Wednesday 11 February 2015

Old School Sermons

My jet lag is so bad, I forgot about Traddy Tuesday. So I will make it up today, Wednesday, because
You tell 'em, Padre!
I have added converts googling "Is this all there is?" to my mental list of Probable Readers. Plus, it adds some comic relief for Trads addicted to such Bad News blogs as [they know what].

Speaking of Tradition, the government of Ontario invented one not too long ago. It is called "Family Day," and it falls on the third Monday of February. According to my nephew Pirate, the purpose of Family Day is as follows: "The whole family sits at home all day watching TV and does NOT WRITE NOVELS." 

Frankly I am delighted that my nephew thinks I am at my desk all day writing novels. If only. And now he may think I write novels in Polish, too, for this morning I sat across from him at the breakfast table copying a corrected Polish translation into my composition book while muttering,  e.g., "Ale sądzę, że Mary jest bardzo dzielną kobietą: nie dlatego że została aresztowana, nie dlatego że przebywa w wieżieniu, nie dlatego że jest--dzięki Internetowi--pierwszym kanadyjskim działączem pro-life słynnym w Polsce." 

"Nein," said my naughty nephew, who knows all about the German invasion of Poland.

"TAK," I retorted firmly, which caused him to retreat. 

Anyway, on to Traddy sermons. 

The first Traddy sermon I ever heard (to my knowledge) was at the Toronto Oratory on Roncesvalles  Avenue one Hallowe'en. I believe it was delivered by Father Robinson, but I am not sure because this was 15-20 years ago. Father Robinson was delivering a homily on the Church Suffering, which means the Holy Souls in Purgatory, which means the souls of the dead who have died in a state of grace but unpurged of attachment to sin, and so are undergoing the necessary personal development to be able to enter heaven.  That's not how Father Robinson put it, of course.   

Father Robinson (if it were he) was pouring cold water on the idea that everyone dies a saint and goes  straight to heaven immediately after death. This, he said, was a belief of Popular Catholicism. Real Catholicism taught that there is such a thing as Purgatory and most of the dead who die in a state of grace go there. He waxed eloquently on the contrast between POP-pew-lar Catholicism and REAL Catholicism which startled me. I knew about Purgatory, of course, but I did not realize that there was such a real division between Catholicism as professed by the Oratorians and Catholicism as preached by others. I had been to very few funerals. 

The only Catholic funerals I have attended in Canada were of those who had died relatively young. The first was of a mother who left behind children so small that when they arrived at church, they didn't know what it was all about. They certainly knew by the time they left, poor things. Funerals for the young, I suspect, tend not to be the "Celebrations of Life" now popular for the sufficiently old or suffering. Thus, I cannot remember a happy-clappy Catholic funeral sermon. The one that stuck with me most was the one that explained the deceased's suicide was a direct result of mental illness, so we should not despair for his soul.

This was not a popular homily. Many of the deceased's friends were outraged. How could ANYONE EVER think that their poor friend could be in hell? And, I heard via the grapevine, there were ghouls in the congregation didn't buy the mental illness story and "reassured" the deceased's parents that they would pray for their son "anyway." On the one hand, outraged sentimentality. On the other (if the tale is true) cruelty. Neither is the traddy way.

I pray for that poor young man all the time--something  good funeral sermon aims to inspire. Should I not survive my own  priest, I hope he rubs it in well to the congregation that I was a miserable sinner, like most people, and that I never had the children to teach to pray for me daily, and so it is the responsibility of my family and friends to pray for my soul, which--given my aversion to anything unpleasant, e.g. the NHS, examination of conscience, NHS--might be feeling rather uncomfortable and will be feeling unconfortable for who knows how long. It would be uncharitable, my priest will hopefully add, to assume that our dear friend is actually in hell. But it would also be uncharitable to assume that she is in heaven, for we would then become complacent about her situation, which--as it cannot be repeated too often, might not be the trip to the spa she so often in life hoped it would be.

My priest has very interesting Sunday homilies, full of church news, reflections on the decline of Christendom in the West, predictions of further decline, and spirited defenses of doctrine. He even occasionally uses dry humour to get his point across, and the congregation permits itself a very rare giggle. He frequently exhorts us to pray that we will be strong when we are brought to the test. He orders us to protect children from evil influences. He occasionally takes issue at what Father Robinson called POP-ew-lar Catholicism, but never in a nasty way. 

For some reason, when his homilies always seem to be particularly hard-hitting when one of us has ordinarily Novus Ordo attending family visiting, and it is all very eye-opening for them. The homilies can be tough, but they are never boring. And they are certainly convincing!

It is too bad that so many priests neglect  (apparently) to preach against sin, for Christians have always enjoyed good thumping sermons against sins, no matter how attached they are to their own. I remember how delighted I was when--in the 1980s--I FINALLY heard a sermon against rock-and-roll. Meanwhile, given what forms pop music has taken priests should rail against them day and night.  You are what you eat aurally as well as orally.  (Thus  B.A. is largely BBC Radio 3.

But quite beyond the traditional Christian enjoyment of seeing sin insulted and scorned by a priest, it is too bad that so many priest neglect to preach against sin because this leaves the Catholic--and everyone else--unsure as to what is and is not sinful. I recall at BC a classmate assuring us all that the Church should be less concerned about sin, and I exploded. I said that the problem was that the Church (in Boston, or maybe just BC) was completely neglecting to preach against sin, or preaching against things that weren't actually sins, like voting Republican, eating veal or smoking. And I would bet my trip budget that a significant number of people in the classroom honestly believed voting Republican was a terrible sin. Meanwhile, sexual sin was rampant but ignored.

And now I must get dressed and visit the Toronto School of Theology and my old profs, who will hopefully embrace me to their bosoms like the Prodigal Son instead of running away. In the words of one of my favourite and yet most, er, progressive profs, "We've created a monster!" Ah ha ha ha!


  1. Nailed it!!!!

    I've been to a number of funerals, the most recent being two days ago (I'm a musician; I didn't actually know the woman.) I don't recall ever having heard a priest really focus on the fact that we are supposed to actually pray for the soul of the dead person. And if I am still alive when my parents die, I will try to convince the priest to harp on about that in the sermon.

    At my local Novus Ordo parish one Sunday, the priest asked the congregation to raise hands in order to indicate belief in purgatory. My hand shot up, my sister's shot up, my father's did too. Perhaps two others raised their hands in a congregation of 150 people. I was heartened when the priest said something like, "Well, the Church declares that Purgatory is real etc."

    I don't bother going to that parish anymore. When I go to the NO, I go to an Opus Dei parish. Australia has no Oratorians, but will soon. Too bad they'll be in Brisbane. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like travelling 1682km to get to Mass if I can get to Mass somewhere else.

  2. As I was saying before my comment got cut off,

    Some of the best homilies on the Four Last Things were actually from a Jesuit (who, alas, is not a fan of the TLM, though unquestionably orthodox even after being persecuted by the Communists - guess we can't have everything).

    Last funeral I went to, the priest did one of those Celebration of Life homilies, which is weird, given a) the deceased was a 21-year old when she died (my friend was shot dead by Crazed Psycho Single on her way from the store), and b) it's not as if he's not done Traddy homilies before.

    I suspect a misplaced desire not to offend the Protestants (who in those parts are either the happy-clappy type or Mormons) and media vultures in attendance.


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