Christmas, New Year’s, and Epiphany always, I think, make us meditative over our past, present, and future. We are tempted to look at the events and challenges of our lives in isolation — not merely from those of others, but especially from the big picture of reality — as expressed by the Truths given the Church by God. But no matter how worried I may be about my next paycheck, Our Lady was assumed, Body and Soul, into Heaven. Regardless of how my nephew does in his next exam, the bread and wine offered by the priest at Holy Mass are daily Transubstantiated into the Most Holy Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ through the joint action of priest and Sacrificial Victim. Regardless of the unpleasant memories I may have of my prom date being grounded by her parents almost four decades ago, Jesus Christ is True God and True Man in Hypostatic Union. Whatever my resentments against my boss, there are Nine Choirs of Angels, one of whom is my constant companion and guardian.
I mention this, because an individual on the internet described me as a “Gladtrad” — presumably as distinguished from “Radtrad,” “Madtrad,” or even “Badtrad,” which terms presumably refer to Traditionalist Catholics of varying states of mind, and overflowing with one or another amount of anger and/or bitterness. It is a compliment, I suppose, implying that I am free of those unpleasant emotions in my practise of the Faith. While that is far from true for me personally, being a “Gladtrad” — in the sense of being joyful in one’s Traditional Catholicism — is definitely something for us all to aspire toward.
This is not to deny that Traditionalists have a great deal in our pasts that is easy to feel bitter about. Certainly, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, the denial of the necessity of the Faith for Salvation has destroyed both the missionary impulse of the Church and even the need to practise Catholicism at all. For seven decades those who affirm that necessity have been labelled heretics, persecuted, ridiculed, and generally treated by the hierarchy and brother Catholics in a fashion that no non-Catholic would ever receive. This is ironic, really, given that if the persecutors in question were correct in their assertions, they themselves would be useless parasites, collecting monies for the practise of rituals unnecessary for the Salvation of the Faithful while exercising a similarly pointless jurisdiction over the lives of their hapless subjects. After Vatican II, those who opposed the liturgical changes brutally imposed by the hierarchy were similarly harried; if priests, they frequently had their reputations and careers destroyed in accordance with an ultra vires note issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1974. Once again, decades later Pope Benedict XVI pointed out the truth of the matter, when he wrote in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum that the Traditional liturgy had never been validly outlawed — which outlawing, however was renewed in response to the Pope’s action by several prelates. Under the current Pontificate, even the moral law itself seems to be coming under attack from the highest authority, as the reaction to the Dubia of the Four Cardinals and the current excitement in the Order of Malta show. Indeed, the nastiness of that authority in dealing with the Franciscans of the Immaculate — to say nothing of the current Holy Father’s fondness for showering verbal abuse — make His Holiness easy to dislike by those who believe his barbs to be directed against them. Humanly speaking, there is enough in all of this to spark oceans of anger, and endless bitterness and hatred toward those who have dished out this abuse — and certainly, I myself am in a perfect position to share it.
Switching the scene to politics, there is even more reason to be angry and bitter. It is not just that these United States and all the countries of the West are bathed in the blood of infants by a governing class as illegitimate in origin as it is disgusting in behaviour. Vice is made into virtue, our sources of entertainment become means of corruption, and all that is foul is enthroned — Mr. Obama’s executive order (thankfully quashed) cutting off free lunches to poor school children whose schools would not allow boys self-identifying as girls to use girls’ bath- and locker rooms epitomised it all. The White Christian Male, whose forebears created virtually all of Western Civilisation (and believe me, no one is more aware than I am of the exceptions to that rule) found himself constantly demonized by the media as the source of all evil — and many WCM’s in response turned to a thrice married plutocrat with the manners and style of a borscht-belt comedian as the new Messiah; he certainly seemed straight-talking. Meanwhile, American minorities were led by the nose by a band of Uncle Tom leaders who sold their votes and support to the party of Planned Parenthood — an organisation whose foundress was pledged to their destruction.
Yet to the discerning viewer (and this writer attempts to be one such), this current crop of political horror is only symptomatic of the evil principles current throughout the West, and imposed upon each of our nations at varying times and in varying ways through subversion and/or revolution. In place of the Kingship of Christ and the Queenship of Mary, mediated to the various peoples of Earth via Kings crowned and anointed for that very purpose by the Church, we have erected republics or “constitutional” Monarchies whose leadership are allegedly elected by and representative of the “Will of the People” (whatever that might mean in practical terms). The institution of Christian Monarchy is constantly ridiculed and condemned in innumerable ways through media and education, to the point that a large majority of the populace believe that ridicule and condemnation to a greater or larger degree. But in reality, the myth of democracy has allowed an elite dedicated to nothing save its own gratification to rule absolutely — and to fling at God whatsoever blasphemies it chooses, with all the power of the State, or all States in concert.
