The Sunday following Traditionis Custodes, the Novus Ordo readings pronounced “Woe to the shepherds” whose actions “mislead and scatter the flock of My pasture, says the Lord.” Yet unlike shepherds who “have not cared,” the Lord is our perfect “Shepherd.” He “refreshes” the “soul.” His “rod” and “staff” will “give me courage.” Only through the sacrificial “blood of Christ” can we find true “peace.” And, just as Jesus “was moved with pity” for His people when He walked this earth, Jesus takes “pity” on His people today.
The same Sunday, the Ancient Roman Rite reading provided a poignant reminder of accountability for leaders. Jesus cautioned His disciples they would be held accountable for how they used their role as His faithful guardians, just as the land owner held his “steward” responsible to give an “account of [his] stewardship.” A Catholic Bible commentary expounds on this passage, explaining it is a “happy summons to the faithful servant, who has reason to hope in his faithful administration.”
God used both the Novus Ordo and Latin Mass readings to comfort His people, and one must read them together to fully understand God’s providential care.
Sometimes, it seems the Novus Ordo and Latin Mass remain as divided as the four-inch thick curtain that separated the Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies and tore in two when Jesus died on the cross. Pope Benedict counseled not “to speak of” the “two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were ‘two Rites,’” because they represent “a twofold use of one and the same Rite,” that “can be mutually enriching.” Throughout Catholic liturgical history, “there is growth and progress, but no rupture,” and “what earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred.”
Thus, the readings last July that continue reassuring us today, demonstrate what Pope Benedict referred to as the “mutually enriching” aspect of both forms of the Mass. Taken together, they provide encouragement, guidance, and hope. Our Heavenly Father ensured those readings would occur when His sheep needed them most.
However, what do we do about the pope and the Vatican’s effort against sacred Tradition? Do we accept it? Do we grumble after Mass and complain in online comments but hesitate to do more? Or, do we reverently and respectfully push back?
We must avoid the temptation of staying silent or worse – complaining but failing to act. In the words of St. Augustine, we should “pray as though everything depended on God,” and “work as though everything depended on you.” We will remain respectful toward the pope, bishops, and priests. But, speaking up does not equate with disrespect or discord. While highlighting the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bishop Tobin said we advance “unity” when we “support” those whom “love the Lord and His Church” and remain “devoted to TLM.”
Pushing back against restrictions that threaten the Traditional Latin Mass will look different around the world. In the United States, the different dioceses will demonstrate a variety of ways this can be done. I want to share what my family is seeing where we live, in hopes others can take something away and combine it with the best practices for their diocese.
My husband and I live in the Arlington Diocese. Incredibly, almost a third of parishes offer a Latin Mass. The Diocese represents a beautiful picture of Pope Benedict’s hoped for “reconciliation and unity” between the Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass. Our family is a microcosm of what one often sees in the Arlington Diocese. We normally attend the Novus Ordo Mass but strive to attend the Traditional Latin Mass when we can. More than ever, we want to support Catholics whose faith is strengthened by the Latin Mass.
When the assault on Tradition began, we did not know what to do beyond writing the bishop. Then we learned about a petition started by Noah Peters, who attends Mass in the Arlington Diocese. Humbly written and respectful of the Bishop’s authority, it explains how Catholics in the Arlington Diocese who attend the Traditional Latin Mass are not “secluded from parish life” and “fully accept” the “authority of Vatican II” and the “Magisterium of the Church.”
Mr. Peters started the petition on January 14th and with help from others got the word out through word-of-mouth and social media. It took only three days to reach the initial goal of 500. In just over a week, more than 2,000 had signed the petition, and it is within striking distance of 2,500. The Catholic Word Report wrote an article about the effort that got picked up by Catholic news services and even retweeted by the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register.
