Join the Novena Movement for World Youth Day

World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow is beginning in just a few days, and whether you are going as a pilgrim or staying at home and watching, you can join in spiritually with the event by praying the World Youth Day Pope John Paul II Novena.

World Youth Day Novena to John Paul II

The easiest way to pray this novena is by using my Pray Catholic Novena app on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

If you can’t do that, you can go to this page and pray the novena from it each day.

Pope St. John Paul II novena for World Youth DayOur goal is to get thousands of Catholics praying the JP2 novena for the World Youth Day pilgrims.

The novena will officially begin Saturday, July 23rd, such that the last day of the novena will coincide with the last day of World Youth Day.

Why JP2? Because he started World Youth Days, was a native son of Poland, and was Archbishop of Krakow. His love for his home country never left him his whole life. Even when the Nazis and then Communists occupied it, he remained true to his patria.

Novena Prayer Intentions for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

Feel free to add your own intentions, but we are praying the novena for:

  • Conversions during World Youth Day
  • Growth in faith for every pilgrim
  • Protection from harm and evil, especially from terrorism
  • The reconversion of Europe to Christ and His Church

I added the Pope St. John Paul II novena to the novena app for the express purpose of praying it for World Youth Day.

Join us in prayer for this blessed event!

Stoics Paved the Way to Christianity

I just got done reading a surprising book: The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living, by Kevin Vost. It unveils the striking connection between the Stoics and Christianity.

More Than a Feeling

I admit my knowledge of the Stoic philosophers was thin. I equated Stoicism with responding to life with cold, unemotional stiffness.

Vost disabuses readers of that false notion immediately:

As we’ll see in the chapters ahead, this could hardly be farther from the truth. Their powerful life lessons live on…..They can teach us to live calmer, happier, more productive, humane, noble, and virtuous lives whether we live in Rome, Italy, in Athens Greece, or in Athens, Illinois.

The Stoics actually lived lives full of joy, peace, and meaning. Though bereft of God’s divine revelation in the Old and New Covenants, they stretched their God-given powers of reason to the limit, reaching many of the same conclusions that Christians came to regarding life, liberty, and love.

Four Stoics Walk Into a Bar

Vost focuses on the four most well known Stoics: Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius.

These men ranged from slave to Emperor and had dramatically different personalities, yet each embraced the Stoic philosophy that sought to live a worthy life, a truly human life, and so they were united.

vostVost examines the life and history of each of these men, recounts the most memorable stories (and legends) about them, then synthesizes their writings. He compares their teachings with Christianity and (in most cases) demonstrates how closely they came to the truth.

How close were they to divine truth? Musonius Rufus is considered one of the first pro-life philosophers. He praised large families, extolled fidelity in marriage, argued against abortion and contraception, and connected the purpose of marriage to procreation and the unitive value between husband and wife. Quite astounding for someone who was born a few decades before Jesus Christ.

The Stoic philosophers were not interested in pie-in-the-sky theorizing. Rather, they focused on eminently practical topics like: should a child obey his parents? How should we dress ourselves? What is the meaning of pain and hardship? Must we learn what is good and follow it?

Practical Wisdom

My wife was going through a difficult event, one in which she was fearful of what another person was going to do. Fortunately I had just read an idea in this book and relayed it to her: “you can’t control what that other person is going to do; you can only control how you choose to respond to it.”

vost1That reminder was liberating for her. And she continued to repeat it to herself when she began to worry again. I had to take my own medicine shortly thereafter with a situation that I found myself in, concerned about what someone was going to do that could adversely affect me. The Stoics faced exile and worse for their philosophy, yet wherever they were, they bore it in peace, content to be at home wherever they were sent. This detachment is quite Christ-like, an acceptance of suffering that the saints of the Church have often lived out, and spoken of.

A friend of mine a few years back told me he had left Christianity and become a Stoic. I was confused when I heard this, as I had not read Vost’s book. But now I get it more. He was a liberal Protestant before, and that watered down version of Christianity he ultimately found less compelling than the practical wisdom of the Stoics. I plan to tell him about this book, in hopes it will plant a seed for his return to Christianity one day.

