Thursday 12 February 2015
The Remnant of the Flock of Christ
I was watching yesterday a DVD of the blessing of the SSPX Church in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, by Bishop Fellay. As I watched I found myself saying, with a sense of sadness and even pity, “They are holding onto a Church that has gone”-and realised in that same instant that it was the Church to which I had converted.
When I was instructed in The Faith in the 1970’s there were few RCIA programmes around. As such I was instructed one-to-one by the priest using Drinkwater’s Catechism (very much the same as the Baltimore Catechism, Drinkwater’s was the ‘Penny Catechism’ with extended explanations). I learned about the One True God in Trinity; about the Incarnate God the Son, and about the Blessed Virgin and her unique role in our salvation. I learned about the Sovereign Authority of the Pope; about Infallibility and its limits; about the Magisterium and Tradition. I learned about the sacramental system and the great and wondrous Sacrifice of the Mass; the wonder of Confession wherein the grace won for us by the Sacrifice re-present-ed in the Mass is applied to our souls, making us worthy to receive at the sacramental banquet we call Holy Communion, and about the great spiritual healing given us by Anointing of the Sick -especially its use as Extreme Unction given with the Apostolic Pardon. I also learned about the Virtues and Vices of human living, the wonders of Marriage as God had arranged it, and the misdirection sexuality had taken in the modern world. This was all filled out by my private reading of F J Sheed’s Theology & Sanity and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. I learned about the Church as the Body of Christ active in the world (and experienced it too by my membership of the SVP -wherein we undertook the corporal works of mercy- and in the Legion of Mary, wherein we undertook the spiritual works of mercy and evangelisation by door-to-door and city centre street contact). I saw the men of the parish taking care of the grounds and the buildings and the women of the parish doing excellent fundraising via bingos and women’s league activities. In short, I knew the Catholic Faith as it had been handed down, and saw it very much still being lived.
As I considered the DVD yesterday I looked at the Church which I inhabit. Not only the laity but the most senior of the clergy speak and act as though it matters little (if at all) what religion one follows as long as one is ‘searching for God’ and ‘journeying toward Him’; I see that to many it matters little what sexual antics we engage in as long as it is between consenting adults and springs from the emotion we call ‘love’. I see the Holy Sacrifice offered as a community jamboree wherein ‘pop groups’ find their captive audience and clergy use the pulpit to display comedic ‘talent’ people wouldn’t pay to hear elsewhere.
As I asked myself if the Church the SSPX are holding onto and the Church I converted to has gone, I came to the conclusion that many would like to think so, but a remnant exists in many ways and places: SSPX; FSSP; ICKSP, Barroux, Papa Stronsay, The Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer, The Good Shepherd Institute, The Apostolic Administration of Campos et al., and many parish folk and clergy who rejoice in Summorum Pontificum in many national associations affiliated to the Una Voce International Federation. We may be small in comparison to the ‘Church of Nice’ (that well-meaning but theologically bankrupt part of the Church where it seems all that matters is being nice to people; to be welcoming of everyone no matter what their ‘living arrangements’, to be social activists and to celebrate Mass in such a way as to entertain folk), yet no matter how small we are in comparison, we have the Lord’s words to keep us going: “Have no fear, little flock, it has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom’ (Lk.12v32). In any case, we are a little flock that is continually growing; a remnant which continues to flourish while the ‘Church of Nice’ is closing parishes, seminaries, convents, schools etc. So the SSPX; the Ecclesia Dei communities and we Summorum Pontificum supporters are not holding onto a Church that has gone. Nor are we hankering after a by-gone age -we are the little flock who preserve a treasure and who need not fear, for Truth always wins out in the end. It’s just hard to be part of a large community where one is tolerated but not valued; a community where its own liturgical and spiritual heritage and Divine Donation of moral and doctrinal truth is not valued in practice. Meanwhile we can quote Robert Depiante to our detractors saying, hand on heart, “We are what you once were. We believe what you once believed. We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now".
And we can keep in mind what the future surely holds as the remnant grows and the Church of Nice fades:
Clip of Holy Mass in the film Christmas Holiday:
Clip of a priestly ordination in the film The Cardinal