Saturday, April 12, 2008

I win

I thought I'd share a discussion I've been having with one of the members of my Greek Chorus of supervisors. (Everyone who knows me at all, even by reading regularly, will agree with my former Oratorian Spiritual Director about the danger of allowing me to run about loose in the world without supervision. I believe it was the one of the few reservations he had about letting me move away from Toronto. I must say, I rather enjoy being free to get into trouble without having to go report it every week in the Oratory parlour.)

As I've mentioned, I no longer darken the door of St. Plegmund's Hovel here for the NO Mass in the village. I tried. I really tried. I went dutifully, arriving late, sitting in the back, and leaving early, for the first few months after arriving. I sat. I pulled my mantilla waaay over my eyes. I took off my glasses. I squeezed my eyes shut. I dug my nails into my palms... I even tried to pray, a between entertaining fond fantasies involving sticking my foot out during the procession Entrance Stroll; throttling/smacking the children playing with their action figures; praying loudly for an end to abortion/restoration of the True Mass etc. at the self-congratulation session intercessory prayers; feigning Tourette's...

But finally I got the the point where it was becoming almost impossible to resist these urges. I was almost at the point of standing up and pointing and screeching like a pod person, when I realized that this was doing me no good. I would arrive at my aunt and uncle's place after Mass for a cup of tea red faced and breathless and close to tears with fury. I started fantasizing about running away to an SSPX monastery. About finding a cave in Wales or the Highlands. About (God forbid) moving to Manchester to be closer to the SSPX establishment. It was, quite simply, becoming a danger to my faith, not to mention the health and safety of my fellow parishioners.

I always wondered what life would be like, after my deprogramming, in parishes other than the Oratory. Now I know. I can't hack it.

After that, for a while I got lifts to the True Mass Travelling Road Show, in which a most determined and devoted priest comes over from the Continent every weekend and drives like a mad thing all over the Midlands and into Wales to offer the Mass in various places. In the colossal peevishness (see below) of the doddering hippies who have been left in charge of the Church in Britain, one of the ways they have succeeded in stamping out the Faith has been to ensure that the True Mass is offered in a different parish every week, all between ten and fifty miles apart and none served by the rather sporadic Sunday country bus service. One cannot go on forever bumming rides and, with the dismalnes of the Cheshire winter weather, lack of transport, and isloation from my former Catholic world, I just finally let it slide. One can only fight so long.

But it preyed upon my mind...(that whole "spending eternity in hell" know...)

So I consulted. Most of the conversation happened by phone, but I can share the end of it:

On 12/04/2008, Hilary White wrote:
So, let's talk about me for a second. Me me me...

In your learned opinion, assuming one cannot get to a Mass on a Sunday, does making a pilgrimage to a shrine count as "keeping it holy"?

I've a mind to walk to Holywell in Wales and make some petitions to St. Winifrede. It's a good full day walk, starting early. Probably take the bus home though.

Fr. Supervisor wrote (smacking forehead):
Ok, you, you, you.

First off let me note that Canon Law classified the 'impossibility' of going to Mass as being either because "no sacred minister is available or for some other grave reason". The grave reason is not specified, so it's up to your conscience as to whether your situation in Tattenhall is a grave one.

The same canon tells us that for those who cannot go, they are 'strongly recommended' (which of course is not an obligation) to go to a Liturgy of the Word if there be such in the parish church (not something for you I suspect), 'or to spend an appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or, as occasion presents, in a group of families.'

Fr Hardon, who's pretty trustworthy, has this to say: "the causes that might excuse from assisting at Sunday Mass are: physical impossibility which applies to those who are unable to hear Mass because they are sick, or who have no priest to say Mass for them; moral impossibility, when it would be very difficult to attend Mass, say because of the absolute necessity of fulfilling other grave duties; and the practice of charity, when Mass is sacrificed to remain at the bedside of the sick or give urgent assistance to someone in great need." Your reason would seem to fall under the 'moral impossibility'.

Of course, there is also the obligation to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body.

As to your particular proposal, I own that it's a little odd. You're proposing to walk 27miles to Holywell in order to fulfil the precept of keeping the Lord's Day holy because you can't get the 8.8miles to Chester to go to a Mass...

Obviously I'm all in favour of your going to Holywell, but I'm not sure that these contortions work!

On 12/04/2008, Hilary White wrote:
Six points for me! I could see you spluttering...heh.

Well, there's always St. Alban's. They have "liturgy" there, and the Word is proclaimed, and I happen to know that the "minister" at least believes in the Triune God. Does that count as a "liturgy of the Word"? Quite nice architecture too. And I'm sure I'd make some nice friends. You've got to know that these days, the Anglicans still going to church on a Sunday are the real believers. It would certainly count as "time spent in prayer" with a "group of families".

I'm impressed that you looked up how far Holywell and Chester are from Tattenhall.

I knew you cared!

Fr. Supervisor wrote:
I think private prayer would be preferrable to worshipping with schismatic heretics.
Google maps is a useful tool.

On 12/04/2008, Hilary White wrote:
My point precisely about St. Plegmund's

On 12/04/2008, Hilary White wrote:
I win.


Robert said...

Traditionally, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been rather easily excused. In the days when moral theologians were rather stricter than they tend to be nowadays, all manner of circumstances could get one out of the obligation.

This excerpt from an otherwise severe 1936 moral theology manual made the rounds on the blogs a few years back:

Those are excused who are sick or whose presence is required for care of the sick, or who tend infant children at home, or who do necessary domestic work, or who have no suitable clothes (an excuse rather easy to magnify), or who would have to hear their banns of marriage called (if this prove disconcerting), or those who live at a distance from the church of three miles or an hour's walk, or even less, if the weather is bad, or if they are infirm; the distance that excuses would be greater for those who can use cars, tramway, railway, cycles, without incurring expense which they can ill afford. Servants are also excused, if forbidden by non-Catholic employers to go to Mass, but they should find another place, if reasonably possible, where they could have the opportunity of hearing Mass. A wife is excused, if by going to Mass she would give great offence to her husband; under similar circumstances, children and servants are excused. It is not expected by the Church that servants or labourers should deprive themselves of reasonably necessary sleep that they may be able to assist at an early Mass. Those are excused who would normally remain at home during a period of mourning; mothers, too, after childbirth for some weeks, and of course some weeks before childbirth. It is held that those are excused who would have to forgo -- occasionally, but not as a general rule -- a good stroke of business or considerable gain, such as would be the case with merchants, and during the lambing season with farmers....

Ricky Martin said...

The excerpt above must be a clever joke.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered contacting the wondering priest, or some other who is retired and has no duties on Sunday, and inviting him to say Mass for you and the local group at the parish (difficult but best option) or in your own house (not the best option but under the circumstances understandable)?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Not a bad plan. But there are always political ramifications in such adventures: toes to be stepped-upon, territories to to threaten, rules to many things to do, so few hours in the day...

hmm... now that you mention it, it does sound like a good idea.

I was also thinking of asking the local Anglican minister if his ecumenical sensibilities would extend far enough to allow the Mass of All Time to be celebrated on the site, at least, of the ancient church of St. Albans. The current building only dates to the 19th century, but there has been a Catholic altar on roughly the same spot since very early times. I understand that such things have been allowed recently in the very heart of Anglicanism, Westminster Abbey. give me ideas...

great, troublemaking ideas...

df said...

Rucky Martin, I wouldn't be so sure that that except is a clever joke. Most of the individual cases mentioned I have also seen in various Moral Theology manuals, which on many matters are far more liberal than modern moral guides.