Kevin Vost has written an excellent book, enlightening us about this treasure of ancient times, the Stoic philosophers, and how they came right up to the entryway of Christianity.

The Rise of the New Catholic Traditionalists

Synopsis (tl;dr): A growing trend is happening wherein ordinary Catholics are embracing the traditional liturgy and other older practices of the Faith.

It’s been popping up all over, most recently with my editor at Catholic Answers penning a blog post suggesting that we “Give East a Chance”, meaning that priests should heed Cardinal Sarah’s call for celebrating Mass ad orientem.

I’m less interested in the debate over ad orientem, or any particular aspect of traditionalism, and more in the movement of people who are beginning to embrace such practices, none of whom self-identify as traditionalists.

Catholic Answers has taken flak in the past few years for being opponents of Catholic traditionalism. So it is telling when such a blog post makes it onto their site. The truth is that many at Catholic Answers go to the Traditional Latin Mass! And several of Catholic Answers’ authors–including yours truly–also attend the TLM, in spite of not considering ourselves traditionalists.

The New Catholic Traditionalists

But it is not just stalwarts like Catholic Answers. I was surprised recently when Matt Fradd and Sam Guzman (of Catholic Gentleman) posted a video where they both spoke about how they go to the Traditional Latin Mass.

Photo credit: Joseph Shaw, Mass in the Oxford Oratory

And now Cardinal Sarah dropped a bombshell encouraging priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem, citing the many reasons for doing so that traditionalists have been pointing out for the past 60 years. Even Pope Francis celebrated Mass ad orientem earlier this year.

Whether you agree or disagree with this direction, the fact that it is happening is remarkable.

Isn’t It Still Jesus in the Mass Either Way?

I converted to Catholicism from atheism and very low-church Protestantism. Liturgy never meant a hill of beans to me. Smell and bells, incense and processing, vestments and solemnity held zero importance to me.

Photo credit: Joseph Shaw, Lady Chapel of St James’ Spanish Place. The celebrant is Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R and the server is a member of his community, Br Dominic

So as a single man, and into my marriage before children, I was unbothered by non-sacred, generally bland music during Mass, lack of reverence, odd or heretical homilies, and the other common afflictions at many Masses in the Ordinary Form. Shrug, it’s still Jesus, I said to myself.

That changed when my children began to grow older. I watched them at Mass–and yes we sat near the front!–and while I could see the truth of divine majesty behind the lackluster celebration, they could not. They saw and heard and experienced the banality, the exact opposite of what I wanted for them and knew they needed if they were to retain the Faith in a hostile culture.

Even at the good parish we went to, with a music director who had a Ph.D., we regularly endured the raft of heretical or banal “hymns” like Anthem and its ilk. These were songs I had sung for years before having children, but now I was focusing on the words and the music and growing increasingly uneasy with how bad they were.

I learned later that these songs do not even qualify as sacred music, and the Church specifies that only sacred music should be used in the Mass.

How we worship really does matter. There is truth to the slogan “save the liturgy, save the world,” which I didn’t pick up on until recently.

Pope Benedict, while still Cardinal Ratzinger, said:

“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy.”

I was beginning to think so too. And the movement we are seeing shows that I am not the only one.

Rediscover Tradition

What are the options? Either go to the Traditional Latin Mass or change the Ordinary Form to be celebrated more reverently.

My influence with even my local parish priest in terms of liturgical celebration approaches zero, so advocating for a more reverent liturgy was not going to go anywhere. Instead, we started going to the Traditional Latin Mass, in spite of it being a long drive, in a difficult part of the city, at an awful time of day.

Cardinal Sarah
Cardinal Sarah

For a non-traditionalist like me, going to the TLM was an odd experience. I didn’t know what was happening, could barely follow along in the blue booklet: in short, it felt a lot like the first time I went to Mass while still a Protestant!

But what I did notice was reverence: sacred music, periods of silence, no ad-libbing, no innovations, no glaring omissions, no outbursts of applause.

And my children noticed it too.

In my happiness at this discovery, I wrote a blog post about why we had started going to the Traditional Latin Mass.

