Monday, August 09, 2021

How The Grinch Stole The National Shrine

They happen every Christmas, the usual television network specials, including (for now, we can only hope) the animated account first penned by Doctor Seuss entitled "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" It seems that a nefarious creature, determined to ruin everything for the inhabitants of Whoville, stole their presents, their trees, their decorations, all on the night before, only to discover the next morning that Whoville proceeded with their celebration nonetheless. So moved was the Grinch by the sight of the true meaning of Christmas, that he was converted to believe in its spirit, and all was well after that.

Hold that thought, fellow traveler, as all shall soon be revealed.

Those among my devoted readers (and you both know who you are) are aware of the Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, that was originally scheduled for this Saturday, the 14th of August, the Vigil of the Assumption of Our Lady. (We talked about such a glorious occasion before, remember?) Everything was going along as planned, until His Holiness Pope Francis issued a Motu Proprio on 16 July. Ironically titled "Traditionis Custodes" (Guardians of Tradition), it imposed restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass that were previously lifted by the 2007 Motu Proprio of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, the one entitled "Summorum Pontificum." Without going into the details, its celebration is now subject to the approval of the local bishop.

Most bishops who have allowed it up to now, are still keeping things as they are, while either taking time to study the implications of a decree that not only was to be implemented immediately, but is plauged by unreasonable expectations, and more than one factual error. Some are even citing Canon 87.1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which gives the diocesan bishop the power of dispensation in disciplinary matters, in the interest of the pastoral care of souls (which basically amounts to virtually ignoring the entire thing).

The above is the short version. You can read as many long ones as you want, here, here, here, and here.

But, alas, the Most Reverend Wilton Cardinal Gregory, as Archbishop of Washington and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Shrine, was not about to let this occasion go by unnoticed. In light of the recent papal decree, and according to The Paulus Institute for the Propagation of the Sacred Liturgy (as sponsors of the event), his office directed the celebrant for the occasion, the Most Reverend Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Retired Papal Nuncio, to ask the permission of the Cardinal to celebrate the Mass.

So, the Archbishop asked for permission. The Cardinal said ... no.

As a result, hundreds of prospective pilgrims to the National Shrine, many of whom were to travel great distances for the occasion, by making hundreds of dollars worth of arrangements to travel by air, are to learn that their expenses are non-refundable, and all for the greater good and unity of the Church, as determined by the prelate who began his tenure in the Nation's captial by assuring all of us that "I will always tell you the truth as I understand it."

But never mind that. What if people came anyway?

Millions of the Catholic faithful make their way to the largest house of Catholic worship in the nation every year, upon visiting the Nation's capital. This writer did so for the first time in the summer of 1962, as a wee lad of seven and a half with his family, as part of a tour of the great monuments and tourist attractions of this fair city. It was unfinished then. It is even more finished now. As the pilgrims came then, so they come now.

And nothing is to stop them now, is there? Why waste those perfectly good airline tickets, hotel reservations, and new looks for summer?

What if the people came to the National Shrine, say, on Saturday the 14th of August? What if they happened, for example, to wander over to the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, along the western side of the Great Upper Church (on the left as you enter, one third of the way down), at around, oh, one o'clock in the afternoon? (Hey, isn't that the time when the Mass was supposed to start? Curiouser and curiouser.) And what if, upon seeing a host of others gathered quietly in the chapel at the same time, dare we speculate for the same reason, they just happened to begin praying all fifteen decades of the Rosary, all together, from start to finish? What if they did so just loud enough to hear one another, or whoever was leading, so as not to disturb anyone or give the security guards reason to believe that all manner of mayhem was imminent? What if, once it was over, those who assembled gradually began to dissipate to other areas of the Shrine, and on their merry way?

After all, it's not as if anyone involved in the planning of the event was involved in this in any official way whatsoever, right? Would it really be the first time a group of pilgrims decided to show up at the same place, at the same time, without anything resembling formal arrangements? Does anyone really bother to ask the management of the National Shrine just for permission to pray the Psalter of Our Lady in the Church dedicated to Our Lady? And if there were any particular motive for what might be interpreted as an adverse response to His Eminence, does there really have to be one, let alone any as grandiose as ... well, what people usually do when things happen in the Church that they don't like?

No, we're just a bunch of ordinary Catholics showing up at the National Shrine to pray the Rosary, all minding our own business, all in one place, all at the same time. Besides, we wouldn't get all dressed up for nothing, don't you think?

Or don't you?