The Only Way Forward Now
This essay builds on the logical conclusion that naturally follows my two previous essays on the current state of affairs in American society and the abysmal state of affairs in the Catholic Church. It’s based on realism, not idealism, digesting the data as is, without relying on some pie-in-the-sky hope that God’s just gonna come down here and fix it all if we pray hard enough. Yes, by all means pray! And pray hard! Pray the rosary! Pray the office! Pour your heart out to God! Yes, please pray! But don’t expect God to just drop out of the sky and fix everything just because you prayed. He could, if he wants to, but I have the sneaky suspicion God placed us in this time for a reason. That reason is because YOU, and ME, and WE are the instruments he intends to use to bring about the very change we ask for, and no, it’s not going to be miraculous, at least not in the way we would all like to see. I have a feeling that God is preparing us for a reset, but not on par with the Biblical exodus. Rather, I think it’s going to be something more like the fall of the Roman Empire and the birth of Christian Europe, a process that spanned hundreds of years.
I believe we are living in the formation period, the early years, of this century-long rebirth of Christendom. The only logical alternative to this is to just assume that the last days are upon us, and the Antichrist is just around the corner. Maybe so. To which if that’s what this is, I say who cares? We can’t stop it from happening, so let the Antichrist come and behead us as martyrs for Christ. I’m ready. Are you? Nothing would make me happier than to check out of here that way, avoiding all the pain and suffering of growing old, with a guaranteed ticket to heaven by dying as a witness for Christ. If this is it, BRING IT! Let’s get on with it already.
No. This is not that time, not for Americans anyway. And I’m a little disappointed about that. Because it means that now I have to work, we all have to work, and I kinda liked the idea of the easy way out. Nope! That’s for another time, another generation, another century, in some distant future. I probably won’t live to see it, and neither will my children, and I doubt their children will live to see it either. No, ours is a time of recollection, reconstitution and rebuilding. We will survive. We will go on. We are the beginning, not the end. Our generation is the birth of something new, life from death, like the resurrection. God still has plans for us, and this world, and yes, you get to be part of it. So do I. We all do. So dry those tears, roll up those sleeves and tighten that belt, because you are chosen. We all are. God has something new in the works. I’m convinced of that. So with that in mind, let’s assess what we already know…
The United States is in Decline
American society is collapsing, just like the ancient Roman Empire. The fall of the empire took centuries. So likewise, the fall of the United States will take a considerable amount of time as well. It won’t happen overnight, and there will be periods of resurgence, just like ancient Rome. My dad (who had a tremendous amount of insight) once asked me, back in the 1980s: “Son, have you ever seen a big corporation die?” I was about 16, so I said no. Then he said: “It’s like a bad Hollywood death scene. You know, the kind where the bad guy starts to gag, sputter, clinch his chest and reach into the air. Just about the time you think he’s gone, he suddenly gasps and reaches out again, repeating the process, about three or four times, before he’s finally dead. Yeah, that’s how big corporations die. And the United States of America is the biggest corporation to ever exist in the history of the world.” His message was simply this. America is dying, but it’s going to take a very, very, very long time before it’s really gone. Such is the nature of these things.
Over the course of my life I’ve seen America die once, come back to life, and now it appears to be dying again. But this isn’t the end. It will be resuscitated for another brief stent of history. I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see the end. But maybe my children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren will see it. Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When the United States finally gives up the ghost, it will quickly (almost instantaneously) be replaced by smaller countries to fill the void, for nature abhors a vacuum, and so do politicians and generals. What matters most is our freedom to worship God, and our liberty to live our lives as we want to. The American Way will outlive the United States, for it is older than the United States, because Americans will demand to keep it, and they will fight to make it so. We will retain the American Way, even after the United States is gone, well most of us will anyway, depending upon where we live.
Where? Look to the red states, particularly those with strong gun rights, and focus in on the more rural regions of those states. That’s where the American Way will survive the longest — not decades but centuries!
The Mainstream Catholic Church is in Decline
The statistics can’t be denied. Big city bishops can continue to paint their pie-in-the-sky picture of hope, with their rose-colored glasses, trying to convince us all that the best is yet to come. I wasn’t born yesterday. Neither were you. I’m no fool. I imagine you aren’t either. It’s over. The Baby Boomer generation of bishops have failed miserably to revive the dying Church their predecessors left them. If they haven’t succeeded so far, they’re not going to succeed in the near future. As much as they would like us to believe this time they’re gonna do it right. They’ve shown no signs of changing, or doing things differently, and every effort to reach them has failed. Nothing will change.
