The Better, the Worse, and the Masculine

In a time of attacks from all sides, faithful Catholics must not emulate our enemies.

The excitement at Church Militant and the sizzling revelation from Tuchita’s DDF that nonbinaries can be godparents both obscured and underlined an important fact. Whatever party label we Catholics who aspire to be orthodox and practicing call ourselves by, we are all under attack—as individuals, as groups, indeed the entirety of the Church herself, of which we are poor and imperfect members.

Some of these attacks are perennial, from the world, the flesh, and the devil, who starts as our tempter, promising us joy, and then as soon as we fall becomes our accuser before God, like a schoolyard tattletale who causes trouble and then reports it. Some of them are newish, coming from the highest ranks within the Church. While none of this will be news to my readers, I want to reexamine our own reaction to it, in the light of recent developments.

One of the results of the ongoing nastiness from above is the temptation to snap and bite at each other—fellow sufferers in the Body of Christ. It is important to remember that the devil wishes us to hate and despair—in a word, to be like him. This is not to say that there are not times when one must be resolute and forceful against evil. But it does mean that we need to avoid emulating our enemies if we can possibly do so. The pettiness, the snap judgments, the quick reactions to which so many of us are being subjected should be all the more reason not to do them ourselves.

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To begin with, we need always to remember the old adage that “dogmas come first, not liturgies.” That is not to say liturgies are unimportant or unconnected to dogma: one of the problems with the New Mass is that it does not convey as well as the TLM what the Church says is happening. And, of course, lex orandi, lex credendi. But what it does mean is that before succumbing to the spirit of division that is so great today, we need to recognize that all who can read and accept without flinching the four creeds of the Church are our brother Catholics, be they habitués of the New Mass, pre-1955, post-1955, Anglican Ordinariates, or any of the Eastern Churches in union with us.

The truth is that there are deep believers among us whose grasp of liturgy is somewhat poor. I remember praying at the Eucharistic chapel of the VA hospital in Los Angeles when an elderly vet clutching an accordion came in. His was a deeply lined face, and he had obviously been through much. Staring intently at the tabernacle, he then began playing “Amazing Grace” on his instrument. Neither the means nor the tune was to my liking. But I found myself envying the intensity of his devotion—and often since, at Adoration, I have wished I had it.

Indeed, I admit that much as I dislike hearing the word “Traditionalist,” I dislike the phrase “Post-Conciliar Church”—not as a term of historical description but as a sort of leprous anti-Church, whilst we, the pure, belong to the real one. In my last article, I provoked some adverse judgments by saying that I do not believe the SSPX are in schism. Well, doubtless saying that I do not believe in “the conciliar church” in that second sense will do the same. But in for a penny, in for a pound. 

It is not for me to declare a fellow Catholic in schism, any more than it falls to me to depose popes or bishops—though I do truly understand the motives behind this rush to do so. “Divide and conquer” is an old maxim of those who wish to rule over a subject population. Let us not collaborate in that effort but, instead, find points of unity with our Catholic brethren where we can.

There are, of course, a lot of opportunities for these if we look for them. Devotions are the most obvious—Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacred Heart, Rosary, Precious Blood, various saints, and so on—and the innumerable confraternities and organizations dedicated to them. Joining the Honor Guard of the Sacred Heart, the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, or a Purgatorial Society requires no liturgical litmus test to be passed in front of the bishop or nuncio. Still less is this the case with any Perpetual Adoration chapels in your neighborhood.

Among these sorts of endeavors are the promotion of causes of various Servants of God, Venerables, or Beati. Now, not all of them are to everyone’s taste. But that is fine. We are not called upon to criticize those who may or may not be saints based upon our own prejudices—but we may be called upon to actually find out about such a person and to promote his cause.  

Personally, I would be pleased as punch if Zita of Austria-Hungary, Dorothy Day, Cora Evans, and Little Rose Ferron were all beatified on the same day. Little as they had in common in life, they all have a reputation for holiness in death. If the Church should find them all to be worthy of canonization, it would be an incredible witness to that quality the modern world constantly babbles about but has little real understanding of—diversity.

Speaking of which, another place to draw together with other Catholics of like mind are the shrines and basilicas that can be found in every country. Walking an outdoor Stations of the Cross, praying next to an image surrounded by crutches or other things left behind by the healed, in such places, the Faith truly comes alive.

Another important keynote is celebration of each of the feasts of the Liturgical Year, to the best of our abilities. These unite us with our fellow believers across time as well as space. Moreover, if we live in areas where there are many different sorts of Catholics settled, we can experience their nation’s customs—from Rorate Masses to Simbang Gabi. Visiting ethnic parishes during the major feast days—and their patronal festivals—can be a wonderful way of bringing ourselves more deeply into a sort of “Pan-Catholic” mindset.

