DER PROTAGONIST

Wenn  du der Teufel wärest und eine europäische katholische Kirche auseinanderreißen wolltest, die ihre Flügel nach diesem fürchterlichen Jahrzehnt des II. Weltkrieg ausgebreitet hatte, was würdest du tun?

Ich spreche von der Zeit der 1950er Jahre. Wenn du also der Teufel wärest, wie würdest du vorgehen?

Nun, du würdest einen Protagonisten, einen Schauspieler finden. Jemand Verlässlichen. Jemanden, dessen Besitz du ein Leben lang vergrößern könntest. Jemand Junges, leicht beeinflussbar. Jemand, der nach Ruhm und Reichtum hungert, unter einem frommen Schein.

Der Protagonist müsste natürlich ein frommes Äußeres haben, weil er  Mitglied der Kirche sein müßte. Er dürfte nicht identifizierbar sein mit offen satanischen Kräften, die ihr so erfolgreich entfesselt habt im XX. Jahrhundert. Kein Marxist. Kein Kommunist. Kein Nazi.

Er dürfte nicht identifizierbar sein mit offen satanischen Kräften, die ihr so erfolgreich entfesselt habt im XX. Jahrhundert. Kein Marxist. Kein Kommunist. Kein Nazi.

 Jemand völlig Vernünftiges. Jemand, der sich um die Armen kümmert, die Umwelt und die Rechtlosen.

Natürlich musst du ihm die Mittel geben, die er braucht, um die Zerstörung weit und breit zu streuen. Geld!  Nützliche Idioten!  Diese Dinge, die im Fahrwasser des II. Weltkriegs zu einem Technologieschub im Bereich Kommunikation führten, könnten als Vorteil benutzt werden.

Natürlich muß der Protagonist höchst korrumpierbar sein. Ein Schwächling, dem Luxus verfallen vielleicht, oder einer, der sich den fleischlichen Lüsten hingibt?

Er sollte seinen Appetit befriedigt bekommen, oh ja! Achte darauf!

Die finanzielle Basis des Protagonisten sollte gesichert sein. Er darf nicht durch finanzielle Probleme abgelenkt werden! Es wäre ein guter Schachzug, sein Einkommen an ein junges, aufstrebendes Unternehmen zu binden.  Und sein Erfolg oder Scheitern in seinem sichtbaren  „Job“ sollte nicht an sein Einkommen gebunden sein.  Das sollte völlig unabhängig sein. Das Geld muß fließen, egal ob er sein „Job“ macht.

Die finanzielle Basis des Protagonisten sollte gesichert sein. Er darf nicht durch finanzielle Probleme abgelenkt werden!

Und natürlich muß ein bißchen Überwachung sein;  um ihm freie Hand zu geben.

Nun, es wird wichtig sein, den Protagonisten abzuschirmen, damit er alle seine Zeit penibel den destruktiven Mitteilungen widmen kann. Diese Arbeit kann vom Sprecher gemacht werden. Professoren der Theologie, zum  Beispiel, deren tägliches Brot abhängig ist vom guten Willen des Protagonisten. Sie können geschützt fleißig an der intellektuellen Unterminierung der Kirche arbeiten – alles in der Sicherheit ihrer Stellung innerhalb der Kirche. Sie können bitten, daß sich Rom seiner Lehre entledigt, sich vom Katechismus befreit. Sie können die Anfragen der Gläubigen als uninformiert und/oder ungebildet missachten.

Sie werden von den Medien sicherlich dafür Applaus ernten; sie werden die Helden darstellen.

Nein, der Protagonist müßte seinen natürlichen Begabungen entsprechend eingesetzt werden, z. B. sein Managementtalent. Er müsste natürlich sehen, daß die „Kunden“ der Kirche, nämlich die Gläubigen, nichts anderes als Quälgeister sind. Die wenigsten von ihnen stehlen ihm die Zeit, umso besser. Also, seine Priester müßten daraufhin ausgebildet werden zu glauben, daß der Nonsens, den die Theologen von sich geben, aktuell ihr Glaube sei.

Also, seine Priester müßten daraufhin ausgebildet werden zu glauben, daß der Nonsens, den die Theologen von sich geben, aktuell ihr Glaube sei.

Das ist also überhaupt keine Theologie! Die alte scholastische „Theologie“ muß verspottet und ins Lächerliche gezogen werden, die „Sakramente“ müssen widerwillig gespendet werden, in ihrer schwächsten Form.

Natürlich wird all dies Berufungen entmutigen, was für eine herrliche Perspektive! Die wenigen verbliebenen Gläubigen können von aus Indien und Afrika importierten Priestern versorgt werden, dankbar für die Almosen, die sie erhalten und an ihre hoffnungslos armen Diözesen schicken. Nur spärlich die Sprache sprechend, machen sie kaum Ärger.

Selbstverständlich, wenn sich die Gelegenheit bietet, wird er nicht zögern, mafiaartig den Tyrannen zu spielen. Es wird sich für seine Schergen als heilsam erweisen, ab und zu mal ein Opfer zu sehen. Vielleicht ein Bischof aus einer wohlhabenden und noblen Familie, ausgestoßen und beschämt vor der ganzen Nation?  Aber ich schweife ab.

Vielleicht ein Bischof aus einer wohlhabenden und noblen Familie, ausgestoßen und beschämt vor der ganzen Nation?

Zum Schluss die Todsünde: Stolz. Er muß ein stolzer Mann sein und er muss seinen persönlichen Stolz tief verbinden mit eurer satanischen Sache. Er muß glauben, daß das, was er tut, die Sache Christi auf Erden weiterbringt.
Natürlich bis es zu spät ist. Das ist der Zeitpunkt, wenn ihr ihm volle Einsicht gewährt – den totalen Überblick – so dass er die Zerstörung, deren Agent er war, sehen kann, die zahllosen verlorenen Seelen. Ihr werdet aber sicherstellen, daß er das erst in der letzten, qualvollen Stunde auf dieser Erde sieht, möglichst bei seinem letzten Atemzug.

Dadurch wird es viel zu spät sein, und er wird nur Teufel sehen, eure Schergen, die ihn umschwärmen. Exakt so wie die Volksmärchen vom Tode einer euerer anderen großen europäischen Erfolgsgeschichten,  Napoleon Bonaparte.
Natürlich, wenn er einst stirbt, wird er genau diese Art von Kirche hinterlassen, die das Volk am meisten hasst. Aufgedunsen vom Reichtum, mit der Korruption liiert. Durchsetzt mit stolzen Klerikern, die nach den Zügeln in den Händen des toten Protagonisten greifen.

Dadurch wird es viel zu spät sein, und er wird nur Teufel sehen, eure Schergen, die ihn umschwärmen. Exakt so wie die Volksmärchen vom Tode einer euerer anderen großen europäischen Erfolgsgeschichten,  Napoleon Bonaparte.

Perfekt für die Säkularisation vorbereitet. Nochmals.

Der Protagonist wird natürlich in der Lage sein, seine Begabungen und Gefälligkeiten in seine enorme Arbeitskraft zu investieren. Das wird die Gelegenheiten minimieren, sein erstes Talent, die Einschüchterung, einzusetzen zu müssen.

Natürlich wird es wichtig sein, dem Protagonisten vor Kritik Schutz zu geben. Das Beste ist, ihn in einem Land zu finden, wo den Menschen seit Jahrhunderten beigebracht wurde, die Großen und Mächtigen nicht zu kritisieren.

Ein Land wie Deutschland  – vielleicht?

Aachen, Cologne,2014 141Perfekt für die Säkularisation vorbereitet. Nochmals.

How the Latin Mass Returned to Roman Trier

by Stefan Schilling

A German medical doctor relates how he fell in love with the traditional liturgy – and how he became embroiled in a decade-long struggle to win permission for the Mass to be celebrated in the ancient city of Trier, founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus and Catholic since the time of Constantine.

As I was born in 1963 — during the convocation of the Second Vatican Council — I never actually experienced the traditional liturgy during my childhood. I grew up in a good Catholic family in a modern suburban community outside Mainz (a small city in central western Germany). In my parents’ house and in our local parish, we followed the new, post-conciliar liturgy of Paul VI.

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2000 YEAR OLD ROMAN RUINS at Trier, Germany — Catholic from the time of the Roman Empire.

During the 1960s, our suburb was a newly built post-war settlement, and we had  no church building for many years.  Instead, we used a local rectory for Mass and for Carnival events.  There was no sacred space for our village.  In the rectory, we had only chairs, no benches – and of course no way to kneel. We were told that there was no money available for building churches in the Mainz diocese.

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ANCIENT CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL AT TRIER built on the foundations of the palace of St Helena, mother of Constantine.

In the late 1970s, I attended our diocesan high school in Mainz, and I can’t remember anyone ever expressing any critical thoughts regarding the huge liturgical upheaval that followed in the wake of the Vatican Council. After school, I was active in the Catholic Boy Scouts, where we were encouraged to ‘use our creativity,’ inventing our own liturgies in loose-leaf notebooks. No one ever questioned the “new” liturgy, neither my family nor anyone in my social environment.  There was simply no other liturgical variant.

I was active in the Catholic Boy Scouts, where we were encouraged to ‘use our creativity,’ inventing our own liturgies in loose-leaf notebooks. No one ever questioned the “new” liturgy, neither my family nor anyone in my social environment.

By the time I was slightly older, however, I began increasingly to question this liturgy I had grown up with.  It seemed to me that the new rite was less about worship, and more about featuring the priest at center stage, along with the lay people who were ‘selected’ to participate in the liturgy. 

In fact, it seemed to me that in the new rite the proper focus on the major events of Holy Mass had been lost long ago. We were afforded hardly a moment for our own silent prayer, or to await that inner peace so essential for worship.  In the new rite in Germany, every moment had to be filled with action.

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VIEW OF ROMAN BATHS AT TRIER, the city established by Augustus Caesar, and Catholic since Roman times.

Together with other students, then, I became increasingly interested in experiencing  the quieter, more predictable, “real” worship found in the old Mass, where people’s actions were in the background and God was brought back to His rightful place — in the center of the action, so to speak. 

Now and again we students would drive to a parish in Kiedrich, a picturesque medieval town amidst the vineyards along the Rhine. In this simple country parish, the church had maintained a special schola cantorum for many years.  Saints’ days and feasts were celebrated with due solemnity. 

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FAMOUS STEINBERG VINEYARD along the Rhine River valley, created by Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages.

We students would drive to a parish in Kiedrich, a picturesque medieval town amidst the vineyards along the Rhine. In this simple country parish, the church had maintained a special schola cantorum for many years.

At about this time I decided I would no longer receive Communion in the hand. My belief in the Real Presence was too powerful for me to countenance the numerous abuses I had observed in the practice of giving Communion in the hand. 

At the suggestion of a friend, I attended the Holy Mass in the traditional rite for the first time in a parish near Frankfurt.  I watched joyfully as the celebrant handled the Body of Christ in a reverent, convincing and consistent manner.  His careful use of the corporal,  the closed hold of his fingers on the Host from conversion to purification, on the paten and in administering Holy Eucharist in the mouth — here, it was clear that no one needed to explain the Real Presence.  From these many gestures and signs, that the Body of Christ was really and truly in the Host was abundantly clear to anyone attending this Mass.

