Prepare for Holy Mass, people!

Several days, maybe more, ago, I posted about putting down the Missalette.  I’m here today to encourage you to go to Mass always prepared.  By this, I mean that you should know the feasts of your Holy Mother Church, at least make an effort.  Get a calendar of all the Saints, and know their feasts.  Read the daily Mass readings (or weekly) a few days in advance, and let them sink in.  Pray before you attend Mass.  Go early.  Don’t listen to the radio or watch the news before going to Mass.  Make it truly Holy for yourself.

I’m not bragging, because someone encouraged me to do this, but after dinner on Saturday evening, we start preparing for Mass, by not watching anything violent or disturbing.  Well, we don’t watch that much anyway, but we do watch the news regularly.  But Saturday evening into Sunday, at least until noon, we try to keep peace in our home.  I try to read the Sunday readings at least by Thursday.

I was talking to a relative and asked him if he ever read the readings in advance.  He said he didn’t.  He has them on his phone though…(I suppose that does his phone a lot of good, lol).  Anyway, I encouraged him to start reading them a couple of days before Mass.  You know why?  The lector or priest is not always a good reader.  So it’s good to know what he’s going to read ahead of time.  Secondly, if the lector or priest has an accent, you will know what he’s saying.  What if the church is noisy, or the sound system’s not working?  What if the Mass you’re attending is in a foreign language?

Lastly, I’ll use the analogy…If you were going to interview someone who is important to your life, wouldn’t you prepare for the interview?  Wouldn’t you read something about them so you would know what to ask?  Well how important is God in your life???  If he’s as important as you profess, you should be doing all you can to get to know him…

Put Down the Missalette Already!

Put Down the Missalette Already!.

Songwriters put notes on paper.
That’s not music. You make the music.
~ Guitarist Tommy Tedesco of The Wrecking Crew

Let’s say dreams come true, and I get to see Van Morrison in concert somewhere, somehow, some day. Aw, man, Van-Morrisonit would be so great – a once in a lifetime opportunity! I doubt I’d sleep the night before, and I’d be checking on my ticket every hour or so – to see if it was still there, still real.

Then, the moment would arrive: I’m there in the audience, the instruments are tuning; the microphones are getting the “check, check, one, two” treatment – and it begins. Van kicks off the first song…

…and I drop my eyes to some wireless gadget in my lap, Google the lyrics, and read along as Van is singing on stage.

Right? Noooo, of course not! I’d soak it all in – a total immersion, listening to and watching a great songwriter give voice to his own compositions, himself, in person! They’re songs I mostly know already by heart anyway, but even if I didn’t, why would I waste that exquisite privilege by reading along?

That’s what I think of when I go to church and see folks with their noses in the missalettes – those little booklets in the pew that contain all the readings and parts of the Mass. Worse still is when their eyes are glued to iPhones or other gadgets as they follow along on apps while the lector drones on pointlessly up front.

It’s like every college student’s worst nightmare: A professor that flashes one PowerPoint slide after another, reading them word for word. Then, as if to purposely add insult to injury, he’ll sometimes pass out lecture notes with the slides already on them. Torture.

“The readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone,” the General Instruction explains, “for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy.” Catch that? Listened to, not scanned, not perused. In the liturgy, the Word of God is meant to be uttered and received. Here’s more from the General Instruction:

When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.

The lector thus becomChurch-Pulpites another alter Christus, parallel to the priest who will confect the Eucharist and give us Jesus to eat. Dei Verbum makes this parallel quite explicit by insisting that in the Mass, the Church “unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body.”

So the lector’s job really is a vital one, but we treat it as if it were purely functional – a task that is required by the rubrics, yet largely irrelevant since we have the text so readily available, usually right there in the pew. “A reading from the First Letter of…,” the lector begins, which ought to put us on the edge of our seats. It’s Christ himself, after all, announcing his Word – the Logos, his very divine Self, enunciated for us, for me!

And yet, what’s our typical response? “Ho-hum (*yawn*), maybe I’ll grab the missalette and read along.”

That’s wacko.

