August 24, 2016: I’m a Traditional Catholic in an unTraditional environment

~by Susi Pittman


I was eight years old when my French-Canadian grandmother took me to her Catholic church for Mass. She was my father’s mother and my father had long since walked away from the Catholic Church. He and my mother were not really church-going at the time. The offer from my grandmother to join her that Sunday was something that changed my life forever.

The church itself was very gothic and looked like something from a fairy-tale book. Upon entering the Sanctuary, it got even more mysterious and I sensed a change in the air, in the environment. I had never felt such in any church and I found myself in a quiet peace. Believe me, this was highly unusual, as I was a child of questions and non-stop energy.

I remember being absolutely mesmerized with the Mass and the ritual of celebration. It felt so holy, so really, really holy. It was of course, the Latin Mass. The Latin responses and the priest’s actions on the altar were curious but beautiful. And there was as statue of a most beautiful lady in a white gown and blue sash that sat on a pedestal to our right. There was a figure of a man hanging by his hands and he was in pain and I wondered why was that? The smells, the music the reverent responses in that language so foreign to my ears were somehow so familiar.

On the ride home, I plagued my grandmother with dozens of questions; Who was that lady? Why was that poor man hanging? Who was that man praying in front of the hanging man? Why did you talk different? And on and on.

My grandmother answered them all. I was just on “fire” from the experience, and I told her I always wanted to go to that church from now on. I was excited to tell my father about how wonderful Grandma’s church was, but he would not have any of it. I told him I wanted to be a Catholic, which made him very angry. He responded that I would become Catholic when hell froze over…whatever that was.

My father had married my mother who was a Baptist. He had married outside of the faith for love and at that time, it meant excommunication from the Church. He was mad at the Church and would remain so until I reached my teen years.

From the time I was eight up to my twelfth year, I would every so often ask my father again, Daddy, would you please let me be a Catholic? It was when I was twelve and attending Sunday school at the local Baptist church with my parents that I wore a St. Christopher’s medal around my neck to class. The somewhat perplexed teacher asked me nicely to remove it, and reprimanded me that Baptist don’t believe in such. My firm reply was, no, I want to be Catholic! So, a little note was sent home to my parents.

In time my father finally said to me; If you still want to be a Catholic at sixteen, I will call the local parish and set you up for instruction.

On my sixteenth birthday my father made good on his word and took me to St. Rose of Lima Parish where I started to receive instruction from the Right Reverend Monsignor James F. Enright of Dublin, Ireland. It was the happiest days of my young life to that point. I was finally going to become a Catholic.

It was during this time, unbeknown to me, that my father had started talking with the Monsignor about missing the Church and his story of having left the Church.

In the spring, I was confirmed a Catholic by Archbishop Coleman Carroll of the Archdiocese of Miami.

The following spring, my father and mother were remarried in the Catholic Church and my sisters and they were confirmed into the Faith.

Every Saturday of every week we went to Confession. Sunday mornings we would not dare think of eating anything an hour before Mass, so as to prepare to receive Jesus. We would never think of not being finely dressed up to attend Mass, why that would not be respecting Jesus. When you entered or left the Sanctuary, you always blessed yourself with Holy Water. You always genuflected before entering the pew. You never talked in the Sanctuary unless it was absolutely necessary…and the reason had better be good. We would genuflect as the Cross passed us during the entry procession and the exit procession. We sang a lot less and responded by word a lot more. I can still remember hearing the thunderous voices of everyone in the Sanctuary reciting the Apostles Creed together, everyone knew it by heart; it was important to know it by heart! At Holy Communion there were numerous priests to present the Blessed Sacrament to the faithful at the communion rail, where we waited on our knees for the Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus to fill our hearts and souls. Upon returning from Holy Communion we would be in extended prayer, no one ever left the Sanctuary until the priest had exited it.

By this time, the Mass had moved to being totally spoken in English with a few exceptions. The Latin Mass was still said, but not widely used. I missed that the most.

Over the years since, there have been numerous changes in the Church in America. The faithful who had always been led by their priests and bishops were seeing a decline in vocations. There were dark forces that had been waiting a long time for this and their battle plan was put into action.

The catechesis was placed into the hands of many laity that were not well catechized, who would be putty for heretical intentions.

It used to be that no matter where you went in the world as a Catholic, EVERY Mass was the same, the responses were the same, the feeling of unity and spiritual community was powerful and we were one people believing and receiving the Sacraments in unity.

Today, not so.

It’s as if every parish has its own idea about how the Mass should be presented, sung or said. We have become disjointed, scattered. Much of the small actions of tradition are not present in many Catholic churches. My husband and I moved 35 times in our lifetime together and every Catholic parish was a learning experience. They were all different. Many of them did hold to many of the traditional practices. But, there were those that took liberties with what I can only call an ecumenical Protestantism that muddied the true spirit of Catholicism. It pains my soul.

I believe that is important to keep tradition alive. It gives us our base to know where we have come from and it carries us forth as we move out in the world. Traditions are both spoken and displayed. In the traditions of the Church we are united to God through Christ who is our Father, our eternal present and future…our Faith is our heirloom.

The traditional aspects of the Catholic Church are a treasure! They should never be discounted or put away. We should never be told not to avail ourselves of them especially the Latin Mass. I was so gladdened when Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the acceptance and beauty of this Mass and use of the Roman Missal, issuing his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum in 2007, stating that celebration of the traditional rite requires NO authorization from the bishop

Yes, I am a Traditional Catholic in all ways. I miss what was and used to be in this very untraditional world. There is good in today’s Church, but I would like to see the faithful re-educated in the mystical and spiritual aspects of attending Mass in the Sanctuary. I would like to see the faithful re-educated on the importance of what they attend Mass to receive. I believe that this is the place to start. Perhaps the pendulum will swing again to embracing some of the Church’s great traditional practices once again.

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Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; a member of the St. John’ s Catholic Writers Guild;
a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the National Wildlife Federation, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

*** Visit SUSI WEEKLY ARCHIVE ***

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