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The importance of organized religion

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After much contemplation, I decided to heed Arnaldo‘s months-long advice and attended the Holy Mass for the first time (except last Valentine’s Day) in such a long time. I attended an afternoon English-language mass in nearby San Pedro Apóstol; humorously, the sermon was conducted in Tagalog (but that matter is for a future blogpost).

Anyway, I would like to reiterate that my haughty contempt for the Novus Ordo Missae still remains. Regrettably, there is nothing much I can do about it at the moment. And as I wait for the opportune time to act for the return of the Tridentine Mass –the mass of all time–, why should I not attend my Faith’s congregation anymore?

The above case is what I scribbled about in a previous blogpost. An online friend of mine, Roberto, a frequent visitor to this humble blog, wrote a comment there that oganized religion should not matter anymore as long as I have faith in Jesus. However, this has been the belief of many a deist and a few agnostics for many centuries. It is understandable that these kind of people are fed up with religious strife in all parts of the globe. That is why John Lennon fancied a peaceful world without organized religions in his celebrated song Imagine. Marcelo H. del Pilar et al. lived proudly as a deist for years in Spain. Young freethinkers guising themselves as intellectuals have decreed that organized religion and faith are but for desperate fools and ignoramuses.

But, by shunning religion from their lives, did they find true peace and contentment that everyone has been yearning for ages? No. For a brief period of time, I myself eschewed the idea of a god and an afterlife many years ago. Trust me, it was the gloomiest part of my existence.

People who believe in God but do not believe in religious groups are like spiritual orphans, believers of God but without direction because without a community. And the danger lies in the fact that uniquely individual concepts about God will only lead to further division instead of unity. Now, if they say that organized religions usually lead to religious discord, it is not the fault of religious organization’s fault per se. All organizations are made up of humans, and we know that humans are not perfect creatures corporally and mentally. As such, it is not unusual to find cracks or dents in a seemingly well-fortified organization. Such people are what we call fanatics or extremists, unmindful of dialogue but advocates of jingoism and war. Worse, some founders and leaders of religion tend to be warmongers themselves by writing pugnacious remarks and decrees against nonmembers.

Be that as it may, religious discord should not be made as an excuse not to affiliate one’s self into a certain congregation. Becoming a member of a certain religious group does not mean that a person has already downplayed spirituality. Religion and spirituality complement each other. One should take note that the word religion originated from the Latin infinitive verb religare which means “to bind together” or “to reconnect”. It is because religion is what “binds us together” and “reconnects” us to God.

We have a duty to praise God and not to merely pray nor talk to him. God is not simply a “spiritual friend”. Realistically speaking, God is not a friend for the simple reason that he is God (you do not praise your friends nor do you pray to them, do you?). In a congregation, one can find himself in a community praying to God. There is a sense of belongingness, that the people around you believe what you believe. And that is what God wants; that is what is written in the Holy Bible. So why should it be defied in the first place?

In addition, I do not claim that salvation is a monopoly of the Catholic Church. Regarding the salvific fate of members of other religions, only God should know.

Organized religion is not the cause of wars. It is caused by men who do not understand their religion, as long as that religion does not exhort its members to wage an all-out war against other groups.

My poor Church attendance

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I haven’t attended regular Sunday Masses for a long time now. Well, the last time I attended one was on Valentine’s Day, but before and after that was a big attendance vacuum. I have 62 reasons why.

My friend Arnaldo has been scolding me for weeks for this rather impious stance that I have toward the modern Catholic Church. But I still go to churches, if only to mutter a short prayer of gratitude, praise, and support. I frequent the mysterious Santo Sepulcro church every Friday, not really to attend Friday masses but as a devotee and to practice my Catholicism.

But other than that, I abhor the Novus Ordo Missae — “the new Ordinary of the Mass” which we –Catholics and non–Catholics alike– are all familiar today.

A jam-packed Friday Mass in the Santo Sepulcro Church, Barrio Landayan, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna.