Don’t get me wrong: Reading Scripture for ourselves isn’t bad, and the Church has never asserted anything even close to that – despite the lingering anti-Catholic canard to the contrary. Indeed, there’s no question Gutenberg did all of Christendom a huge favor by inventing the printingannunciation-mid press and making the Bible easily and universally obtainable. Yet personal Bible reading ought to be reserved to times outside of Mass, and particularly around Mass – like, for example, a family coming together to read the Gospel before church, or reflecting on it at home afterwards.

When we’re at Mass, however, we should skip the missalette altogether lest we fall into what is essentially a Protestant approach to the Liturgy of the Word. In keeping with the Reformation precept that everyone should interpret the Bible for himself, many Protestants bring their own Bibles to church and read along as the Scriptures are read. It’s as if they’re checking up on the reader’s accuracy and precision – almost like rabbis peering over the shoulder of a young boy reading the Torah at his bar mitzvah. But if we’re reading, we’re not really listening, and the Liturgy of the Word becomes just another cerebral exercise instead of an incarnated, holistic epiphany.

Sacred Scripture was meant to be received aurally in the liturgy, in the same way that classic iconography depicts the Blessed Mother receiving the Word of GoXIR404562d via a dove entering her ear. In fact, we call that blessed event the Annunciation because it was St. Gabriel’s “announcement” that itself realized the miracle of Jesus’ virginal conception. “Come and gaze upon this marvelous feat,” St. Athanasius attests, “the woman conceives through the hearing of her ears!” We’re called to do the same during the readings at Mass: To imitate Our Lady in receiving the Lord through hearing a proclamation, much as her cousin Elizabeth “received” an encounter with Jesus the moment she heard Mary’s greeting at the Visitation.

And the missalettes? Should we ditch them outright? I wouldn’t go that far, for there are circumstances when they do come in handy – and are even necessary. For instance, those who are hearing impaired have to rely on missalettes when there are no sign language interpreters or amplification devices available. Plus, let’s face it, sometimes it’s not easy to understand certain lectors, even if you want to. I know for myself that if I’m up front reading, and I see folks reaching for their missalettes, I automatically assume that I’m doing a lousy job – that my “proclamation” is not “audible and intelligible” as the Catechism says it should be.

Still, I probably shouldn’t be so hard on myself, because I know that many of us grab the missalette and open it up out of habit, regardless of how good the lector is. What I’m suggesting, I suppose, is that we should break that habit, and experience the Liturgy of the Word as it was mehandicappedant to be experienced: Through our ears.

Think of it this way: When you go to your local library branch with an armful of books and videos to return, do you ever hip-bump the blue handicapped button and wait for the door to open automatically – even though you’re not handicapped? I know I do, and that’s not so bad, right? But here’s the bad part: It’s now a habit for me, even when I don’t have an armful of books. Yup, it’s true, I’ll whack that blue button out of sheer laziness, especially if I have a contingent of kids with me. What ought to be an extraordinary, occasional use of an assistive device has become ordinary and routine.

This Lent, why not add to your fasting regimen by abstaining from missalette use completely and trust your lectors to convey the Word of God to you. By the time Easter rolls around, I’m guessing you won’t go back, for you’ll have discovered how much more you can get out of Mass when you truly “hear, contemplate, and do in the celebration” (CCC 1101).

Been away a while

I have been away a while, I know.  Lots of things going on, and just couldn’t fit it in.

A few things…

I’m still pursuing diaconate formation.  It’s an uphill climb, because I’m a bit outside the boundaries of the requirements they’ve set.  At first, they were saying the Bishop decided this, and his mind is made up, but let the Holy Spirit work…I was thinking, for a while, to write the Bishop and ask him to let the Holy Spirit work, but then again, I thought, maybe He has.  So we’ll see.  I’m attending meetings. Please pray for my vocational discernment?

Secondly, I’ve been having treatments for kidney stones for the past year.  They don’t hurt cuz they’re not moving, and that’s the problem.  They’re too big to pass naturally, so they’ve been blasting them and letting them come out.  Unfortunately, there’s a log jam.  So, they’ve decided to go in surgically next month.  Please pray for me.  It’ll be my first surgery.