This post resulted in several rage-unsubscribes from my blog and emails, as well as angry comments from strangers accusing me of traditionalist phariseeism and the like. Of course, most of those readers knew very little about me and were completely off the mark, but it goes to show what a sensitive subject this is, and how on guard most Catholics are against traditionalists.

The New Traditionalist Next Door

We’re seeing a new period in the Church regarding traditionalism. It is going mainstream.

Even Jen Fulwiler is veiling!
Even Jen Fulwiler is veiling!

So, for instance, we have the somewhat perplexing rise of mainstream, orthodox Catholics respectfully criticizing statements made by Pope Francis. This didn’t happen with John Paul II and Pope Benedict. But it has with Pope Francis, and in my opinion justifiably so on many occasions.

I’ve seen pieces critical of Pope Francis’s statements in the National Catholic Register, Catholic World Report, on the blogs of canon lawyers, and other sites and publications that otherwise whole-heartedly support the pope.

I have held back in criticism, in part because I don’t know if my voice is needed there, nor if it is appropriate for me to criticize things he has said. But I, too, have scratched my head trying to figure out if he really meant what he said about large families, marriages and cohabitation, neo-Pelagian traditionalists, sacraments for divorced and remarried, and on and on.

Pope Francis is inadvertently doing much to increase this move of ordinary Catholics towards traditionalism.

Pushback and Challenges

But there’s another group of ordinary Catholics who are critical of those who are critical of the pope. And critical of anything associated with traditionalism, including ad orientem, in spite of its bona fides.

I’m friends with many of these people: they are generally orthodox Catholics who are on guard against traditionalists, who do not want to cede even one inch to them, afraid they will take a yard.

These Catholics were pushing back on Cardinal Sarah, opining that Sarah was only opining, resisting any movement toward this traditional practice.

Less applause, more reverence
Less applause, more reverence

The same has happened in many places with the Latin Mass. Pope Benedict in 2007 sent out the motu propio Summorum Pontificum to give priests the right to celebrate the Latin Mass for a group of the faithful in their area, even without the bishop’s approval.

This option has not been exercised by very many priests, and those Catholics suspicious of all things traditional have pointed that fact out as evidence that traditionalists are a tiny, disaffected minority who should be swept under the rug.

But the reality is somewhat different: many priests, even if they wanted to, would not go against their bishop. And many bishops are suspicious of traditionalists and do not want to see the TLM spread. It remains ghettoized in many dioceses, by design and not by demand.

Most priests don’t know the the TLM, didn’t grow up with it, and would not heed Summorum Pontificum even if a stable group of traditionalists requested it.

Increase Reverence of the Ordinary Form?

Other Catholics suggest to forget about the TLM and instead focus on reforming the Ordinary Form. Make it more reverent, they say. Get sacred music in there. Throw in some ad orientem. That sort of thing.

I’m sympathetic to this suggestion, and I know of a group of people quietly working behind the scenes to accomplish this noble goal. (Interestingly, they are also new traditionalists, not Catholics who self-identify as traditionalists). I think it should be attempted, but also I know how deeply rooted many non-reverent practices are, so much so that they have attained quasi-traditional status. It will take a long time.

The Way Forward

I recall getting burned by traditionalists not too long after becoming Catholic. They came out against me on my youtube channel, and to me here was a strange animal that I had never encountered before.

I soon grew acquainted with them and the copy-pasting of accusations against John Paul II, Vatican II, heretical Catholics like myself, etc. I now understand that this is the extreme end of the traditional spectrum, the sedevacantists, and it hardly represents the majority, which spans from them to SSPX members, to FSSP supporters, to people like me who just want my children to have a reverent Mass.

Say what you want about traditionalists, but one thing they did do was hold the line on traditional practices and reverent liturgy. While many made mistakes, got into bunker mentality, and came across as insanely harsh, the fact is that now Catholics like me are rediscovering these aspects of traditional worship in part because of them. The liturgical abuses that have happened in the Church over the past sixty years mitigates their culpability to various degrees.

There’s a new face of Catholic traditionalism, and it looks little like the image that it once had. It’s young, charitable, respectful of the Pope and obedient to the Church. It’s ordinary Catholic moms and dads drawn to the sacred. It’s coming to a parish near you, eventually.