We departed our beach house yesterday morning and headed for home. This morning I woke up in a hotel room in Atlanta, GA.
This morning began early. That’s because it’s Sunday. This was both a travel day (meaning, for us, we would drive about 800 miles) and the Lord’s Day (meaning we would move Heaven and earth to find a traditional Latin mass).
In the suburb of Mableton, GA, we attended the 8AM low mass for Pentecost in, drumroll please…
Another St. Francis de Sales parish!
Have I mentioned he’s the patron of writers and I think he’s stalking this writer?
This parish is run by our old friends, the FSSP and has been ensconced in this current property since the early 2000’s. I actually attended a daily mass here a year ago. The parish church is not huge but not particularly tiny either. So it surprised me that there was a sign in the parking lot indicating mass would be in the gym. After some searching we found said gym. Down a hill. A very long bill.
I surmise that the interior of the church building might be undergoing some renovations as the gym has, in addition to a few hundred folding chairs, a semi-permanent sanctuary space made out of finer polished oak and complete with a proper rail on three sides.
The priest who said mass preached a phenomenal homily, as is now expected by me of all Fraternity priests.
What really caught my attention, though, was the fact that every single person in attendance was properly attired. I will be writing on proper mass attire soon. But especially the men…
Hair neatly parted.
Strong masculine men who love their wives and children and aren’t trying to show off but simply to look their level best for Christ and His sacrifice.
As I said, more on that to come. Just remember, this was Atlanta and there was a certain Gone With the Wind vibe to be felt.
I loved it.
And I truly loved that the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy absolutely came through for me. I mentioned I had asked her prior to this trip to make Latin mass available to me every day. That she did.
Never doubt the love of a mother for her children. She wants only good things for us. She is happy when we want to kneel beside her as her Son gives Himself for our sins. I think of the many times in my life when my own ingratitude towards her Son’s sacrifice must have pierced her Immaculate Heart.
Mother, give me to worship thy Son every day in His sacrifice!
And she did. And she will.
And He is only too happy to oblige anything she asks of Him.
Woke up this morning in Lexington, KY. This is horse country, friends, and didn’t see a single horse. What I did see is a Latin mass in another church named for St Francis de Sales.
By the way, de Sales is the patron of writers. I’m sensing a pattern that the patron of writers is following this writer around.
This parish, in horse country, in Lexington, KY, named for the patron of writers, is run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Side note: YouTuber Anthony Stine of “Return to Tradition” continually refers to the FSSP as the “Fraternal Society of St. Peter”. Wrong. It’s from the Latin for their name: (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri – Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter). But I’ll allow it since I generally like his daily content. What’s interesting here is that the “parish” is more of a Latin mass mission run out of a Novus Ordo parish. It was a little jarring that there was a Cranmer table set up between the priest and me. What can you do?…
Most interesting of all was what happened after mass. I had just stepped outside when a man in his 20’s approached me. “Sir?” he said. “Can I ask you a question?” I love questions. I have kids. I’m game. “This is my very first Latin mass. I noticed you making the sign of the cross a few times and kneeling and standing… How do you know when to do that?”
I saw he had the infamous “red book” in his hand. I asked him a few questions. Turns out this was his very first Latin mass ever. He had been “looking for something more traditional” after years of attending NO masses. My advice, which isn’t too important; was to simply keep coming. “Give it a month,” I said. “You’ll have it down in no time. In fact, put the book down and just pray. Watch the priest. You’ll figure it out.”
What I loved about this exchange is the hope that even one man is here. One man who wanted something more. He’s here. And I bet he’s in your TLM parish too. Get to know him. Show him what to do. Build it back up.
Man oh man… This second day of our drive across America did not disappoint. We woke up in our hotel room on a high-up floor overlooking the Arch and the Mississippi. Been to the top of the Arch a few times. It’s cool but that’s not why we stopped here last night. Our primary purposes in staying in STL was to visit a particular church.
St. Francis de Sales is an oratory run by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) just a few minutes from the downtown hub. I believe this was at one time a diocesan parish that was handed over to the Institute because attendance had fallen and the parish was unable to maintain the upkeep. Big shock. Attendance was down in a rite where the mass is a community meal.
What did we walk in on this morning? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves; but if you’ve ever wondered why older churches have side altars, this morning would have satiated your curiosity. There were, in fact, two masses taking place on the left-hand side of the church when we walked up the aisle. The air of silence was punctured by the whispered “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” of a priest and the slight clang of a bell from his server.
I was overcome by hope and joy and contrition and faith and charity. I was overwhelmed by beauty. This was a church built by people for whom no expense should be spared for God’s house. They wanted a fitting and glorious church for the sacrifice. They wanted to recreate as best they could on earth the glory of God in His heaven. And they sure got it. And today, seeing it used as it should be? Well, the psalm rings true.
Much thanks and love to the priests of the Institute for their masses, prayers, and stewardship of this parish. If you happen to be in St. Louis, known as the “Rome of the West” for churches just like this that dot the landscape and skyline, do stop in and light a candle. Stay for mass. Offer a prayer for the Church and the restoration of the Roman mass in all places.
As many of you know I am a writer. I say this with no pride. There is nothing that I did to merit the gift of being able to string words together. My parents and teachers throughout my life helped me hone the skill. More importantly, God gave me this gift. And it is a gift. He gave me the ability to grasp at a large vocabulary (thank you, English language) and rapidly pull together consequential turns-of-phrase with grammatical aplomb and all that jazz.
I first realized I had this gift when I was a boy of about 7. I was always interested in the news, in telling stories. Could explain why I’ve enjoyed some success as a teacher. My dad read a few different newspapers every day. Notable among these were the Newark Star Ledger (before it was a complete leftist rag not fit to line a bird cage) and the paper he called “the best written English language newspaper in the world” – the Wall Street Journal. Side note: I remember well the great satisfaction he got when the Journal published one of his letters once. I guess due to the influence of dear old Dad I decided one day that I would put together a broadsheet, a newspaper of my own.
I decided to copy what I had seen and so I began with a screaming headline. “Headless Man in Topless Bar”. Oh wait, that was an actual headline in the New York Post around the same time. Something to do with a mafia decapitation at a “gentleman’s club”. No, I think mine was more family-friendly. “Bridget A Jerk”. Bridget is my youngest sister. As I recall she had hidden my roller skates on me and I was none too pleased. The second column blared “Mom Burns Dinner – Distracted by Phone Call”. In italics underneath: “Family Safe from Near – Fatality, Pizza Ordered”.
This little gazette had everything right down to a sports section on the last page. The only problem is that I didn’t follow sports that well. I believe I had the New Jersey Devils defeating the New Jersey Nets 105-13. Not bad considering the Devils play hockey and the Nets are a basketball franchise. Weather? I drew a picture of the sun and slapped a number under it with the word “Fair”. Seemed like the thing to do even if that number was 25. I think my favorite part was the obituaries. Dad was a fan of the “Irish sporting pages” as he called them. I may have literally copied an actual obit or two from the Star Ledger into my paper since I didn’t know anyone who had recently died. Imagine the contrast between the “Kids Alright, Pizza for Everyone” coverage on page 1 and page 2 where we read about Diane Distefano of Nutley who died peacefully surrounded by her husband and stepchildren. She was to be laid out at Biondi’s Funeral Home in Bloomfield with a visitation from 2-4 and 7-9 and a mass of Christian Burial at Holy Family the following morning. Donations could be sent to “Reading is Fundamental” because, you know, she was a 1st grade teacher or something.
I was quite proud of my paper. I got great satisfaction writing it all down, formatting it, and illustrating the stories. The one copy I printed was a big hit; but not for the reason I had hoped. It seemed everyone got a big chuckle out of the absurdity of the thing.
And that’s when I realized I could make people laugh if I just placed the right words in the right order and sometimes played dumb a little. I think I got that from my mom. She’s much smarter than she ever lets on.
In high school I began writing more. I had to. I was homeschooled and as if to prove our academic worth to the outside world our assignments were heavy on writing. I guess just like the guy who hangs around the gym with his buddies will eventually start lifting weights and then probably get good at it (terrible analogy, I know); the guy who writes volumes by necessity will eventually take a liking to it and probably get really good at it too. In college, the fun continued as I would write humorous study guides for my friends where I’d drop inane commentary and references. “Greek philo’s… 1) Socrates who’s pupil was 2) Plato (wrote Trial and Death of Socrates) who’s pupil was 3) Ari. who’s pupil was Alexander the Gr. Many theorize th/Ari killed Alex because he had become too good lkng. Ari was insanely jealous.”
Sometimes. I know, my writing has caused people to cry and not always in a good way. Fortunately those times have been few and far between. But for those instances where I went too far and used the gift He gave me as a weapon I am sorry. As I said a month ago: it’s a new year and this is a new blog.
I do take satisfaction in it. It’s like the pride a man gets when he’s mowed his lawn. I go back and read and re-read my posts. I’m half expecting them to have grown and matured.
Speaking of maturing, tonight I got the shock of my life. I started writing this blog when he was an infant. My hope was to chronicle his life (and later my daughter’s) for them. I wanted to give them stories to read as they got older so they would know how loved they are and all the fun we had. He’s ten now and already a young man in every sense. I suspect his voice will drop and he’ll be shaving before I blink. I’m not ready for that (or the accompanying “talk” we’ll have to have). This world is a lot more dangerous than when I was his age. But he knows I write this blog and he’s caught on that I do it for him. He caught me going through the archives the other day and asked me to read him a post or two. Tonight as he was getting ready for bed he said “Daddy, will you read me some of your stories?” I replied “Why, son? You know the plot.” Then he said “I don’t know, Dad, I just love the way you tell a story. They’re funny and you write so well.”
There you have it. Mission accomplished, I’d say. Tonight I read to him a tale of the time his goldfish died and I had to replace it before he caught on. He was five and, oh, the TWO replacement fish were accidentally killed by my wife. He howled with laughter and then he said to me “Your a good dad.” Well son, it’s easy for me. You’re a very good young man.”
Now keep livin’ that crazy life so I can keep documenting it. He wants me to put the archive in a book. Smart boy.
Gifts from God – be they talents or sons… for these blessings I am most grateful and I pray you discover your gifts as well.
*I started writing this post on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers. If you ever run into a block, ask for his help.
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