Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sometimes Being Liked is a Good Thing

For most of its existence, traditionalism has been a rebel movement.  Even the loyal sons of the Church were still looking to shake up the existing order of the Church.  We hated the horrendous liturgies rife with abuse, despised the heterodox theology coming from popular circles, and we hated above all the seeming "conservative" silence or acquiescence on these manners.  To borrow a page from pro wrestling (as a proud smark since the mid 90's), traditionalists were heels, and we loved being heels.  That also meant we weren't interested in cheers or adulation from the powers that be within mainstream Catholicism.  Many times those who were getting cheers were those traditionalists who did nothing but bash their fellow brothers, even the loyal ones. 

This mentality had good and bad in it.  The good was it helped to build a distinct identity among traditionalists.  We had that sense of unity.  Most importantly, when people got to see the good traditionalists, they found that distinct identity appealing.  It wasn't that we "worshipped as you once worshipped."  Most people alive today haven't experienced a Latin Mass.  We were worshipping as they wanted to worship.  Even if it wasn't in the Extraordinary Form, we were promoting a reverence and awe for the sacred which had mostly disappeared from parishes.

This being human nature, there were at times a bad part of this equation.  We could be perceived (rightly at times) as smug jerks.  We confused the fact that people found our way of worship appealing into thinking that we were the ones appealing, and that we were better than others.  Since we were isolated from the greater church for so long, we had to rely on our own little groups for support.  Sometimes this leads to a negative development, as they turn into echo chambers of bile and vinegar.  Combine this with the Internet, and you get a lot of nastiness.  Even when the bloggers themselves might not indulge in this nasty streak, the echo chambers they participate in feed the negativity. 

Look at the fallout around the way traditionalists have reacted to Pope Francis.  Think we are the only ones uncomfortable with some of the things going on?  Yet you really think our numbers are going to grow?  We can complain about the Patheos people looking to shut traditionalists out of the discussion, or try to smear us as nothing but Holocaust deniers.  Yet a good way to do this is to stop using holocaust deniers/trivializers as our sources.

I'm not saying we have to seek to be liked by the powers that be within popular Catholic thought.  Anyone who has dealt with the likes of Mark Shea knows that for one reason or another, he will never like traditionalists as a whole, even if they all grew epic beards as a sign of solidarity.  Sure, he might bestow favor upon individuals (such as yours truly), but there will always be a chasm between us that for one reason or another he has no interest in bridging.  So you do what you can.

Instead, I have in mind those who are sympathetic to traditionalists.  They didn't care for the whole foot washing scandal.  They don't like the latest meme of the day amongst the Catholic intelligentsia to remind traditionalists that we must become "poor in spirit" liturgically, to which they mean stop with your smells and bells nonsense they only tolerated because Pope Benedict made them.    Yet they don't want to be seen associating with people who are constantly negative, and have the outrageous outrage meter perpetually jacked to 11.  After Mass they like talking about spirituality and how to get more out of Mass, what groups their kids can join, not how allegedly Vatican II was a plot to destroy the Church.  In short, they want a Church community, not a blog combox. 

This doesn't mean you "compromise" your message.  (Though if you believe Vatican II was a plot to destroy the Church, you should probably compromise your ego, pipe down, and let adults talk.)  It means that you ask yourself a question:  what's your purpose?  If you are the only traditionalist people meet, what will they think of traditionalists in general based on your appearance and actions?  Suppose our leaders suck.  Okay, how does that impact us personally?  How does it impact our parish? 

I cannot stress enough that most the people you meet in a parish that offers the Latin Mass aren't like this.  One can see in several links I have on the side communities where this kind of stuff is alien.  This is mainly an Internet phenomena.  I'm also well aware expecting people, even Christians, to behave like adults on the Internet is an exercises in futility.  Yet for those who can listen, it is always good to stop and think about these things whenever we speak on something, for good or ill.

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