Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Holy Trinity, Boston, MA - Consummatum Est

For Holy Trinity in South Boston, it is done, according to the Boston Catholic Insider.

It is nice to see this story finally getting some additional legs on the web, although it is sadly after the tipping point.

I have written about the almost obscene manner in which this parish was closed by the Archdiocese of Boston on this blog before. As such, there is no need to rehash the details of its closure and subsequent fall out. I will only say, in that regard, that its closure was not the result of dwindling financials but rather the utterly incompetent leadership of the incredibly imploding Archdiocese of Boston, with responsibility being placed in the lap of the man at the very top - the same man who the current bishop of Rome thought good to place on his council of "elite" cardinals to help him govern the Roman Church. Good job - may the Church of Rome soon come to mirror the church in Boston.

I am, as you can undoubtedly tell, still passionate about the closing of a parish that I had been able to effectively call my own and that played such a crucial role in my formation....and whose closure taught me that there was no genuinely place for me in the Roman Church, at least in my immediate locality.

It seems appropriate to spell out how important this now defunct parish was for me. Many, many years ago, I was living in the Pacific Northwest. This was one of the most fruitful times of my life. It was during this time that I began to seriously engage the religion I had been born and baptized into. This was begun, naturally, for me at least, in the religion section of a used bookstore. I voraciously devoured everything I could get my hands on, especially these seemingly strange things called missals. They had such titles as "The New Marian Missal" and the "Maryknoll Missal." It took a bit, but I soon enough deduced their purpose and the meaning of their contents - not too shabby for someone whose family never made a habit of darkening the door of church, save for a wedding or a funeral.

After roughly six months of study, I finally decided I was ready to attend Mass. I still remember the profound sense of disorientation as I tried to wade my way through what can best be described as a train wreck involving aged folk groups and failed pop-psychologists. The question that kept repeating itself: "what happened? what happened to this thing of poetic beauty? what the hell is this abomination?" It was apparent I had more study to do. So I did. And the justifications for those changes are still absent.

In any event, when I returned to Boston, months of inquiry led me to Holy Trinity - the parish still hadn't developed a significant online presence and, frankly, the community didn't seem to do much to promote itself. The old liturgical books I was so fond of finally had a "real" use; it was possible to experience their contents and provide a real context to a liturgy I had previously been forced to imagine into existence.

Three things made an impression at Holy Trinity.

1) For reasons that remain unclear to me, it seems the parish never really promoted itself in way most parishes do. That there was a Tridentine liturgy in the Archdiocese of Boston came to me via word-of-mouth from a priest at St. Paul's in Cambridge. The parish itself didn't seem to be out there trying to get people to come on board.

2) Contrary to pronouncements of those who seem to think interest in the Tridentine liturgy is a passing moment among liturgical hipsters or overly affluent conservative whites who despise the poor, the majority of attendees at the Tridentine liturgy were poor-working class. Yes, there were wealthy people there as well, but one would have to be the most unyielding of ideologues to not noticed who made up the bulk of the attendees at a given Latin Mass. To say otherwise is to be in absolute denial. This Mass, chanted in a dead language, facilitated the prayers of the poor and working class. The very people overly affluent contemporary liturgists, with too much time and money on their hands, claim they serve with their banal product. One can't help but think of Cardinal Heenan's warning to the Concilium upon viewing the proposed revision of the Roman Mass.

3) The preaching was of a quality totally distinct from the normative model in the Boston diocese. Almost always delivered by priests old enough to know the Tridentine rite, the sermons were clearly marked by an unambiguous sense of the supernatural. This sense of the supernatural was the complement to masterful erudition and a distinct lack of ultra-Montanism. These men didn't waste their sermons citing pontiff after pontiff. Rather, they had a patristic and medieval library at their fingertips and the only time a pope was mentioned was if he could be classified as a titan in either respective era.

I eventually realized these priests were not the norm. The norm for the Boston diocese was a man of largely secular mindset, perhaps having some good grounding in literature and art, but fairly nominalist in the worldview he could muster in his sermons. They were so because they reflected the makeup of the Archdiocese of Boston, a church that is better defined by a general humanism than anything else. The priests at Holy Trinity were a different breed, in large part because they came from a much different Catholicism, a Catholicism that, in large part, was left behind. As a result, I learned that it wasn't only comprehensive change in the liturgy I had to reckon with, it was a spiritual edifice that had been razed until nothing was left but the footprint of its foundation.

Holy Trinity afforded the opportunity to experience a variety of Catholicism that has increasingly disappeared in favor of its post-modern variety. It was, all told, a brief glimpse into the "Catholic moment", that time when it seemed the Roman Church was going from strength to strength and nothing could stop it...except, as it turns out, its own hierarchy. There was very much a sense of living among the last vestiges of a time bygone. One could only wonder what could have been if these priests and the Catholicism they reflect had the opportunity to produce a suitable heir.

On some level, the news that Holy Trinity officially went up for sale offers some closure to anyone wounded by the unjust actions of this diocese. There is a finality to it; there is no going back and no way to pine over innumerable what if scenarios of retrieving the irretrievable. It is done. For everyone who feels some sense of loss over this closure, I hope it brings some sobering understanding of the estimation this hierarchy holds you in and the realization that there is no room to protest the unjust actions of  hierarchy that only senses self-criticism when something turns into a PR nightmare.

But, to quote the Gallagher brothers, "don't look back in anger."

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