In a recent interview Pope Francis lamented the existence of “restorers,” a label he appears to tag on those who do not “accept the Council.” He said,
Restorationism has come to gag the Council. The number of groups of ‘restorers’ — for example, in the United States there are many — is significant.
I was struck by the pope’s use of the term, “restorers.” Whether the pope meant it as an insult or just a descriptive label, I take it as an accurate description of my views and the views of many other Catholics (a “significant” number, according to the pope). I absolutely do want to restore many things that have been lost (or stolen away), including: ad orientem worship, processions, Rogation Days, Ember Days, Gregorian chant, sacred architecture, sacred music, high altars, beautiful vestments (including lace!), cassocks, birettas, Epiphany blessings, Epiphany and Ascension feasts celebrated on their proper days, prayers at the foot of the altar before Mass, the St. Michael prayer after Mass, the Last Gospel, the Baltimore Catechism, Septuagesima season, a zeal for converting non-Catholics, clear moral teaching on areas of sexuality, and a whole host of other traditions and devotions no longer with us.
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What’s ironic is that Francis uses the term “restorers” to describe those who don’t “accept” the Council, but none of the things on the list above were abolished by Vatican II (some were even encouraged!). Show me the Council document that removes Rogation Days from the calendar (and while you’re at it, please give me a good reason these beautiful and deeply religious days were removed). Show me which Council session said we should remove our high altars and replace them with IKEA-designed tables. Show me which Council Father proposed we move Ascension Thursday to the following Sunday for modern convenience.
Of course, it’s likely that Francis means “restorers” in a negative light, painting a picture of someone with a sense of over-imaginative nostalgia who simply wants to return to things exactly as they were in 1958. While there might be a few Catholics like that, this stereotype falls short. No, we restorers want to restore a firm foundation, a foundation that can be built upon for the re-evangelization of the world. We see the foundation built in the wake of the Council as a house built upon sand (and again, this shaky foundation is more often than not unrelated to the Council itself), and so we want to restore the foundation of Tradition, which includes many of those small and seemingly insignificant traditions that have been practiced for generations, and whose value is only truly recognized when it’s taken away.
Following St. Pius X, we embrace the words of St. Paul who wanted to “restore all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10). While it’s true that some lost traditions are far more important than others, all were developed over centuries to form a tapestry which helped countless Catholics draw closer to Christ and into a deeper relationship with him.
So, yes, Holy Father, I am a “restorer,” and I hope and pray you will be too.