As a priest of the Archdiocese of Oviedo in Asturias, Spain, I have been very blessed to have been offering the Traditional Roman Mass in my home diocese since 2008. When ordained on Pentecost 1996, my hope of being able to celebrate the Vetus Ordo, even once before taking leave of this vale of tears, was rather more wishful thinking at the time.
But here I am, celebrating every Sunday and preceptive Holy-day for nearly thirteen years now. And will continue to do so, though having had to switch over from the Oviedo parish of late to a nearby XVII century chapel, which already is proving to be of inadequate size…
True enough, almost exclusively Low Mass, though for a time enjoying a organist allowing for some parts a Sung Mass. But never had I been graced to celebrate a Solemn High Mass with deacon and subdeacon… that is until this past 24 July 2021.
Providentially, the First Annual Traditional Latin Mass Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Christendom took place in my home province and diocese, on 24-25-26 July 2021. Several hundreds of faithful took part, mainly young families with their children, and young people, though to be sure, there were participants of all ages. The route covered going from the regional capital of Oviedo, eastwards towards Cangas de Onís (the early medieval capital of the Kingdom of Asturias) and finally at Covadonga, all in all slightly more than 90 kilometres, making a daily effort of some 30 kilometres or so.
Covadonga is of enormous historical importance for Western Civilisation for it was precisely here, where in A.D. 718—722, the Christians of a Roman-Visigoth Spain valiantly defended themselves in what would prove to be the very first Crusade, from the Moorish invaders of the Iberian peninsula, under King Pelagius / El Rey Don Pelayo (+737).
This began the epic, nearly eight-century long Reconquista, which ended in 1492 when Their Catholic Majesties, Isabel I of Castile (+1504) and Fernando II of Aragón (+1516), took the last Moorish bastion: Granada, in southeastern Spain.
So it was no mere coincidence that the Spanish chapter of Our Lady of Christendom organises the Annual Traditional Latin Mass Pilgrimages to always take place in the province of Asturias. The hope is a rekindling of a spiritual and social Reconquista of the Realm. And God knows how we need that everywhere.
But, oh yes, the Vatican knows about these Traditional Latin Mass Pilgrimages worldwide, obviously the most widely known and participated, the Paris—Chartres Pilgrimages around Pentecost, and the Pilgrimages to Our Lady of Luján in Argentina.
And I was informed that the Vatican also knew about another such Traditional Latin Mass Pilgrimage that was being planned in Spain, specifically in the province of Asturias—with all the historical significance of the timely assistance of Our Lady at Covadonga with the Reconquista, and also around the feast day of the Apostle St. James the Greater, Patron Saint of Spain (25 July).
In other words, far too many “traditional Spanish Catholic” references for hosting—my goodness!—yet another Traditional Latin Mass Pilgrimage, yes, the ones with all those young “rigids” taking part! “Rigids”, alas, but that’s what Francis obsessively calls traditional Catholics, otherwise and also known as Catholics (aka Catholics).
And of all “rigid” peoples everywhere, Spanish “rigids” at that! What, with the reputation we nasty Spaniards have, for instance the so-called “Black Legend”, i.e., a Protestant name for the Evangelisation of the Americas, India, Japan, and the Philippines! And of course, the much maligned—but still Holy—Spanish Inquisition!
So yes, the Vatican was quite aware of what was going to take place here… and the Vatican—seemingly—was not pleased. At all. What a surprise, eh? Who knows, maybe it influenced an earlier publication of Traditionis Custodes, a document that was confected in malice and will live in infamy.
For indeed, this evil Motu Proprio certainly did influence our Pilgrimage. Made public on 16 July 2021, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in other words, barely just one week before, and with an unprecedented absence of vacatio legis, that is, without any time whatsoever between its official publication and before its ludicrous norms come into effect. This prompted the Archbishop of Oviedo, who I was informed was rather pleased at hosting the Pilgrimage, and who was planning to assist at the Solemn High Mass I was to celebrate in the Cathedral of Oviedo the morning of 24 July, to back-track.
Specifically, it meant a sudden and unexpected banning of all High Masses that had been planned months before: in the Cathedral of Oviedo, in a Marian Sanctuary en route, and finally, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Covadonga, the major Marian Sanctuary of the Archdiocese, dating back to the early VIII century.