Combine all of this religious and political horror together, and it is very easy to be consumed with anger, hatred, and bitterness. And, after all — are not the scum in both Church and State who have brought us to this pretty pass worthy of every drop of hate we can muster? No doubt. But there are problems with this approach, to say the least. Firstly, it implies that we ourselves are worthy to judge our admittedly erring masters, and that our sins do not themselves deserve punishment in this life. But as St. John Eudes tells us — “The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clerics who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds.” As for bad temporal rulers, they too fall into the category of Divine punishments, as Isaias tells us: “For behold the sovereign the Lord of hosts shall take away from Jerusalem, and from Juda the valiant and the strong, the whole strength of bread, and the whole strength of water. The strong man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the cunning man, and the ancient. The captain over fifty, and the honourable in countenance, and the counsellor, and the architect, and the skillful in eloquent speech. And I will give children to be their princes, and the effeminate shall rule over them. And the people shall rush one upon another, and every man against his neighbour: the child shall make its tumult against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.” And what of a bad Pope? Whatever one thinks of the current Pontiff, we have had indisputably bad Popes in the past, and if the world lasts long enough, we shall surely have them again, given that any Pope is a product of his time as well as the choice of the Holy Ghost. Given our failings — both as individuals and as the whole body of the Church — can we honestly say we deserve better? We should attempt to remedy the religious and political evils of our time; but if we also use them as penances, it shall help reduce our hatred, our bitterness, and our anger. Had we and our fathers not failed signally in our duties to God, the Church, and our countries — especially as regards evangelisation, something which most of us continue to fail in on a daily basis, preferring to avoid personal discomfort or inconvenience — we might not have come to this pass.
But there is more. I can hate, be angry with, or despise anyone I like with all my might. But not only is it a sin, it does them no damage — and makes me more like Satan than Christ. It can make me ever more miserable, and miserable to be around. Obviously, when and as I can, I must oppose those who hate God and His Truth — but for His sake, and its — not mine. It is a difficult task, separating the Objective Good that must be defended from my personal pique; but I have to try. Personal hatred does no hurt to its object: it only redounds to the hurt of the hater. And even when we must fight, we must try to do so out of love for the Truth, rather than hatred of its enemies. Indeed, without love, so far from defeating our opponents, we become just like them — their ultimate victory.
But love, too, requires an object, and knowledge of that object. The first and foremost object of our love — and which encompasses all of our lesser loves — is God Himself. God the Father, Creator of the World; God the Son, Whose birth we have just celebrated, Who daily comes to all the altars in Christendom, and Who shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; God the Holy Ghost, Who descended upon the Apostles and Disciples at Pentecost, and remains with us always, until the End of the World; and the Trinity of Them — One God, eternally begetting and proceeding in an endless action of love. There is the peerless Mother of God, Mary Most Holy; the Saints of every age, from the Old Testament to Mother Teresa; and our angelic brothers. This whole bright company of Heaven awaits us, as do those of our brethren in Purgatory who also await the Beatific Vision, and will intercede for us in return for our prayers for them.
If, however, love for God and His Communion of Saints is not to be a mere abstraction in our lives, but the very source of the joy we need to sustain ourselves free from hatred in this so-easily-hated world, then we need, in a very real sense, to incarnate it. The first and most obvious way is to receive the Sacraments as often as we can — daily Mass and weekly Confession, if possible. It means using the Sacramentals as much as we are able: “Our Lady’s Livery” — the Rosary and Scapulars (not just the Brown, either); Miraculous and St. Benedict medals; Holy Water: statues and pictures of the Saints; the innumerable items whose blessings are provided for in the Rituale; duly enthroned images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts; and on and on. It also means living the Liturgical Year — not only by following the Mass and maybe even the Divine Office closely, but in our home décor and even in our cooking. We should robustly celebrate Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and all the feasts — and keep as strictly as we are able the fasts and abstinences of Lent, Advent, Vigils of Holy Days, and the Ember and Rogation Days. Moreover, that fasting should be done in hopes of mitigating the evils under which we all live.