There have been several deaths around me, and the world seems like it needs our prayers, folks.  Just pray for the world!  Pray for those in Isis! I know that’s radical, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies, meaning sacrifice! A perfect thing to do in Lent.  Offer the sacrifice of prayer for those in conflict around the world. Also, pray for my friend’s daughter Lala who died of ovarian cancer at age 44.  And my niece’s father in law Bernard.

On a happy note, we spent our anniversary on the Big Island of Hawaii.  I did three scuba trips, one, my first night dive…with huge Manta Rays.  We had a great time.  Planning now for a pilgrimage to Spain sometime this summer.  Planning to visit Palma de Mallorca, the birthplace of Junipero Serra, Barcelona and Monserrat, and Santiago de Compostela.  Really looking forward to this…

May the rest of your Lent be holy.

I finally figured out why Protestants can’t see what Catholics do…

Of course, not all Protestants.  And not all Catholics get it.  But follow my analogy…

Have you ever had the experience of going to the theater, or a concert, and you sit sort of to the side, but the singer or actor is in the center?  The stage is dark, except for a spotlight. From directly in front, the subject looks completely illuminated, but from the side, you see that the subject is not.  And you see the shadow.

Protestantism goes at Christianity from one place only.

On the other hand, Catholics see the entire thing.  The stage is lit, the actors are lit from all sides, and you see the color, and the radiance of what’s happening on stage.  You see the complete picture.  Catholicism gives you the complete picture.  Protestantism gives you only one side of the story.

Just remember that Catholicism means “from the whole”, sometimes translated “universal”.  If you study Protestant denominations, what you find is they took the Catholic Church, nipped here, tucked there, sliced here, diced there.  It’s like they cooked a complete meal, but forgot the spices.

Why Atheists Don’t Really Exist – Crisis Magazine

Why Atheists Don’t Really Exist – Crisis Magazine.


Why Atheists Don’t Really Exist

Science and Religion

Confirmation bias is the tendency to ascribe greater significance to information which supports our pre-existing theories and lesser significance to information which contradicts those theories. We often do this subconsciously. For example you get a new car, and suddenly you notice that type of car on the road with a much greater frequency than you had noticed before. But though confirmation bias generally refers to the inclusion or exclusion of data, there are other ways we can shoehorn the obvious to make it fit within our world view.

Last month in The Atlantic, Matthew Hutson wrote a fascinating article titled: “The Science of Superstition: No One Is Immune to Magical Thinking.” Actually as an article it’s really not that fascinating, but as an illustration of the mental contortions one must make to defend atheism, it is Olympic. Hutson cited a number of studies which demonstrated that “…even physicists, chemists and geologists at MIT and other elite schools were instinctively inclined to attach a purpose to natural events.” Hutson illustrates the point through research which subjected scientists to time pressure, thereby getting a more honest, reflexive response to questions, rather than a response filtered through reflection and vetted for consistency with conscious beliefs. They were asked whether they approved of statements like: “Trees produce oxygen so that animals can breathe.” When asked under time pressure, scientists were twice as likely to approve of such statements.

Of course modern theories about the evolution of plants and animals posit that the capacity of plants to produce oxygen is merely an accident that just so happens to facilitate the breathing of animals. To say that plants produce oxygen for the purpose of supplying animals would imply design, and therefore God. Physicists, chemists and geologists are very familiar with this reasoning, and yet with a high frequency, they assented to statements that placed things within an ordered framework and were implicitly teleological. For Hutson this demonstrates the persistence of “magical thinking.” Here were scientists, most of whom were decidedly non-religious, assenting to statements that implied an architectonic and therefore religious framework.

Skeptics call this patternicity, or projecting pattern where there is none. But for religious thinkers, the persistence of this type of thinking in non-religious scientists is evidence not of a logical lapse, but rather of irrepressible natural faith. C.S. Lewis famously said that when he was an atheist he did not believe in God, and he was angry at God for not existing. In his inimitably ironic way, Lewis pointed to the fact that there really are no such things as atheists.

