Tags: Pope Francis | Religion | bishops | cardinals | buckley | kolbes | mass

The Catholic Church Can Still Be Saved

The Catholic Church Can Still Be Saved

Holy Innocents Catholic Church on West 37th street in Manhattan, New York City. (Photo credit, Tom Messner)

Friday, 24 August 2018 03:46 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The Roman Catholic Church can still be rescued, with a four-step program.

Each step leading up from the sidewalk to the door of, ironies galore, Holy Innocents Catholic Church on West 37th street in the heart of the old garment district in Manhattan, in New York City.

You walk through the door, fifteen or twenty minutes early for the 9:00 a.m. Mass on a Sunday in August of 2018 Anno Domini.

You genuflect.

You grab a pew in the last row of this not so big church.

You see to your left a man of about 50 who is saying a rosary, an old well-worn set of beads. He finishes, makes a practiced sign of the cross, then stands, steps out into the aisle, and kneels and lowers himself completely prostrate. Before he arises, he beats his chest gently with his right hand and mumbles a prayer, perhaps, "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."

I say perhaps because he speaks very low and has what I take to be a Vietnamese accent. He rises and resumes his seat in the pew and awaits the start of Mass.

There are now 24 people in the church. 15 men; nine women.

Median age, including me, I figure approximately 65. Almost all the women have white veils on their heads, one has an out-of-season hat. That median age drops soon as three teenagers come in with (I presume) their parents. I guess they are from out of town, people who dropped into Mass not knowing they are about to hear a Tridentine Latin Low Mass.

I guess that because the woman has no headgear and as the Mass unfolds, the group has no idea when to stand, to kneel, to sit, and look as if they are in a mystery and not one on the rosary. They are, however, reverent and appreciative it seems of what they will hear.

The priest emerges from the sacristy and hands his biretta (not beretta, thank you) to the server who takes the square black cap and kneels.

Introibo ad altare Dei“ says the priest facing the altar.

The server kneeling next to him responds, “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam”:

I will go unto the altar of God.

To God, the joy of my youth.

I could not hear, from the back, any of that beginning and the once-familiar prayers called "Prayers At The Foot Of The Altar." I didn’t have to hear them to know them.

I think at that moment to make a contribution to Holy Innocents Parish to enable the priest and servers to mic up stealthily and let speakers play just loud enough, so the phrase "Hear Mass" has real meaning and the adumbration of  "To God, the joy of my youth" double meaning in this the year of coverups, payoffs, and despair.

A long time ago, I read that someone said William F. Buckley, Jr. was a liturgical Catholic. Maybe I am as well.

But the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, and the priests throughout the world should experience that liturgy on New York's 37th street every day, the liturgy that takes us and them across the centuries. Some might even think to step up to the High Mass at Holy Innocents.

The singing and chanting do not need a mic to be heard even on the street. I recommend they go on the Feast of Corpus Christi where they can hear and sing the lyrics of Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Pange Lingua. Hitting especially:

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Præstet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

At Holy Innocents Parish, too, those who deserve it will have time to confront their guilt and fully recognize it and learn perhaps how to correct it. This is a church whose confession and penance schedule extends to Sundays. It might even extend the hours if the Bishops of those wayward diocese want to truly confront their guilt:

SUNDAY: 9:45 AM to 10:30 AM and 12:00 PM to 12:30 PM

MON-FRI: 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM and 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM and 5:15 PM to 5:35 PM

SATURDAY: 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM and 3:15 PM to 3:45 PM Before Sunday Vigil Mass

Maybe this is too far in the past, not relating to today and contemporary problems.

A 13th century saint and centuries-old ceremonies.

Then, on the way out, I see modernity in a book for sale. 

It is the story of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, "Kolbe: Saint of the Immaculata." 

I know of him because of the funny and instructive book, "Saints Preserve Us," by Rosemary Rogers and Sean Kelly. I know the story too — that the SS had picked 10 men at Auschwitz to be starved to death as an escape deterrent. One of the Jewish men, in despair, cried out that he was a father and had two children. The Reverend Kolbe, a Franciscan, took that man’s place, posed as him, and died, not by starvation as the other nine had.

He kept clinging to life and the SS killed him by lethal injection on Aug. 14, 1941. This is now now recognized by the church as his feast day.

The church needs to finds its contemporary Maximilian Kolbes and have them run the dioceses and seminaries. Failing that we say to them, “Ite. Missa est.”

Or, in the language of the Garment District byways, "Get outta heah. It’s ovuh fuh ya."

Tom Messner worked forever in advertising. In politics, he avoided the predictable negative bent and did positive ads for Reagan in 1984 and for Bush in 1988 along with Bush’s convention film. The agency he co-founded created NASDAQ’s first branding, Volvo’s comeback, and Fox News’s "We Report. You Decide." Then learning from the pols he partnered with (Roger Ailes in particular), they brought attack ads to such formerly benign areas such as telecom (MCI). At 73, he’s doing two things he never did before: Blogging here on wildly unconnected subjects coming on the heels of last year’s adventure: the writing of his first play, a musical "Dogs" destined now for either Broadway or The Pound. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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At Holy Innocents Parish in Manhattan also, those who deserve it will have time to confront their guilt and fully recognize it and learn perhaps how to correct it.
bishops, cardinals, buckley, kolbes, mass, ss
Friday, 24 August 2018 03:46 PM
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