular regulations which are changing and escalating by the day; my aim is to decry the horror of cardinals and bishops actually locking their churches to individuals seeking to pray in the Presence of the Lord, and who are actually forbidding Confessions, Baptisms, and Communions. Many of the initiatives to close churches and cut the faithful off from the sacraments were taken well in advance of any secular directives. What an abomination! Admonitions from Pope St. Gregory the Great or St. Charles Borromeo would be very apropos to the situation, as they were intimately involved with plague in their times. The difference, however, is that they believed in the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; that sins needed to be forgiven and priests have the power to absolve; and that Baptism is necessary for salvation. Today, more than ever, is revealed the fact that many clerics (from the highest to the lowest) are not just sinful (who’s not?) but they, in all reality, do not believe; they have either lost the Faith or never had it from the beginning.
There are many private Masses being offered while churches are closed, and I, in no way, will insinuate that it is just the Latin Mass being said. But what I will say is that the point of reference in the Latin Mass – God offering the ultimate Sacrifice to God through His minister the priest – is much easier to accommodate to a private Mass or to a Mass in time of suffering than the protestantized version with its emphasis on community celebration and communal meal. It just does not seem to jive. I think it was Dr. Peter Kwasniewski who offered the prescient observation many years ago that the Novus Ordo was for Happy Kats. One may strive to inculcate the four aims of the Liturgy – Adoration, Reparation, Thanksgiving, Petition – into the offering of the New Mass, but it must be worked at, while it is integral to the Mass of the Ages.
Maybe this crisis can act as an inspiration to devout priests who have never said the Latin Mass to look into it, study the history of it, learn the significance of every ritual, every gesture, and – what would be the clincher --- to learn the history of the intrigues behind its demise. (Martin Luther detested the popish Offertory, but I can say with assurance that he would be perfectly comfortable with the “spiritual drink” of the Eucharistic Prayer being offered and consumed today.) Perhaps this time of crisis could present itself as a time of introspection and discernment. God will certainly reveal how to serve Him with “Duty and Honor.”
To wives and mothers whose husbands and sons have abandoned the Faith: Boys with red blood in their veins and husbands with an ample supply of testosterone are turned off by effete priests, with hugging and hand-holding, with introducing oneself to the same people you’ve been sitting next to in the same pew for years, and with sermons whose most sublime message is to be nice and not kick the cat. They need a ritual that does not require checking their masculinity at the door, one that will offer ammunition for combat. Pray and offer sacrifices for their conversion, and maybe, just maybe, (if your prayers and sacrifices are sincere) they will one day encounter that real priest offering the Real Sacrifice.
To all who see the rot in the Church and want to call it quits: The Old Testament is replete with the sinfulness of the Hebrew nation, with unfaithful priests and sinful kings, but that was not reason to abandon, what was then, the True Faith. Hang in there! Our Lord and the Immaculate Heart of Mary will bring us to safety.
To all young men and women who have been raised in the never/never/land of a happy church without sacrifice and without suffering. Abandon the idea of a happy/clappy religion where we all skip merrily along the Yellow Brick Road to heaven without trial, without tribulation. We are in a warfare against demons who hate us, and that for no other reason than we are created and loved by God, whom they hate with undying venom.
To all: Hang in there! The Mother of God and the Mother of the Church just happens to be Our Mother also.