Friday, December 25, 2009

Mass-ive Disasters, Modernism, and Tradition

"Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances (tradidi) as I have delivered them to you." - 1 Corinthians 11:2 (Douay-Rheims)

After listening to a standard Pietistic sermon at my parents Baptist ecclessial community on Christmas Eve my mom - being the 'genius' she is - decided to bring up the Perpetual Virginity of Marriage. This broke the uneasy truce our family has and led to "the troubles" of the evening. I defended the doctrine from a position that no one had called it into question until the Enlightenment (Calvin, Luther, and Wesley all affirmed it). Of course my chief tool was Tradition not even in a specifically Roman Catholic, but just in a general Western Christian way, and I realized these modernists (N. Amer. Evangelicals / post-great awakening Prots.) were not the Classical Protestants or the Catholics or Orthodox I know and respect but a beast of Kant and the Anabaptists...

Anyway, after a vitriolic attack on Our Lady, closed communion, relics/saints, and indulgences (why can't our Roman Church accept Trent's recommendation and just give up on indulgences... not to say we deny them, but they're SO misunderstood, it's basically a lost cause). We arrived home on what proved to be the worst Christmas I've had.

I told them not to come to Mass with me, but my Catholic friends basically said I had to because it would "turn their hearts" and "lead them to the truth" and (insert Papal BS here). I knew it wouldn't, it only makes them hate Catholicism more. And I'm fine with them hating Christ's Church, it's not like it falls within the realm of nature to convert, that's God's business (grace) and their own (free will). I think the Anabaptist tradition irredeemable anyway...

Something interesting happened though. I was reading Jaroslav Pelikan's 5th installment on the history of the Christian Tradition (1700-present) and I discovered his opening story where he juxtaposes 2 different figures who attended Maundy Thursday Mass in St. Peter's Basillica in Rome. One was John Henry Newman, and the other Ralph Waldo Emerson. One chose the 'purely scriptural' and private judgment modernist/enlightenment view and ended up a Unitarian, and the other accepted the authority of Tradition and became the Venerable Oxford Cardinal who helped my conversion as well as many others since 1845.

I felt again a companionship with Newman, I see the more and more I read, that there are two paths really. One of reductionistic modernism (Atheistic materialism, American Evangelicalism, etc) and the other of traditional Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Classic Protestantism) which sees Scripture and Tradition as complimentary. I would argue of course that the roots of modernism are in Luther's rebellion, and the Protestants would of course argue that the roots of modernism are in the Catholic view of human reason. Both are oversimplifications I think.

So on this Christmas as I gather myself together, I want to thank God for the gift of Christ first and foremost, but also for the gift of History, which is the story of Jesus, and for his Church and it's Tradition which guides me through the wrecks of theology so prevalent in our day.


  1. A blessed Christmas to you, Andrew. You are a beacon in a dark world, and I pray that your light will shine brightly for as long as you live. May God bless you and all of those you love. P.S. I really like your photo at the top of your blog: perfect pose!

  2. This is the funniest post I have ever read of yours, Andrew! I love the "uneasy truce" and "the troubles."

    Worst. Christmas. Ever.


    My wife says: Wait until you get married; then you get to stay with your own family for Christmas and not have to be with your family of origin. :) Of course, if God calls you to be a Jesuit, you won't have any time off anyway so you get out of the obligation that way, too.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Thank you both, Merry Christmas