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Monday, December 12, 2022

UNITED WE STAND: Confessions of a Non-Trad Clan

Written by  Sean Garvey
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UNITED WE STAND: Confessions of a Non-Trad Clan

Editor's Note: Not sure who started the fake news that Traditional Catholics are hopelessly divided, but I have NEVER seen Traditionalists more united than we are right now, and I've been at this all of my life.

The Catholic Identity Conference 2022 once again brought together 750 participants, as well as priestly representatives from every major traditionalist priestly organization in the world.

 

Over at RTV, we recently produced a documentary on the Chartres Pilgrimage 2022 ("Guardian of Tradition")  which documents how 20,000 traditional Catholics gathered together in France this year, with another 50,000 following along from home.

(By the way, we're heading back to the Road to Chartres on Pentecost 2023, and I'm delighted to announce that my friend, John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews, will join us. (Reserve your spot here)

There is no serious division, and whatever division remains can in no sense be compared to the internecine squabbling that went on in the early days of the late 1980s. Things are so much better today, Deo gratias.

We have forged a brotherhood that cannot be broken, and an alliance based on the Kingship of Christ that will live to see the New World Order obliterated.  In fact, here is a report on how that alliance is growing even beyond all expectations. Even some non-Trad clans are eager to meet on this frontline. They have kept the Faith and so have we, and we're more than happy to unite with them against a common foe -- the Globalist enemies of Jesus Christ our King.

So, pay no attention to fake news that can only serve to demoralize the troops at a most crucial moment in the war for Catholic restoration. Keep the Faith. Never give up. Never surrender. And yes, of course, unite the Clans!

UNITED WE STAND: Confessions of a Non-Trad Clan

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28

I am a child of Vatican II.

Born in 1971, I have no experience of the pre-conciliar Church, and I am sure that has been my loss.  Make no mistake, my parents were faithful Catholics, proud members of the Church Militant, but not Traditionalists in the common use. As a result, I don’t share much in the way of experience with the readership of The Remnant. But my path also provides a different vantage point to see the current situation in which we all find ourselves, and perhaps that perspective will be of some use in helping our “clans” unite.

Family of Origin

I am the youngest of six children, and the only son of our parents who also fought the battle of the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ albeit on a different front. But in truth, my parents’ resistance to secularism and modernism began long before that seismic occurrence we call “the 1960’s”. 

Much of their early life is only vaguely known to me, the stuff of anecdote and family legend cobbled together piecemeal.  But a clear picture comes together, just the same.  Pop was a musician, a composer and a conductor, who moved to the Big Apple back when Greenwich Village was still inexpensive enough to house starving artists. 

My mother was an opera singer turned actress, who moved to New York to pursue a career in movies and TV.  As far back as the late 40’s, there was already a creeping secular humanism, an increasingly militant atheism, and a ubiquitous hedonism taking hold in those fields.

Pop was known to stay up late into the evening, arguing Aquinas’ five proofs of God in seedy coffee houses with bone-headed atheists, while Mom would excuse herself from the after-shoot happy hours on the set of “On the Waterfront” to go “hit the rail,” by which she meant the altar rail.  (Legend has it Brando got wind of this and became curious to find out where this exclusive club was.)

My parents were such queer fish in those circles – practicing well-informed Catholics – that they were eventually setup on a kind of “blind date”.  “You gotta meet Joe.  He’s the only other Catholic I know.”

Fast forward to early family life. It’s 1962, and they have five daughters under the age of 6.

As time went by – and we’d returned to New York due to lack of work in Ireland – the ‘Spirit of Vatican 2’ was in its ascendancy, and there was no appetite for real liturgical music over the vapid folksongs and badly adapted three-chord guitar tunes.

As the 60s cultural revolution exploded across America, and my sisters approached their teen years, New York City had become a hostile environment.  They sought out other clan members in New York, Connecticut, Ireland, wherever they could, and concentrated on building and nurturing a family life that was as wholesome as possible in those crazy times. 

They fled when they were able, fought when they had to, and resisted the zeitgeist always.  By the end of the 60s, they had resolved to move the entire family to Ireland, a safe haven at least in comparison to NYC. With the help of their dear friend, author Frank Sheed, they were able to place my sisters in some of the finest Catholic schools on the island. 

And then, along came me.

Of course, to add to the cultural confusion of the 1960s, Vatican II erupted.  At first, my parents embraced its promises.  As a composer, my father yearned to write beautiful sacred music for the Mass, music that could be sung a capella, by the people, and not just by a highly trained schola.  And he did so.  By  1964 he’d already written an entire set of motets for the celebration of the Mass in English. 