There are only but a handful of relatively new bishops who actually “get it.” Good for them. Maybe they can make a difference in the long term, but the majority of bishops are going to continue down the path of self destruction, and we have to accept that. The notion that we can somehow shake sense into these men is unrealistic. If they will not make radical changes after learning that 69% of their flock no longer believe in the dogma of the transubstantiation, then there is nothing that can be done. They are hopeless. They have to be allowed to see the outcome of their failed ideology, and we have to let that happen. I, personally, believe that everyone has a right to fail. Yes, it will result in the collapse of dioceses all across the nation, but that’s what needs to happen. The ONLY men who can change that aren’t listening and they never will. Saving the stubborn is not what God has called us to do. God has called us to build something completely new. So we must let the dead bury the dead, so to speak, and start anew.
The groundwork for building a new Catholic Church in America has already been laid, and mapped in detail. You can find it here at the Reverent Catholic Mass website. The solution is found in intentional parishes, like these, based on the idea of building faithful Catholic communities on traditional liturgies in one of three main forms: Latin Patrimony, English Patrimony and Eastern Patrimony.
The Latin Patrimony communities are based on the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) that comes to us from the Council of Trent (AD 1545-1563). The mass that was formulated from that council, and modified only slightly in the centuries since, is the backbone of this restoration movement. They are plentiful throughout the United States. Joining such a community requires only a minimal amount of effort, but getting used to it may take a little more. The Holy Mass, in this form, is the epitome of solemnity and reverence, but following along in a Latin/English Missal can be challenging at first. Not to worry though. This old Evangelical managed to master it, so if I could do it, anyone can. All it takes is willpower, and if you want to get back to the way our Catholic forefathers worshiped 75 years ago, this is it, to the letter.
The English Patrimony communities come to us from the Anglicans who returned to the Catholic Church under Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Bendedict XVI (AD 1978 – 2013). The liturgy is based on the old Catholic Sarum Use (AD 1078 – 1535) and the Anglican rites that later developed from that. Overall, this liturgy is solemn and very reverent. It’s similar (but not identical) to the TLM in appearance. The language used is Sacred English, which can be easily recognized by any native English-speaker. For many Americans, this form of traditional worship (which includes both the Holy Mass and the Daily Office) is easy to slip into without any need for study. There is no need to learn another prayer language, and everything is easily understood from the beginning, albeit in a “higher form” of English. Think of it like “Traditional Catholicism for Dummies.” If you like the whole idea of getting back to the solemnity and reverence of Catholic worship, and you want to start living like Catholics did 75 years ago, but you don’t want to fumble through a Latin Missal, this option is for you. Personally speaking, this one is my choice. I love the English Patrimony.
The Eastern Patrimony communities originate in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church. Everything we have in the West ultimately comes to us from the East. So if you really want to get back to basics, and you truly want to just “get away from it all,” then the Eastern Patrimony communities are for you. While many of their liturgies have been translated into English, you should be made aware of cultural difference between East and West. You may find yourself celebrating holidays (like Christmas for example) at a different time. You’ll be crossing yourself a little differently, and your parish will look considerably different from what you’re used to. The music will be different as well, along with terminology. Eastern is, well, eastern. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be eastern. For some Catholics, this might be just what the doctor ordered. For others, it may be too much to digest. To each his own, but the liturgy is absolutely beautiful. That’s undeniable.
Why do I put so much emphasis on liturgy? It’s because liturgy (particularly the WAY its celebrated with solemnity and reverence) is the backbone of catechesis. It is the visual, audio and sensory way in which we learn the faith. Catechisms are built on the liturgy, not the other way around. The way you teach and learn the faith is through liturgy first, then you use the Catechism on top of that. This is the foundational principle of building an intentional parish.
As for Catechisms, I highly recommend the Baltimore Catechism, namely for its simplicity, and the way it easily bridges all age groups. It’s perfect for any family. While the parish priest or catechist can assist with learning the faith, the primary responsibility rests with each and every individual adult parishioner. As for children, once again the priest and catechist can assist, but the parents hold the primary responsibility to pass on the faith, both father and mother. This is why I recommend the Baltimore Catechism Set for families, and the illustrated Baltimore Catechisms for children and teens. Of course, you can always use the Catechism of Trent, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for reference, but the Baltimore Catechism is the staple. As I wrote above, however, the faith cannot be taught without the liturgy. So regular liturgical attendance is necessary.
