Sunday, October 27, 2019
Turned Away from an SSPX Retreat for Observing Lent

Earlier this year I registered to attend a retreat with the SSPX retreat house in Los Gatos, CA. This would have been my third retreat with the SSPX as I've previously visited their Ridgefield, Connecticut and Phoenix, Arizona retreat houses. My experience was not pleasant and after thinking through this experience for several months I think it's important to share what happened to me.

On February 11th I registered for a retreat that was to take place this Lent and to my surprise shortly after sending in my deposit I received a refund along with this note from the St. Aloysius Retreat Center secretary:
We received a deposit for an upcoming retreat. Father Asher asked me to please refund your deposit. We are sorry, but the Retreat House is unable to accommodate your dietary requests. Your deposit will be refunded through PayPal, as it was the original payment method.
In my registration I had asked for shellfish free meals to be prepared (for an allergy) and for no meat to be served to me for the Monday - Thursday sessions since it is Lent and I follow the pre-1962 abstinence for all 40 days. In actuality, I maintain a vegan diet with an exception for fish but for the sake of ease on the retreat house, I only asked for them to not serve me shellfish or meat. 

I asked for clarification and received a terse reply from the same secretary:
We cannot accommodate either of your dietary restrictions -- it is impossible for the Retreat House to guarantee "no cross contamination" for the shellfish nor can the Retreat House accommodate the "no Meat during Lent" restriction.
A alleged traditional Catholic community can not accommodate no meat during Lent? This is absurd. No further replies or apologies were received. I did not ask for them to make me anything special - just to not serve me meat. So in June I sent in this note to the SSPX district office to see how they would react to this clear violation of Catholic Tradition. How can a retreat house turn someone away who did not want to eat the meat they prepared? I wrote:
I have thought and prayed about this over the past few months but I can no longer support the SSPX. I was planning this year to attend my 3rd Ignatian retreat and I was turn away.  My crime?  Asking that, since it was Lent, I be served meatless meals while there. I thought that was a simple request considering it is the traditional custom of the Lenten fast to abstain from meat for 40 days. Plus, it would be cheaper too for the retreat house. But I was refused. My deposit was returned. No questions asked.
I'm going to cease my donations to the SSPX, cease attending SSPX chapels (which I've done now for nearly 10 years), and as a Traditional Catholic author and writer for several publications, I think I'm going to have to make this situation aware to others. To turn away someone for asking to have a meatless meal is unconscionable. You have it clearly on your website that dietary restrictions are honored. Yet it seems they are not in Los Gatos if that dietary restriction is in keeping with a Lenten practice that, while not in place in 1962, was certainly in place in my grandparent's time.  Please update your website to state that you do NOT honor dietary requests for traditional Catholic practices.
On June 25th I received a response from the Executive Assistant to the District Superior - another lay person and not a priest. After commenting on my request for no shellfish, she wrote:
Your request for a non-meat diet during the retreat was a secondary issue, although, being a preference and not a medically-diagnosed diet, they do have the right to refuse to accommodate such a request. Retreatants, as with all of us who are seeking a deeper spiritual life, are encouraged to accept simply what is set before them at table. If you were to look into saints’ lives, particularly those who dwelt in community with others, they put their individual preferences after the needs or common life of the community. St. Therese of the Child Jesus, for example, would “eat anything” according to her religious sisters and they never knew what she liked or disliked when it came to food. Eating one’s meals in common with others during a retreat could be compared with that aspect of religious life. On a practical note, it would be impossible for the retreat house to cater to each individual retreatant’s preferences when it comes to meals in common. This is why they restrict consideration of diet accommodations to those that are “medically prescribed”, as indicated on the registration form. We were informed that the retreat house did reach out to you by phone after receiving your deposit in order to inform you that they could not accommodate your allergy restriction and that your deposit was refund immediately after that call.
On July 12th, after having through about their email for several weeks, I responded:
While I appreciate your attempt to address these issues via email, they only underscore the need to pull my support for the SSPX: 
1. I do swear that the retreat house never called me and spoke with me. They are either lying or mistaken. There was no discussion - just a refund and a terse email that said that I basically was not welcome 
2. I do not believe my food allergy was the cause. I have attended retreats in both retreat centers in Phoenix and in Connecticut before and they both happily honored my dietary request for no shellfish and to cook the dishes separately when shellfish were served.   
3. The real issue here is that the SSPX seems to think that modernism entered the Church in 1963 and that all practices in place in 1962 were good. They were not. Pope St. Pius X rightfully condemned modernism decades before. And part of that modernism was the New Church's allowing of meat to be eaten during the 40 days of Lent. To violate that abstinence is a sin regardless of what the SSPX thinks. I am not on a crusade to force SSPX priests or Mass-goers to abide by those laws, which are surely still valid, but your refusal to allow me to keep Catholic Tradition is the real reason I was not invited. The 1983 Code is not a valid Code. And I do not violate the traditional tenets of our Faith, including the Lenten abstinence rules. This is not my personal preference - this is true Church law. 
I have already pulled my financial support for the SSPX and will not be assisting at their chapels any further. It was made manifestly clear by the retreat house and by your response that I am not welcome.
No response was ever received. 