I watched joyfully as the celebrant handled the Body of Christ in a reverent, convincing and consistent manner.  His careful use of the corporal,  the closed hold of his fingers on the Host from conversion to purification, on the paten and in administering Holy Eucharist in the mouth — here, it was clear that no one needed to explain the Real Presence.

 I remember thinking that the form followed the content of our Faith totally in these actions. Only much later did I come across the concept of lex orandi lex credendi; that is, the notion that “the law of prayer determines the law of faith“ and therefore that one’s external actions shape one’s inner attitude.

I was equally impressed by the Traditional Rite’s common orientation in prayer.  That is,  the traditional rite does not make the priest the center of the action — though to be fair there are many priests who do not seek this center stage.  Instead, his place is almost akin to that of the head of a procession in a village feast.

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MONKS DORMITORY, Kloster Eberbach in the Rhine Valley

Finally, there was plenty of silence, especially in the central part of the Mass where we are called really to pray with the celebrant.  I was also delighted to find that my private prayer was no longer seemingly an affront to others – something to be “talked to death.“  The Holy One was the focus of this Mass, not the person of the priest, nor the performances of amateur liturgists.

I was also delighted to find that my private prayer was no longer seemingly an affront to others – something to be “talked to death.“  The Holy One was the focus of this Mass, not the person of the priest, nor the performances of amateur liturgists.

Here, I felt spiritually secure and at home.  Over time, I came to love the liturgy more and more,  despite the fact that traditional Masses at that time were hard to find for me, and indeed for anyone in Germany. For me, this liturgy touches my interior life, something I can hardly put into words.  Perhaps it is the experience of what we call  “grace.“

Over the years, I often wondered why Catholics were not permitted to attend both liturgies. The de facto ban on the traditional rite irritated me, the more so because pretty much everything else in what one could term liturgical “peculiarity“ was allowed and indeed encouraged.

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LATIN MASS IN COLOGNE GERMANY at the Eucharistic Congress organized by Pro Missa Tridentina, a German organization founded in1 990 to support the Latin Mass in the German-speaking world.

For example, I’m somewhat chagrined to report that the seminary of the diocese of Trier – an important Catholic community since the time of the Romans – organized what was billed as a “techno worship“ to celebrate the Millenium Year 2000.  The concluding “hymn“ of this “Mass“ was a German Idol hit for that year entitled  “No Angels,” performed in the presence of the Bishop and diocesan clergy. (You will forgive me if I use an American phrase here: “You can’t make this stuff up.“)

The seminary of the diocese of Trier – an important Catholic community since the time of the Romans – organized what was billed as a “techno worship“ to celebrate the Millenium Year 2000.

Liturgically speaking, in Germany everything seemed possible.  The single exception to this rule was any request to allow the traditional liturgy.  This was treated as if it were indecent and, indeed, reprehensible.

I learned this after I graduated from my medical studies, and established my family in Trier in 1993.  This was when I first approached the now-deceased Bishop of Trier with a request to permit an “Indultmesse” here.   A need was not seen by the bishop.

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ALTARPIECE, Church of St. Martin In Oestrich in Rhine Valley.

Thank God for the good priests and even municipalities in Trier that we found that offered a respectful form of the liturgy of Paul VI “ordinary” Mass.  Our family found such a community, and there our three daughters were baptized.  For these many years, our family has lived with both forms of the Roman rite – the ordinary and the extraordinary form.  For many years we had to drive many miles to do this.

Liturgically speaking, in Germany everything seemed possible.  The single exception to this rule was  the traditional liturgy.  This was treated as if it were indecent and, indeed, reprehensible.

When the new Bishop (now Cardinal Marx) of Trier was installed in 2002, I began asking him for  permission to celebrate the Holy Mass in the traditional rite in our diocese. During our subsequent correspondence, I collected about 300 signatures to support my request.  After over two years of  painstaking correspondence with the Diocese’s Consultancy Department, permission was finally granted at the end of 2004 for a single Indultmesse to be celebrated on Sundays and holidays in Trier.  Permission was conditional, however, on the observation of many restrictions regarding place, time, inter alia, etc.

This was eleven years after my first request to the bishop of Trier.

In spite of the limitations established, I’m happy to report that the response to the Old Mass has been such that the diocese has agreed to provide a separate priest for pastoral care in the extraordinary rite in the Trier jurisdiction. Of course, we greatly rejoiced over the long-prayed-for Motu Proprio from the Holy Father regarding the traditional liturgy.  In the Diocese of Trier, we hope and expect for a future of “normality“ in the usus antiquior of the one Roman rite.

The centuries-old beloved traditional Roman rite is finally back as a special form of the Roman rite.  Recognized again after more than 35 years of de facto abolition, the Mass has regained its full citizenship in the Church. For this, I say, ‘Deo Gratias!”

Benedicamus Domino

A Short Story

by Beverly Stevens

“The most important thing is not to end up like my mother,” I was telling my therapist Dr Becker, who nodded at me in a slightly disapproving way. She disapproved, I knew, because it is not healthy for a woman to not identify with her mother.

Also, because there is nothing so wrong with my mother; she is like every other woman of her generation in Germany. They are called ‘the 68-ers,’ the university students of 1968 who rebelled against the Establishment and ushered in the modern Germany, leader of Europe. Here in Mittel Europa, at the beginning of the 21st century, the 68ers reign supreme.

I am seeing a therapist because, at age 32 and a successful gynecologist, I am despondent. You see, my partner Andreas  has left me. We had been together since university, in the early, wonderful, warm and giddy days when we brought our sweet Otto home. He was a lovely puppy; our child, really. When he died of old age twelve years later, our grief spilled over in a black pool, flooding our bedroom and the boredom of our life together.

You see, my partner Andreas has left me. We had been together since university, in the early, wonderful, warm and giddy days when we brought our sweet Otto home. He was a lovely puppy; our child, really.

It was not long afterwards that Andreas told me that he had accepted another position, a significant promotion at the Uniklinik in Hamburg, 500 kilometers from the university town where we have lived together since our student days. He said that it would make no difference to our relationship, and that the promotion was too good to pass up.

I have known him too long to be deceived by his lying. He gradually eased himself out of my life, and I let him go reluctantly, feeling helpless all the while.

Still, I didn’t become despondent until I learned about his new, Norwegian wife, and the child she was carrying. Andreas had never even spoken of marriage. I had always taken it for granted that we would be together wholly of our own choosing. Marriage seemed unnecessary, really.

And now he was beginning a brave new life. And I was alone. I felt so old.

My family was not very much help in all of this. My mother shrugged, tossed her long gray hair and tried to look sympathetic. She does not hold men to very high standards. She has had too much experience. My father was one of her serial relationships; growing up, I saw him twice a year when her current lover would drive me and my sister Sabine to Munich for a brief visit. Though a brilliant mathematician, he was a pot-head, pure and simple — and as soon as he could he buggered off for a decrepit farmhouse in Portugal, where he lives now, painting abstracts and smoking weed.

Our half-brother is ten years younger than me, an East German truck driver, like his father before him. And like his dad, he is blunt-spoken and hard-working. My mother is still living with his dad, though I know it’s just because she dreads being alone. He is not at all what she, a retired teacher, would have expected for herself. As for me, I respect both my step-father and my half-brother, but we do not agree on many things.

“You’re like all the other German women,” Stefan said, quaffing his Bitburger beer. It was Christmas Eve, at our parents’ apartment. “You think you’re too good for German men. That’s why German men are marrying foreigners. All of you women have no real interest in having a family. Feminism has ruined you.”

“You’re like all the other German women,” Stefan said, quaffing his Bitburger beer. It was Christmas Eve, at our parents’ apartment. “You think you’re too good for German men. That’s why German men are marrying foreigners. All of you women have no real interest in having a family. Feminism has ruined you.”

This was outrageous enough, but it was the later conversation with my 37-year old sister that put me over the edge. She had had way too much to drink.

“You think because I’m a teacher, that I’m pretty boring, don’t you?” she asked me, in a drunken, challenging sort of way. Everyone else had gone to sleep. Sabina lives in Wiesbaden; she has a good position, an excellent salary and no man since her last relationship disintegrated. “Well, I think you might be a little surprised at how much fun I do manage to have.”

Before I could stop her, it all came out. How she’s ‘registered’ with an online website that sets her up with ‘hot’ dates. It’s all perfectly proper, she assured me. The men are all attractive, and she never has to do anything against her will.

“I’ve come to understand that I have a very strong sex drive,” she told me in a sly, confidential whisper that made my skin crawl. “It’s probably inherited, don’t you agree?”

All of this sent me to Dr. Becker’s office, where I blubbered for hours into the tissues she had discretely placed near the low-slung, Bauhaus-style leather chair I occupied once a week. She was kind, but she didn’t understand why I could not accept any of these things. Even though I am a trained physician, fully cognizant of how modern people live, I still could not help but wishing for, dreaming of, something better.

“So what is it that will make you happy, do you think?” Dr Becker asked. “You are not like your mother, or your siblings. You have worked hard through medical school. You are a professional, used to setting goals. Where do you want to be in five years? What do you envision your life to be like?”

The single answer that came immediately to my mind was embarrassing in its directness: I wanted children. I wanted to be a mother. What’s more, I wanted to be successful in a way that my mother never has been. I want a forever husband. I want a forever family.Where did I get such ideas?

I wanted to be a mother. What’s more, I wanted to be successful in a way that my mother never has been. I want a forever husband. I want a forever family. Where did I get such ideas? 

Though she found my ideas distasteful and unbelievably naive, Doctor Becker is a good therapist, and a practical woman. “Some of that is under your control. So, what is the problem, then?”

The problem, of course, is that I have no man. And I know that finding a man to marry and have children with is pretty nearly an impossible goal these days in Germany. But that is not what Dr. Becker was referring to.

Don’t do it,” said Jennifer, for the umpteenth time. She is an American, a pediatrician who trained at Mainz. Like me, she is youngish and single. Unlike me, she is religious. “You do not need to live like these people. It is a dead end street. There is a better way to live. There is hope.”

“Probably half the German women in our maternity ward are pregnant by artificial insemination,” I replied, trying to sound rational as we walked through town, hunched against the early spring wind. “Most of them are over 35 and not married. Why should I wait that long?”

I could talk to Jennifer that way because we are friends. I say this with all due respect to every European who thinks that Americans are incorrigibly shallow, and incapable of true friendship. When Andreas moved out of the apartment, I was virtually immobile with grief for days. Jennifer patiently stayed by me, sleeping on my couch and cooking me simple meals, talking to me endlessly about her God, and how He would help me if I would just ask.

While I appreciated the sentiment, it fell on deaf ears. Perhaps it is because I do not come from a religious family. My mother’s idea of religion lies somewhere between Celtic earth goddesses and the Tarot. My siblings and I acquired good German skepticism about these things in our education; in this, we are like most Europeans. To be perfectly honest, talk of religion makes me uncomfortable. And my Christmas experience, coming so soon after Andreas’s desertion, had made Dr. Becker’s brisk suggestion that I simply go to the sperm bank very attractive.