Fr. Robert Barron addresses the common misconceptions about the nature of God that lead so many who worship at the altar of science to deny God exists. According to Fr. Barron, the atheist critique hinges on their mistaken understanding of God as “the supreme instance of the category of being.” Citing St. Thomas Aquinas, Barron argues that this is exactly what God is not. Rather God is ipsum esse subsitens, that is, the subsistent act of being itself. “The sciences in principle cannot eliminate God, because God is not some phenomena in the world.” Scientists and those who consider themselves atheists confine themselves to the material realm which is measurable and testable and are rightly proud of all that has been achieved in this realm, but even the most obstinate materialist cannot help but hear the echoes of truths from beyond the particular and contingent. As Fr. Barron says: “We are constantly struck by the contingency of things (their coming into being and their passing away) but we also have a deep sense of their rootedness in BEING. That’s God. The non-contingent ground of Being.”

But for Hutson and others who are perplexed at the dogged persistence of “magical thinking” it gets worse. Hutson cites studies which show the persistent belief in God is not merely at the level of some distant Deistic First Cause, but rather, a God who cares, a God who judges and a God who might punish. Deep in our bones we are intrinsically theistic. “Even atheists seem to fear a higher power. A study published last year found that self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things (‘I dare God to make my parents drown’). Not only that, they stressed out just as much as believers did.”

Further, our revulsion at evil befalling our parents is not merely because they are ours, that is, because it would be unpleasant for us to have them experience evil. Rather, we are, all of us, offended by evil befalling the innocent because we have an innate sense of natural law, of good and bad, right and wrong, which echoes through all that is. We are intensely aware of either harmony or discord with truths far beyond human construction or patternicity, and the ubiquity and immutable persistence of these truths is why atheists must be so cranky and belligerent.

Friedrich Nietzsche railed against the persistent interconnectedness between natural law and belief in God and called for a transvaluation of values. He said essentially that the only way one could be free from belief in God was by identifying all the ethics which are derived from Christianity and turn them upside down—do the opposite. But the world is forever made new by Christ, and so even for the scientist who stops up his spiritual ears and winces shut his spiritual eyes the leaven of natural law can no more be avoided than warmth and light from the sun.

When C.S. Lewis finally made the assent of faith he wrote that he was perhaps the most miserable convert in all of England. The result was a life’s worth of confirmation bias thrown on the scrapheap. He simply could not resist God’s love. Lewis of course was an Oxford Don, an intellectual not unlike Hutson’s scientists from MIT and elsewhere, and like them, he was lost in his one-dimensional intellectual constructs. But these MIT scientists, like Lewis, are met at every turn by the serene truth of God’s existence. In the deeper rumblings of their very selves, where nature speaks through instinct and God speaks through conscience, there are eternal truths that can be avoided for a time but not ultimately denied. The truth is there are no such things as atheists.

Passages from Vatican II that Every Catholic Should Know – Crisis Magazine

Passages from Vatican II that Every Catholic Should Know – Crisis Magazine.

Passages from Vatican II that Every Catholic Should Know


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). While all agree that the council was a milestone in the history of the Church, the meaning and application of Vatican II and its sixteen official documents has been a source of contention right down to the present day. Numerous acts of dissent from the Church’s official doctrine and discipline have been undertaken in the name of the “spirit of Vatican II.” Because of this, it is good for Catholics to familiarize themselves with what the council actually said in its official promulgations. While not everyone has the leisure to read through the hundreds of pages of conciliar material, there are certain passages which should be highlighted, in part because they counter attempts by those who try to ground their dissent in the council and its supposed “spirit.” The following are seven such passages that every Catholic should know.

1)  “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop…. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #22).

After the council, “uniformity” became the chief vice and “creativity” became the chief virtue. The large scale liturgical changes proposed by the council fueled the thirst for further experimentation on the part of priests and liturgists, leading to everything from minor changes in the prescribed liturgical texts to liturgical dancing and puppet masses. However, these individuals have missed the main criterion for judging the right kind and proper extent of liturgical change clearly enunciated in the passage above. They are condemned by the very council they invoke to legitimize their acts.