Why do I share this story? 

I share this because I know for many years, especially when I was newer to Traditional Catholicism, I viewed the SSPX has the epitome of pre-Vatican II Catholicism. However, after experiencing life in their chapels for many years I can say first-hand that I've met many priests who are extremely hard to talk to, dismissive, and lacking in charity. I still believe Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was a hero, but that does not mean the modern SSPX is perfect.

In recent years, the resurgence of interest in the more traditional 1954 missal, with its octaves and untouched Holy Week ceremonies, has gained popularity in many Traditional Catholic groups but not in SSPX chapels. They continue to hold firm to the semi-modernized 1962 missal and 1961 breviary with the deletion or downgrading of dozens of feasts and octaves, not to mention the liberalizing 1962 Week reforms. To assert that the 1954 Missal is wrong, as I've heard in SSPX groups, is scandalous. But what is even more scandalous is the SSPX's views that the fasting and abstinence laws of 1962, which eliminated the Lenten fast and countless of other fasts on vigils, are to be observed. And even worse, if I were to observe the pre-1962 fasting periods I am refused admission to their retreat house.

The SSPX are not the embodiment of Catholic Tradition. I have met very committed Catholics who regularly attend SSPX chapels but I've found Catholic Traditions in other chapels and communities. I would advise great caution with accepting completely everything said by an SSPX priest, especially when their statements contradict pre-1962 Tradition or result in uncharitable actions towards others. We are all called to be missionaries of Traditional Catholicism and we do not do so by only preaching with fire and brimstone. We can save many by living a pre-Vatican II (that is pre-1960s lifestyle) and doing so in a way that shows others great love and charity and concern. 

My advice: do not attend an SSPX retreat and only attend an SSPX chapel if a Mass said according to the pre-1955 is not available.

Reject the 1962 Missal. Restore the 1954 Missal. Reject the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Observe the 1917 Code. Reject the modernistic fasting that was practiced in 1962, which Pope Benedict XIV surely would have condemned. Practice the traditional fasting done by our grandfathers and their grandfathers. 
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Mission Sunday

"Pere Marquete and the Indians" by Willhelm Lamprecht. Raynor Library, Marquette University. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Last Sunday, the second to last Sunday of October, was World Mission Sunday. Mission Sunday was created in 1926 by Pope Pius XI as a day of prayer for missions and for the Propagation of the Faith. An additional collect for the propagation of the faith was in the Tridentine Mass required to be said on World Mission Sunday. Sadly, this was not kept in the 1962 Missal but it is retained by those who keep the 1954 Missal.

We should not underestimate the impact we can have on the missions and the conversions of pagan souls to the True Faith instituted by our Divine Lord.

One year after naming World Mission Sunday, Pope Pius XI in 1927 named both St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of Lisieux as the patron saints of missions. St. Francis Xavier was a prolific missionary. Despite language problems, lack of funds, resistance from the Europeans as well as the natives, he persevered. St. Francis converted more people in his life than anyone since the Apostle St. Paul. He baptized over 50,000 in 10 years, converted the entire town of Goa in India, and he labored long in Japan.