My mother’s idea of religion lies somewhere between Celtic earth goddesses and the Tarot. My siblings and I acquired good German skepticism about these things in our education; in this, we are like most Europeans.

Not a good idea. Look at these women,” Jennifer responded with emotion. “I see them in my practice, all grim and stressed out. Man-less, or between lovers. Their kids alternately cling to them or berate them, depending on whether their current man is in the picture or not. I am telling you, this is not a good idea. This whole way of life – the contraception, the abortions, the artificial inseminations…it is all playing God. Women deserve better than that. You deserve better than that.”

The tears suddenly sprung to my eyes, unbidden. I swallowed, hard. I really don’t understand why, but suddenly all I could think of was the abortions. Not even the panicked young girls coming into our clinic, sometimes accompanied by their grim-faced mothers. (Almost never by their boyfriends, of course.)  No, what I was thinking of was the selective abortions, when too many babies are conceived by artificial insemination. And one – or more – must be aborted.

When she arrived three years ago, Jennifer made a name for herself in the clinic by going on record in a very public way against this practice. After that, no one at the clinic trusted her; she was seen as a religious fanatic. She became marginalized, almost invisible in the clinic.  Such marginalization would have almost killed a German in her professional shoes, but Jennifer is an American.

“I have lots of friends,” she shrugged, grinning at me disarmingly. “I really don’t need to be popular with people at this clinic.”

Something about her spirit made me like her, and we became friends – which is how I wound up sobbing in the back of an 18th century chapel in an old folks’ home that evening. Tears rolling down my face, I followed numbly as Jennifer led the short way to the Catholic chapel where she attends the Latin Mass every night, after work.

She had invited me before, telling me about the group of young Catholics that followed the Latin Mass, but as I said, I am not a religious person. (To be honest, I’d pictured some intolerable nerds following a ghoulish priest — though of course I wouldn’t tell her that.)

However, when I dried my tears, I found this old chapel to be oddly comforting. It was very quiet. Aside from the spring evening light filtering through the stained glass windows, a single, stout beeswax candle glowed before a bank of radiant pink hydrangeas adorning a Pieta of surprising beauty and power.

Soon, the door opened and a youngish priest in a cassock strode in, followed by three men. The priest nodded at us with a smile, and vanished into an anteroom with one of the men. The other two grinned at us wordlessly, and took up their places at the rear of the chapel.

A few minutes later, a golden bell rang. The priest and altar server emerged. The small group of worshipers who had quietly assembled got to their feet. As the evening light slowly died, the two men lifted their voices in an ancient Gregorian chant.

A golden bell rang. The priest and altar server emerged. The small group of worshipers who had quietly assembled got to their feet. As the evening light slowly died, the two men lifted their voices in an ancient Gregorian chant.

I listened, transported, as the centuries fell away. 

I was in a trance when the Mass ended. All I wanted to do was stay there, and breathe the incense-scented air. Jennifer stood up, though, as the priest and two of the men approached us, smiling.

I saw immediately that one of the singers was enamored of her. Jennifer returned his admiring glance with a radiant smile and introduced him as ‘Josef;’ he shook my hand earnestly. Then she presented me to the priest, who welcomed me. The other singer stood quietly by.

“And this is Christoph,” whispered Jennifer, and we shook hands. He was a tall, calm man with aristocratic bearing. I suddenly thought of my tear-stained cheeks, and wished I had a lipstick.

Christoph was a tall, calm man with aristocratic bearing. I suddenly thought of my tear-stained cheeks, and wished I had a lipstick.

“So very pleased to meet you,” he said, in the correct manner that Germans always know indicates good family background. But his smile was genuine, and his grip was warm.

“This was beautiful,” I said to the priest, sotto voce and somewhat abashed. 

“Did you like it?” the priest said, a pleased grin lighting up his face. “Was it your first time, then?”

“Y-yes,” I admitted. “I-I had no idea…”

“…I’ve been trying to bring her here, Father,” Jennifer said, grinning.

“But she is no doubt a very busy person at the clinic, no?” said the priest, still smiling.

“I-I am,” I faltered, not sure of what to say.

“Perhaps you will join us for supper?” he said cordially. 

“N-now?” I said, somewhat nonplussed.

“Yes, now,” said Christoph, with a teasing smile. I liked his dark eyes. “Your Jennifer has taught us her casual American ways. Nowadays we often will simply go and eat something together, after Mass.”

I liked his dark eyes. “Your Jennifer has taught us her casual American ways. Nowadays we often will simply go and eat something together, after Mass.”

“And a glass of wine is mandatory,” said Josef, laughing. “Shall we go?”

As we filed out of the empty church, I watched as each of my companions genuflected briefly, then crossed themselves, eyes on the altar. Once outside, we shivered in the cold night air.

“’Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine…’” Jennifer said, in English.

Christoph took up the refrain, smiling broadly. “’…there’s always laughter and good red wine.’”

“’At least I’ve always found it so…’” continued Josef, his arm around Jennifer.

“’…Benedicamus domino,’” finished Father, smiling at me. The group laughed.

“W-what is this?” I asked, amused but perplexed.

“A very clever Catholic Englishman wrote that,” Jennifer explained, grinning. “A man named Hilaire Belloc.”

 “A mere Englishman,” said Josef teasingly, winking at Jennifer.

“A genius!” exclaimed Father, laughing.

As we walked together through the old streets, a strange, giddy feeling came over me. I looked up at the tall, grave Christoph walking beside me and returned his smile.

I began to feel younger, for some reason.

Lighter than air, actually.

 As we walked together through the old streets, a strange, giddy feeling came over me. I looked up at the tall, grave Christoph walking beside me and returned his smile.

Zita, Catholic Empress in Exile, Servant of God

October 21

Today is the feast day of the Servant of God Zita of Austria-Hungary.  Ora pro nobis. 

by Meghan Ferrara

2014 marked 100 years since the beginning of the Great War, which tore European civilization asunder in ways that we are only now beginning to grasp. In this look back at that turbulent era, Meghan Ferrara turns the spotlight on an enduring Catholic marriage, which just happened to take place at the pinnacle of European society — on the ancient Throne of the Holy Roman Empire.

In their wedding photos, they are so young, in those far-off days before World War I ripped into their lives. She, in particular, is luminous. It is difficult to believe, observing the smile of the joyful bride, that she and her husband were destined to be at the center of one of the major conflicts of the twentieth century.

In the midst of World War I —  which Pope Benedict XV failed to prevent despite all his efforts — and through a series of extraordinary events, Charles and Zita von Hapsburg ascended the Imperial throne of Austria-Hungary. Upon the death of Emperor Franz-Joseph in November 1916, they became Emperor and Empress of all the Austro-Hungarian territories. By the end of the “War to End All Wars,” they would be deposed from the Imperial throne, and exiled from Austria.

Their reign, though brief, and their legacy would make an indelible mark on modern history. Their deep commitment to the Faith manifested itself in all areas of their lives. Today, both Charles and Zita are in the process of canonization – a rare and remarkable feat in modern times.

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By the end of that War, Charles and Zita would be deposed from the Imperial throne, and exiled from Austria. Their reign, though brief, and their legacy would make an indelible mark on modern history.

From a very young age, both Charles and Zita held great reverence for the Faith. Attending daily Mass and receiving the Sacraments on a regular basis were established routines in both Charles’s and Zita’s childhoods; they continued this practice with their own children. In addition, they both developed a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Eucharist.

An integral part of Charles and Zita’s Catholic education was a keen awareness of the weakest and most vulnerable of society and the desire to help them. They each donated money, clothes and other necessities to those in need. Despite their royal rank, the Faith taught Charles and Zita  to maintain a servant’s heart towards those less fortunate.

Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma was born Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese on May 9, 1892 in Parma, Italy. She first met Charles when they were children, and they played together quite happily. Their friendship quickly rekindled when they met again as young adults. While the marriage was dynastic, their union was also a true love match. Charles and Zita were devoted to each other and they continued to support and love each other despite the difficulties they faced.

For Charles and Zita, their marriage was a sacramental union blessed by God with special graces. The day before their wedding, Charles remarked to Zita, “Now we must help each other to reach heaven.”

This observation formed the basis for their marriage and family life, as they raised their eight children with the same love of Christ and the Catholic Church that they shared. When their eldest son, Otto, received his First Communion, Charles dedicated his family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Often, Charles and Zita taught the children their Catechism lessons personally and Zita continued this tradition with their grandchildren.

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Charles and Zita raised their eight children with the same love of Christ and the Catholic Church that they shared. When their eldest son, Otto, received his First Communion, Charles dedicated his family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Charles followed Catholic teaching in all areas of his life, including his political activities. Though he had been well prepared for the Imperial throne, Charles’s political life was fraught with extreme difficulties and danger.

As a soldier, Charles witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by the war. When he ascended the throne, his most ardent desire was for peace, earning him the nickname, “the peace emperor.” However, there were few who shared Charles’ vision, and this isolation cost him dearly. His advisers blocked his efforts and even, in some cases, betrayed him. In addition to his quest to end the war, Charles, inspired by the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum, put into practice many innovative social reforms to help his people, such as social security and social welfare systems.

Zita worked in tandem with her husband, frequently visiting nursing homes and hospitals, volunteering for the Red Cross and traveling with him when possible. As rulers, the imperial couple always put service to their people above everything else, in accordance with their coronation oaths and the principle of Catholic kingship. This adherence to service endured long after their exile following the war and remains an important aspect of the family’s life today.

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Zita worked in tandem with her husband, frequently visiting nursing homes and hospitals, volunteering for the Red Cross and traveling with him when possible.

Charles died in exile on the island of Madeira in 1922. Shortly before his death, Charles promised Zita, “We will always be together in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

The last words Charles ever spoke were, “Jesus, my Jesus,” as he kissed his crucifix.

The courage that Charles demonstrated in accepting his death and that Zita displayed in assuming a future without her husband reflected their profound trust in God’s providence. Even when faced with widowhood, the education of her children and the protection of the Hapsburg legacy, the empress never wavered in her confidence in Christ. Zita remained devoted to her family, her people and her Faith for rest of her life.

Zita lived to be almost 100 years old; she died on 14 March 1989. Today, the Cause for Canonization of Blessed Emperor Charles and Servant of God Empress Zita of Austria is only the next stage in the journey of this holy couple.

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Even when faced with widowhood, the education of her children and the protection of the Hapsburg legacy, the empress never wavered in her confidence in Christ. Zita remained devoted to her family, her people and her Faith for rest of her life.

An Afternoon with Fatima in Germany

We were the only American family left in our neighborhood.   The others had already moved away, but my husband was among the last of the battalion to oversee the base closure, and it was taking longer than anticipated. 

I was actually pleased with the situation. It gave me a chance to improve my German language skills and immerse myself in the culture.  I was content to linger in the somewhat constructed world of the expatriate, a reality tinged by foreign perceptions.  Faith was something I never thought of then.  I had an enthusiasm for new experiences, and if questions ever came up about those on the fringes of the culture I so eagerly absorbed, I would have argued all answers should be sought in terms of politics or social reform. 

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Faith was something I never thought of then.  I had an enthusiasm for new experiences, and if questions ever came up about those on the fringes of the culture I so eagerly absorbed, I would have argued all answers should be sought in terms of politics or social reform. 