2) “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36).

A friend of mine once had an encounter with an elderly Church-goer who expressed her gratitude that Vatican II had abolished Latin from the liturgy. My friend asked her if she had read the council’s document on the liturgy, and the answer, not surprisingly, was “no.” While Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy does make provision for a much wider use of the vernacular, it also mandates a retention of Latin, even going so far as to say that “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (#54).

3) “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #116).

There are few examples of how directly contrary to the explicit desire of Vatican II many in the post-conciliar Church went than this. The last fifty or so years have seen liturgists act as if Vatican II considered Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony (also endorsed by the council) as the least suitable music for the mass. Their solution has been to replace it with a wave of what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger called “utility music,” undermining the council’s attempt to make the liturgy a true encounter between man and the radical beauty of God.

4) “But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff” (Lumen Gentium, #22).

Collegiality was one of the hot topics at Vatican II. Many in the Church wanted to move away from what they considered an excessive focus on, and concentration of power in, the person of the pope. Vatican II did indeed do much to deepen our understanding of the importance and role of both individual bishops as well as the college of bishops considered as a whole. Some, however, took this collegial emphasis to the point of undermining the power and prerogatives of the supreme pontiff as defined by the First Vatican Council in the late nineteenth century. For example, in his book The Changing Church: Reflections on the progress of the Second Vatican Council, dissident theologian Hans Küng states that the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the importance and power of the college of bishops was “a decisive counterpoint to the First Vatican Council’s one-sided definition of papal supremacy” (‘complementarity’ would have been a better word than ‘counterpoint’). The council, in fact, sets clear boundaries to the power of the episcopal college and emphatically reaffirms the ultimate primacy of the Vicar of Christ over the entire Church.

5) “But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (Dei Verbum, #10).

Vatican II gave a great impetus to Scripture studies, especially among the laity. So as to not give free reign to individualistic hermeneutics, the ecclesiological and especially magisterial context for Scriptural interpretation is again stated.

6) “Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ” (Lumen Gentium, #10).

The post-conciliar Church has suffered from a major crisis of identity within her different states of life. Laymen and women now stampede into the sanctuary to perform those rituals once prescribed to the priest alone. Clergy have adopted a lay persona by casting off the collar, cassock, and habit in favor of the T-shirt and shorts, and – in the case of some religious—of abandoning secluded monasteries and instead populating city apartments.

This is, in part, a response to Vatican II’s new focus on the common priesthood shared by all the faithful. This focus seems to many to call into question the former radical distinction between priest and layman. In fact, many see Vatican II as helping to break down all of the walls formerly dividing the two (e.g. this blog post from the National Catholic Reporter).

Far less attention is paid to the first sentence of the passage quoted above, which states that the difference between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful is not merely one of “degree,” but of “essence.” In other words, the two priesthoods are not on different levels of the same priestly spectrum, but, in fact, each is a very different way of sharing in Christ’s one priesthood. Whereas all of the Church’s faithful share in Christ’s priesthood by offering spiritual sacrifices, participating in the sacraments, virtuous living, and by proclaiming the Gospel to the world (LG, 11), the ministerial priesthood entails a mysterious identification with the Person of Christ Himself (acting “in persona Christi”), and so enables the ordained minister to effect the miracle of transubstantiation and the forgiveness of sins via the sacramental grace received at ordination. So, while Vatican II was indeed strongly opposed to excessive clericalism, it at the same time re-emphasized the radical distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful.

7) “Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, [this Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism, as through a door, men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium, #14).

Vatican II admitted to the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics (Lumen Gentium, #14-16). This created a firestorm both within and without the Church, as it seemed to reverse the Church’s perennial teaching of “outside the Church there is no salvation.” The result was that many questioned the necessity of the missionary endeavors of the Church, because if non-Catholics could be saved, why bother trying to convert them? And one hardly need to mention the fact that now practically every funeral is a mini-canonization ceremony.