But why St. Therese of Lisieux along with St. Francis Xavier? She died at the young age of 24, after spending several years in a cloistered monastery. She did not teach catechism, she did not baptize anyone, and she did not go on any foreign missionary trips. So why is she a co-patron of missions? Pope Pius XI recognized that prayer and the contemplative life was essential to support those were were active in the mission fields. St. Therese in her own autobiography wrote:
“Our vocation is not go to reap in the fields of the mature crops; Jesus doesn’t tell us: ‘Lower your eyes, look at the fields and go and reap’. Our mission is more sublime still. Here are Jesus’ words: ‘Lift your eyes and see. See how in heaven there are empty places, he asks you to fill them. You are my praying Moses on the mountain; request workers of me, and I will send them. I only wait for a prayer, a sigh of your heart! The apostolate of prayer, is it not so to say, higher than that of preaching? Our mission, as Carmelite, is one of forming evangelical workers that will save millions of souls whose mothers we will be”
We can join the work of St. Therese by praying on Mission Sunday and even daily for the conversion of non-Catholics, for the reversion of lapsed Catholics, and for the success of foreign missionaries. Missionaries are needed in both foreign lands and in many of our own cities and streets. We pray for all of them to be successful. We pray for the Lord to send more missionaries into the harvest.

Collect Prayer for the Propagation of the Faith:

O God, Who willest that all men should be saved and should come to the knowledge of the truth: we beseech Thee, send forth laborers into Thy harvest, and grant them grace to speak Thy word with all boldness, so that Thy word may spread swiftly and be glorified, and all nations may know Thee, the only God and Him Whom Thous hast sent: even Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Formal vs. Material Heresy

Heresy is a mortal sin. As stated by the Baltimore Catechism: "The denial of only one article of faith will make a person a heretic and guilty of mortal sin, because the Holy Scripture says: 'Whosoever shall keep the whole law but offend in one point is become guilty of all'" (Q. 1171). Sadly, there are many in the Church today who are heretics - many in the hierarchy who are formal heretics and many of faithful lay Catholics in the pews who are led astray into material heresy.

The Catholic Church rightfully asserts and teaches that its doctrines are the authoritative understandings of the Faith taught by our Savior Jesus Christ and that the Holy Ghost protects the Church from falling into error when teaching these doctrines. To deny one or more of those doctrines, therefore, is to deny the faith of Christ entirely. Heresy is both the non-orthodox belief itself, and the act of holding to that belief. However, the Church makes several distinctions as to the seriousness of an individual heterodoxy and its closeness to true heresy. Only a belief that directly contravenes an Article of Faith, or that has been explicitly rejected by the Church, is labelled as actual "heresy."

An important distinction is that between formal and material heresy.

The difference is one of the heretic's subjective belief about his opinion. The heretic who is aware that his belief is at odds with Catholic teaching and yet continues to cling to his belief pertinaciously is a formal heretic. This sort of heresy is sinful because in this case the heretic knowingly holds an opinion that, in the words of the first edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, "is destructive of the virtue of Christian faith ... disturbs the unity, and challenges the Divine authority, of the Church" and "strikes at the very source of faith." Material heresy, on the other hand, means that the individual is unaware that his heretical opinion denies, in the words of Canon 751, "some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith." The opinion of a material heretic may produce the same objective results as formal heresy, but because of his ignorance he commits no sin by holding it. The penalty for a baptised Catholic above the age of 18 who obstinately, publicly, and voluntarily manifests his or her adherence to an objective heresy is automatic excommunication ("latae sententiae") according to Can. 1364 par.1 CIC.

A belief that the church has not directly rejected, or that is at variance with less important church teachings, is given the label, sententia haeresi proxima, meaning "opinion approaching heresy." A theological argument, belief, or theory that does not constitute heresy in itself, but which leads to conclusions which might be held to do so, is termed propositio theologice erronea, or "erroneous theological proposition". Finally, if the theological position only suggests but does not necessarily lead to a doctrinal conflict, it might be given the even milder label of sententia de haeresi suspecta, haeresim sapiens, meaning "opinion suspected, or savoring, of heresy."

Source: Heresy in the Catholic Church
Friday, October 18, 2019
The Traditional Vigils and Feastdays of the Apostles

The Feasts of the Apostles as Holy Days

For over 100 years, the Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar have remained largely the same. But the number of Holy Days in previous times was significantly larger.

In 1911, Pope St. Pius X reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation from 36 to 8, although which places observed the holy days were not uniform at all beforehand.  Shortly thereafter, the 1917 Code of Canon Law increased the number to 10 by adding back Corpus Christi and Ss. Joseph. Those ten on the Universal Calendar have remained the same ever since.