I later came to an understanding of the Turks, the Russians, the Albanians, and other degrees of eastern immigrants about, and of their position within the carefully woven veil of German liberality, but on that day I had no sense of it.  Indeed, I could not have said whether Fatima was Croatian or Kentuckian, had never given it a thought.  I knew her German was broken, but was still too preoccupied with my own sense of the foreign all around me to spare a thought for her alien condition.  Our acquaintance centered around the Kindergarten, where we often happened to be picking up our sons at the same time.  When she asked me to coffee I accepted with a “Danke shoen.  Funfzehn Uhr, oder?”

Coffee was almost always at three o’clock, and in our Siedlung, full of couples in their thirties with children, always meant an understood play-date.  I had lived there a long enough time to know that without having to ask, but a short enough time to still feel smug about knowing it.  I fostered a sense of superiority to other Americans stationed in Germany, who could do little more than get by in shops or order a Bier in a Gasthof.

We walked almost everywhere then, and with pleasure.  To pass through our neighborhood on the way to the Bakerei or Supermarkt meant the loveliest of strolls through meticulously tended gardens.  Petra was out weeding hers as we set off to Fatima’s later that day.  My son happily joined her children at play as I stopped to chat.  She welcomed the interruption to her work, and asked where we were off to on such a fine day.

Am Duengerheim.” I answered, acknowledging the unfortunate street name of Fatima’s dwelling.

Ach!  Schoen, schoen…” replied Petra, seamlessly changing the subject to neighborhood matters.  

I was fluent enough to understand all of what was said, but none of what wasn’t said.  I see that now.  She called out to me as we left,  “Stop by on your way back.  We’ll most likely still be out,” and it held no significance for me.

We followed the directions Fatima had given me to her place, which brought us to the other side of the Siedlung, under the train station and beyond the connecting  tunnel.  The style of the neighborhood changed from single dwellings and row houses to apartment buildings on that side of town.  I had no trouble finding her building, as the complex stood directly opposite the Sankt Thekla Kirche, the largest church in our town.       

The structure dominated the cityscape and could be seen from all directions of entry into our village.  I went into the church a few times in a touristy sort of way.   There was an interesting painting of a vaguely middle-eastern looking woman in one of the alcoves. I assumed it was Saint Thekla. The situation of her church strikes me as significant now, but it was the sort of thing I never thought of then.

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I went into the church a few times in a touristy sort of way.  There was an interesting painting of a vaguely middle-eastern looking woman in one of the alcoves.  I assumed it was Saint Thekla.

When we got to Fatima’s apartment I suddenly realized I’d forgotten to ask her apartment number, and so found myself pondering the names on the doorbell panel, so very different from the German family names to which I’d become accustomed.   Petrovic, Burakgazi, Emmini, Polzin… I wondered how she’d expected me to know which was hers, and considered the problem of having to ring the doorbells at random and ask.  I was at that stage in my fluency where one hesitates to speak by phone or intercom.  

That was when a dark-haired woman I recognized as a fellow Kindergarten-mom approached us.

“Emmini?” she asked, pointing to a third floor window.  She was nodding encouragement and ushering us toward the front entrance.  I nodded and smiled as she amicably gestured and jabbered in a language I couldn’t identify.   A group of helpful pedestrians materialized around us, neighborhood faces I knew by sight but had thought of as disconnected with one another, all converged here in their various home occupations, carrying grocery bags, digging in flower pots, standing in groups and smoking cigarettes.   Everyone seemed to know about us and our visit, as the helpful gesturing commenced all around.  My son looked up at me doubtfully as we entered the building.

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I nodded and smiled as she amicably gestured and jabbered in a language I couldn’t identify.   A group of helpful pedestrians materialized around us, neighborhood faces I knew by sight but had thought of as disconnected with one another, all converged here in their various home occupations, carrying grocery bags, digging in flower pots, standing in groups and smoking cigarettes.   Everyone seemed to know about us and our visit.

Our guide brought us to a third floor landing, indicated a door on which to knock, and abruptly left us there.  I was still in doubt as to whether we were in the right place, and so felt relieved when Fatima opened the door and welcomed us in.  Her sons greeted my shy little Thomas, and led him away to their room, their cheerful chatter emanating from within.

The apartment was small, but meticulously clean.  It was not so orderly as the homes of my German friends, but one got the impression it was due to the challenges of living with children in a confined space, not from a lack of housekeeping.  I found myself in a different sort of home than I’d expected, and Fatima must have noticed the furtive curiosity in my glance, as she immediately insisted on showing me around.  

She then conducted a comical sort of home tour in which walking from room to was unnecessary, as one could behold the entirety of the dwelling from the front hall.  She indicated the children’s room, with the boy’s bunk beds on one side, the baby’s crib on the other, the tiny master bedroom in which the double bed occupied most of the space, the kitchenette with it’s small dining table, and the living room.  In each case I would somewhat lean in the direction she indicated and express my approval.

“Yes, but…” she shrugged, with an expression of making due with what one’s got.  

We had to speak to each another in our second languages, my German being not perfect, and hers much less so.  She indicated I should take a seat in the living room, and as I did I began to fret how we would fill the space of the typical two-hour coffee visit with conversation.  Then something caught my eye that directed my worry in another direction.

I was sitting directly opposite a photograph of a man in uniform brandishing an AK-47.  It was quite large, framed, and bordered garishly in red and black with bits of green and yellow.  It was not an action shot; it was a posed portrait, which only made it the more bizarre to my thinking.  I tried to hide my astonishment as Fatima brought in the coffee cups from the kitchen.

“Mein Brueder,” she explained.  “Tot.  Im Albanien.”

So she was Albanian.  Her brother had died there in the conflict.  I couldn’t make out much of how it had happened with her language skills.

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I was sitting directly opposite a photograph of a man in uniform brandishing an AK-47.  It was quite large, framed, and bordered garishly in red and black with bits of green and yellow.  It was not an action shot; it was a posed portrait, which only made it the more bizarre to my thinking.

“He was good”, she said, her eyes welling up with tears.  “And young.”

I made up my mind to try to soften my glance when it landed that way, as it was clear she beheld nothing alarming in the presentation, no more than a portrait of a beloved brother who happened to be a soldier, in her eyes.

I suddenly recalled the day I’d taken Petra along with me to a Book Fair on the American post.  As we’d driven down Colonel’s Row, she’d been shocked to see all the American and German flags at the front of each house, lining the whole of the street.   “What is this?” she’d demanded to know, explaining about not displaying the flag in Germany.  That was before the 2004 World Cup had made it acceptable as a benign sort of fan-accessory.  I wondered if our tame display of patriotism had so alarmed her, what she would make of this.

Fatima and I had the most civilized coffee then, guarded by the watchful eye of her dead brother and his looming machine gun.  She brought everything in on a tray, with pretty cups and saucers, and all the proper accessories, much the same as my German acquaintance would do, but then instead of the usual cake accompaniment, she laid out a sort of flat-bread, layered with sheep’s cheese and oil.  She pantomimed with her hands to show me how much kneading and folding of the dough was necessary to accomplish the recipe.  It was very good, and as we ate we were able to discuss the culinary specialties of our own nations, comparing them with each other’s and with the German variations.  We were still chatting comfortably when her husband came in. 

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Fatima and I had the most civilized coffee then, guarded by the watchful eye of her dead brother and his looming machine gun.  She brought everything in on a tray, with pretty cups and saucers.

He went into the bedroom to change out of his work clothes, but upon his return sat down and amicably joined us at coffee, something a German husband would never have done.  Fatima introduced him as Flori, and as he eagerly took up the conversation, I found his German was better then hers.  He could even find a word or two of English when we needed it.

He had been a Professor of Mathematics at the University in Tirana.  He and his family had been forced to flee when he was targeted as some sort of an instigator, although I wasn’t quite clear on why he was targeted or whether he actually was an instigator.  In Germany he added to their living by working as a part-time underling for a house painter.  They were apparently glad for him to have a job of any sort, even one so far beneath his abilities.  Most of their acquaintance were unable to find work at all, and it rendered a state of futility upon the male population there.  

Their apartment and those of all the buildings in their complex were paid for by the German government. They tried to explain to me their position of having to be grateful for something they would rather not have been given, and insisted on the desire to work for themselves.  At the same time they described their being on a waiting list for a government house, and petulantly expressed their impatience at the wait time.

“But you know the Germans, how they are.” said Fatima.

I thought of the time I’d remarked on a neighborhood I’d noticed in a nearby village, full of new houses and Petra’s husband sniffing, “Yes.  Those are for the Russians.  Nice, aren’t they.”

Flori then turned the conversation back to me.  “Your husband?” he asked, nodding.  “He was in Kosovo?”

He had been, although I wasn’t sure I wanted to discuss it with them, of all people.  We’d naturally been sympathetic to the plight of the women and children in the camps, but after my husband had spent some months in the region he’d told me “I’m pretty sure we picked the wrong side on this one.”

We’d naturally been sympathetic to the plight of the women and children in the camps, but after my husband had spent some months in the region he’d told me “I’m pretty sure we picked the wrong side on this one.”

“We are so grateful to the Americans for their help,” gushed Flori.  “So very, very grateful.”

“Oh, no,” I reassured him.  “It was the right thing to do.”

I hoped it was true.  It seemed like it ought to have been.  Then he brought up 9/11.  He and Fatima wanted me to understand how very shocked they’d been, watching the news that day.  They wanted to make it clear their sympathies were with the victims.  Flori then touched on the motivations of the bombers, saying “Yes, there are problems.  There are difficulties and disagreements, but to address it this way…”  I was glad the doorbell rang then, interrupting our conversation.

It was the woman who’d led us up to the apartment. She turned out to be Fatima’s sister-in-law, and for some odd reason was named Mary.  Flori didn’t understand my surprise when I remarked on her name.  

“Yes”, he nodded.  “Maryam, Maria, Mary… it is a good name.”

“Yes, but Mary.” I said.  “It’s just, such a Christian name.”

“No, no. We have Mary, too.  Your Bible, our Koran. Yes, Mary.”

I struggled to make the connection of how that could be, but he didn’t seem interested in discussing it further, as the sister-in-law had brought a video tape they’d apparently planned for us to watch.  Flori translated for her, “This is a tape of her wedding day for you to see.”

“Oh!” I exclaimed.  “Is she a newlywed?”

“No,” answered Flori.  “This was four years ago.”

I couldn’t quite understand the point of watching it then, but they all seemed so eager I put on a show of anticipation as well.  As the tape rewound they described to me about their country, how beautiful it had been before conflict had torn it.  They wanted me to understand Islam was not practiced as strictly in their region.  Fatima described to me about facing east to pray multiple times a day and scoffed, “No, we don’t do this.”

“Bekim does.” translated Flori, for Mary.  I assumed she meant her husband.

“So?” asked Flori, playfully.  “Is this what you expect from a Muslim home?”

I could see they wanted me to play along, so I made a little joke about having expected burkhas which pleased them very much.

“No, no!” laughed Flori.  “You walk down the street in Tirana, you think you are in the disco.”