There are two important things to note about this passage. One is that it clearly states that those who know of the necessity of the Church for salvation cannot remain outside of it and hope to be saved. The other is that, notwithstanding an acknowledgement of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics, it also clearly states that the Church is necessary for salvation and that Christ is “the unique way of salvation.” This is important to mention because some interpret Vatican II’s acknowledgment of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics as saying that there are other paths of salvation outside the Church. But this, in fact, is not what either the council or the Church teaches. As a 2000 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes clear, God’s “salvific grace … is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church.” The point is that those who may happen to be saved outside the visible confines of the Church are not saved in spite of the Church or Christ, but arrive at salvation some way through the Church and Christ. The council is, in fact, reaffirming the exclusive claim of Christ and His Church as the one path to salvation.

Many other passages from the council could be quoted, but this selection reveals just how far from the conciliar documents many in the Church have strayed. As we prepare to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of council’s closing, we would do well as a Church to reflect critically on the past fifty years to see just how well Vatican II has been so far implemented, and to consider how we can be truer to the council’s teaching as we move forward into the future.

More Ways to End the Vocations Crisis

More Ways to End the Vocations Crisis

Vocations Crisis

My recent article on the self-inflicted crisis of vocations to the Catholic priesthood engendered a lot of discussion, from which I conclude that my suspicion is correct. Many Catholics are content with strategies of suicide, because they do not really want the Church to prevail in her war against a world deranged. Since in our day the derangement is most obviously about things having to do with marriage, sex, children, the family, and those differences between men and women that are attested and variously respected by every culture that has ever existed, in every geographical area and at every stage of technological development, that means that they want the sexual revolution to change the Church rather than the Church to defeat the revolution. They are anti-missionaries, come to preach the gospel of chic hedonism. In our time, when someone says, “I don’t agree with all of the teachings of the institutional Church,” you can bet your house that the disagreement has nothing to do with three Persons in one God, but rather two persons in one bed.

You can flush the people out by observing their reactions to good news. Mention that the sisters of Our Lady Queen of Ephesus, in Kansas City, are devoted to the magisterial teachings of the Church, that they are joyful messengers of the Lord, that they celebrate the complementary virtues of manhood and womanhood, and that if their average age were too much lower they’d have to face a truant officer. Note the reply.

“Well, that’s good for them.”

“They’re just one convent.”

“If that’s their choice, I respect it. But their day is past.” I translate: Old-fashioned prigs!

“Correlation doesn’t imply causation.” No, certainly not. The rooster doesn’t make the sun rise. But the slogan is mainly used to duck the obvious. As I’ve seen it used, it means, in socio-speak, that if you take your kid fishing a lot, and your kid grows up with a hobby called fishing, we can’t conclude that there’s any connection between them. Young women filled with love for the Church and for Jesus do not naturally gravitate towards women who are filled with love for the Church and for Jesus.

Or say that priestly orders that maintain devotion to the mysteries of the faith are doing very well. Mention the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. Tell about what a couple of priests of Opus Dei did to save a jewel of a church from destruction—Saint Mary of the Angels in Chicago. Suggest that something similar could be done in your neighborhood.

“That order attracts reactionaries.”

“Opus Dei is evil.”

“We have to become a new Church for a new time.”

A former student of mine worked for a year at a live-in women’s center run by bitter old nuns—by the Feminist Nunsuch. It was down the street from Saint Mary of the Angels. The sisters refused to allow the priests to come over to celebrate Mass there for the people. “We don’t need them,” they said.

Now, if that’s your attitude, I am not speaking to you, not in this article. Wellington doesn’t ask Napoleon how he should arrange his battle-lines.

If you do not believe what the Church teaches regarding the neuralgias of our time, I am not speaking to you. If you believe that women should be ordained, or that a man can marry a man, or that the government should permit people to snuff out their children before they reach a certain state of cuteness, or that the Pill is good for what ails us, or that divorcing men and women can call Solomon’s bluff, saw their children in two, marry their new squeezes, and be patted on the head by the Church for doing so, while the abandoned spouse is played for a chump all around—I am not speaking to you.