However, the Holy Days up until 1911 reveal something quite interesting as all of the feasts of the Apostles were Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar. The feasts of the Apostles were raised to public holidays in 932 AD as Father Weiser relates (p. 279).

The 36 Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar back in 1642 under Pope Urban VIII included:

1. Nativity of our Lord
2. Circumcision of our Lord
3. Epiphany of the Lord
4. Monday within the Octave of the Resurrection
5. Tuesday within the Octave of the Resurrection
6. Ascension
7. Monday within the Octave of Pentecost
8. Tuesday within the Octave of Pentecost
9. Most Holy Trinity
10. Most Holy Body of Christ
11. Finding of the Holy Cross
12. Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
13. Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
14. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
16. Dedication of St. Michael
17. Nativity of St. John Baptist
18. Ss. Peter and Paul
19. St. Andrew
20. St. James
21. St. John (the December feastday)
22. St. Thomas
23. Ss. Philip and James
24. St. Bartholomew
25. St. Matthew
26. Ss. Simon and Jude
27. St. Matthias
28. St. Stephen (the December feastday)
29. The Holy Innocents
30. St. Lawrence
31. St. Sylvester
32. St. Joseph
33. St. Anne
34. All Saints Day
35. The Principle Patrons of One’s Country, City, etc.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was added in 1708 so it not on 1642 list.

The Church, by reducing the number of Holy Days of Obligation, removed the feasts of the Apostles. And this has diminished their importance in the lives of the average Catholic. How many Catholics can even name all 12 Apostles? How many know the name of the traitor or the name of the Apostle who took his place? Catechesis has failed the modern Catholic.

Make a special effort to observe the feast of all of the Apostles by Mass attendance, if possible, or at least by praying the Collect prayer for their feastdays. You can also try to pray the Divine Office on their feastdays. And you should at the very least remember to implore their intercession on their feastdays.

Observing the Vigil of the Apostles

The term “vigil” is used in several ways.  It may refer to an entire day before a major feast day (e.g. the Vigil of Christmas is all day on Dec 24th). This kind of vigil is a feast day in itself. Before the changes to the Roman Calendar in 1955, nearly all feasts of the apostles were preceded by a special Vigil Day. And the Church put those days in place to help us prepare for the importance of a feast of an apostle. Sadly, the observance of fasting on the vigils of the apostles in many places disappeared back in the 1700s.

Note: A Mass with the Sunday propers and fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation that is anticipated on a Saturday evening is sometimes, though incorrectly, called a vigil. This practice though is a novelty and not part of Catholic Tradition, so I always encourage Catholics to never attend such “vigil masses” on Saturday evenings.

We have lost the importance of the feast of the apostles, I believe, in part due to losing the vigils. We can change that by observing those in our own prayer lives. And the same is true for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception or the Vigil of All Saints (Halloween), traditional days when we would fast and abstain from meat, but which are neither found in the Novus Ordo calendar nor even in the 1962 Missal.

You can easily find online listings of the pre-1955 Catholic liturgical calendar which include these unique vigil days of preparation.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Book Review: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

It is unfortunate that this book is so highly read by academics and elite business professionals ranging from those in Silicon Valley to Wall Street. Dr. Harari, an atheist, has written a book that is not only logically flawed but written in a way with only contempt for religious - especially Catholics. 

Writing for The Catholic Thing, Francis Beckwith summarizes the logical errors in some of the professor's thinking in his piece: Materialistic Dogmas and Bad Conclusions.

I picked up a copy of the book and flipped through only a few pages where I read some of the many attacks against the Catholic Faith including:

  • "The Catholic alpha male abstains from sexual intercourse and raising a family, even though there is no genetic or ecological reason for him to do so"
  • "The Catholic Church has survived for centuries, not by passing on a celebacy gene from one one to the next, but by passing on the stories of the New Testament and of Catholic canon law."
  • "According to this story, if a Catholic priest dressed in sacred garments solemnly said the right words at the right moment, mundane bread and wine turned into God's flesh and blood. The priest exclaimed 'Hoc est corpus meum' and hocus pocus - the bread turned into Christ's flesh...millions of devout French Catholics behaved as if God really existed in the consecrated bread and wine."
Firstly, Dr. Harari seems to forget that there is a reason for priests to abstain from sexual intercourse and raising a family so that they are more conformed to Christ's life, are able to focus entirely on ministry, and in fulfillment of Christ's own words (cf. Matthew 19:12)

Secondly, Canon Law was only first created by Pope St. Pius X in 1917. The Catholic Church exists to transmit the Faith as taught by Christ Himself and the Apostles and to transmit the Sacraments instituted by the Redeemer. It has not survived for centuries by passing on canon law. Any historian should find that claim absurd.