They started the video then, which began with a wedding caravan of cars, and a poor caravan it was, all the economy-sized cars having the appearance of being patched up like faded old jeans.  They were crammed with wedding revelers though, smiling and waving at the camera when it fell on them.  As the caravan started moving there was a general sort of “Hoorah!”, or the equivalent of it in their language, and a honking of horns.  They wound their way slowly through city streets in the most shocking state of ruin, their celebratory joy scarcely piercing the gloom all around.  There seemed to be a habit of waving at passersby which they persisted in even though there was no one to wave back.  The city really had the most decrepit, abandoned look about it, so that I couldn’t help admiring their cheer in the face of it. 

I never could make out the name of the town they were in, no matter how many times they pronounced it for me.  They explained the caravan was making its way to the bride’s house, where there would be a viewing of her dowry.  I smiled expectantly at Mary, who cast her gaze down to the floor.

“You must understand,” explained Flori.  “Nobody had anything at this time.  Nobody.”

It became clear what they were preparing me for when the video got to the dowry part.  The wedding guests filed into the house of the bride’s family, making their way into a room in which Mary sat, not yet dressed in her wedding clothes.  The normal furniture had been cleared and tables with cloths had been brought in to display all her worldly possessions, which consisted of some clothing and personal articles, and a few pairs of shoes, from what I could make out. 

There was a palpable dip in morale at this point amongst the guests, who filed through the display seemingly at a loss for how to react. Mary hung her head in shame as a guest picked up a hairbrush and optimistically inspected it.  Fatima tried to explain to me with her halting words and big gestures how very vast the array of goods would have been in happier times, how differently the guests and bride would have behaved.  They seemed to feel apologetic toward even me watching the video four years later, although I’d certainly brought no expectations of any sort into it.

Things perked up when they took the bride away in their cars to a house of relatives, to dress her for the wedding.  There was a flurry of female excitement, a general bustling and fussing common to women in such circumstances everywhere.  She emerged from the process in veiled finery, although the veil was so long one could hardly make out much about her dress.  She seemed to drift like a hovering spirit as she walked, and was led out to the car waiting to drive her to the ceremony.

The ceremony itself was not filmed, only the reception after.  Everyone gathered into groups around tables and behaved like wedding guests the world over, like children at play, only there was no alcohol to turn it ugly toward the end. All variety of interesting food was spread on the tables on great platters, and everyone seemed to eat leisurely bits here and there rather than one large meal.  They had a number of unfamiliar traditions they explained to me.  One game I couldn’t make out involved the groomsmen and cigarettes, and had some sort of mildly bawdy implication to do with the wedding night. 

Through it all Mary sat unveiled, in the most elaborate dress sewn with pearls and jewels.  They had done her hair and made her up so that she appeared quite another person from the plain woman sitting next to me in the apartment.  Both the wedding guests and the camera seemed enchanted with her, as all gazes turned her way again and again.  One got the sense they’d sacrificed all they had, and gladly, for her to be elevated to such status of beauty, that the point of it all somehow converged in her and everyone knew it, and so were drawn to her because of it.  She did not partake of any of the games or festivities, only observed with regal detachment, her expression very grave.  I pondered what it could mean and looked at her next to me on the couch.  Tears sprung to her eyes, as she said something for Fatima to translate.

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Through it all Mary sat unveiled, in the most elaborate dress sewn with pearls and jewels.  They had done her hair and made her up so that she appeared quite another person from the plain woman sitting next to me in the apartment. 

“She says… she loves her husband, very much.” said Fatima, as if that explained everything.  It was touching, how although all the attention had been focused on her, she only thought of her spouse, and how she carried that devotion in it’s original form even then, as if time had not gone by.

There was more to the video as a group of men had begun to life the bride up and carry her about the reception hall, when the children suddenly tumbled into the room, begging to play outside.  The adults scolded the interruption, but the boys were persistent; so I used it as an opportunity to observe the time and imply it was nearly time for us to go.  This came as a great surprise to our hosts, who’d evidently expected us to stay for dinner.  I never could have imagined such a possibility as it was never done that way in German homes, so had to politely insist against their protests.  I probably could have rearranged our plans, but the truth was it was all becoming too much, the politics, the machine gun, the wedding.  It was tiring, and I just wanted to get back home and not have to think so much.

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I probably could have rearranged our plans, but the truth was it was all becoming too much, the politics, the machine gun, the wedding.  It was tiring, and I just wanted to get back home and not have to think so much.

I finally got away by accepting Fatima’s offering of a dish to take back with me for our dinner.  She ladled some sort of hot soup into a large covered container, and wrapped it with a dishtowel so as not to burn my hands.  I bid Flori and Mary farewell, and then Fatima and the boys walked downstairs with us.  We stood in the courtyard for a bit while the children continued to play.

It was summer and so still light out.  We could see the facade of Sankt Thekla’s from between the apartment buildings.  A shadow from the topmost cross on the upper rooftop was cast onto the courtyard pavement, where the children made an impromptu game of hopping from quadrant to quadrant as we watched.  Their own shadows merged with the image of the cross whenever they approached the center of it.

“You are Christian, yes?” asked Fatima.

I supposed I was, although I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done anything pertaining to that fact.  I’d been raised Catholic, but my religion had become nothing more than a memory of ceremonies attended and rituals performed.  I looked back at it fondly, but without it having any real connection to my adult life.

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“You are Christian, yes?” asked Fatima.

I supposed I was, although I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done anything pertaining to that fact.  I’d been raised Catholic, but my religion had become nothing more than a memory of ceremonies attended and rituals performed.

“I guess it’s sort of like you not facing east to pray.” I explained.

Fatima nodded and seemed to reflect for a moment.

“I should maybe do better with this.” she finally said. 

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, especially since I felt no such corresponding call in my own life then, so I simply looked up at the sky and observed,  “It’s going to rain.” 

I used the dark cloud moving in as an excuse to say our goodbyes quickly.  I wanted to make it home before the rain began.

As we approached Petra’s house on the walk back, I saw she was still out as she’d said she would be.  Thomas skipped on ahead to our house, as we did not live much further, and her children were not out to play.  She directed a wry smile at the enormous dish I was carrying and asked, “What’s this?  Your nice dinner tonight?”

I nodded that it was, as she leaned in and wrinkled her nose as if smelling something bad.  “Knoblauch!” she said, fanning the air in front of her face.  I never have known a German who could abide the smell of garlic.

“And…?” she asked.  “Did you have a nice visit?”

Ach!  Schoen, schoen...” I nodded.

I hardly knew how to relate my conflicting feelings about it all, so I tried to keep to  innocuous essentials like the flatbread and pretty cups.  It seemed no matter what I said I found myself confronted with a raised eyebrow or a loaded question.  As we conversed, I slowly realized I was being probed for details, and was expected to deliver them in a manner which conformed to her own dry disapprobation. 

I felt the shock of realization and a flare of righteous anger.  I suddenly saw the sharing of the wedding video as an intimate offering of the best they’d had to give, and felt the loss of not having something similar to share with them.  I wanted to somehow defend and justify them in Petra’s eyes.  At the same time I remembered the hint of underlying greed I’d picked up on, their willingness to exploit the system that had been thrust on them, and had to admit my own opinions on the subject were really not so very different from hers.  An image of the brother with the machine gun passed through my mind, and I decided to keep that part to myself.

“Their apartment is so small.” I insisted.  “They really have so little.”

“Oh?  Is there something more they need?” she asked.  Something else we should be giving them?”

I had the distinct impression there was, only I couldn’t think what.  Just then the bells from Saint Thekla’s started ringing six o’clock.  Something about the sound evoked a thought or a memory I struggled to grasp, but couldn’t seem to get hold of.  I felt a  sudden, stabbing conviction the chimes were a herald of something, but then immediately lost hold of that, too.

“Vespers,” remarked Petra.  It was what one said at that hour without it ever meaning anything in particular.  

I had to rush off then as the cloud had blown in and completely obscured the sun.  I ran homeward and felt the first stinging drops of cold rain on my face, the gusting wind muffling the sound of the bells.  I found Thomas waiting at the front door, impatiently wanting to get inside away from the rain.  As we entered the warmth and comfort of our home, I was relieved to find my anger and confusion already beginning to fade. 

It would be many years before I would think back and remember about the bells, the wedding, the shadow of the cross, and begin to wonder what Mary had to do with any of it.

 It would be many years before I would think back and remember about the bells, the wedding, the shadow of the cross, and begin to wonder what Mary had to do with any of it.

The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Germany

Today, Germany is a world-beater. Beautiful cars, sculpted landscapes, sparkling clean cities, a social welfare system that provides for all  — Germany, the pariah of the world after World War II, was in 2013 voted the most admired nation on the planet.

Such amazing success is heady stuff indeed for the three generations since Hitler who have rebuilt this war-torn land with a traumatized population and a Marshall plan. 

German Language and  Ideology

Germans and their culture are often misunderstood, perhaps due to their difficult language and idiosyncratic culture. Linguists have long noted that the German language allows for precision in a way almost impossible to imagine in English or the Romance languages. For this reason, in the 18th and 19th centuries, German was considered to be the ‘best’ scientific language. (Full disclosure: Although I am a New Yorker, I speak German fluently, having been raised with it as my first language.)

The German language is also key to understanding the Germans’ love of ideas — good, bad or indifferent. From Luther to Marx to Freud, from Heidegger to Nietzsche to Hitler, Germany’s history is full of men of ideas who have vastly influenced the world. Ideas of course often quickly lead to ideologies — the Nazis amply demonstrated  the destructive power of an ideology fervently embraced.

This leads us to the question of the German’s idiosyncratic culture. Many have asked how such a modern, forward-thinking nation as 19th century Germany could turn into the war machine of the early 20th century — and the purveyor of death and destruction of the Shoah. This is a troubling question, particularly for the generations who have come afterwards.

Modernizing the Germans

Since the last War, German social engineers have endeavored to instill anti-conformism in a culture with a several-thousand year history of strict conformity to authority. They have succeeded mainly in making Germany’s young people conform in their enthusiasm for consumerism, internet-fueled trends and exotic vacationing.

One thing that most young Germans are not doing is getting married and having children. Despite government subsidies for each child, under the burden of mass derision for the traditional ‘hausfrau‘ role, families are simply failing to form. Anecdotal evidence from a few German young families reveals strangers lecturing parents with more than two children about their ‘anti-social’ tendencies; having a family in Germany is decidedly not ‘cool.’

Today, we see these cultural forces — ideology, conformism and  materialism — at play once again in Germany’s Catholics. According to the German bishops’ own statistics, the Catholic Church is Germany is in imminent danger —  Catholics are leaving in droves and the vast majority of those who remain in the Church do not attend Mass. (For more about why people are leaving, see here.)

Mass-goers are inevitably over age seventy; they sit passively while gray-haired priests harangue them about politics. (Afterwards, when asked about the content of the homily, most will shrug merrily and admit they were not paying attention. At all.) Younger people will only darken the door of a Church for the rare family wedding, first Holy Communion or baptism.

Funerals in this aging country are so common, however, that priests in some dioceses can’t be spared for them. Catholics are often cremated and interred — or their ashes spread over forest floors — without benefit of clergy. In many parishes, a once-a-month Requiem Mass is celebrated for anyone in the parish who has died; these are sparsely attended.