If it’s your worst nightmare that men might be kindled with ardor for the Church—the real one, not the mythical Futurechurch, known only to the illuminati, those who have taken a night school course in ecclesiology and who wear special glasses—then obviously we have nothing to talk about. You want the Church to conform to the world; you want the Church to suffer a shameful defeat. You want to deform the Church to infect it. I want the Church to cure the world by transforming it.

If you do accept the teachings of the Church but you are content with the status quo when it comes to vocations, I am not speaking to you. You’ve had things your way for forty years. Enough already. I want results. I want victory. So in that spirit I make these recommendations, to those who also want victory:

Do the obvious things that will attract men. You want men? Go get them. Tell them that you need them to do the job, which is true. Set up a men’s reading group, and read real works of theology and Catholic philosophy, works that are daunting in their significance for a deadening secular world. Read Romano Guardini, The Lord. Read Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Read C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. Those, for starters. Invite teenage boys to join in, and treat them as absolute equals. Set up a weekly morning prayer in the rectory for the men of the parish, early enough to catch most of them before work. Let them pray on their knees, on the floor, as I’ve seen done at one extraordinarily vibrant parish in Connecticut. Let them hear a sermon that takes the truth to them and gives them their marching orders of the day. Notice how quickly and completely all the differences of class and education are forgotten.

Let them forge friendships in the vicinity of the sacraments. Announce a monthly meeting for men, for confession, discussion, and fellowship. Make sure there is food and beer.

The hymnals have been neutered. Get rid of the neutered hymnals. If you do not have the funds to replace Worship III, Gather, Glory and Praise, and others of that ilk with real hymnals, then incorporate into your worship some of the old manly hymns of the Church militant. We have copier machines; this can be done. At least once a month, sing one of those hymns. That is not much to ask! Sing Soldiers of Christ, Arise, or Fight the Good Fight, or Rise Up, O Men of God. The women will be happy to sing these too, if truth be known.

Return all attention at Mass to the action of Christ. What good and true man wants to give his life to a coffee klatsch? And Mass is not a coffee klatsch. It is not a comfy gathering of nice people with a taste for spirituality. It is the sacrifice of Christ, reenacted by the priest in persona Christi; it is the single holiest thing in the world. When J. R. R. Tolkien was writing to his son Michael, during the dark days of the German bombing of Britain, he told him to bind his heart to the Eucharist: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.” Yes, Death, which on earth ends all, but whose foretaste in the Eucharist, says Tolkien, gives the dimension of depth and reality to all that we seek and love on this side of the grave.

So put the tabernacle where it belongs, in the central place of honor. Get every layman out of the sanctuary after the prayer of the faithful. Put the chair of the priest on the side. Get the singers out of the view of the aud –, I mean, the congregation. If you don’t have baritones, find one.

Do not reduce the Catholic faith to a political appendix. Preach Christ and Him crucified. Remember that human beings are unified only from above.

Semper fidelis. If you are teaching in RCIA, and you do not warmly embrace the doctrines of the Church, moral and theological, then you need to do plenty of praying on account of your confusion, and you should recuse yourself immediately. If you are teaching CCD, same thing. If you are teaching in a Catholic school, the moral burden upon you is heavy. Pray every day for your students and for the light to see what has been revealed to the Church and why. Your job is not to play Satan in the garden. Do not deceive yourself on that score. You must decrease, and Christ must increase.

If you have the wherewithal, separate boys and girls for certain units or courses in your Catholic schools; certainly for physical education, for the touchier elements of health, and perhaps also for literature and religion. Unless it’s an all male school, the boys will have mostly women for teachers. Then there should be some time during the day when they can be themselves, without social complications; reading Moby Dick instead of or in addition to Pride and Prejudice; arguing with one another in the company of a male teacher of theology, rather than holding their peace in mixed company. The girls will doubtless also enjoy the change of pace. They too will feel more at home during those times when they can be themselves too; and it will make the re-union all the happier.

You have to remember what boys are. If your worldly business depended for its survival upon attracting them, you would not be so foolish as to dismiss what your eyes tell you, not to mention the entire human race. You would say, “Since this is the job to be done, these are some clear measures to take.” Take them. The Lord who chose twelve men to be His apostles, and knew how to do it, will bless you.