Writings by Dr. John C. Rao

Change and Changers

(Una Voce Newsletter, Spring, 2001)

To say that we living in confusing and rapidly changing times is to state the obvious. To determine an appropriate response to this overwhelming sense of often incomprehensible flux is another story entirely. Unfortunately, the success rate in the Response to Change Game is not a particularly impressive one.

Some people, disturbed by the uncertainties and nightmares of unbridled change, are convinced that they are living in the end times. After condemning the disastrous flux around them, they predict imminent Divine Judgment of one sort or another upon it and then avoid petty battles with the admittedly distasteful foe. While understandable, this is not an appropriate practical response to our dilemma. For, although the end times will certainly one day be a reality, a focus upon their approach does not help us to deal with the question of where to attend Sunday Mass until the axe falls. Much less does it enable us to confront the truth that our own individual date with eternity may be just seconds away, reducing the grander picture to a matter of considerably secondary personal importance.

Most of our contemporaries, however, do not respond to rapidly changing times in the same dramatic and apocalyptic manner. Instead, they draw the rather banal conclusion that everything and everyone must, of necessity, change along with observable changes in society, whether they approve of these or not. Hence, the presumption by many Catholics that a world which is continuously evolving along materialistic, hedonistic, anti-intellectual, pluralist lines requires a liturgy (or liturgies) marching happily, unquestioningly, or grudgingly in step with it. This is not a rational position, but, rather, one reflecting a disturbed psychological state inviting medical intervention. Nevertheless, it is a viewpoint that has been ably exploited for over two hundred years by men for whom change has become a religion, and often a personally profitable one as well. There is, however, another approach towards dealing with a rapidly changing world different from one of abandonment of all human hope or unquestioning acceptance. It is that of thoughtful examination of the transformations around us, on the basis of our faith, our reason and our knowledge of history. Such examination, now as ever, puts the horrors of the present into a calmer perspective, relativizes specific changes and recognizes that many of these are misplaced and wicked, calling for stubborn opposition with every ounce of energy we can muster.

Una Voce represents this third approach towards facing change in the liturgy. While admitting the nightmarish character of the liturgical chaos into which we have been swept, it is not prepared to close up shop and run for the hills. While agreeing that we, as mortal, historical beings, do indeed live in a world of change, it is not ready to make that change into an idol before which everything substantive and beautiful must scrape and bow. And seeing, as it does, hideous deformities in liturgical changes which must be reproved by anyone who understands how a destruction of what is most rooted in a given people’s beliefs and culture amounts to annihilation of that people as a whole, it is and always will be committed to the fight for the Traditional Mass.

We cannot claim to imagine the precise way in which our struggle will end. That outcome is in the hands of God. The restoration of the Traditional Liturgy—which we believe to be essential to our survival as a distinctly Roman Catholic community—will take place in a Church and in a world which will inevitably be different from that of 1969 or 1963 or 1958. But one thing is certain amidst that uncertainty. Our labors will not have been in vain. We will not have fought illicit change to no effect. For history is not somehow made purely by people who foment change; it is made by those who oppose it as well. Western civilization would be a quite unrecognizable force today if the medieval world had been shaped only by the irresistible changes caused by German barbarian invasion and not also by the superior spirits and intellects battling vigorously to Romanize and Christianize them, and to restore the Empire while doing so. It would be unrecognizable had there been only supine acceptance of the winds of Protestant change, and no Jesuits or Council of Trent to stand in their way, armed with weapons built from the Catholic Tradition. It has been one of the most useful tricks of the high priests of the religion of Change to claim that they are the sole real makers of history, and that the rest of us are mere obstructers of the inevitable. This is indeed one of the “big lies” with an unfortunately long record of success behind it.

So fight on, Una Voce chapters—the battle for the future of the Church and the worlds continues. We are defending a liturgy with a tested ability to teach and to unite us with the dead and those yet unborn in a glorious hymn of praise to God; a liturgy which only evolves organically, in order better and more beautifully to express unchanging Truth, out of solid roots untouched by the picks and shovels of irrational idolaters of change; a liturgy exercising an incalculable impact on all of civilization. The history which is made by men and women dedicated to its survival and victory is history with a long life ahead of it. The history made by professional Changers is the really valueless product. To paraphrase the Italian poet of despair, Leopardi, it comes from nowhere, is going nowhere, and has nothing to hope for either now or in some nonexistent future.

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