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) January 19, 2022
Those signing the petition include people who regularly attend the Traditional Latin Mass and others, like our family, who stand alongside fellow Catholics whose “faith is nourished and enriched” by Tradition. By doing so, Latin Mass and Novus Ordo attendees become the living icon of Pope Benedict’s desired “reconciliation and unity.”
Perhaps Bishop Burbidge will see this deep and abiding unity in the Arlington Diocese. Although the petition respectfully does not mention the bishop’s own words, it is useful to know what he has said.
Immediately after the Vatican’s Responsa ad Dubia, the Bishop emailed Priests, days before Christmas, that “in light of the Responsa” he would grant “no further permissions” for the “celebrations of Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings, etc.” After the outcry, the bishop quickly clarified the “Extraordinary Form can continue,” for now and previously “scheduled Sacraments” may “proceed.” He “committed to further consultation” with “advisors and pastors,” who offer the Latin Mass, to “discern other possibilities within the scope” of the “Motu Proprio.” He recommended “unity and fidelity” perhaps not realizing the unity the Diocese has thoroughly demonstrated.
On January 11th, Bishop Burbidge held his weekly Walk Humbly Podcast. He spent 8% of the podcast discussing the Latin Mass topic, which impacts almost a third of Arlington Diocesan churches. The Arlington Diocese website did not include the topic among the podcast’s six discussion points. During the podcast, Bishop Burbidge described the Vatican’s intentions as “very direct” and “leave little room for interpretation.” In a proverbial slip of the tongue, he asked for prayers for “wisdom and guidance,” but “not too much guidance,” because “it’s been outlined for us very clearly.” Again, he cautioned against “division,” which presents a quandary for his faithful flock who heretofore had not experienced “division” related to this issue.
Oh, how profound the words of St. Catherine of Siena that “nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” So, how do we endure?
First, thank God for the Latin Mass availability. In a recent OnePeterFive.com article, Danielle Heckenkamp described her “underground” TLM experience 30 years ago. She wrote how Catholics “worked tirelessly” for “decades” to safeguard sacred traditions – never “predict[ing]” the enormous “growth witnessed” by the number of parishes offering the Latin Mass. This produces “every reason to hope” and a strong foundation from which to meet today’s challenges.
Second, “pray as though everything depended on God.” Keep your parish priest in your prayers; tell him you stand firmly with him. Pray bishops act in wisdom and the hierarchy act with the heart of pastors for their sheep.
Third, “work as though everything depended on you.” Write letters to your bishop, start a petition in your diocese, contact media, and communicate that we advance unity by supporting Catholics whose faith is strengthened by the Latin Mass. Of course, if you live in the Arlington Diocese, or may travel and attend Mass here, please read and sign this petition.
This unnecessary battle exercises our faith muscles, but the Good Shepherd saw these days ahead of us. Last July, He ensured that when we heard words constricting Tradition, we also heard His words through both forms of the Roman Rite. We find solace that God’s providential readings somehow eluded the Vatican’s view. Why else would they issue such pronouncements the same week the faithful read, “woe to the shepherds” who “mislead” the “flock of My pasture;” the Lord will return them to “their meadow;” they will “increase and multiply.”
Remember dear reader, “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” When those we trust shake our foundations, our Good Shepherd “restores” the “soul.” When victory seems swallowed in defeat, God “leads me in paths of righteousness.” When despair overwhelms, we will not “fear,” because God walks “with me.” His “rod” and His “staff” will most certainly “comfort me.”
We can be confident that despite the current tumult, our Heavenly Father still sits on His throne. He will provide guidance and courage to His flock. The Lord hears the prayers of His children, and His providential hand moves in ways we cannot comprehend. So, let us trust that the God “of all the earth” will indeed “do what is right.”
Hilary F. Collins lives in northern Virginia with her family. She graduated from Baylor University, received a master’s degree from the U.S. Naval War College, and is now a homeschooling mom. Along with her husband, they attend church in the Arlington Diocese and strive to instill godly knowledge and faithful fortitude in their child.