Of a Hallowe’en in Sweden

People like me are “obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith and liturgical practices, very disturbed broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life, holy executioners, deeply troubled, sad and angry.” I’ve selected these descriptives from a single sentence of Fr Thomas Rosica’s, last May, when he was speaking on the need for dialogue, and receiving some media award. For three years now, he has been the current pope’s English-language spokesman, never corrected by his boss. We knew him before, around here in Toronto. Less said about that, the better, especially as the man is litigious.

My contrary view could be stated more economically. I think Father Rosica is a thug. I could add adjectives all day, but there are other things in my obsessed, scrupulous agenda.

Yet I am reminded of this man in my All Saints morning ramble through the electronic diselysium. He just took a kick at the Catholic Herald, for instance — a paper which often publishes orthodox Catholic writers, and today points out that Catholic and Lutheran positions (plural, possibly on both sides) have never been farther apart.

His name came up in relation to the latest papal appointments, by which the whole Congregation of Divine Worship was overhauled. Cardinals Burke, Bell, Scola, Bagnasco, Ranjith, Ouellet, and others friendly to the Old Mass, have been suddenly replaced by a selection from Bergoglio’s new brooms, in an act reported by the Catholic press in Europe (often enthusiastically) as a sharp slap to the face of the Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Sarah — and his tireless work to restore reverence to the Mass, in both its old and new forms. We wonder now, which slipper drops next? For Rome abounds with rumours that Pope Francis is reversing Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum — piecemeal, so not to provoke open schism between the “progressive” and “catholic” ecclesial factions.

The pope himself has been delivering colourful insults to our beleaguered faithful, throughout his reign; Rosica merely echoes and amplifies. On Sunday, the original date for the Feast of Christ the King, while the Basilica of Saint Benedict was crumbling in the earthquake at Norcia, he was proceeding to Sweden to celebrate the 499th anniversary of Lutheranism, in the old Lund cathedral with the lady primate of the state Church of Sweden. His homily for this Hallowe’en was full of breezy ecumenical platitudes, and tooth-grinding historical clichés, of no doctrinal substance whatever; though he did declare a new category of sin: not against Christ, but against “ecumenism.”

I am tempted to commit one of those. The Reformation was the greatest disaster to befall the Western Church, and its anniversary is an occasion for lamentation, not the sort of celebration we associate with professional football. From my (“catholic”) Catholic perspective, there can be no undoing its effects until the descendants of the heretics return to Holy Church.

We also recognize many Lutherans and other Protestants who are, at this day, far more orthodox than many Catholics (including recently-appointed bishops); and that, reunion with them would be a source of extraordinary joy. But it cannot be shallow and rushed, for there are real theological and liturgical obstacles, that cannot be kicked over.

Such obvious things need repetition at a time when idols like “ecumenism” are replacing Our Lord in the worship of our diminishing Western congregations.


That was yesterday; in the rapid evolution of modern life, today is All Saints. I look to Lund, and its venerable, romanesque cathedral, that fell into the hands of the State nearly five centuries ago, by what is called “robbery under law,” in an operation parallel and roughly coterminous with what was done in England by Henry VIII. The whole town of Lund was once bristling with the spires of churches, chapels, shrines, convents, like a northern Rome. It was once the spiritual, and also the artistic, cultural and intellectual, even political centre of Europe’s sub-Arctic. Today it remains, a stripped and shrivelled “symbol” of an amended past, waiting for the return of its riches.

Lund cathedral contains one restored, delightful curiosity. It is an elaborate astronomical clock, built about 1380. One may watch it to anticipate sunrises and sunsets, moonrises and moonsets, throughout the year, and to calculate with the help of its perpetual calendar the movements of the heavens through the passing hours, days, weeks, months, decades. It is known as the Horologium mirabile Lundense, and at its crown the visitor may see Saint Lawrence, the ancient patron, flanked by the four Evangelists.

That saint: who was martyred under Valerian (AD 258), for his slowness in turning over Church property to the pagan Roman authorities of his day. … Ah, Valerian! … who ended in Persia, as an exhibit, stuffed.

And ah, Saint Lawrence, that saint who, when commanded to surrender the riches of the Church, brought forth a crowd of the poor, the crippled, the blind, the diseased, the old and frail, to the intense irritation of the Roman bureaucrats.

Who chose death over “dialogue,” and platitudes.

One thinks of all the saints who, borne upon the breath of Saint Lawrence, and the wind from out of the empty tomb, Christianized the Danes and Swedes; of all who faced the vast expropriations at the material founding of Luther’s new church; the monks and nuns and all the religious turned out of their cells by a human earthquake. Of their old houses, “reformed” to make such splendid estates for the fat lords of the new bourgeois order, and quarried for their stone. …

That time of yeare thou maist in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few doe hang
Upon those boughes which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. …

And then, one considers the uncountable, forgotten holy men and women who have witnessed Christ, through every threat and punishment, down centuries in all nations, now ascended beyond our capacity to imagine.

Pray to them, to all the Saints, at a time when the skies are again occluding, and we need them in our appeal to God — to send more Saints, that they may show us through the fearful darkness the way Home.