Guerrilla warfare

I’ve been reading Bevin Alexander’s interesting book, How Wars Are Won. He tells of several different tactics that are incredibly effective in warfare. One of them that is being used against the Catholic Church at the moment is Holding One Place, Striking Another. In this tactic, an army is forced into committing  its resources to defense in one place, leaving itself vulnerable to attack in another place.

This has happened to the Church before, and for similar reasons: the Church is currently fighting in the press for its validity as a moral voice, given some corruption that has plagued her from within.

As everyone who is close to the Church knows, the corruption is nowhere near the main story of the Church, and is in fact part of the story of every institution involving fallen humanity. However, at the moment it is the part of the story that is most widely known. It is exacerbated not only from without but from within, by those who are building careers on criticizing the Church.

While the Church spends resources defending her virtue and her credibility to speak as a moral voice, and while burdened with the enormous strain of the coronavirus problem, she is under a true, astonishingly brazen and widespread attack.

Statues too numerous to recount, and too shocking to reprint, have been vandalized in a Cromwellian orgy of iconoclasm, led by both neo-communist cancel culture activists and satanists.

So how do we win this war?

One tactic can be taken from yesterday’s Office of Readings, the attack on Jehosaphat by three armies, from 2 Chronicles 20. The attackers are not at peace with one another, and are already destroying one another.  No group of revolutionaries is at peace for long. Judah needed only to fast, pray, and stand firm.

Another effective tactic suggested by Bevin Alexander is the Feigned Retreat. Withdrawing in an orderly fashion and regrouping, an army draws a pursuing enemy forward in disorder, leaving them vulnerable to effective counterattack. For us as Catholics, this counterattack takes several forms, all of them works of mercy.  I would suggest that the very first is a vigorous teaching of the Gospel in all its fullness–because our victory will be complete when our enemies become our friends, and friends of God.

This is an election year in the United States, and one of the concerns is that an oppressive regime, opposed to religious freedom, may ascend. That would indeed be tragic, but it is important to recall that the Lord was born under Herod the Great and rose under Pontius Pilate. The word of God is not chained.

Ten days after the martyrdom of the Martyrs of Compiègne, the Reign of Terror ended. Hopefully most of us will not have to be heroes in the same way, but we can make our contributions. We have the weapons of the divine Holy Spirit, Who cannot fail, and Who manifests His presence in many ways:

  • The bishop who rallies his diocese and his brothers, and preaches with fire.
  • The priest who through many distractions turns to his breviary first of all, every day.
  • The wife who makes do with less.
  • The husband who listens and consoles, protects and encourages.
  • The church musicians who have begun preparing for Christmas, not at all sure their jobs will last that long.
  • The penitent who confesses the same sin of weakness again and again, trusting in the graces of forgiveness and healing.



Ecumenism, ancient and new

The patristic reading from today’s Office of Readings is beautifully appropriate for this anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

The Pope Emeritus has added many treasures to the Tradition. Currently I am reading his catecheses on St. Paul, and I feel that if this were his only contribution, it would be of immense importance. However, it was not his only contribution, and thankfully among all the rest, he has left us an example of a new ecumenism–which, when reading St. Augustine, we realize is a retrieval of something venerably old.

Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers.

If they say, “Why do you seek us? What do you want of us?” we should reply: You are our brothers. They may say, “Leave us alone. We have nothing to do with you.” But we have everything to do with you, for we are one in our belief in Christ; and so we should be in one body, under one head.

There are those who, though in some sense one with us, are out of communion with us. How do we restore communion? By making paths of restoration.

Those who are attached to older usages, both the Sarum and the preconciliar expressions of the one sacrifice of Christ, have now a path to full communion with the see of Peter. Full justice is given to everyone in this type of ecumenism, which seeks unity according to the Lord’s prayer on the night He was betrayed, and according to His example of solidarity with the human race while remaining true to His divine nature.

These paths of reconciliation are not easy: they do not brush away the real difficulties. But they are righteous and true. And here I am reminded of the words of the Pope Emeritus, when taking on the responsibilities of the shepherd, in his inaugural homily:

Here I want to add something: both the image of the shepherd and that of the fisherman issue an explicit call to unity. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must lead them too, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16); these are the words of Jesus at the end of his discourse on the Good Shepherd. And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: “although there were so many, the net was not torn” (John 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no – we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with him: yes, Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!