Fabulously Rich & Famously Liberal

What’s going on? The Church in Germany is fabulously rich — the beneficiary of a financial system which routes 9% of the income tax paid by Catholics into the Church’s coffers. (To be clear, if Catholics do not pay this, they will not receive the Sacraments.) The German bishops live and act like CEOs, which of course they are — as the Church employs 650,000 Germans, making it the second largest employer after the German state, more than six times the size of Mercedes Benz.

The German Church is also famously liberal — with bishops and theologians regularly issuing public demands that Rome abandon its ‘out-dated’ ideas and ‘get with the program’ of modern times. To outsiders, such arrogance may be  breathtaking, but it is important to understand the context for this.

The bishops’ broadsides aimed at Rome are an attempt to pander to the sensibilities of the German elites and media. The German bishops do a tremendous amount of talking about helping those less fortunate, because that is the single role that most Germans will willingly accord the Church. On matters of morals, they are expected to tow the secular line — which they do.

Accustomed to luxurious prelates and the high politics of Church and State, ordinary German Catholics are blase about such verbal pyrotechnics. They know that for centuries ferocious power struggles between the State and Church — not to mention between Protestants and Catholics — have cut a broad swathe of destruction across Germany’s tragic history. The diaspora of Germans across the New World, Eastern Europe and Russia have all resulted from the wars and famines induced by conflict. (So, if your family came from Germany, this is probably why.)

Clerics who rebel against Rome are old news, here.

The German Post-War Catholic Avant-Garde

There is a German word that has found its way into English — ‘ersatz‘ meaning something used as a substitute for the real thing. Here, in the homeland of ideology, there is a kind of ‘ersatz’ Arian catholicism which is firmly in control of the Catholic Church’s multi-billion euro revenues.

In the 20th century, Germany has been ground zero for the ideology of Modernism. Post-World War II, an avant-garde of German theologians were pretty much responsible for pushing  ill-defined liturgical and sartorial changes through the Second Vatican Council. Josef Ratzinger was among this group, though his later about-face earned him the everlasting enmity of former friends in German church circles such as Karl Lehmann, powerful Cardinal of Mainz and ‘free-thinking’ theologian Hans Kung. (In a presumably unrelated development, Dr Kung has just announced his intention to commit suicide to the world’s press.)

Modernist innovations have been zealously applied over the past few decades, not least in art and architecture. Tourists accustomed to the beauty of English and French stained glass windows are often disappointed in Germany. Ancient church windows bomb-blasted out were dutifully replaced by stained glass of two varieties: the dull and cheap or the ugly and expensive.  As for the medieval and baroque saints, they were stripped out of German churches and placed in diocesan museums, where they can be appreciated by culturati — as opposed to Mass-goers.

Churches stripped bare of piety are de facto evidence of  iconoclasm (in German ‘bildersturm‘ or ‘storm about pictures’) which fits nicely with the ersatz “catholicism’ propounded by today’s well-paid German theologians. It’s a kind of Arianism by another name — they have pretty much decided that any intelligent person should be able to see that Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than a particularly effective social reformer. In Germany, this is ‘normal’ Catholicism.

A Crippling Shortage of Priests

Predictably, a course of study about a nice guy in Jerusalem 2000 years ago draws few students; hence, Germany has few seminarians.This state of affairs has been the status quo for decades, and the priest shortage here is acute. Most German parishes must share;  in some formerly Catholic areas there is only one priest for every 5-6 parishes.

The shortfall is partly made up by priests ‘borrowed’ from poorer countries. Their paychecks are very much needed in their home diocese, and their lack of German language proficiency and vulnerable status insures that they will not rock the boat. (Any attempts to beg funds for their desperately poor folks back home are coldly rebuffed.)

This is not to say that Germany does not have some stellar priests. These few, faithful men work very hard indeed, in a country where wearing a Roman collar has not been ‘done’ for decades. (Those who dare risk hostile stares, if not outright aggression from Germans, in public.) They must administer the Sacraments in parishes run by clueless laypeople who want to serve coffee and cake during Mass, show Powerpoint presentations in lieu of homilies — or indeed, during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament — or stage children’s plays in the midst of the Mass. (We have personally witnessed each of these; the term ‘liturgical abuse’ is not known here.)

German laypeople are not wholly to blame, however, as the lack of basic catechesis is everywhere evident. Almost no one goes to Confession. Few genuflect before entering pews in German churches. Most Catholics have no clue about the Real Presence in the Tabernacle, which is often a strangely-decorated box set oddly to one side of an elevated platform.

Priests and layfolk alike in most parishes are loath to be quoted, too. This is because some Germans pay close — and vocal — attention to Church matters,  odd for a people who are such professed agnostics. In a notorious recent case, the Bishop of Limburg was publicly humiliated, ostensibly for lavish spending. In a astounding display of group-think, this scion of a famous noble family was painfully crucified in the media, and forced to step down. More than a few priests have privately confided that the Bishop’s crime did not involve money at all, but rather his efforts to instill orthodoxy in a diocese out of control.

German Church Slaps a  Stigma on the Latin Mass

Clown Masses, ‘masses’ presided over by women, masses with liturgies made up on the fly — according to many Catholics, the Latin Mass is the one innovation that the power structure of the German Church is loath to permit. For a country that is avowedly uninterested in ecclesiastical matters, online articles about the Latin Mass draw an astonishing amount of ire from commenters who assert that they are ‘normal’ Catholics. Unsurprisingly, Catholics who attend the Latin Mass will often not discuss this with their family or neighbors for fear of being ostracized.

Outsiders can be forgiven if they observe that this strange social stigma is redolent of an earlier, nastier era when opposition to Nazi ideology was similarly dealt with. (For more about what happened to those who resisted the zeitgeist during Nazi times, see here.) Fascinatingly, this smear on the Mass of Ages seems to stem from an apparently invented connection with Nazism.

Who made this odd connection? What is its nature? Diligent investigations for any proven historical evidence for this have led us precisely nowhere.The most we’ve been able to uncover is a distaste for tradition and an almost complete lack of historical perspective rooted in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, which period in Germany has now assumed a halo of righteousness.

The greying ’68-er’ generation here — university students in the pivotal year of 1968 — continue to be revered for their ‘brave’ stance in opposing their parents’ Nazi past. Their tastes and ideas dominate everything in Germany; it may or may not be merely coincidental that their children are failing to form families. One thing is certain: the imminent passing of this 68-er generation will go unmarked by Last Rites, and they will not be mourned at Requiem Masses.

But it is possible that the stigma surrounding the Latin Mass is merely evidence of the Arian power structure’s terror of being supplanted. After all, there are only two forces which such a thoroughly modern Church has to fear: secularization (when the State grabs the Church’s assets) or the influence of the Faith, itself.

The real thing, that is.

A Future for a Thoroughly Modern Church?

If the real Faith does not prevail in Germany, most Germans now accept that the State takeover of Church properties is inevitable, probably within two decades. This will be because the nearly 650,000 employees of the Church cannot be sustained by 9% of the income tax paid by dead Catholics. It’s a demographic cliff that is looming.

Why is this country so important for Catholics outside Germany? In short, because its wealth makes it politically powerful;  it remains the driving economic force of the European Union. Influence accompanies wealth, of course — this is  as true in the Vatican as it is in Congress, Parliament or the Bundestag.

But what of the future of Catholicism in a country with a declining population, no seminarians, disbelief in dogma — which is openly antagonistic to the Faith?

Thanks be to God, it is not as bleak as it seems.

This is because — unknown to most ‘educated’ Germans today – Catholicism formed their civilization, beginning with an English monk who found his way to Mainz in the 500s. And it continues today, with brave German Catholics risking  ostracism from both their culture and their Church in order to pass the Faith on.

Our story begins with Boniface — and “The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Germany” goes on to show how St. Peter’s Barque remains afloat in the stormiest of ideological seas.

Because even in Germany, the Faith will not die.

In Christ,

Beverly Stevens

Wiesbaden, Germany

March 2014

 Intro

The Second Rome

Christian Trier in Germany

by Christoph Pitsch

Trier is an ancient German city near the Luxembourg and French borders. At the 2002 inauguration Mass of then-Bishop Marx at Trier,* Bishop Kamphaus of Limburg brought something special with him – ‘the crozier of St. Peter.’  The metropolitan Archbishop of Cologne ceremonially presented this to Bishop Marx “as a visible symbol of the communion of the church of Trier to St. Peter and his successors.“

The Legend of ‘St. Peter’s Crozier’

Of course, Peter lived hundreds of years before croziers became ecclesiastical paraphernalia, but the secret behind this crozier is a fascinating legend about the foundation of the Church in Trier (Roman ‘Treverus’—from which the Christian name ‘Trevor’ comes).

According to this legend, St. Eucharius and St. Valerius, disciples of St. Peter,  together with St. Maternus, left Rome to  preach the Gospel north of the Alps. (Other legends say they were sent as priest, deacon and subdeacon respectively.)

Upon reaching present-day Alsace-Lorraine, Maternus died from exhaustion.  Eucharius and Valerius, discouraged, returned to Rome. There, St. Peter gave them his crosier and sent them to Maternus again, where they resurrected him using St. Peter’s crosier. Then, Eucharius and Valerius proceeded to Trier to found a Christian community and Maternus did the same in Cologne.

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ANCIENT GRAVES OF Saints Eucharius and Valerius, disciples of St. Peter — first bishops of Trier.
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St Maternus, according to legend miraculously resurrected by St. Peter’s Crozier, went on to become the first Bishop of Cologne.

 

The Real History of Trier

How much of this is true? In fact, according to the medieval episcopal lists, Eucharius was the actual first bishop of Trier in the 200s.  Valerius is listed as the second. Maternus, who was the first bishop of Cologne (Roman ‘Colonnia’) is mentioned as the third bishop of Trier. But these sources also state that there was Christian life in Trier before these three holy bishops.

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ROMAN RUINS TOWER OVER HUMAN SCALE showing the grandeur of Imperial Rome in Trier more than 2000 years later.

Augusta Treverorum (Trier) was founded in 30 BC as an imperial residence of the Roman Emperor and capital of the province of Gallia Belgica.  It was the most important city north the Alps; even today Trier is filled with buildings of amazing antiquity – Roman baths, arenas, even wine warehouses that date back to ancient Roman times. (Editor’s Note: One of Germany’s best-kept secrets is the unbelievable scope and breadth of ancient Roman ruins at Trier — unrivaled anywhere in Europe besides Rome itself.)

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INTERIOR OF ROMAN RUINS AT TRIER, still solidly built after twenty centuries.

Trier was also the site of one of the most notorious slaughterings of Christians, when during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian the Trier governor Rictiovarus carried out the atrocities. When  soldiers of his own Roman Legion refused to renounce Christ, they were put to death by the sword on the Roman bridge over the Moselle River, which still stands.

Local legends say the Moselle ‘ran red with the blood of the martyrs’ for miles — and that Christians downstream collected the remains and buried them. These remains are today under the churches of St. Paulinus, St. Maximian and St Matthias. (In 1990, excavations for the regional museum uncovered the remains of 1300 at the church of St. Maxmian — now in State hands — alone.)