I would insist that the kind reader pause right now and follow St. Ignatius of Loyola’s recommendation of imagining the scene, and ponder, very seriously, the practical implications of Traditionis Custodes on our Pilgrimage: an extraordinary group of young Spanish Catholics, along with some Spanish diocesan priests, organise a Catholic pilgrimage, under the patronage of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. James the Greater. To take place in the summer, publicly recognised as Catholic in every conceivable manner by even the local bishop where the pilgrimage was going to take place. A Catholic pilgrimage convoked to pray for Spain, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, and for the evangelisation and restoration of the social order of Christ the King to society… being denied the celebration of Mass inside diocesan churches. Please re-read this paragraph… and then please re-read it a third time to let it proverbially sink in…
Never mind for now the historically irreconcilable liturgical wars between the Vetus Ordo vs. the Novus Ordo that Francis has seen fit to make ever so painfully clear now… thanks be to God! The hard fact of the matter is rather striking, is it not? A fully Catholic pilgrimage, and recognised as such by ecclesiastical authority, was suddenly being denied celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, not only in cathedrals and basilicas, but likewise denied in parish churches and chapels, along the way. Temples that when built and consecrated, were so according to the corresponding form of the Roman Rite of the Ages to be celebrated therein, thereafter.
All this diabolical madness, utterly inconceivable before Vatican II, is happening for real in our day, thanks to the untimely publication of Traditionis Custodes, if indeed the local diocesan dispositions did go far beyond Francis’ already hateful restrictions. That nefarious document only mentions prohibiting the Traditional Latin Mass inside parish churches, which is already outrageously bad. It does not mention cathedrals, basilicas, chapels or sanctuaries. But that matters not when the sheer evil spirit which permeates the Motu Proprio and the accompanying letter to the bishops… is made clear enough to those who are to “collegially” regulate the liturgy in the dioceses, according to the iron fist of its author, of course.
Thankfully for the Pilgrimage’s sake, the Archbishop did authorise celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in the diocese, though only in open, rural areas along the route. And also in the Cathedral of Oviedo, the opening ceremony of the blessing of an image of Our Lady of Covadonga that was to be carried in procession throughout, in addition to the Holy Hours inside parish churches en route after the open area Solemn High Masses, and the closing Holy Hour and Consecration to Our Lady at the Basilica of Covadonga.
And so, instead of the planned early Solemn High Mass in the Cathedral of Oviedo on 24 July, it was re-scheduled for that evening and re-located to a pleasant rural setting next to the parish church in El Remedio (literally, The Remedy), near the town of Nava. I was particularly impressed with the organisers’ ability to adapt to the new conditions imposed upon us by Francis’ utter lack of pastoral charity. Everything was set up with remarkable diligence and enthusiasm. The main altar was so exquisitely prepared, proving with stark clarity how in even the most modest of conditions, any Traditional Latin Mass altar setup on a Pilgrimage will outdo any modern Novus Ordo constructs.
From the golden Roman chasuble I wore and matching Roman dalmatics for the deacon and subdeacon, and our traditional Spanish birretas, to the choir chanting the Mass propers with the help of a portable organ, from the veritable army of perfectly coordinated young boys and other young male adult altar servers, from the young and experienced master of ceremonies, the intense and inspiring sermon given by the designated priest, to the most pious assistance of the multiple hundreds of pilgrims, it was all supernaturally superb.
That evening we celebrated with all solemnity the Votive Mass of St. Joseph. A Spanish priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter officiated as deacon, while a Colombian seminarian of the Institute of the Good Shepherd (studying in Paris), officiated as subdeacon. They were most kind and helpful to me. The subdeacon chanted the Epistle, the deacon chanted the Gospel and later the second Confiteor before Holy Communion, naturally all in Latin, and the Epistle and Gospel were likewise read in a good Spanish translation by the priest giving the rousing sermon. The other sung parts of the Mass, i.e., the Collect, the Preface, etc., correspond to the celebrant, and I was enthralled at taking part in such liturgical beauty.
The solemn rite of the Roman Mass is an overwhelming and overtaking wonder of chant, intensely meaningful silence, contemplation, adoration, and prayer. I was deeply awed and moved by all the details of great liturgical reverence. What impressed me particularly is the deacon kissing each liturgical object and the celebrant’s hand, every time liturgical objects, i.e., the thurible, the paten, the chalice, etc., are exchanged between the deacon and the priest-celebrant. Even the birretas when the three of us are seated. Earlier in the High Mass, the subdeacon and the deacon, likewise kneel before the celebrant, who places his right hand over the Epistle and Gospel lectionary, respectively, and having his hand kissed.
