If you think the Roman Catholic Church is going from strength to strength lately, then this post is not for you. It would not have been for me either back when I started my formal theological education back in 2002. The brilliant Saint John Paul II was on the papal throne, although terribly ill, and I was positively in love with my new school.
I didn't know about the controversies around the 1986 interfaith Assisi meeting because the only criticism I ever heard about John Paul II was that he was "sexist" and "anti-choice" and "a typical Polish male chauvanist"---insults I could easily dismiss. I guess grown-up pro-lifers thought the dodgier aspects of the Assisi stuff were best not talked about before the impressionable young.
I cannot recall a single anti-JP II word from professors at my Canadian theology school although I have a vague impression that female students of a certain age muttered about sexism. That was a very happy time for the most part. I was rather worried about being single and time running out for baby-having, but I loved the reading, the writing, the lectures and the prayer life. Being me, I ignored prompts to take courses at the Protestant schools under the Toronto School of Theology umbrella, but I also argued with anyone who dared to suggest my Jesuit professors weren't orthodox.
I really loved that time. I'm so grateful for those years. They were truly awesome. Little did I know what disappointment lay ahead, but now I understand that God did not want me to become a professor in a Jesuit university. It seems rather unbelievable now, but I did have the academic chops back then. What I lacked--and still lack--is a go-along-to-get-along attitude towards misrepresentation of doctrine. As far as I knew, my beloved Canadian profs had not played fast-and-loose with doctrine, so their American confreres shocked and saddened me.
So here I am, having been tipped off to the crisis in the Church by American excesses, worrying about what greater damage it is causing the Body of Christ and what the next startling news out of Rome will be. (As a freelance journalist, I can't just ignore it.) I feel very fortunate that I have the companionship of my close-knit TLM community, and I read with interest this post by Dr. Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society. If you have got thus far, please read it.
It is the Third Part of a series, but I think the summary is excellent, so there's no need to read Parts 1 and 2. The advice is very good, but I think the best part is joining a Traditional Latin Mass community. I would add "Especially one that seems to be growing and has younger people who would rather go to the Novus Ordo than skip their Sunday obligation." A happy community in which people take more delight in Catholic worship than they do in denigrating other Catholics' worship is essential to morale. Nobody takes attendance, so if you pop by your local TLM only once a month, it's okay. Ignore the cranks and look for the smiles.
There is a lot of strength in tradition--as any Muslim or Jew or Free Presbyterian can tell you--and we have jettisoned ours at our peril. Those "empty rituals" were not so empty! Dr Shaw suggests signing on for the Chartres Pilgrimage, which is so EXTREMELY TOUGH I'm afraid of recommending it to you, for you will blame me very much when slogging through seemingly endless French fields. However, my goodness, it does do something for the spirit.
The Catholics worried about Amoris Laetitiae may be wondering what we can DO. The truth is, as laypeople, there is not all that much we can do except the remedies Doctor Shaw suggests.