Office Hymn in Honor of Saints Peter and Paul

Here is a description of Apostolorum passio, a majestic hymn in honor of the pillar apostles, Ss. Peter and Paul.

Anyone may use my translation of Apostolorum passio freely this year. I translated it with the tune Agincourt/ Deo Gratias in mind.

Blest day by suff’ring sanctified:
Christ’s chosen high apostles died.
Today St. Peter wins renown.
Today St. Paul accepts the crown.

Together, equally, they bled:
Together: the victorious dead.
They followed God and sacrificed
And now their faith is crowned by Christ.

St. Peter holds the highest place,
Yet Paul is not the less by grace.
An equal faith was giv’n to Paul:
The chosen vessel of God’s call.

St. Peter, downward crucified—
To honor God in how he died—
Securely tied, he sees unfold
The death his Shepherd once foretold.

On such foundations Rome may claim
The highest service of God’s name.
His noble blood has dignified
The city where this prophet died.

Let all the world, then, run to Rome.
Let families of nations come!
The head of nations teaches there
Beside the nations’ teacher’s chair.

O Lord, we ask that we may be
In their exalted company,
And with our princes sing Your praise
Forever, to unending days.

Trans. c. 2010 Kathleen Pluth. May be used freely June 28-29, 2020. All other rights reserved.

Punk Christians, Weird Christians–Young Christians

When Catholic leaders consider the options for how to “pivot” into a post-Covid world, perhaps it would be a good idea to take a look at what is already working extremely well.

Consider the Church Music Association of America’s annual Colloquium, which is being held virtually this year. The Colloquium is overwhelmingly young. Young adults flock in annually for a rigorous, glorious week of Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony.


Consider the Chartres Pilgrimage, a 10,000 strong annual 3-day, 60-mile hike from Paris to Chartres, emphasizing the Extraordinary Form.

Colloquial evidence strongly indicates that in cities where parishes are being closed or consolidated due to a lack of parishioners, liturgically formal parishes are thriving. And while religious communities without a strong sense of liturgy are rapidly diminishing, those with a strong custom of common prayer are thriving.

Two recent articles have appeared to discuss this phenomenon among the young, both using the expression “Weird Christianity.” Both are worth a good read.

More and more young Christians, disillusioned by the political binaries, economic uncertainties and spiritual emptiness that have come to define modern America, are finding solace in a decidedly anti-modern vision of faith. As the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns throw the failures of the current social order into stark relief, old forms of religiosity offer a glimpse of the transcendent beyond the present.

Many of us call ourselves “Weird Christians,” albeit partly in jest. What we have in common is that we see a return to old-school forms of worship as a way of escaping from the crisis of modernity and the liberal-capitalist faith in individualism.

Weird Christians reject as overly accommodationist those churches, primarily mainline Protestant denominations like Episcopalianism and Lutheranism, that have watered down the stranger and more supernatural elements of the faith (like miracles, say, or the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ). But they reject, too, the fusion of ethnonationalism, unfettered capitalism and Republican Party politics that has come to define the modern white evangelical movement.

They are finding that ancient theology can better answer contemporary problems than any of the modern secular world’s solutions.

More here.
In print, the piece was titled “The Future Of Christianity Is Punk.”


Younger people are flocking to late-night Latin Mass — at least they were pre-COVID — and embracing Christian orthodoxy in online spaces.

So says Tara Isabella Burton, America-based author of the forthcoming book Strange Rites and a member of the self-proclaimed “Weird Christian” movement.

“The term is often applied to young, online Christians who embrace the elements of their faith that might be considered weird by the modern world,” Burton explains.

Elements, she says, like the death and resurrection of Jesus.

“We don’t have to explain away miracles or fit them into a modern scientific system, but actually embrace the strangeness of those ideas.”

The allure of Weird Christianity goes beyond an espousal of the Bible. Burton says the otherworldly nature of religious rituals are also appealing to the young and disillusioned.

“There’s a sense of enchantment that often comes with the pageantry,” says Burton, who attends St Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, part of the Episcopalian or Anglo-Catholic tradition.

More here.


Meanwhile, the greatest story ever told is now an app. The Chosen, a telling of the vocation stories in the Gospels in a way that is authentic, reverent, and decidedly hip, is universally available for viewing or free download on a pay-it-forward system.

The fields are white for the harvest! Will Church programming post-COVID be willing to minister to the widely expressed testimony of the longing of young souls for truth, beauty, and goodness?