Far from all this being a form of hierarchical hyper-clericalism, it is rather a humbling experience for the priest, during the Offertory, to have his consecrated hand kissed by the deacon, and each liturgical object, back and forth. It is most moving, I can assure you, dear reader. It is a most beautiful expression of liturgical piety and gratefulness for Our Lord’s mercy at his priestly Sacrifice on the Cross, being made truly, substantially, and really present in the Sacrament appearing in the priest-celebrant’s hands.
I was so absorbed and swept away by the aura of sheer liturgical beauty that surrounded and enveloped us, I can honestly, truthfully, and wholeheartedly say that I did not miss our medieval Gothic Cathedral at all. We were celebrating, you see, in a natural Cathedral, among the arches of the trees. And it was all very beautiful.
I daresay Francis would have been quite pleased being among us that evening. Oh no, not that Francis, not the Francis who would have all this Catholic supernatural and natural beauty violently taken away from us Catholics forever and ever.
I am referring to that other Francis, the medieval Saint from Assisi, the one graced with the stigmata, the one who went off on the Crusades, and the one who had an endearing relationship with God’s beautiful creation, the flora and the fauna. The Francis whose saintly life was one of strict evangelical humbleness and poverty, but the same who would spare nothing for splendid vestments, gloriously chanted Latin liturgy with golden chalices and patens, and the sweet smell of prayerful incense rising upwards towards Heaven, while imploring God’s redemptive mercy descending towards us in this vale of tears.
It is true, then, that the local diocesan restrictions, while being far more restrictive than Francis’ infamous Motu Proprio, certainly were in accord with its evil spirit. It should not catch any Catholic unawares by now that Francis absolutely despises the Roman Mass of the Ages, and most definitely wants to eradicate its celebration from the face of the earth. He will not succeed, of course, because he cannot ultimately succeed, for it is folly to fight against God and expect to win. But Modernists will stop at nothing to push through their prideful and diabolically misguided will, based on ideological prejudices.
But Francis claims, ironically enough, ideological manipulation of the Traditional Roman Rite, which he further claims puts at risk the unity of the Church. So what does he do with a strike of a pen? He graciously, mercifully, and compassionately shows no pastoral empathy, closeness or consideration whatsoever, and putting all priests and all faithful under suspicion—if not guilty as charged—of being “rigid” and quasi-schismatic, he for all practical purposes abrogates in his own fashion the Old Mass, and dictates harsh norms for its gradual elimination and eventual assimilation to the New Mass. Or else.
Was it not Francis who once infamously said on a return flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome, that who was he to judge a homosexual who was sincerely looking for God? But alas, the same thought does not enter his mind that who is he, then, to judge Catholics who are sincerely looking for God in the Traditional Roman Rite?
Remember that “rigid” is just his word for being merely Catholic. So, you’ve managed to remain Catholic after Vatican II’s renewal wasteland that Francis says hasn’t really been put into effect yet? Deo gratias! Good for you, but… you get deprived of “rigid” Catholic liturgy, you see, because Francis says it’s very, very, bad for you and for the Church. Well, the “Church” he runs, anyway. He knows better than two millennia of Catholic Tradition, and not just in liturgical worship.
He will not recognise, however, that it’s rather the Novus Ordo a 50+ year consented anthropocentric ideological playground for all sorts of sorry spectacles. From the now classic felt banner, clown, puppet, and balloon Masses, to liberation theology Masses, to gender ideology and pro-LGTBI Masses, to pop music-sounding guitar youth Masses, to rock band Masses, to liturgical dance Masses (sometimes with incense bowls), to indigenous peoples’ Masses, why, even to pagan idol worship Masses! All are welcome, come one and all!
You see, if it was already a sad state of affairs all these years since 2013, for Catholics to endure Francis’ give us this day our daily heresy, or our daily apostasy, or our daily blasphemy, or our daily irreverence—or more recently—an occasional dose of idolatry (which has caught on in some places, by the way), with Traditionis Custodes an all-out total war has been declared, and with all vehemence and recklessness. It is now impossible to merely ignore Francis and the Modernists running the show. Now, with more than just words, they have made a bold move to severely restrict, marginalise, and eventually stomp out all remaining vestiges of the Roman Mass of the Ages, and of course, the Catholic faith and life that go along with it.
