I’m combining yesterday and today into one exposition.
Yesterday the kids and I drove through the town of Charles Town, WV. This eastern panhandle hamlet had been previously known to me as the home of a horse racing track and that’s about it. Mass is offered here by the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem.
“So what’s a canon?” you ask. Short answer: canons are priests who live in community following the rule of St. Augustine. These canons were established by Cardinal Burke when he was Archbishop of St. Louis and somehow made their way to West Virginia. The church, a small-ish structure on a quiet tree-lined street downtown is unassuming from the outside. Stepping inside, though, I found a structure that was a tribute to the people who had transformed it into the home of Our Lord.
A couple of oddities(?) I noticed. First, this was a dialogue mass. These aren’t common in TLM communities. Typically the people only chime in at a high mass. Personally, I tend to follow along in my missal, silently (or at least extremely quietly) praying along the whole mass. There were only four other congregants this day. This was also unusual to me. I come from a large parish where the infants on hips outnumber the elderly (and there are many of them too). I dutifully followed along, brushing up on my Latin responses along the way. I’m hoping to learn to serve mass myself. You never know when it will be necessary. Humility will direct me to ask my 7 year-old nephew for help when I return home. The final quirk here was that the priest read the Epistle and Gospel in English from the altar. I suspect this is a TC thing and I don’t like it. Enough said.
Today my guardian angel violently woke me at an ungodly hour. I had asked him to do that so I had to comply. Mass at St. Lawrence in Harrisburg, PA was only at 7:10 and it’s a 20 minute drive from here. Fortunately I’ve been coming here for a few years whenever I visit my sister and I not only know some of the parishioners but also the parish well. This is a beautiful church one block in from the Susquehanna River and one block out from the State Capitol. The diocesan cathedral sits between the two. This parish has a full mass schedule (Sunday-Saturday) and is run by the FSSP.
It is what happened right before mass that I want to tell you about here. I try to go to frequent confession. Even though we were running late, we made it in the door at 7:05. I prayed a priest would be in the box. I find Our Lord tends to answer these prayers quite favorably. I noticed a woman exiting the confessional so I quickly stepped in the door. I imagine Fr. was hoping he’d be free to step out and vest for mass. Instead he got me.
Fr. gave me a manly penance. I LIKE MANLY PENANCES. I do not like “Think about something nice about someone…” Still wonder why I tradded?
And then Fr. invited me (not as part of my penance) to consider practicing daily mortification. He even suggested some tips. In mass I have been meditating of late on Our Lord’s passion. I find myself saying, “Lord Jesus, let me take you down from the cross. My sins put You there. This isn’t fair.” Then I remember His words to Peter when Peter scoffed at the idea of Our Lord’s crucifixion.
He called him Satan. Clearly, I can’t take Him down. This is how He satisfied the debt of my sins and still gives Himself to me daily. Instead I have come to understand that He is inviting me gently to be drawn up to the cross with Him. These daily penances, these “mortifications” will be the way. Thank you, my Lord! Give me to suffer with Thee for my sins, my family, the world!
Then Fr. finished by saying, “Go in peace, but let me go first.” You see, he needed to get to the sacristy but didn’t want to see any of his penitents. Good man.
May your days be penitential, folks.
Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!