The nearest church to our place (the San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church which shelters the arcane Cross of Tunasán) is just walking distance away from our apartment. I used to attend masses there when we were new in San Pedro. But remembering the traitorous history of how the Tridentine Mass was cunningly replaced by the Novus Ordo Missae, I stopped attending mass altogether, feeling that I’m doing history and the Christian faith a great disservice.

After having read and understood by heart the contents of the controversial book Till The End of Time With the Mass of All Time by the late Atty. Teodoro R. Domínguez, I started to harbor misgivings toward the kind of Catholic Mass which is celebrated today. It is nothing more than a conspiracy between top Protestant ministers, liberal theologians, and even Freemasons. The arguments and facts presented by Atty. Domínguez, an expert in Canon Law and Apologetics, are difficult, if not impossible, to refute. I was totally disillusioned, especially because during the time that I first read the book, I had just reconverted to Catholicism (I was an atheist-agnostic for a couple of years).

Last year, me and my family were about to stroll in Alabang Town Center when I noticed something “strange” going on inside the nearby St. Jerome Emiliani and Santa Susanna Parish Church. I noticed that the priest was facing the altar. We stopped by the church’s entrance, just to make sure if my suspicion was correct. And yes, they were celebrating the Latin Mass, all right! Perhaps only God could describe the elation that I felt during that time.

Suddenly, my mind flashbacked to 2003, the most difficult year of my young, married life. I was bicycling all the way to that church from our home in BF Parañaque just to attend Mass (I was then attending Mass everyday, not just on Sundays, since I had just reconverted to the Faith — I was very hungry for holiness). I chanced upon Rev. Fr. Grato Germanetto, CRS outside the church. He’s the parish priest of St. Jerome Emiliani and Santa Susanna Church. I gathered myself up for a conversation, to check if this Italian priest knows something about the Latin Mass, because I was then ignorant about it but was all eager to learn more and support it. Sadly, what he told me disappointed me: he said that the Novus Ordo Missae and the Tridentine/Latin Mass were both the same, and that he didn’t sound appreciative of French Archbishop Marcel-François Lefebvre (1905-1991), one of the bastions of Traditionalist Catholicism and founder of the Society of St. Pius X. He just gave it a shrug of the shoulder, as if the fruits of Vatican II, i.e., the new Mass should really happen, and that Archbishop Lefebvre’s non-acceptance of it was a big mistake.

We parted ways after that brief conversation, with more questions left unanswered in my mind.

That is why I was surprised that, a few years later, his parish church suddenly decided to bring back the Latin Mass. Was that short conversation of ours inspired the good reverend to think twice? LOL! That’s too pretentious of me already. But anyway…

The Latin Mass was being celebrated there in that Alabang church every Sunday at 9:30 AM. But recently, they stopped. Up to now, I don’t have any idea why. Even the website dedicated to it didn’t offer any explanation. So after that short-lived ecstasy, I was again disillusioned.

But Arnaldo reproved me by saying that the Holy Catholic Church didn’t disappear just because the Mass was changed into something else. The deduction he brought forth is that I don’t stop being a son just because I disagree with my parents. My argument is that a son should still love his parents but not support their illegal drug business. This is a deep theological debate which I will not dare discuss further especially since I am no theologian, nor am I worthy to even defend my case; I’m not a holy man.

Nevertheless, I see his point. If many Catholics will follow my direction, then the Holy Mother Church will lose more members. Or perhaps these Catholics will join dissenting Traditional Catholic groups such as the Society of St. Pius X or, worse, Protestant cults. That will only betray Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts of reuniting with Traditionalists all over the world (and hopefully it will also include the Iglesia Filipina Independiente).

Right now, me and my wife are doing something in our spare time to “free ourselves from time constraints” once and for all. And once things fall into place smoothly, then I will have all the time in the world for my advocacies. And one of them is to bring back the Latin Mass, at the very least in the community where we will move in to (we’ll be moving to nearby Calambâ very soon).

But until then, what? What of the Holy Mass?

We’ll see this Sunday…

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