There is now no other viable option but to resist, withstand, and overcome the onslaught. Surely, this must be God’s will to thoroughly wake us up from a false sense of liturgical and pre- and post-conciliar peace we may have been experiencing as an illusion under Benedict XVI’s tenuous Summorum Pontificum. That Motu Proprio is no more, Francis dixit, and likewise gone with the wind is the so-called hermeneutic of continuity: God has seen to it to clear things up for us, rather strikingly at that.
With Traditionis Custodes, the Modernists in charge are actually going after “the Mass”, literally persecuting the Mass everywhere it is being celebrated. It’s the postconciliar version of the Romans persecuting Christians. They’re going after the Mass I celebrate here, and the Mass every priest is celebrating the world over. To be sure, it’s not the first time this is happening. This war of restriction and prohibition of the Traditional Latin Mass has been going on since late 1969, when the Novus Ordo Missæ came into effect.
Francis, however, very nearly did eradicate the Traditional Latin Mass on 16 July 2021, albeit if only in his spiteful screed, with Traditionis Custodes. If he actually did not as yet, it was because God prevented it in his providence. But dare I say, not a divine providence which excludes us, the victims of such reckless prejudice, from cooperating with grace, and simply lament, obey, and hope for a better day.
We should remember that the document as published is not the first draft, since it has been widely reported that previous versions were far harsher in its treatment of the Traditional Latin Mass. In other words, Traditionis Custodes, as evidently horrendous as it is, is a merely highly “decaffeinated” version of Francis’ contempt for genuine Catholic liturgical worship. Worth keeping in mind moving forward…
The viciousness of Traditionis Custodes regarding its norms against the true Roman Mass were further made worse because of their immediate effect upon publication, something that never or very rarely ever happens in any ecclesial or even civil legislation. That fact alone is more than enough proof that this Motu Proprio was conceived in sheer hatred and unbridled contempt for the Traditional Latin Mass, the Immemorial Roman Rite, the Mass of the Ages, or otherwise known as “the Mass.”
But God is good. And with the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the Apostle St. James the Greater, the organisers of the Pilgrimage undertook the enormous task of logistical adaptation. In those crucial days between the 16th and the 24th, there really was a looming threat of cancellation. I admit to being exceedingly upset at the unhappy prospect, and consistently encouraged the organisers to NOT cancel the Pilgrimage, no matter what, and that I, as I’m quite sure any other of the 24 priests going along, would be more than willing to celebrate a Solemn High Mass in one of our beautiful forests along the Pilgrimage route.
And so it was that in that crucial week between the 16th and the 24th of July, the Pilgrimage was providentially spared. Francis’ ideological dream of a Church that goes out to the peripheries was a paradox: it was, rather, Catholics of all ages that came from the peripheries. Truth be told, mostly beautiful young families with their young children. Vibrant adolescents and young adults in abundance.
Portable tent-chapels were set up en route to allow each priest the celebration of Holy Mass, in addition to the beautiful main altar setups for the celebration of the Solemn High Masses in rural settings. This meant an enormous logistical effort, complicated of course by the sudden banning of Mass in diocesan churches, thanks to Francis’ pastoral concern for the sheep who just happen to not smell the way he wants.
This is such a stark contrast regarding his insistence on “pastors smelling like the sheep.” What Francis really means—with Traditionis Custodes he has made this brutally clear—is that if the sheep don’t smell like the pastor, the pastor will beat them, kick them, and disperse them, prior to their eventual assimilation to the Novus Ordo, or face annihilation. And here I was thinking rather more along the lines of the pastor having the bonus odor Christi, the good odour of Christ, or the sweet smell of sanctity, but I digress…
Specifically, all this preparation meant providing sufficient chasubles and other vestments, Crucifixes, candelabra, sacral prayers, and altar Missals. To assist at all private Masses, not to mention at the High Masses, there was absolutely no shortage whatsoever of pious altar boys and servers, each with cassock and surplice. Priests gave spiritual talks and were readily available for Confession. The Holy Rosary was prayed and following each Solemn High Mass, there was a Holy Hour with Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Now this (after Vatican II, mind you!) you might call a new springtime and new Pentecost.
There was so many young people who by their age never knew the Vetus Ordo in its prime and thus could not possibly be nostalgic for the rite of their youth… because they are young now and have come to know and love the Traditional Latin Mass now. And why should they not? If its beauty and perfection over uncounted centuries captivated the hearts, souls, and minds of uncounted generations of Catholics—many of them saints and martyrs—why should this genuinely Catholic rite not continue to do so in our time?
