|Traditional Latin Mass|
by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter,
available from http://fssp.org
The first example is the age of the Early Church Fathers, AD 68-312. It was during this time the Catholic Church found herself surrounded on all sides, by a hostile Roman Empire hell bent on her destruction, coupled with heretics within the Church, hell bent on her corruption. During the early years of this period, Saint Paul tells us that sexual immorality was widespread (the Church at Corinth in particular), which had to be dealt with swiftly and firmly. Heretics within the Church continued to push for sexual immorality throughout this three century period. The period of persecution ended in the legalisation of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, along with civil restitution made to the Church, and a conciliar age that rooted our heresy and immorality within the Church. In the centuries to follow, Christianity spread throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia.
The second example I wish to draw on is the era of the Protestant Reformation, AD 1517-1648, which began with the nailing of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Thesis to the door of Wittenberg Chapel, and ended with the conclusion of the Thirty Years' War. This was a time of tremendous religious upheaval in Europe, as the very foundations of many Christian doctrines were attacked by so-called Protestant 'reformers', leading princes to war with each other over how religion would be conducted in their respective states. It was perhaps the most tragic period in Christian history. However, during and after this period, the Catholic Church made great advances in spreading the faith to the New World (North and South America) as well as Africa and the Orient. The centuries following this period marked the greatest period of Catholic expansion the world has ever known. It was the Council of Trent that made this possible, with its clear rebuke of Protestant errors, coupled with it's clear articulation of Catholic faith, and the standardisation of Catholic liturgy.
Both tumultuous eras of darkness and confusion within the Catholic Church were immediately followed by long periods of restoration, revival, renewal and expansion. Therefore, I believe the dark era of decline the Catholic Church has found herself in since 1914, will be followed by a similar period of restoration, revival, renewal and expansion. I believe the seeds for this renewal began with the papacy of Saint John Paul II. His clear articulation of the faith, culminating in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, was the foundation upon which this will all take shape. The second major seed was Pope Benedict XVI's edicts of Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus. The first one allowed for greater use of the all Latin 1962 Missal of Saint Pius V (revised by Pope John XXIII and Pope Benedict XVI). Use of this Missal, in what is common referred to as the Vetus Ordo, Extraordinary Form, and Traditional Latin Mass, is restoring classic solemnity and beauty to Catholic worship. It is gradually having an effect on the younger priests coming out of seminary, who having been influenced by it, are re-introducing the same order of solemnity and beauty to the Missal of Pope Paul VI, otherwise known as the Novus Ordo, Ordinary Form, and regular vernacular mass. Likewise, Anglicanorum Coetibus plays a role in this too, because it not only provides a new way for Protestants to re-enter the Catholic Church, but it also provides a new liturgical norm of restored beauty in the classical English way. The third and final seed of this renewal is likely going to be planted by Pope Francis in a way that is unknown at the time of this writing (May of 2015) , but I suspect it will be made known within a year from now. In keeping with the above reforms, I believe it will be manifest in the form of clarity on Christian morality. Thus the triad of reform will come from three popes, expressing clarity on the three aspects of Church life...
- Clarity on Church Doctrine (The New Catechism of the Catholic Church), John Paul II
- Clarity on Church Liturgy (Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus), Benedict XVI
- Clarity on Church Morality (future event, currently unknown), Francis
Once these three matters are settled for the history books, the Church can complete whatever suffering she must endure to purge herself of heretics and schismatics, likely using the assistance of the state in this matter in the form of her own persecution. Yes, the state will become very useful in helping the Church distinguish between the sheep and the goats. (The goats will flee and/or compromise in the face of state persecution.) Once the passion of the Church is complete, she can look forward to fulfilling her final epic role in world history, bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth and baptising all nations.
Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'
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