Early Christian Trier

After the promulgation of the Edict of Milan under emperor Constantine, Christianity was no longer illegal. By then, Constantine’s mother, Helena, had retired to Trier. (Some say she founded a convent there.) Then came the so-called ‘Constantinian Shift,’ when the Empire became Christian.

So, where to build the first Christian basilica on German soil? Literally, on the foundations of the palace of St. Helena. 

From this ancient basilica the present double – church complex of the ‘Cathedral’ (in Latin, ‘seat’) of the Bishop of Trier developed. Today, the Roman basilica sits beside a beautiful Gothic church in the shape of a rose, dedicated to Our Lady — the oldest Gothic church in Germany.

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BUILT ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF ST HELENA’S PALACE Trier’s ancient Cathedral stands next to the Church of Our Lady (right).

The Benedictine Abbey of St Matthias at Trier houses the only remains of an Apostle north of the Alps. The Abbey itself was built on land belonging to a Roman Senator from Trier. In recent decades, a stupendous archaeological find there revealed the bones of hundreds of Christians surrounding a Roman sarcophagus buried deep under the Abbey grounds for many centuries.

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TRIER CITYSCAPE NEAR THE BISHOP’S PALACE incorporates the elements of centuries of Catholic history.

St Helena and the Holy Robe

Legend has it that Helena found the Cross and the Robe of Christ during her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She was a lady much advanced in years when she visited the Holy Land, and both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem were built on Helena’s orders.

Today the Holy Robe (“Heilige Rock’) of Christ is kept in the Cathedral of Trier – one of the most important relics of our Lord. (Editor’s Note: Why do Catholics venerate relics? See here.)

Trier in the Center of the Storm

This was a time of stormy church-political and theological controversies. A man named Arius in Egypt preached that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by – and is therefore distinct from – God the Father. This was the first heresy to rock Christianity, which it did to its very roots.

(Arianism is actually a debate we can see today as well, when people ask ‘Is Jesus Christ ‘God’ or was he simply a social reformer?’)

This controversy assumed even greater dimensions and only finally ended in the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), from whence we get the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Mass.  Two of the leading bishops against Arius were Father Athanasius of Alexandria – one of the four Great Doctors of the church — and Bishop Paulinus. St. Paulinus was at one time the only bishop who would not conform to the rampant Arian heresy that swept through the Church. For his faithful witness, he was exiled from Trier to Turkey, where he died.

Paulinus_von_TrierWhat role did Trier play? After the council, in which the teachings of Arius were rejected and the Nicene Creed agreed upon by the bishops, Athanasius fell into disfavor with Emperor Constantine and was banished  to Trier, where Paulinus was the bishop.

At the same time, another Church Father participated in the dispute with Arius – the great Ambrose of Milan. He is known as the composer of the Catholic hymn the Te Deum and as the one who baptized St. Augustine. Another legend says that as Augustine was being baptized, he intoned the first line of this hymn and that Ambrose answered. Today the Te Deum is sung at the end of every year in every Catholic church in the world.

 

Ambrose was born in Trier, the son of a Roman prefect.

The Second Rome

We can see that the Church of Trier played a very important role in defending and preaching the Faith in history – literally a second Rome. The immense ruins of the ancient Roman civilization surround us at Trier, and the literal handing-on of that civilization through the Faith to us in the present day is apparent with every step through the old City.

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All these Trier symbols, relics and legends have one thing in common: they demonstrate to the faithful what our origins are. We in Trier were the first Christians on German soil. This is our pride, and our responsibility.

(Editor’s Note: Marx is now cardinal and archbishop of Munich and a member of the group of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis.)

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ROMAN RUINS, the most extensive in Europe, north of the Alps at Trier, Germany.

PHOTO CREDITS: All photos by Harry Stevens except lead photo of the Porta Nigra city gate at Trier by Pit Perrot.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Council

The Rhine Alliance and Vatican II

“Those therefore who after the manner of wicked heretics dare to set aside Ecclesiastical Traditions, and to invent any kind of novelty, or to reject any of those things entrusted to the Church, or who wrongfully and outrageously devise the destruction of any of those Traditions enshrined in the Catholic Church, are to be punished thus: if they are bishops, we order them to be deposed; but if they are monks or lay persons, we command them to be excluded from the community.”

——— Second Council of Nicaea 787 A.D.

by Harry Stevens

It was huge news in 1965: the Catholic Mass would finally be ‘modernized.’ By 1970 the Pope Paul VI Missal was in place, setting off a chain-reaction of liturgical innovation which shook the Catholic world to its core.

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SAINT PETER’S DURING THE VATICAN COUNCIL Curious onlookers — mainly lay people — watch the clergy process.

Today, almost 50 years later, many Catholics are beginning to ask why and indeed whether such drastic liturgical changes were ordered by the Council. These are serious questions. Now that the actual Council documents are available online for all to peruse, it is painfully clear that many of these liturgical changes — now in practice around the world – were never actually specified by the Council.

One thing is clear: those that were, were spearheaded by a group of liturgists and theologians from the Rhine Valley.

Catholic Mass Unchanged Since 600 AD

Up until the 1960s, the Roman Rite Mass had remained essentially unchanged –except for minor local variances — from the time of St Pope Gregory the Great (590-604). The Council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed that the Mass was to be celebrated uniformly and so St Pope Pius V in 1570 published a revised missal by the Bull Quo Primum.

The Missal of Pius V continued in use with very minor changes until the John XXIII Missal of 1962.

The Roots of Change

A torrent of questions remain basically unanswered. What led to the revolutionary changes in the Mass, post-Vatican II? Why have the priest face the people? Why term the priest no longer a ‘celebrant’ but a ‘president’? Why change all the ancient prayers to the vernacular? Why delete the prayers at the foot of the altar? Did all of this really start at Vatican II, as many believe? Or did it actually start earlier?

Some say these liturgical changes began with St Pope Pius X on November 22, 1903 with his motu proprio ‘Tra le sollecitudini’

“It being our ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit restored in every respect and preserved by all the faithful, we deem it necessary to provide before everything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for the object of acquiring this spirit from its indispensable fount, which is the active participation in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.”

Tra le sollecitudini, in short, helped reform liturgical music with active participation of the faithful.  Pius X’s reform energized others to action.

Father Romano Guardini, an Italian by birth who was raised in southern Germany, may have been the genesis for what later became known as the ‘liturgical movement.’  This was an effort to enhance the appreciation and experience of worship with one goal: to enable the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy.

Guardini’s liturgical movement spread to the Rhine. Concentrated mostly in France and Germany, this pre-World War I liturgical movement was made up of academics, scholars, monks, priests and visionaries. There was little in the way of representation from the laity in the pews.

Even the century before, Dom Guéranger from Solesmes, France, was an early visionary with the reform of Gregorian chant.  Later, Benedictines in France and Germany were pioneers in the liturgical movement: Abbott Anselm Schott (who edited a Latin-German Missal); Dom Odo Casel, Dom Beauduin, Dom Maurice Festugière, Dom Ildelfons Herwegen, Dom Virgil Michel, and Dom Pius Parsch.

Pius XII’s Post World War II Commission

Forward to 1948 and back to Italy, when the next phase of liturgical reform began.  Pope Pius XII – expressly stating his wishes that the liturgy be kept within the spirit of Pius X – formed a liturgical commission.  In November 1955, this commission, under Father Annibale Bugnini, was responsible for changes in some Holy Week rites.

Today, there are questions about whether Pius XII was really kept informed about the activities of Bugnini’s commission, which implemented the first major changes to the Pius V Missal since 1570.  Some of these changes directly affected the rite of the Mass: the suppression of the prayers at the foot of the altar and last gospel on certain occasions and the celebrant not himself reading parts of the Mass.

The overall effect was to begin a watering-down of the Rite. Today, questions are still unanswered. Was this a trial run for the reforms that came later from the Council?  Was there an overall Italian plan led by Bugnini for the Council?   And what about the Rhine countries during this time?

Post War Along the Rhine

The Rhine Alliance, as it came to be known, included clerics from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In the wake of World War II, these were at the center of a push for modernization across European society. Both the secular and religious intelligentsia were keen to be rid of “tradition.”

In France, the alliance of most of the conservative bishops with the Vichy government resulted in their complete discredit and removal from office. The Rhine contingent to the Second Vatican Council was composed of men who had been bishops during the war, many of whom were cardinals by the 1960s. They brought with them younger advisors — the so-called ‘periti’ — whose names since have become well-known to Catholics:  Congar, de Lubac, Ratzinger, Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Küng. These young men brought their various ideas and schools of thought to Vatican II, with a view towards modernization and ecumenicism.

In the years since, well-regarded observers have posed different explanations for what happened at the Council.

Some have reported that it was the powerful Rhine alliance – with  reluctant Italians in tow — and more specifically, Father (later Archbishop) Bugnini that led the revolution. Father Wiltgen, who reported on the Council for the news media, described a struggle between the Italian and German contingents.  Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 1988 book, ‘Milestones’ described ‘German arrogance’ as a key factor.

The Council Unfolds

The Second Vatican Council opened in October 1962, and closed three years later.  In terms of liturgy, several changes set a precedent for further change early in the Council’s meetings. These included permanently omitting Judica me (prayers at the foot of the Altar), the Last Gospel, the Confiteor and the Absolution before Communion.

In December 1962 Pope John XXIII changed the Canon by adding St Joseph’s name immediately after the name of the Most Holy Virgin.  This was the first change to the Canon of the Mass, an unexpected move which surprised many.

Also, early in the Council, missionary bishops assigned to Asia and Africa sought liturgical reform and practices, hoping that languages other than Latin would bring a richer and more vital liturgy to their faithful.  There were a few calls for changes such as shortening prayers at the foot of the altar, ending the Mass at Ite, missa est, making the priest facing the people, and developing an ecumenical Mass.

The vast majority of the Council Fathers, however, did not call for any liturgical change. Undaunted by this lack of enthusiasm, however, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy approved three distinct Mass formulas, specifying that the Canon was to be said aloud, in the vernacular, and with the priest facing the people.

One can say things moved quickly in just three years.

A High-Jacked Reform
From whence came all of this unprecedented change? By the 1960s, opposition to the Vietnam War and Cold War balance of power politics prompted the US peace movement.  In Germany and France, the ‘68er’ movement of student protest, activism and rebellion seemed to shadow America’s experience.  But did the turmoil in society necessarily have to affect the Church so much – and for so long?

In the decades since this tumultuous era, various observers and authors have offered their comments. Michael Davies famously opined that the liturgical movement was ‘high-jacked’ and contended that a ‘pseudo liturgical renewal’ developed afterwards.

Of this same  influence Benedict XVI later reported, “I was not able to foresee that the negative sides of the liturgical movement would afterward reemerge with redouble strength, almost to the point of pushing the liturgy towards its own self-destruction.” Furthermore, he stated unequivocally that the Council Fathers ‘never intended many of the changes that took place.’

How then did this all happen?

Outright rebellion against the Council

In the final analysis, it appears that fifty years later we can say with certainty that it was outright rebellion on the part of some European and American bishops and priests that led to institutionalizing practices such as Communion received standing and in the hand, and priests no longer celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Furthermore, this same group unleashed a storm of iconoclasm never imagined by the Council Fathers, destroying the work of centuries in beautiful art — high altars, stained glass, and statuary in Catholic churches all over the world.