Beyond that, though, we should see our loved ones, as themselves gifts of the All-loving and All-knowing God, who has given us to each other as pale reflections of the love which He holds for each of us. Do you, during the Christmas season, feel blessed basking in the warmth of the affection of your spouse, children, and closest friends? Well you should; but bear in mind that all of their loves for you together cannot begin to equal in depth and intensity that which God feels for you — nor can yours for them. Moreover, it is a love untrammeled by ancient resentments and misunderstandings. If, on the contrary, you are alone at this time of year, and your heart aches for lack of love and companionship — well that ache is also a pale reflection: a pale reflection of the ardour with which God desires you to be His. Answer His desire as well as you can, knowing that it shall never be enough, this side of the grave.
But the love God has for us — and to which we should attempt to respond — is not only to be found in those whom we love. It is literally all around us. In my favourite movie, They Might Be Giants, delusional judge-turned-Sherlock-Holmes Justin Playfair declares “Genesis has got it all wrong. We never left the Garden. Look about you. This is paradise. It’s hard to find, I… I’ll grant you, but it is here. Under our feet, beneath the surface, all around us is everything we want. The earth is shining under the soot. We are all fools.” Save for the glaring error in the first two sentences, Playfair is quite right. The earth is indeed shining under the soot — the soot which the Devil and our own sinfulness endeavour to damage or disguise it with. But God’s love shines forth in the beauties and even the terrors of nature, as far as this Universe extends. An unthinking, unseeing scientificism attempts to cover up the intelligent design that undergirds us, and we allow our own worries and concerns to obscure it. Our fallen nature makes us prey to hunger, stings, disease, age, and death. But despite all that, we can see it, if we allow ourselves to. The love of God can also speak to us through the best of human accomplishment: art, music, history, theatre, architecture, literature, horticulture, cuisine, and so much more. Every town, county, state or province, nation, and continent on this globe — to say nothing of the Heavens — are loaded with natural and man-made treasures for us to enjoy.
How can we respond to these more impersonal and, as we might say, natural manifestations of God’s love? In four ways. First, we can cultivate a sense of awe and wonder for the tremendous and mysterious Universe in which God has placed us — from the beauty of roses and gemstones, to the power of lightning and thunder, to the inevitable changing of the seasons (which mirror the Liturgical Year). Second, we can develop intellectual curiosity about the nature, arts, and learning we find all about us. Third, we should maintain a lively sense of humour in regard to the absurdities we and our fellow human beings constantly generate — as did St. Philip Neri. Lastly, said awe, curiosity, and humour should impel a lively sense of gratitude to the God whose love for each of us gave birth to their objects, and is reflected in them.
If there be any truth in the “Gladtrad” accusation, it must be confessed that my membership in that company was not of my doing; indeed, I have a long list of creditors. My father, who not only taught me what a Catholic man, an American, and a Frenchman should be, but roused my intellectual interests in all sorts of areas, a few of which were Vatican City, Black history, the Jacobites, and our own French-Canadian folklore; my mother, who instilled in me a love of Latin, the Habsburgs, the Viennese Waltz, the Old South, and museums, to touch upon a few things; James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, who, apart from teaching me a bit about the Holy See and its workings, introduced me to Dom Marmion and stimulated my nascent spiritual life; Fr. Feodor Wilcock, S.J., who opened up for me the treasures of the Byzantine and other Eastern Rites; the still-living Fr. Jack Barker, from whom (and from whose parishioners), I learned of the Anglican patrimony — now safely ensconced in the Catholic Church; HI&RH Archduke Otto von Habsburg, whose friendship and correspondence were so valuable to me; Capt. George Doombadze, sometime chief of intelligence to Admiral Kolchak, who passed on his love of his Tsar, the Romanoffs, and the White Russian Movement; Charl Van Horn, who not only taught me to write at NMMI, but whose personal reminiscences about such worthies as Max Perkins, W.H. Auden, Gertrude Lawrence, and Padre Pio opened up a whole new world to me — and the memory of whose friendship I treasure; Br. Leonard Mary, MICM, who introduced me to the works of Fr. Leonard Feeney and Dom Gueranger, the wonders of Japanese culture and cuisine, and much else; Fritz Wilhelmsen,
who showed me Carlism; and a number of others, of whom only a few yet live. But in truth, numerous as this band is, they were literally ALL necessary for me to achieve whatever I have managed to achieve in this life. Each of these mentors were themselves small reflexions of Divine love — and what, apart from prayer for them, can my response be, save love toward the God Who sent them to me? The same is true of the writers whose works have influenced me, the places I have lived or visited, and the music I have enjoyed. In the face of all that God has lavished upon me, how can my gratitude to Him not be higher than the personal annoyances that plague me, or the horrors that afflict us all in Church and State? How can I not want to pass on to others all the blessings that were lavished upon me? If we attempt to respond gratefully to all that He has done for each of us, we shall have joy; it is, I suppose, that joy that makes one a “Gladtrad.”