A wonderful change has been taking place in the parish where my family and I attend Mass and sing in the choir.
Actually, it has been taking place for about the last seven years.
It started when our former pastor, relatively new to the parish, made it a priority to purchase and install a large and beautiful Byzantine crucifix directly below the stained glass "plus sign" that had formerly been the church's only cross (which fit in well with the pseudo-Druidic temple style of the architecture).
Slowly, over the next few years, a few more changes were made: statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Peter were purchased one at a time, and an iron gate placed over the entrance to the Eucharistic chapel, for example. Small things, not terribly noticeable by themselves, perhaps, but making a little bit of a difference.
Our new pastor has continued in the same vein: he completed the arrangements our former pastor had begun that involved the donation of a large, breathtakingly lovely antique tabernacle, and the tabernacle with its precious Guest is now placed behind the main altar instead of being tucked away in the Eucharistic chapel. And just last Sunday, Father made a surprise announcement: the chapel has been redone, and there is now a large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe and statues of six saints in the chapel, to serve as an aid to prayer. (He didn't mention the removal of the twisted chunk of metal that was somehow supposed to represent Mary, which had been placed as a fittingly pagan representation by the Druid-sympathizers who designed this church in the first place. He didn't have to.)
The six saints now encouraging our prayer life are Padre Pio, Mother Cabrini, St. Maximilian Kolbe (whose statue is so incredibly beautiful it brought tears to my eyes), St. Jude, St. Therese, and St. Martin de Porres. (Father joked that he'd been tempted to add a statue of St. Juan Diego who could be positioned with his eyes on the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe so that our Protestant friends could see that we have statues praying to pictures.)
Slowly, a tiny step at a time, a church that was ugly and barren is becoming beautiful and ordered toward prayer. The hand of our loving God is so easy to see at work in all of this.
It is His hand, too, guiding our Holy Father's hand in the writing of the motu proprio about the Traditional Mass. Too much was discarded in the heady days after Vatican II by people who thought that the spirit encouraging them to tear down what was beautiful and good and replace it with the banal and the ordinary was the Holy Spirit; but as we know Him by His fruits, I think we've had enough time now to discern what was truly of God, and what came from a spirit diametrically opposed to Him.
So why did God allow the bad things that happened after Vatican II to happen? Why didn't He put a stop to all of it much sooner? Why have so many drifted so far from anything that resembles authentic Catholicism? Why was the fall so fast, and the climb back up so maddeningly slow?
Helen Keller put it this way: "We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world."
Have we learned to be brave in the face of seemingly endless disappointments? Have we learned to find the courage to stand for the truth when our own spiritual leaders appeared willing to stand for everything (including the Consecration)? Have we learned to have that kind of bravery which is grounded in firm trust in God, which allows us to see His will in all that befalls us, for good or ill?
Have we learned patience? Have we learned to overlook the errors made out of ignorance by fellow Catholics who grew up, as many of us did, with watered-down catechesis and an absence of doctrinally sound teaching? Have we sneered at their clothes and their cluelessness, or tried to reach out to them, to foster and encourage all the good they do, and gently lead them toward a deeper and more firmly-founded understanding of our holy Faith? Have we rejoiced when Father placed the new tabernacle, or left Mass in a huff because he didn't at the same time outlaw the unholy trio of Haugen-Hass-Schutte? Have we tried to be as patient with all of those around us, clergy and lay, as God is every day with us?
It may be that a new springtime of holy and authentic renewal is coming for the Catholic Church. Will we rejoice at the new blossoms that burst forth, or mutter curses at the falling rain?