These days, it’s difficult to be Catholic. And now more than ever it’s hard to evangelize the Faith. I don’t think anyone will argue this. But, perhaps now more than ever it is time to be even more Catholic. It’s time to get back to the so-called “antiquated” traditions of a seemingly bygone era.
Many of these traditions have been forgotten. Even so, they remain a part of our Catholic memory. They are the traditions that make us recognize our unworthiness to be in the presence of the Son of God. They bind us to the virtue of humility and remind us of our humanity. These are the traditions of making reparations through mortification, suffering, prayer, fasting and abstinence.
The practice of making reparations has been mostly forgotten. It is not much talked about these days. Making amends for our sinfulness through penance, fasting and abstinence has unfortunately been relegated to the season of Lent. But, today, it is more necessary than ever.
Reactions to the “summer of shame” have varied. Some people are signing petitions and calling for certain clergy to resign. But the Catholic Church is not a democracy. Others are protesting with their pocketbooks or withholding tithes out of fear that the money is going to support the immorality of certain clergy. But while these things feel just and feed our righteous indignation, they will not satisfy justice. It is only in recognizing and making amends for our sinfulness through reparations that God’s justice will be satisfied.
Tossed Out Traditions of Our Catholicity
Over the past 50 or 60 years, many of the traditions that make up our Catholic identity have been tossed away to make way for a “new modern Church” that is more inclusive and welcoming.
The Latin Mass has been far and wide replaced by a version that is most fitting for our modern world, albeit still valid. Even though it is valid, it has turned our attention away from the Sacrifice of the Mass to ourselves.
The Mantilla has become vastly unpopular because of its discouragement from feminists.
All-male altar servers have become a thing of the past to make way for the Church to seem less “sexist” and to “empower” girls and women by allowing them to become servers. Meanwhile, however, it undermined one of the greatest reasons for all-male altar servers – to encourage priestly vocations.
No-meat Fridays throughout the year have slowly disappeared, only to be observed during Lent. This is despite Church Law stipulating that penance and abstinence must still be done on every Friday in observance of Christ’s Death.
Prayer devotions and sacramentals have slipped silently from recognition. They are now misunderstood and thought of as outdated and impractical.
Penance has been relegated to short and easy prayers in the privacy of our own minds because our modern world has supposedly moved on from the grievous sins of the past.
The Tabernacle has been removed from the center of our gaze behind the altar. The priest has turned to the congregation instead of to the crucified Christ. Now, our gaze rests on Man with the Sacrifice of the Mass seemingly being made to Man instead of to God in unity with the whole congregation and the Communion of Saints.
Our Focus Changed
Through all these changes, our focus has increasingly turned inward to ourselves and our feelings instead of centering on the reason for our Catholicity – God made Flesh.
Thus, we have seen church attendance and frequent reception of the Sacraments fall. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have rapidly declined. Donations have slowed and now have plummeted to rock bottom. And scandal and sin have risen within even the clergy itself. Money, politics, and social gatherings have become the altar at which we worship. The Living Christ has been placed off to the side or in a dark room, hidden away from our minds and hearts.
By tossing out the traditions that made us distinctly Catholic, we tossed out our reminders and the graces that gave us the strength to resist sin. As we chipped away at our identity, we slowly replaced it with what the world wanted us to become – anything but Catholic. We tossed out the very reason to remain faithful to the Body of Christ. We traded the Sacrifice of the Altar for the convenience of fitting in with the modern world. And in so doing we opened the door to temptations with no armor of grace to envelop us and remind us of who we really are and why we are here.
When we removed the very traditions that remind us of our humanity and our unending need for God’s mercy and grace, we created a void. This void has now been filled with every sin left un-resisted. It’s a void that has been filled by Satan himself. Yet, Our Lady of Fatima has given us the way to amend this in one of her requests and it is through reparation.
What It Means To Make Reparations
Making reparations means asking for forgiveness and mercy from God for the sins of others. In Misserentissimus Redemptor, Pope Pius XI instructed us that we must make reparations to expiate our sins.
[So] that the creature’s love should be given in return for the love of the Creator…if it has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offense, some sort of compensation must be rendered for the injury, and this debt is commonly called by the name of reparation…
For since we are all sinners and laden with many faults, our God must be honored by us not only by that worship wherewith we adore His infinite Majesty with due homage, or acknowledge His supreme dominion by praying, or praise His boundless bounty by thanksgiving; but besides this we must need make satisfaction to God the just avenger, “for our numberless sins and offenses and negligences.” (Misserentissimus Redemptor, n. 6-7)
In so doing, continues Pope Pius XI, we are taking part in the Paschal Mystery and Christ’s sufferings.
Suffering, Atonement and Reparation
God became Man, suffered and died for our sins. However, that does not mean there is nothing left for us to do. This is why we have the Sacrament of Confession, do penance, and fast. God’s justice demands that we make up for our sins and those of the whole world. But, as St. Paul teaches us, we should not be saddened in our reparations. Rather, we should rejoice in our suffering because it is done for the sake of ourselves and the whole world (Col. 1:24).
Through our need to make amends for our sins, God gives us the opportunity to share in our own redemption and salvation. Through suffering with Christ, as St. Paul states earlier in his letter to the Colossians, we are reconciled through His sacrifice, providing we follow Him and turn away from our sins (Col. 1:21-23).
Of course, we do not always turn away from our sins. This is why we must repent and make atonement for our sins, even for those of others. To make reparation is to suffer and we must suffer for the sake of the Church and the whole world.
It is unfortunate that we have lost the meaning of suffering. It reminds us of our sins and our unending need for God’s Mercy and Justice. Without suffering and mortification, we have no proof of sorrow and we fall back into sin, cover it up, or refuse to confront the vice that is the root cause of the sin, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen had once said.
Mortification and Reparation
Our proof of sorrow is not just through repentance and feeling sorry. It is in mortification. We should be mortified by what has transpired in the Church. This mortification, this embarrassment and humiliation should only serve to reignite our desire to seek amends for our sins and those of others. We do this by making reparations through fasting, praying, going to Confession, and attending Holy Mass as much as possible.
To many people – those who have traded tradition for modernism in the hopes of being accepted by the modern world – giving up on these traditions that bind us to the virtues of humility and remind us of our humanity means “making progress” and changing with the times. But this has created a void which we cannot fight by progressive means. Nor will we fight it through righteous and justified anger over grievous sins. We will only restore grace and order in the Church by bringing back the reminders of our humanity, those that bind us to the Sacrifice of the Mass; those traditions that make us distinctly and authentically Catholic.