Saturday, September 18, 2010

Testimonial from Portugal

Continuing the theme of testimonials, one of my readers has sent an interesting testimonial on the state of traditionalism in Portugal and his own efforts and difficulties in promoting it. If anyone from Portugal is interested in helping in his efforts, please email me through the blog and I can put you in contact with him. I thought this was worth sharing:
I recently went to the workshop that was given by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. I think it could have been better organized than it was, but we've got to work with what we're given, right? Sadly there were very few people there. I tried putting some fliers up in my city in certain churches but received a big "NO" from the priests (who seemed to have no idea even what the Summorum Pontificum is). But still, it was interesting. I got to learn the meaning of much of the symbolism of the Gregorian Mass, as well as the relation between the Mass and Jewish rituals (something I had been looking up on the net for a while now). We also had a conference on the Bragan rite. Every day we had a high solemn Mass, one of them being celebrated according to the Bragan rite; there was even a high solemn Mass in the Fátima Basilica, the first official one in 40 years (unfortunately I couldn't make it to that one, but given the pictures I saw and the hour the Mass was scheduled for, it wasn't full). My girlfriend had never been to a High Solemn Mass; she was left speechless. Though she isn't much of a church goer (we're working on that, though not forcibly, but just by example and talking about things), she now finds the Pauline Mass "lifeless," for all its noise as she commented at the baptism (she mentioned missing the silence of the Canon).

We're trying to set up an Una Voce office here to address the issues particular to the Portuguese and the implementation of the SP. Most of the laity and the clergy seem to be unaware of it. Also, most people have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear the word "tradition". Portugal was under a dictatorship for some 40 years roughly, so tradition tends to be associated with the "old regime"; the fact that the State tried to use the Church's Social Teaching for some if its political policies further associated the Dictatorial State and the Church in the mentality of the people (though it is generally those born toward the end of the regime - in the 50's and 60's - who have the greatest animus towards it). So, as you can see, "tradition" carries a lot of baggage with it here. Most youngsters will have none of it, in any form. Breaking with the past, with any links, seems to be the norm.

We also have another problem, which the priest who celebrated the Bragan rite highlighted. He mentioned that the Portuguese aren't a "liturgical" people (as in, there's a lot of ignorance as to what the Mass is all about). The Mass, in most of their eyes, is "the priest's thing", so they didn't care much when the rite changed so long as they could keep receiving communion. On the other hand, popular piety is their thing. Most priests are smart enough to not meddle much in processions and changing statues from one place to another in churches, etc., because they will feel the backlash (I know of cases where priests stopped processions from happening and the parishioners got them kicked out of their parishes). This popular piety has been an indirect/unconscious brake on liturgical abuse, so that we have only a mild form of it, not so bad as in the US or other European countries. In my opinion, the Gregorian Mass gives itself more naturally to popular piety, so if we can find a way to wed the two back together, I think we'd get a foot in the door that way. As to what would attract the younger crowd (which seems to be who has really gained weight in the US and really helped the movement along), I have no idea; I was born "old", so I can't really relate to youngsters, especially not to the Portuguese younger generation (after all, I still tend to think like an American). It would also be interesting to see the Bragan rite come back to life, as it is hanging by a thread (once again).

I'm trying to find people my age who are interested in tradition and slowly they're popping up. I hope some will get involved in Una Voce because, even though I like the folks who are going to be at the meeting, I don't want it to be led mostly by the "NO is of the Devil!" crowd (there might be a few of them there; I only really talk to the people who go to the diocesan Mass; others go to the Mass at religious houses so I have no idea what they're really like).I'm sure you understand my reservations? Flies to honey, not vinegar, and all that...

It was the first time I remember going to a baptism. I tried convincing my brother to get it celebrated according to the older rite (I'd have felt more comfortable with the older exorcism prayers given that my godson's grandparents on both sides dabble in the occult), but no go. The Mass seemed to be rushed (it was basically an hour), and not even the baptismal font was used. No one told the priest that he could have been a Baptist minister (but then he'd have to get a job, wouldn't he). At the meeting before the Baptism he insinuated that infant baptism was an invention, that there was nothing sacramental about it (no immediate effects either) and that it was just a sort of fancy symbolical rite into a "life experience community". He also made some comments about the initiatory rites which would have irked off our Eastern and Oriental brothers (Catholic and Orthodox). I have never felt so much anger at a priest as I did that day. On the day of the Baptism, only 5 of us were dressed formally (I know formality in dress isn't much of an issue for you, but here it is, or at least used to be; given that this was a special event in the kid's life, I think it would be appropriate if people demonstrated that at least by dress, if only as a sign of respect even if they don't believe in what is being done); not even my nephew had any particularly formal clothing on as most kids do for the occasion. Still, in the end he was received into the Mystical Body and was for that day (and perhaps for some time afterwards) worthy of reverence as he became a temple of the Holy Spirit, so that's what matters né? In the end it's all about saving as many as possible.

No comments: