Feria III infra Octavam Ascensionis
“Keeping the faith” (cf. 2 Tm 4:7) is the principal task and the ultimate criterion to be followed in the life of the Church. In today’s increasingly secularised world, ever-changing social mores and negative influences in culture and politics have led many people to question the role of religion in society. However, even in the face of these challenges, religion remains an important and meaningful aspect of human life. Religion provides a sense of purpose and meaning, offering individuals guidance and a moral compass for navigating the complexities of life. It also fosters a sense of community, bringing people together and creating opportunities for social interaction and support.
The Catholic faith has been a source of strength for people around the world for centuries. It provides a sense of stability and comfort in times of uncertainty and chaos. The Catholic religion offers a framework for individuals to understand their place in the world and provides solace during times of hardship and struggle. Moreover, Catholic organizations are involved in charitable work and humanitarian efforts, providing aid and support to those most in need. Catholicism, in particular, has a long history of philanthropy and remains the largest provider of assistance among all the world’s religions. Its emphasis on love, compassion, and service has inspired countless individuals and organizations to make a positive impact in the world.
Thus the preservation of the Church must be a priority for today’s “living stones” [cf. 1 Peter 2:1–8] – not just for the sake of the institution, not for the material power and political influence it sometimes wields, but for the sake of the spiritual legacy that it embodies. The Church has been a foundation of faith and a source of comfort for countless generations, and it has played a vital role in shaping the moral and ethical frameworks of our societies. Its teachings and traditions have helped to guide individuals towards a better understanding of their place in the world and their responsibilities to others. Therefore, it is the duty of those who value these ideals to work towards preserving the Church, not only as an institution but as a living symbol of our shared spiritual heritage.
Contemporary intentional communities are voluntary living arrangements where individuals come together to share resources, responsibilities, and property based on a common vision. These communities often come in different forms such as ecovillages, housing cooperatives, and collective households. They are designed to promote social cohesion and teamwork and are sometimes referred to as an “alternative lifestyle”. Intentional communities can be found all over the world, from Anabaptist Christian Bruderhof Communities to traditional ashrams. Overall, intentional communities are designed to promote a sense of community and togetherness among individuals who share a common vision.
The concept of intentional community has been present in Christianity since the earliest days of the Church. In fact, Acts 2:42 describes the early Christians as “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This devotion to communal living continued with the emergence of monasticism in the late 3rd century, which eventually became an established institution in the Church by the 4th century. During this time, monks and nuns lived in small, isolated communities, dedicating themselves to a life of prayer and manual labor. These early intentional communities were a reflection of the Christian ideal of living in unity and fellowship with one another.
In his book “The Benedict Option,” Rod Dreher argues that Christians should consider withdrawing from contemporary society and forming communities based on the teachings of St. Benedict. According to Dreher, the current cultural climate is hostile to traditional Christian values, and Christians are at risk of losing their faith if they continue to engage with it. He suggests that Christians should follow the example of Benedictine monks, who withdrew from the corrupt society of their time to form communities based on prayer, work, and learning.
Dreher cites the example of the Benedictine monastery at Norcia, Italy, which has become a model for his vision of Christian community. The monks there live according to the Rule of of St. Benedict, which emphasizes the importance of prayer, humility, and service to others. Dreher argues that such communities can provide a refuge for Christians who feel alienated from the dominant culture and help them to deepen their faith.
While some critics have accused Dreher of advocating for isolationism and a retreat from the world, he insists that the Benedict Option is not about turning inward or abandoning the world, but rather about building strong communities that can serve as a witness to the Gospel in a secular age. Dreher acknowledges that the Benedict Option is not for everyone, but he believes that it offers a way forward for Christians who are struggling to maintain their faith in an increasingly hostile culture.
Creating intentional Catholic communities
I’ve long held the belief that God has preserved the Old Roman apostolate for an important role to play in addressing the crisis that is prevalent in the Church today. Specifically, in a time where sound teaching and leadership from the institutional hierarchy cannot be reliably counted on, the apostolate must step in and fill the gap, acting where others have failed to do so. By doing this, the apostolate can help ensure that the Church remains true to its teachings and continues to provide spiritual guidance and support to its followers.
When I became Primus, I shared with some brother clergy my concept of an “oratorian model” for the Old Roman apostolate; intentional Catholic communities i.e. groups of Catholics who come together with the purpose of sharing their faith and living in accordance with traditional Catholic teachings. Communities not isolated from society but rather integrated within their neighborhoods and local communities. By creating intentional Catholic communities, Catholics can support each other in their faith journeys, deepen their understanding of Catholic teachings, and engage in acts of service and evangelization in their local communities. These communities can also serve as a witness to the broader society of the power of the Catholic faith in everyday life.
Intentional communities could become a growing trend among faithful Catholics who seek to live together in a shared environment. These communities could be as small as single households where like-minded individuals houseshare, or families coming together to form a close-knit community in a local neighbourhood. The aim of intentional communities is to foster a sense of fellowship, mutual support, and common purpose. Members of these communities can share resources, responsibilities, and spiritual practices, such as daily prayer or Mass attendance. By living in intentional communities, Catholics can deepen their faith, strengthen their relationships with one another, and create a more meaningful and purposeful life.
An excellent example though admittedly not an originally nor deliberately intended one, is the traditional Catholic community in St Mary’s Kansas. Here traditional Catholic families supported the SSPX apostolate, sending their children to the school, which grew into an academy and became a beacon of traditional Catholic education. St. Mary’s Academy and College is now one of the leading institutions for traditional Catholic education in the United States. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of traditional Catholic education to shape the lives of young people in a positive way.
The traditional Catholic community in St. Mary’s, Kansas has a rich history dating back to 1848 when the Jesuits established the Church of the Immaculate Conception, now known as St. Mary’s Academy & College. In 1978, the Society of St. Pius X acquired the property and has since built a new monumental church named The Immaculata, which is dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass and other sacraments according to the traditional rites of the Catholic Church. The traditional Catholic families in the area have been instrumental in rebuilding the community and growing the school, resulting in a thriving traditional Catholic presence. The recent consecration of The Immaculata is a symbol of hope for traditional Catholicism worldwide.
The success of St. Mary’s Kansas as a traditional Catholic community can serve as a source of inspiration for other traditional Catholic communities looking to emulate its positive aspects. While replicating the model on a large scale may not be feasible, the underlying principles that created the strong sense of community in St. Mary’s can be adapted to suit the needs and circumstances of other communities. By focusing on fostering strong relationships among members, promoting shared values and beliefs, and creating a sense of belonging, communities can create an atmosphere that is conducive to growth and development. This, in turn, can lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful life for all members.
The Domestic Church
So an intentional Catholic community is a group of people who are committed to living out their traditional Catholic life in a communal setting. This can include families, couples, or individuals who share a common goal of deepening their relationship with God and each other. However, the success of such communities will be dependent on a strong foundation of prayer. Prayer is the backbone of the Christian’s life and is essential for building relationships with God and with each other. Through prayer, intentional Catholic communities can come together to support each other, grow in their faith, and serve the wider community.
Building an intentional household requires more than just physical space. It also involves establishing a domestic church where household members can come together to strengthen their faith and relationship with God. This designated area within the home fosters deeper and more meaningful connections within the family and provides a sense of belonging and purpose. The domestic church serves as a sanctuary where members can pray, read the Bible, and participate in other spiritual activities. It also serves as a reminder that the community’s faith is an integral part of their daily lives and helps to build a strong and vibrant Catholic household.
In ancient Rome, religion played a significant role in the daily lives of its citizens. As such, it was common for households to have a designated space within their homes to pray or direct their prayers. This space, as the domestic church, could range from a simple prayer corner to a room that was set apart as a chapel. The purpose of the domestic church was to provide a private and sacred space for individuals and their families to connect with their faith and spirituality. This tradition of having a domestic church has persisted over the centuries and is still observed in many Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian households today.
The concept of the domestic church refers to the idea that family home can be a sacred space where God’s presence is felt. It is rooted in the biblical understanding of the family as a foundational unit of society. The family, as a microcosm of the larger Church, has a responsibility to teach and transmit the faith to its members. By doing so, the family not only strengthens its own faith but also contributes to the overall health and vitality of the wider Church. The domestic church is a reminder that God is present in all aspects of family life, and that every moment can be an opportunity to encounter the divine.
The domestic church represents the truth of God’s covenant to His chosen people, a promise made by Christ, that He would reside with them. It is “holy ground” dedicated by the devotion with which it is treated and respected irrespective of whether it has been blessed or set apart by a priest or not. God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. The prayers and devotion of the household make the space sacred. Whether marked by a simple cross or decorated with icons and statuary, as the focus of God’s place in the heart of the house and household, it serves to manifest the faith of the people. Making a distinct place for God in their home is what sets apart the faithful from the unfaithful and the unbeliever.
Of course, it is to be hoped that in any given location there might be several intentional Catholic communities or households able to come together and provide for a regular chapel in which to worship according to the traditional liturgy, like The Immaculata in Kansas. This certainly is something the Old Roman apostolate could hope for and work towards, but in the first instance our focus should be on people.
Rejection of secularism
Old Romans as traditional Catholics who are seeking a more authentic Catholic life would benefit from seeking out like-minded individuals and forming intentional communities. By attending traditional Latin Mass together, studying Catholic doctrine and history, and supporting one another in living out the teachings of the Church, individuals could deepen their faith and strengthen their commitment to Christ. By working together, traditional Catholics can explore the possibilities of living a more authentic Catholic life and grow in their understanding of and love for the Church.
Catholic individuals must adopt a radical shift in their attitudes and approach to living life if they are to reject secularism and live ‘contra mundum’ (against the world). The decline in attendance at Mass and the growth of secularism have been identified as major threats to the Church. Scandals in the Church and a lack of belief in its teachings are some of the factors behind this decline. Youth-focused groups are increasingly incorporating progressive elements to seemingly make the Church more attractive to millennials and in doing so threaten the integrity of the faith and it’s doctrines.
Yet the traditional Catholic family and way of life is a concept that has been around for centuries. It is based on the belief that the family is the foundation of society and that the roles of men and women are clearly defined. The traditional Catholic family values such as love, respect, and obedience are instilled in children from a young age. However, in recent times, this way of life has come under attack from various angles. The increasing secularization of society has led to a decline in the number of people who identify as Catholic. This decline in faith has led to a decline in the number of people who uphold traditional Catholic values.
Furthermore, the rise of individualism and feminism has challenged the traditional roles of men and women within the family. The traditional Catholic family values of submission, obedience, and sacrifice are seen as outdated and oppressive. Instead, modern society promotes individualism, self-expression, and the pursuit of personal happiness above all else. However, despite these challenges, many Catholic families continue to uphold traditional values and pass them on to their children. They believe that the traditional Catholic family is the cornerstone of society and that it is their duty to preserve it. These families face numerous challenges, but they remain steadfast in their beliefs and continue to live according to their faith. The Old Roman apostolate in its missions and chapels must do everything to support and promote this traditional approach to family life.
Passing the Torch: Intergenerational Interaction for Sharing Knowledge and Experience
Therefore it is crucial for the preservation of the faith and the survival of the family that the younger generation is taught the values and traditions of Catholic culture. In today’s world, many young people are exposed to a variety of cultures and traditions. While learning about different cultures can be a positive experience, it is also important for young people to understand and appreciate the values and traditions of their own culture. By preserving these values and traditions, families can maintain a sense of identity and belonging, which can be particularly important during times of change or uncertainty.
Teaching the younger generation about their Catholic culture involves more than just passing on information. It requires creating opportunities for young people to experience and participate in cultural traditions, as religious services or participating in family celebrations. By involving young people in these activities, families can help to ensure that Catholic cultural traditions are passed down from one generation to the next. But this cultural induction must not be superficial but communicate a true and proper understanding of Catholic culture and spirituality based on the Scriptures and doctrine of the apostles.
The Catholic faith is rich with traditions that are shared by Catholics all around the world. These traditions, ranging from communal family devotions to individual prayers, from traditional communal customs to personal acts of piety, have been passed down from generation to generation. It is important to revive and preserve these traditions, especially while the older generations are still with us. By doing so, we can retrieve the knowledge and praxis of these traditions before it is too late. These traditions not only provide a sense of continuity and connection to our past but also serve as a powerful means of fostering faith and spirituality in our lives.
Every local mission of the Old Roman apostolate must carry out thorough research and actively promote local cultural customs to ensure their transmission to the present generation through catechesis. The revival and preservation of Catholic cultural traditions are critical for the Church’s survival. These traditions connect us to our spiritual heritage, providing a sense of continuity with the past. By reclaiming these traditions, our faith can be strengthened, and our worship can be enriched. We can also pass on a legacy of beauty and reverence to future generations, making it a matter of utmost importance.
We are initiating the process of developing a program that has the goal of promoting cultural enrichment and intentional Catholic communities across different age groups. Our aim is to create a platform that facilitates meaningful dialogue, fosters understanding, and brings people together within the Old Roman apostolates. Our ultimate goal is to build a closely-knit community that is united in faith and purpose.
One of the key aspects of our program is the formation of intentional Catholic communities. These communities will provide individuals with an opportunity to come together and support each other in their faith journeys. By working together, we hope to create an environment where people can grow in their faith and deepen their appreciation for the Church’s cultural heritage.
Through this initiative, we will strive to promote intergenerational collaboration, constructive dialogue, and understanding. We believe that by working together, we can build a stronger and more vibrant community that is rooted in faith and cultural heritage.
Oremus pro invicem