Tragically, the damage wrought by the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ did not end there. The catechesis of Catholics was seriously damaged. Traditional Orders quickly lost their bearings — and most of their members. As religious vocations plummeted, abuses rapidly crept in to the Church — in seminaries, in parishes and in Orders. Today, many observers point to the fact that two generations of un-catechized Catholics have meant mass apostasy in most of the Western world.

The damage that has been done to the Church is only now starting be assessed by a new generation of unbiased Catholic and secular scholars alike. What really happened at Vatican II may in fact take another fifty years to understand.

(Editor’s Note: This short essay is but an introduction to and some thoughts on the liturgical movement, the Rhine alliance and Vatican II.  See the Reference list and their bibliographies for further reading.)

References
Davies, Michael.  Liturgical Revolution, Volumes I, II, III, Angeles Press
Fortescue, Adrian.  The Mass, A Study of The Roman Liturgy, University Press, Longmans, Green and Co, Ltd 1955.
Guardini, Romano.  The Spirit of the Liturgy. Sheed & Ward, London 1930;
Ratzinger, Joseph.  Milestones Memoirs 1927-1977, Ignatius
Wiltgen, Ralph. The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, The Unknown Council, Hawthorne Books, Inc

Bayerische Wanderung

von Tamara Isabell

Eine der vielen Freuden beim Besuch Bayerns liegt darin, diese wunderschöne Landschaft zu entdecken. Papst Benedikt hat seine Heimat „ein Land so wunderschön, dass man gleich erkennen kann, dass Gott gut ist, und wir glücklich sein dürfen“ genannt. Wenn wir durch eine solche schöne, wohlgeordnete Landschaft wandern, werden wir Gott zwangsläufig begegnen.

Eine natürliche Landschaft als „wohlgeordnet“ zu betrachten,  mag einem Amerikaner fremd erscheinen, da unsere Wälder in einer Art von dunkler und dorniger Wildnis hochragen; aber in Bayern kann niemand solche Unbilden antreffen, Bayernland ist gesegnet mit sanften Hügeln, sich durch die Landschaft windenden Bächen und vor Gesundheit strotzendem Grün.

Kitzingen 2

Die Bayern haben sich seit Ewigkeiten diese bevorzugte Ordnung erkämpft um die Werte des Bodens zu bewahren und verbessern. Die Dörfer sind diskret in Seitentälern versteckt, wo sie keine urbane Größe erreichen können. Geschickte Forstwirtschaft hat die Wälder gleich bewohnbar für Mensch und Wild gemacht. Überall sieht man Zeugnisse von Gottes großzügiger Vorsehung und den Respekt vor dieser Vorsehung.

Was braucht man mehr an Perfektion für das Erblühen des Katholizismus?   Wir wissen, der Glaube findet überall Halt, aber man hat den Eindruck, dass es in einer solchen Umgebung vorprogrammiert ist, wo die materielle Welt so deutlich nach Seiner Herrlichkeit greift und sie bezeugt.

Castell 3

Wir können uns Bonifatius und sein frühes Zusammentreffen mit den umherziehenden Stämmen in diesem Land gut vorstellen. Waren die Wälder in jenen heidnischen Zeiten dunkler und unruhiger? Dennoch, Bonifatius erkannte es als ein Land, das nur ein wenig Fleiß seitens des Menschen im Dienst des Herrn benötigt, um es vollkommen zu machen. So nahm er seine Axt heraus, baute aus Donareichen Kirchen und erlaubte der Gnade Gottes, Heiden zu Christen zu schlagen wie man Ritter schlägt.

Castell 2
Und die Früchte seiner Anstrengungen dauern fort.

Die heutigen Bayern sind Erben dieser katholischen Landschaft, geschaffen von Gott, aber verschönt durch die hingebungsvolle schwere Arbeit der Vorfahren. Es ist unmöglich auf einer bayerischen Straße um eine Kurve zu fahren, ohne auf eine Kapelle am Straßenrand zu stoßen, ohne an einem Wegkreuz vorbei zu kommen oder eine Marienstatue oder Heiligenstatue verehren zu können.

Burgbernheim 1

Religiöse Wandmalereien schmücken die schönen bayerischen Fachwerkhäuser. Die weltberühmten Oberammgauer Passionsspiele werden seit nahezu 400 Jahren regelmäßig aufgeführt, mit allen Anzeichen, dass dies auch die nächsten 400 Jahre so sein wird. Viele Feste umranken die Ernte; religiöse Ereignisse in einem bestimmten liturgischen  Rhythmus, alles Mögliche feiernd, vom einfachen Spargel bis zu den regionalen Weinen, mit einer entschieden christlichen Freude am Einfachen und Natürlichen.

Während die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz (DBK) Kirchenaustritte konstatiert (Anm. d. Herausgebers: weniger als 30% der Deutschen identifiziert sich als „katholisch“ – man schaue hier nach den Gründen), Bayern hält starke 55%. Das rührt von der Anbindung der Region an den Katholizismus der Vorfahren, so daß es unvorstellbar ist, diesen Bund völlig aufzugeben. Die Bayern möchten es nicht aufgeben, sich selbst als Katholiken zu bezeichnen, genauso wenig wie sie es nicht aufgeben werden, sich als Bayern zu bezeichnen, und zwar aus denselben Gründen. Es ist ihre ehrenhafte und historische Identität, Bayer zu sein, bedeutet Katholik zu sein, und beide Eigenschaften haben denselben Ursprung.

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Der unbeugsame Freiheitsdrang des Bayern ist an den Zyklus der natürlichen Umgebung gebunden, und sein Katholizismus ist Ergebnis und Widerschein eben dieser Umwelt. Obwohl der postmoderne Säkularismus Europa als Ganzes angesteckt hat, kann und wird er nicht dasselbe in Bayern erreichen.

Während Gott den abgefallenen Katholiken erlaubt, ein bisschen zu streunen, bevor er sie wieder zurückruft zu dem, was sie vergessen haben, werden die Bayern immer aufgerufen sein, die Schönheit der Natur rundum wieder zu entdecken. Die Lebensmuster, welche in diese natürliche Ordnung eingefügt wurden, bilden einen Rhythmus, der auf Gott zurückgeht.

Uffenheim

Obwohl der postmoderne Säkularismus Europa als Ganzes angesteckt hat, kann und wird er nicht dasselbe in Bayern erreichen. Während  Gott den abgefallenen Katholiken erlaubt, ein bisschen zu streunen, bevor er sie wieder zurückruft zu dem was sie vergessen haben, werden die Bayern immer aufgerufen sein, die Schönheit der Natur rund herum wieder zu entdecken. Die Lebensmuster, welche in diese natürliche Ordnung eingefügt wurden,  bilden einen Rhythmus, der auf Gott zurückgeht.

Nur in einem Land, das Gottes eigene Schönheit widerstrahlt, kann man so weit wandern. Alle Wege in Bayern führen zurück zum Schöpfer, und der Wanderer entdeckt glücklich, daß Er gut ist.

FOTOS von Migdalia Mass und Tamara Isabell

Midsummer on the Moselle for A Latin Mass Wedding

Jens and Susanne very much wanted to be married in the Extraordinary Rite in their beautiful hometown of Cochem on the Moselle, a river which winds through vineyards between Germany, Luxembourg and France. In this article, Susanne recounts the extraordinary events around their TLM wedding in mid-summer 2013 for Regina Magazine.

By Susanne Michels

Jens and I were engaged one year before our wedding; he is 27 and I am 24 years old. We live in Mainz during the week, where we both went to university and where I work part-time. Every weekend we return to our hometown Cochem to see our families and Jens works there as a piano teacher.

Jens was the one to introduce me to the Latin Mass in 2008. I had heard about a priest in the neighboring town who had been saying the early morning mass in the Old Rite for quite some time, but I knew too little about it and had never been there. Only a couple of days after we started dating Jens invited me to join him.

Amazed at the solemnity and silence

I remember that at first I was amazed at the solemnity and the silence. I felt that, probably for the first time in my life, I was truly able to pray. Soon I began to learn more about the traditional Latin Mass and I’m still learning new things all the time.

I don’t think our families were too surprised when we told them what we had planned for our wedding, because we had been going to the TLM regularly for a long time.

Some of our guests knew the TLM from their childhood or early adulthood, but had not been able to attend one since, amongst them were my grandparents. My grandfather gave me his Missal when he heard that I had started hearing the Mass in the old Rite with Jens – he was very pleased when we told him about the wedding and he keeps saying that he enjoyed it very much.

Others had been introduced to the TLM later in their lives –  they were very happy to have the opportunity to attend a Solemn Mass (Missa Solemnis).

Not so weird or boring

Most of our guests though – especially friends and family members our age –had never been to a TLM. Some were curious, others rather skeptical. The latter seemed surprised that the Mass didn’t turn out as “weird“ or boring as they had thought.

In the end the responses were very positive: almost all our guests found it very solemn and moving.

Perfect motivation to learn the Mass

We soon had to learn that there are people (even within the Church) who strongly dislike the thought of the Latin Mass being held.

Knowing this, we are even more thankful for all the support we had during the process of planning the wedding and now as a married couple. There was the priest, Jens’ former lecturer at university who lives in Brasil and who started teaching himself the TLM when we told him we would get married and asked him to do the ceremony. He had always wanted to learn the TLM and this was the perfect motivation. How could we ever thank him enough for everything he did for us?

Then there was the old friend from university – he and Jens had been studying Catholic theology together (Jens will be a school teacher, the friend became a priest). He was the deacon in the Mass. He was ordained in the Extraordinary Form, thus very experienced, and could help all of us and guide us. He would also remind us that we’d only need to trust whenever we struggled with all the stress and he heard our confessions on the morning of the wedding day.

Filling in on short notice

The third priest, who was the sub-deacon in the Mass, filled in for somebody else on short notice. We first went to his church in Trier on Palm Sunday in 2013, because they had needed someone to play the organ – we’ve been going there almost every Sunday ever since.

We were warmly welcomed by the most lovely community and a wonderful, warm- hearted priest. We very much felt like we finally found a new home after the priest who held the old mass near Cochem took up a new parish in Switzerland.

The altar boys from Trier agreed to help out at our wedding and they even made time to practise beforehand with the priest. Their families made the effort to come to our wedding, too, and so did many other members of the community, which we are very grateful to them for.

Many churches, or vestries today are unfortunately missing the equipment for the Extraordinary Rite, such as garments for a Solemn High Mass. Again, we had to rely on outside help, which we received.

Since not many organists have enough experience with old Masses, we had to improvise. One of our witnesses, Jens ‘ friend and former piano teacher was of course during the ceremony itself not sitting at the organ. We were so grateful that he was willing to arrange for another organist to accompany the first part of the Mass. What would we have done without all of them?

Recognizing the profound truth in the Mass
Of course, today there are not always and everywhere the perfect conditions for a TLM. With the necessary trust in God and the many dear people who have already discovered the beauty of the Mass in the Extraordinary Rite, a dignified and solemn mass will be in honor of God.

How many people have never had the chance to attend such a Mass? Those who are allowed to experience it once, recognize the profound truth in it.

 

 PHOTOS: Karin Scheuer of Cochem, Germany

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