The Reverent Catholic Mass website will tell you where to find all of these communities. My advice is this. If you can find one nearby, go all in. Join the parish and get on the membership roll. Set up your bank account to start sending regular checks to this parish, so it happens automatically, and you don’t even have to think about it. Start attending Mass there. Learn the liturgy. Figure out the Office and pray it in your home. Ladies, put on the head-covering (learn more about that here) and some modest clothing. Gentlemen, put on some pants and a nice shirt, maybe even a necktie if that’s you’re thing. If not, button up the collar and try to look nice. Attend parish picnics and potlucks whenever you can. Try to get involved as much as possible in the parish. Then just live your life like a good Catholic should.
If there isn’t a parish near you, then you basically have only three options…
- Give up, complain and sulk. Throw your hands in the air and lament that you don’t have one nearby, so oh well! Complain about your crappy bishop and your liberal priests who won’t change to accommodate you. If this sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. Sadly, it’s what most traditionally-minded Catholics do in this situation.
- Move closer to one. Seriously, if this really is something important in your life, then this has to be on the table. Many Catholics, living in big cities right now, are seriously contemplating a move to a smaller city or rural environment, especially in the wake of COVID-19, Marxist riots, and increasing crime in big urban areas. Lately, I’ve been contacted no less than once a week by people looking to move to our little English Patrimony parish in the suburban/rural environment of Southwest Missouri. If you can move, then move. If you can’t move, maybe figure out a way you can.
- Start your own intentional parish, and yes, there are various ways Catholics CAN do this. However, it does take a lot of time, patience, prayer and resilience. I did this, and I’ll admit it took a lot out of me. It was totally worth it in the end, but I would be lying if I told you it was easy. This is a viable option, but it’s for Catholics who are strong in faith and stubborn enough to stay the course in the face of opposition. I’ll explore this option further below.
For Catholics seeking to start their own intentional parish, you’ll need strong faith, patience, prayer, resilience and most of all — diplomacy. If you can’t be a diplomatic person, then this option is not for you, because you might have to work with people who don’t trust you, and people you may not be so crazy about yourself. Trust is something that’s earned, so you’re going to have to earn it from a lot of people, and you’re going to have to do it in a way that doesn’t burn bridges. If you’re honest and reassuring with your words, you might be able to pull this off. If you can’t do that, this option isn’t for you. Start making preparations to move to an intentional parish somewhere else.
For most Catholics, the two most viable options are the Latin Patrimony or the English Patrimony. Unless you happen to have some kind of family connections with the Eastern Patrimony, forming an Eastern Patrimony community will be extremely difficult.
The Latin Patrimony is simple enough, but it WILL require more cooperation from your local bishop. Of course, you won’t be alone. You will have help. Una Voce is your lifeline here. These good folks will walk you through the process of starting a Latin Patrimony community in your area.
The English Patrimony is simple as well. It will require some cooperation from your local bishop, but not nearly as much. This is because English Patrimony parishes are governed under a separate jurisdiction called the ordinariate. The ordinariate has its own bishop, its own leadership team, its own resources, its own priests to draw from, and its own liturgical norms which all operate completely independently from whatever diocese an English Patrimony parish is formed in. There are rules, however, which must be followed, and while any Catholic can initiate the process to get the ball rolling, only certain Catholics (eligible for ordinariate membership) can make the official request for the English Patrimony Mass and pastoral oversight from the ordinariate. So the trick is finding those Catholics, and getting them to join your group and the ordinariate at the same time. You’ll need to find Catholics who are converts from Anglicanism, Episcopalianism or Methodism. Your ace in the hole is the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society. These people can help you get started and encourage you along the way.
Intentional parishes are the future of the Catholic Church in America. Regardless of whatever happens to the United States, and how badly the US Catholic Church implodes under bad leadership, these intentional parishes will provide islands of safe-refuge for Catholics who just want to be fully Catholic again. Yes, they will grow. In fact, they’re already growing. In the years ahead, we will witness the massive implosion of large dioceses all over the country, along with the closing and merging of regular parishes. This must be allowed to happen. It’s part of the price of failure, and most of our bishops must be allowed to fail. It’s a path they have chosen. Granted, many of them were dealt an unfair hand when they were installed, but all of them had a choice. They could have made radical changes, cleaning up corruption and returning to tradition. Most of them did neither. Now we have reached the point of no return. All of this is happening simultaneously as big cities are failing from liberal leadership in the political realm. Again, this must be allowed to happen. It’s the price of bad leadership and poor choices. We, however, are called to something better. The time has come to form intentional parishes. Join one or start one. Do whatever it takes, because that is the future of the Catholic Church in America.