Catching up on last week’s Saints

Last Tuesday was the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. The Way of the Fathers has an interesting post on Thomas and the traditions and facts known about his ministry in India after the death of Christ. I always felt that Thomas got kind of a bum rap. None of the other apostles had cause to doubt the Resurrection as they were present when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room. Thomas wasn’t so fortunate. Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb in John’s Gospel and assumed the body of Christ had been taken. Why is she instead remember as the “Apostle to the Apostles?” And Luke tells us that the Apostles don’t believe Mary Magdalene and the other women when they pass on the angels’ message that Jesus has risen from the dead. Why do we single out Thomas?

One possible reason for that is that Thomas was told the truth by the Church, who we can always trust on matters of faith and morals. Doubting the Church on such matters is a serious issue.

Another interpretation is that Thomas wasn’t doubting Christ’s resurrection as much as an act of will refusing to believe that Christ was indeed alive. After all, Thomas had been through the pain of losing Christ once, and by believing in the Resurrection without proof, he risked going through the pain of that loss all over again. I like this explanation since it gives Thomas the best and most flattering explanation of his supposed doubt.

An interesting idea I once read as well is that it was important that Thomas, called “Didymus” which means “twin,” acknowledge Christ in person as risen from the dead. This tradition states that Thomas was called Twin because he looked so similar to Jesus, so it was important to record the fact that Thomas not only was seen by witnesses with the Risen Christ, but to acknowledge him as Jesus. This way it couldn’t be claimed the Apostles were merely parading Thomas around saying that he was Jesus. Just like you never saw Superman and Clark Kent at the same time, you had to see Thomas and Jesus together at the same time in order to make sure someone wasn’t playing a fast one.

Friday was the feast of Saint Maria Goretti. Her father died when she was a little girl, lived on a farm run by her mother, who was also raising Maria’s brother and sisters. On July 5th, 1902, when she was eleven, a neighbor decided he wanted to have sex with her, and when she was unwilling, attempted to rape her. Crying out, “No, it is a sin,” Maria continued to resist, until he ultimately stabbed her 14 times and left her for dead. Maria clung to life until the next day when she died. While dying from the wounds inflicted during the assault, she told her mother that she had forgiven her assailant, Alessandro Serenelli, and hoped he could join her in heaven after his death.

Serenelli was eventually convicted in her death and spent many years in prison unrepentant. One night, however, he had a dream in which Maria Goretti appeared to him and told him of her forgiveness and offering him 14 lilies, one for each stab wound. From that day on he was a changed man. After completing his sentence, he visited Maria’s mother and asked for her forgiveness. Mrs. Goretti gave it to him, saying that if her daughter had forgiven him, there was no reason for her to withhold her own forgiveness. The next day they attended Mass together and received Communion side by side.

Maria Goretti was canonized on June 24, 1950 with her mother and her murderer in attendance. Serenelli ultimately became lay member of the Capuchin order, working as a gardener and receptionist.

Maria Goretti’s devotion to her purity, even sacrificing her life, rather than have even a passive acceptance of impurity on her part or her attacker’s, is an example we should all strive to follow. Sexual sin is all around us in today’s society, with many people being lionized and celebrated for their sexual sins.

Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.

More information:
Article on Maria Goretti

More on the Motu Proprio (and how the AP misunderstood the story completely)

This article appeared in the New Journal this morning, and it simply gets many of the facts of the story completely wrong:

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday removed restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, reviving a rite that was all but swept away by the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

They don’t even get through the first sentence without making a mistake. In the strictest sense, there is no “Latin Mass.” Latin, as the official language of the Church, is the normative language for all Masses, and any Mass can be said in Latin at any time. (Pastoral principles obviously override this concept.) The proper name for the Rite whose use has be liberalized in the Tridentine Mass, after the Council of Trent which established the rite as the standard for the Western Church.

The document upset Jews, since the Tridentine rite contains a prayer on Good Friday of Easter Week calling for their conversion. The Anti-Defamation League called the move a “body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations,” the Jewish news agency JTA reported.

This statement is also incorrect, as the prayer was removed in 1959 and the missal the Motu Proprio broadens the usage of the Missal of 1962, promulgated by Blessed John XXIII, the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council. (See the Bishop’s discussion linked below.)

The old rite differs significantly from the New Mass. In addition to the Latin, the prayers and readings are different, and the priest faces the altar, to be seen as leading the faithful in prayer.

I’m glad to see they got this right. (It’s a mistake that the Bishops’ comments make as well.) The priest does not “turn his back on the people” in the Tridentine Mass; rather, he leads them in their prayer as we all pray together to God.

But more liberal Catholics have suggested that in liberalizing the use of the rite, Benedict was sending a strong message that Vatican II was not the “break from the past” that some view it as being.

There are two points here. First, it’s a mistake to apply political terminology to Church matters. Just as a personal example, I, who no one would mistake for a liberal, attend (and prefer) the Mass of Paul VI (the more contemporary and still preferred Mass). A good friend of mine, who is quite liberal, attends and greatly prefers the traditional Tridentine Mass. When it comes to religious matters in the Church, political affiliation can have very little to do with religious approach.

Second, Vatican II was not a large “break with the past”, and the interpretation of it as such has been repeatedly contradicted by multiple Popes. Those who argue it did are engaging more in wish-casting than actual analysis of the Council. Vatican II promulgated no new doctrines, rather calling for improved methods of interacting with the modern world.

The effects of this move, I believe, have been vastly overstated by people on both sides of this discussion. I’ve seen some in support of this movement believe this will cause a revolution in the Church, bringing people back to greater fidelity and seemingly single-handedly rescuing the Church and all her members from sins. Others opposed to the move claim that this will cause a schism in the Church, driving people out of it.

Both claims are frankly laughable. People only get out of the Mass what they put in to it, whatever Rite they attend. Someone with little interest in what’s going on, who’s only attending Mass out a need to get his card punched will not get much out of any Mass they attend. At the same time, given the relative lack of priests trained in the Tridentine Rite, Tridentine Masses will be limited in availability, especially in the near term, so there will be no need for anyone who doesn’t wish to attend a Tridentine Mass to do so. Even with the increased availability of the Tridentine Mass, the guidelines outlined in the Motu Proprio state that it should only be offered once a weekend in parishes that aren’t specially designated as Tridentine Use.

And what should it matter if there is a greater variety of Masses available? Even in this diocese, we have long had a parish devoted to the Byzantine Rite (St Nicholas at the Corner of Lea Blvd. & Miller Road in Wilmington). In the Universal Church, there are a number of other valid rites, including Syro-Malabar, Anglican Use parishes, and the Chaldean Catholics, to name just a few. What’s one more? As the Curt Jester suggests, maybe those opposed to this would be more accepting if it were deemed a “multicultural experience.

This decision by the Pope is a good one for the Church. There are many people who prefer the Tridentine Rite, and if this can strengthen their faith, God bless them. I’ll stick with the Mass of Paul VI, though for the most part. I like understanding the language being used.

Resources: The text of the Motu Proprio, the accompanying Papal letter and questions and answers about the meaning and effects of the change from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Hat Tip: The Cafeteria is Closed)

Jimmy Akin has a good analysis of the Motu Proprio and where the sources of contention will come in.

UPDATE: Gerald at The Cafeteria is Closed rightly points out that we pray for the conversion of the Jewish people on Good Friday in the Mass of Paul VI:

Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption.

So strike another false objection to the greater usage of the Mass of John XXIII.