But as time went by – and we’d returned to New York due to lack of work in Ireland – the ‘Spirit of Vatican 2’ was in its ascendancy, and there was no appetite for real liturgical music over the vapid folksongs and badly adapted three-chord guitar tunes.

Clarity amidst Confusion

From a Catholic point of view, attending Mass in New York in the 70’s was like a box of chocolates – you never knew what you were gonna get.  It wasn’t so much parish to parish as it was priest to priest and day to day; some Masses were beautiful and reverent; others were barely recognizable.  Many of the homilies were chock-o-block with heresy, more were spiritual gruel, but a handful were pearls of truth.  There were unspeakable abuses, in other words, alongside beautiful all-night vigils.  I can bemoan those days but, in truth, for a young boy being raised to be a junior member of the Church Militant, it was quite an education. By age 7, I had a handle on the difference between licit and illicit Masses, valid and invalid Masses, and when we’d have to go to Sunday Mass again to fulfill our obligation. 

Throughout this turmoil, my parents kept their sense of Catholic identity and passed it on to my sisters and me.  I remember my father correcting me when I asked him if we were Irish Catholic.   “Irish Catholic?  No!  Never trust a man who puts his nationality in front of his faith.  If anything, we’re Catholic Irish.”

My parents had a strong sense of the proper role of the laity.  When Father preached heresy, when Father invented a new Eucharistic prayer number 15, Father would be corrected, gently, with love, but firmly.  There was never any danger of clericalism in our household.  The priesthood was sacred, yes, but priests were also human, and humans make mistakes.

In what felt like minutes, the Mass had changed, abortion was legalized, sex education was rampant, values clarification, secular humanism and anti-Christian sentiment were all triumphant, and the world had gone seemingly mad. 

The 1970s and 80s felt a lot like wandering in a desert.  We sought out the best oases we could find and worked hard to “bloom where we were planted”, beautifying and sanctifying whatever we could.  We were a mobile domestic church, joyfully embattled, unafraid to be different, spreading the light of Christ wherever we could.  We were prepared to fight and sacrifice, detached from everything except Christ and His Church.  Our Faith and its traditions were not one subject among many, but rather the way we lived, celebrated, mourned and struggled with whatever life brought out way.

Most of all, I learned that Christ was truly present in the Eucharist, regardless of the merits or demerits of the priests’ homilies, no matter how fuzzy the felt banners, no matter where the tabernacle was hidden, no matter how out-of-tune the music.  I remember asking my mother once during a particularly egregious Mass how she could stand it.  She just replied, “If Christ can become present here, the least I can do is be with Him.”

The Shoulders of Giants

The “clans” back then were scattered but connected.  The Catholic world was still reeling in the blast site.  In what felt like minutes, the Mass had changed, abortion was legalized, sex education was rampant, values clarification, secular humanism and anti-Christian sentiment were all triumphant, and the world had gone seemingly mad. 

But here and there, small pockets of dedicated luminaries were working to resist and mount the reconquest.  Stalwarts like Frank Sheed, Dr. Warren Carroll, Michael Davies, Brent Bozell, and many others.  Great publications like Triumph Magazine, the Wanderer, the Remnant, the Latin Mass, A.L.L., provided the voices that helped the scattered stay sane.  There was no consensus per se, and oftentimes there were divisions, but there was no question that they were all discerning how to move forward, motivated by a deep love of Mother Church.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I ended up attending Christendom College, one of the institutions founded in response to the cultural crisis.  Back then it was a tiny endeavor, and had the feel of a camp, specifically a refugee camp for the children of those tossed on the sea of cultural madness.  That was one thing we undergraduates all had in common. But there were silly divisions among us, too – divisions those at peace with each other have the luxury of entertaining.

I remember spending many an evening arguing with Mike Matt about his “strange pre-occupation” with the TLM, and whether anyone could decide which form of the Mass was “better”.  Coming from whence I did, I’m ashamed to say that my general attitude was that the dudes I knew were OK, but the TLM crowd was frankly a little weird, afraid of the world, probably Pharisaical and hiding their lamp (assuming they had one) under a bushel basket. 

Having been raised in those turbulent times and under those sub-optimal circumstances, I can’t help but think that my generation and my “clan” – the children of Vatican 2 – have been uniquely prepared by God’s good providence to respond to the challenges of today.  I’m sure the same can be said of other “clans,” as well.