The Roman Mass of the Ages is the rite of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, after all, no matter the embarrassingly ridiculous claim Francis makes in his Motu Proprio, i.e., that the Vetus Ordo is not the lex orandi of the Church… today. By that he specifically means that since Vatican II, the Traditional Latin Mass is likewise not the lex credendi nor the lex vivendi of the Church… today. A clear example of wayward legal positivism that it so intrinsically harmful to the Church, that it cannot have any credibility, other than to resist it in every way possible.
How in God’s holy name, pray tell, can the perennial and proper Roman Rite of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, no longer be the law of liturgical prayer, and thus no longer be the law of belief, and therefore no longer be the law of Catholic life?
Very decisive questions that must be asked, dear reader, and likewise must be answered. For this is not a matter of mere rites and rubrics, however important these are. No, what is really at stake here is no less than the Catholic faith and Catholic life that are expressed in liturgical rites.
Anyone who has heard a competent choir chant the Gregorian Mass Propers or glorious Sacred Renaissance Polyphony Mass Propers—an all-boys’ choir has a certain angelic quality about it—singing, for example, Tomás Luis de Victoria’s (Ávila 1548—1611 Madrid) intensely moving Improperia for Good Friday, cannot but be deeply stirred in the very depths of his or her soul to repentance, and gratefulness for Christ’s mercy on the Cross.
Or Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s (c. 1525—1594 Rome) flowing Alleluias for the Mass Dum complerentur of Pentecost that literally sweeps one away with vibrant Eastertide joy, or Thomas Tallis’ (Kent 1505—1585 Greenwich) particular style of overlapping voices that seem to compete with each other in securing a rhapsody of polyphonic beauty, knows what I mean.
When you carefully consider that all genuinely Roman Catholic music was “inspired” and that it was specifically composed for the Roman Mass of the Ages, always respecting the liturgical texts of celebration and Catholic belief, Francis would seemingly have all this patrimony of sacred music be ruthlessly taken away as well. If as he puts it, the Traditional Roman Rite is no longer the law of liturgical prayer, it implies likewise his despise for the authentic Roman Catholic sacred music of the Ages, intrinsically attached to that Traditional Roman Rite.
And let’s be perfectly honest, shall we? Along with all traditional Latin-rite liturgical patrimony of objects, art, architecture, vestments, literally everything and anything that can even remotely remind us of what the Holy Roman Catholic Church is, worships, does, prays, lives, and believes.
Alter the rites, and you change belief. If you no longer liturgically worship like Catholics, you will no longer believe what Catholics believe. And you will no longer live like believing Catholics. Tell me how you worship and I will tell you what you believe. And I will tell you what life you will lead. It always works this way. Nobody in their right Catholic mind cannot but believe that the conciliar liturgical revolutionaries knew this so well.
True enough, this has been told time and time again since Vatican Council II, and certainly not without strong reasons. If you, dear reader, have as yet not given serious thought to what I have just written, please do so now, if you have had the patience to read this far. It may well be something entirely new to you, and, God willing, may open your eyes to finally let you understand what traditionalists have really been fighting for since Vatican II.
The great English Catholic professor and inspired author, J.R.R. Tolkien (Bloemfontein 1892—1973 Bournemouth), assures us with the theological virtue of hope, even amidst the darkest of times, the ultimate victory.
In his literary masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, towards the end of the third and final part, we have the halfling Hobbits Frodo Baggins, heavily burdened with the malice of carrying the Dark Lord Sauron’s One Ring in order to cast it into the fire of Mount Doom, from whence it was forged, and his deeply committed friend and servant, Samwise Gamgee, in the Land of Mordor, a terrible wasteland of decay and ruin. Sound familiar?
One night, with an exhausted Frodo asleep, Sam gazed at the utter desolation they were in, and pondering the utter hopelessness of their quest and predicament, lifted his eyes upwards towards the heavens.
In closing, here is one of my favourite passages in the story, and one of Tolkien’s sublime Catholic intuitions, even implicitly Marian. Perhaps Tolkien was himself inspired by St. Bernard’s reference to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary as a guiding star. It is taken from The Return of the King, Book VI. Chapter 2. The Land of Shadow. May Catholics everywhere be likewise inspired and consoled by it… and Her.
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach…