Monday, March 10, 2014

The Case for Relocation

This season on Restoration Radio we had an episode on relocation.  I think the episode did a good job of offering different perspectives, and featured guests who had all relocated for the Mass and a parish.  I don't wish to rehash that episode (take a listen when you have some time) but I would like to restate why I think it's important to be involved in building something or to move to where something is built.  A break-even, Father-only-comes-once-a-week/month/quarter/year is not a tenable long-term solution.

There is an implication here that I am willing to accept and address: some clergy are very accommodating - perhaps maybe too accommodating.  They may visit a "congregation" of 5-10 people who pay for the travel but aren't doing any outreach to grow the community.  They've found a priest who is willing to come to them (phew!) so they perhaps don't look down the road to see that this isn't a long-term (not even a medium-term) solution.

Let me re-ask the question that begs the premise of my argument: "Are you happy with your level of access to the Mass and Sacraments?"  If the answer is yes, then this article is not for you.  If the answer is no, then the follow-up question must be: "Well what are you going to do about it?"

I imagine that if you are reading my words that you have access to the Internet, which if you do means you are in a first or a second world country, so relocation is not out of the question for you.  You may find a job or start a business in your new locale.

Why relocate?  Two reasons:

1.  It is not good for man to be alone.  While it is true that some people are called to be hermits, the vast majority of us are not, and we should, whenever possible, restore the centrality of our local church to our daily lives.  (It is fascinating that even today in the shadow of what was once Catholic Vienna there is still at the dead center of the Metro system the Stephansdom.  Its shape is so iconic that some subway maps don't even name it.)  We need help.  We need Catholic friends.  We need Catholic playmates for our children, nieces, and nephews.  We need to not feel so alone all the time.

2.  We can work and pray together.  I'm not advocating for a little village - those projects have failed repeatedly.  I'm just advocating for being physically/geographically close to your parish so that you can hear Mass, join in a Rosary, go to regular Confession (the "preventative maintenance" type), attend Sunday Vespers, attend Wednesday or Friday devotions, attend men's or women's group meetings, etc.  Apart from initiatives undertaken regarding the Faith, opportunities to work together on other fronts present themselves.  While I have a number of well-known issues with the SSPX, I am consistently edified by the Catholic businesses in St. Mary's, Kansas that take care to not just employ parishioners, but often base pay on the number of children each breadwinner supports.  That's awesome.

My favorite Bishop Williamson sermon is "Life is Short, Eternity is Long" and at a certain point in the sermon he repeats it like a mantra.  It has become one for me as well - a variation on a pious ejaculation - which reminds me that on my deathbed my regrets will not be sights missed, experiences not had, or foods not tasted, but rather, Masses missed, Rosaries not said, Vespers not sung, and the unheard melodies and laughter and song in the company of Catholic friends who believe and practice as I do, yet continue to strive to do better all the time and are never "satisfied" with their sanctity (or lack thereof).

Being alone and Traditional Catholic is by no means easy, but it certainly provides the warm comfort of not having to change or risk anything.

Any major decision on such a matter must begin first in prayer.  "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?" Observe what happens in your prayers in this matter (I recommend a prayer journal if you are not already using one) and consult with clergy who you trust and who know you.  Once you've discerned that a move is right for you, that's when you can roll out a map and start looking at the practical side of things.

Do not allow complacency to allow you to settle for good when you can strive for great.

Afterword:  This article was inspired by a fellow anglo and co-parishioner here in Paris.  He made the case over breakfast one day after Mass, after hearing a passionate apologia for Relocation, that those who do not have regular access to Mass might consider a pilgrimage to a place - maybe for Holy Week - that does have regular Mass as not only a way to satisfy one's Easter Duty, but to have a "vacation" that matters.