So too, our homes really must become “domestic churches.” Whether we are single or have families, we need the sacred in our everyday lives, a home altar wherein our devotional lives and those of our nearest and dearest can find concrete expression. For all the fury that events in the Church may rouse in us, we must focus ever and again on our real goal—the gates of Heaven.

No authority in Church or State can forbid us from performing the Acts of Mercy. The spiritual ones are instructing the ignorant; counseling the doubtful; admonishing sinners; bearing patiently with those who wrong us; forgiving offenses; comforting the afflicted; and praying for the living and the dead. Certainly, the current situation offers us all plenty of opportunities to exercise these.  No authority in Church or State can forbid us from performing the Acts of Mercy.Tweet This

Then there are the corporal Acts of Mercy: feeding the hungry; giving water to the thirsty; clothing the naked; sheltering the homeless; visiting the sick; visiting the imprisoned or ransoming the captive; and burying the dead. There are, of course, innumerable Catholic organizations dedicated to doing these things. Now, granted, many of them are far from what we would like in terms of proclaiming the Gospel to all and sundry and standing up to wayward authorities in Church and State. But to the degree they allow us to perform these Corporal Works—apart from what we should be doing when we encounter such miseries in everyday life—they are important for us to support according to our means.

Another important area where our masters have no control over us is how we live our lives. We know what a collection of misfits and moral munchkins are dominant in the world today. We have no control over them whatsoever; and, as we are continually reminded, we must deal with whatever fresh helpings of horror they serve up to us. But our best—and, for most of us, our only —real revenge is to not be like them. 

In the Code of Chivalry, our ancestors gave us a standard of behavior to aspire toward, which in later days simply became that of the Gentleman and the Lady. Do our masters make idiotic comments and act in a crude and arbitrary manner? Let us not do so. Are they humorless and nasty? Let us avoid those traits in ourselves. Are the men among them effeminate and the women manly? Let us strive not to be.

Do let us study our Catholic history, with its many stirring chapters. To give the reader an idea of what sorts of things await him, he may look at the Wikipedia category “Catholic rebellions.”  Therein, he shall find 28 examples of Mexican, English, Scotch, Irish, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, French Albanian, and Japanese military attempts to secure the Faith from its oppressors. Let him turn to the same infallible guide’s “Catholic Political Parties,” and he shall find no less than 340 groups that took up the same struggle across the globe in the purely political sphere. We must make the spirit of these paladins our own.

So, too, with Catholic folklore and Catholic literature—and indeed, all the arts that have come out of the Faith—according to our own interests and talents. On the one hand, all of these things are part of the heritage of our Faith, of which only a small part is open to regulation or spoilage by those in charge. On the other hand, each of us is given different talents and abilities by God which can allow us to contribute our own small bit to this great store—whether that contribution becomes an immortal work of art or just something enjoyed by our friends around the table.

We must keep our eyes on the prize. As a medieval crusader recruiting song put it, “Counts and princes, they may spoil us; but their spoiling ends at death.” Keeping in mind that the pains and annoyances of this world are fleeting; that our brothers-in-the-Faith are bound to us by Baptismal Water, which is thicker than blood; and that God created us all to be happy with Him forever, let us not be downhearted, whatever happens. Whoever may fall, whatever thing of beauty we love or revere may be destroyed, let us march onward in our lives, helping whom we may and knowing that if we do our duty to God and our neighbor, we shall prevail.

As Christmas approaches, we receive a truly God-given reminder of all of this—of all that constitutes the Christian combat. At this annual reminder of the greatness of the Incarnation, all the world pauses to honor, however obliquely, the Christ whom it usually despises in its governments and its economies—in which despisals far too many, clerical and lay, who share the waters of Baptism with us, join in. So, let us take this time to join all and sundry in that honor, never letting an opportunity pass to remind those with whom we celebrate why we are doing what we are doing, from singing religious carols, to sending religious cards.

As at this season, so all the year round, let us banish hatred and despair from our hearts and become as unlike the devil and his minions as possible. Let us reaffirm our loyalty to the Faith, its creeds, and our brothers who affirm, and try to deal with them as charitably as we would wish to be dealt with. And as for our opponents, remember that they shall never be able to enjoy the glories and pleasures of this holy time as we have been given the gift to do—whether it be trimming the tree, attending Midnight Mass, or downing Tom-and-Jerries in a room full of happy revelers. Even if they do precisely the same as we do, these things can never mean the same to one who does not love Christ. 

Merry Christmas to you all, and a very happy and holy 2024!


  • Charles Coulombe

    Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine’s European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan’s Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.

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