What I was too young to see then – and have only recently come to appreciate – is how theirs was just another “clan”, fighting the same battle on a different front and in a different way.   At that age, as absolutely correct as I was about everything, I just couldn’t see it.  With the hubris and certainty only a teen enjoys, I failed to see that our Catholic patrimony is far too large and far too deep to be fully plumbed by any one person in any one lifetime.

That Moment vs. This

When I reflect on my parents’ generation and what they went through, my admiration for them only increases.  I can’t imagine how disorienting and disturbing the 60’s and 70’s must have been after the comparatively tranquil 40’s and 50’s. But they kept the faith, fought the good fight as best they knew how. At no small personal cost to them, they passed the Faith down to us despite the Revolution. And having been raised in those turbulent times and under those sub-optimal circumstances, I can’t help but think that my generation and my “clan” – the children of Vatican 2 – have been uniquely prepared by God’s good providence to respond to the challenges of today.  I’m sure the same can be said of other “clans,” as well.

It's a little silly to try and compare the challenges of one age to another, but I’ve never been afraid of looking a little silly.  In many ways, they are the same challenges – an attack on the family, the Church, Truth Himself. What we see unfolding in our time isn’t new; it was set in motion in our parents’ day. But in some ways things have gotten worse – the worldly power of our adversaries is at its zenith politically, financially, ecclesiastically, and culturally, while the institutional Church is at its weakest point in history, having squandered its legitimacy and, in many ways, become a moral mouthpiece of the current zeitgeist. 

On the other hand, we have never been stronger or better prepared, whereas our parents were blindsided and picking up the pieces.  Never have our adversaries been more desperately aggressive, but never have the battlelines been more clearly drawn.  What was once feared by only the most prescient has today come to pass, right before our eyes.  But God is bringing about the “strange fruit” of His Providence, and the signs are all around us.

God’s “Strange Fruit”

As dark as things can seem, I can see God’s hand at work in every setback and loss.  We in our moment have the benefit of our forebears’ faith and dedication to their duty, which has already borne fruit and upon which we can build.  We have their examples on which to model our own work.  We know how broad the problem is. We see how wanting the worldly powers are, powers in which we once placed too much hope.   We can see how God is at work in our lives and in the world.  Most of all, we have the benefit of each other – the “clans” – and the clarity that lets us see we no longer have the luxury of bickering over superficial differences.

One of the clearest examples of God “writing straight with crooked lines” is, ironically enough, Traditiones Custodes and its ham-fisted implementation.  Its stated intention is to eliminate division and to encourage the Church to “Vatican II harder” until we “get it”. But what has its effect been so far?  Never has the TLM enjoyed a higher cultural profile. Take this writer, for example. I’m a former mere dabbler in the TLM, and yet today – since TC – I have the honor of playing landlord to a recently evicted parish TLM Mass on the campus of a small Catholic Montessori school with which I am involved.  We went from begging for a Novus Ordo Mass every so often to having the Mass of the Ages on campus every day!

This is a glorious time to be a Catholic, as Mike Matt so eloquently puts it.  We have the honor to be alive during these times, and perhaps even to suffer a little for Christ and His Church.  We have the opportunity to band together – regardless of our “clan of origin” – not merely to resist, but to build up again. 

“Unite the Clans” indeed! Many many friends of mine – raised just the way I was, as “children of Vatican II” – are for the first time discovering the beauty and profundity of the “old Mass” and experiencing first-hand how it compares with the “Spirit of Vatican II” gruel we grew up avoiding.  Many of those friends are faithful priests.  Are we late to the game?  I suppose so.  But nothing becomes as precious as that which comes under threat, and there is no time with the Almighty. So perhaps in His plan, we’re right on time.

This is a glorious time to be a Catholic, as Mike Matt so eloquently puts it.  We have the honor to be alive during these times, and perhaps even to suffer a little for Christ and His Church.  We have the opportunity to band together – regardless of our “clan of origin” – not merely to resist, but to build up again.  Each person’s response to the crisis at hand will differ, of course – given their situation, talents and opportunities – but we will be united, and not by the false “unity qua submission” peddled by the globalists. We’ll be united in our love for Christ, His Church and its traditions, which is the only power that can truly unite us despite our differences.  And perhaps if we persevere and continue to do whatever good work we can – perhaps one day our stories too will be told, just as we tell the stories of our forebears, of the Vendees, the Cristeros, and of all those Catholic clans that kept the Faith even through the darkest moments in human history.

Viva Cristo Rey!

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Last modified on Tuesday, December 13, 2022