Thirdly, Dr. Harari's blasphemy against the Real Presence stands in sharp contrast to the many Eucharistic miracles confirming Transubstantiation (Miracle of Lanciano, Siena, Orvieto, etc) as well Christ's own words.

This atheistic work is both historically inaccurate, blasphemous, opposed to divine revelation, and founded on faulty logic. It is fit only for the trash heap or the burn pile.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
Why Women Cannot be Doctors of the Church

The title of "Doctor of the Church" is bestowed on certain individuals not only for their faith but for their skillful defense of it. The first saints given this title on September 20, 1295, by Boniface XIII included Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, & Saint Gregory the Great. The next added was St. Thomas Aquinas and since then has grown to include thirty-three saints.

In the post Vatican II Church, the attacks on Traditional Catholic views and beliefs include far more than just the Tridentine Mass. While it is praiseworthy to see more and more people seeking out and supporting the Traditional Latin Mass, it is disheartening to still see many of these groups believing some or many of the novelties that came after Vatican II.

What are these novelties? 

  • The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary are one. They were invented by John Paul II in an attempt to change the Rosary which had been given in its 3 set of mystery format directly from the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
  • Other novelties include the drastic change in the canonization process in 1983 that cause reasonably doubt on the infallibly of modern canonizations, especially those of liberal popes like Paul VI who did all he could to abolish the Tridentine Mass.  
  • Another such novelty is the 1983 Code of Canon Law which reduced the Eucharistic Fast to only one hour, another change that Traditionalists need to reject.
But one novelty that few Traditionalists seem to care about is the addition of female saints to the list of Doctors of the Church. St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Hildegard of Bingen were added to this list post Vatican II. And while their writings and work are certainly praiseworthy they cannot be called Doctors of the Church. To do so would be a violation directly against apostolic teaching attested to by St. Paul and recorded in Sacred Scripture.

An explanation on this was some years ago penned by Bishop Richard Williamson on why recent Popes' actions to declare some women saints as Doctors of the Church is to be rejected against Catholic Tradition. I quote:
A few days ago I met in Rome a gracious Roman lady who asked me why in a sermon several years ago I had been opposed to the papal declaration of St. Catherine of Sienna as a Doctor of the Church. The problem, I replied, lies in the confusion of roles. 
Recent Popes have declared three women Saints to be Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Sienna, Theresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. Now no Catholic in his right mind would call in question either the orthodoxy or the great usefulness of each of their writings. We have only to thank God for their inspired and intuitive wisdom. Nevertheless for the Pope to declare them Doctors, i.e. teachers, is to encourage Catholic women to set up in public as teachers. St. Thomas Aquinas (IIa IIae, 177, art 2) has three reasons against this. 
Firstly he quotes St. Paul (II Tim II, 12): “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man: but to be in silence.” St. Thomas distinguishes here public from private teaching: in the home a mother must teach her children, in a quasi-domestic setting a woman may well teach, especially girls and little boys. 
Secondly, any woman set up in public view is liable to arouse unclean desire in men.
Thirdly, “women in general are not so perfect in wisdom as to be entrusted with public teaching.”

I hope more Traditionalists will seek to live an authentic Traditional Catholic life which is not focused merely on the exteriors of the Mass but on the Faith itself. And that Traditional Faith is still under assault even from priests in the FSSP, Institute of Christ the King, SSPX, or other Traditional groups. Reject the Luminous Mysteries, reject the modernized fasts enshrined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and reject the title of Doctor of the Church being given to female saints. 

Seek to live out the Catholic Faith in the same manner (i.e. the Mass) but also with the same beliefs as our grandfathers and their grandfathers. The Catholic Faith cannot change because God does not change. What was true in the past must be true now. And if St. Paul's teachings were true in the past, they must be true now. We cannot change what is of apostolic origin.

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