Saturday, March 28, 2015

Alex Begin: Promoter of the Extraordinary Form Liturgy in Detroit

Alex Begin is many things to many people, but to most who know him he is probably the foremost promoter of the Tridentine Mass in the metro Detroit area next to the late Richard Langrell, whom he calls the "Father of Detroit's Latin Mass Movement."

Alex found his way back to the Catholic Faith while a student at Harvard. Instrumental in the process was his exposure to the music at St. Paul's Choir School (Harvard Square) in Cambridge, which, he says, "roped me back in." After graduating from Harvard as the youngest member of his class (age 20) in 1982, he also discovered the Traditional Latin Mass, fell in love with it, and has been working tirelessly ever since as an advocate, coordinator, and organizer on behalf of the Tridentine Mass community, not only in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, but throughout the country.

After learning how to serve the Latin Mass, first in the Ordinary Form in the mid-eighties, then in the Extraordinary Form, Alex has helped establish several Tridentine Mass communities on both sides of the Detroit River -- most notably St. Josaphat in Detroit, and Assumption Church in Windsor, Ontario (where he has been Master of Ceremonies and website manager since 1997, until the community's relocation to St. Alphonsus and Holy Name of Mary, both in Windsor). He has regularly served as Coordinator of and Master of Ceremonies for these and various other Tridentine Masses in Detroit, such as St. Albertus, St. Joseph, Sweetest Heart of Mary, Holy Redeemer, and St. Hyacinth. He is also known to have trained over 40 priests and bishops on celebrating the Extraordinary Form.

A video of Alex fascinating account of the history of the Latin liturgy renaissance in Detroit, "How Metropolitan Detroit Became a Center for Latin Liturgy," presented at the Latin Liturgy Association Conference in Detroit in 2010, can be found immediately below:

Several churches in Detroit have had Ordinary Form Latin Masses for some time, as Alex points out, including Old St. Mary's in the Greektown entertainment district, St. Joseph, and the Sicilian Holy Family. The last-mentioned parish, an Italian-Sicilian parish, had (until 2012) the interesting reputation of never having had a vernacular Mass on its schedule. All of its Masses had always been (until the recent change) in Latin and ad orientem. (Other venues not discussed include Assumption Grotto on the East side.)

The video highlights the often austere and difficult beginnings of the Latin Mass revival (particularly in the Extraordinary Form) in Windsor and Detroit with humor and insight. At its nadir, the Windsor Latin Mass community consisted of a small band of intrepid souls who, temporarily banished to a nursing home chapel at the at the height of the SARS Virus epidemic (ca 2002), would allow themselves, in turn, to be sprayed down with disinfectant in order to gain access to the weekly celebration of the Tridentine Mass! Trust me, the video is well-worth watching in its entirety.

If asked of which achievements he is most particularly proud, one answer that invariably comes up is the Latin/English Propers Handouts he has created, known for their typographical accuracy, and available on the St. Benedict Tridentine Catholic Community website of The Latin Mass Community of Windsor, Ontario, HERE. There are no other published Propers known to be as accurate as these, and they are used at numerous churches around the world.

Since 2006, Alex has also been writing weekly Tridentine Community News columns, that appear as parish bulletin inserts at Tridentine Masses in Detroit and Windsor. These columns also appear weekly on this blog and are archived at

Alex is also Executive Producer of EWTN series "Extraordinary Faith," a 30 minute television program celebrating the beauty of classical Catholic sacred art, architecture, music, and liturgy. (See Preview of Episodes 1 and 2 immediately below.) If there is any one point that he would like to convey, it is that his whole goal is to promote the beauty of traditional Catholicism. "Beauty," he likes to say, "attracts and is its own form of apologetics."

Since 2014, in addition to his involvement in regular liturgies in Windsor, Alex has also been serving as liturgical coordinator, Master of Ceremonies, and board member for the Oakland County Latin Mass Association, which has established a new venue for a weekly Tridentine Mass in the chapel of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in in Bloomfield Hills. After Mass, they have recently been featuring a series of regular speakers on various topic related to the Latin Mass liturgy, such as Paul Schultz, an Ann Arbor lawyer and founder of the Michigan chapter of Juventutem, a Tridentine Mass movement for young people who meet monthly for a celebrations of the Tridentine liturgy in different parishes, with time afterwards for conversation and fellowship over dinner.

Career-wise, Alex has been an entrepreneur and owner of a computer firm, as well as apartments, and commercial real estate in both Michigan and California. In recent years, however, he has arranged his business affairs so that he has more time to focus on real estate ventures as well as to devote himself more fully to the greatest love of his life (beyond his beloved wife, Diane), namely the Tridentine Liturgy.

If you were to visit one of the local Tridentine liturgies in Bloomfield Hills or Windsor, chances are you would see Alex assisting at the liturgy as Master of Ceremonies, or assisting someone else in training; and you would doubtless meet his wife, Diane, who often almost single-handedly organizes the receptions afterwards, and all that goes with it. Imagine, furthermore: they do this at least twice (sometimes three times) each Sunday, once in Bloomfield Hills, again at 2:00PM across the international border in Windsor, Canada, and sometimes at yet another venue in Detroit -- and that's not counting weekday Masses. Needless to say, they consider it a labor of love. And for that, all of us who love the Tridentine Mass owe them a debt of gratitude.

Tridentine Masses coming Holy Week to metro Detroit and east Michigan

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Is all hope for common ground gone?

Carl. R. Trueman, "When Pastoral Language becomes Political Rhetoric" (First Things, March 24, 2015). Excerpts:
[Hope] for common ground and co-existence {in todays culture wars] is sadly misplaced. There is the fact noted above that the language of political correctness and the language of pastoral Christianity overlap only at the level of phonetics. Conceptually, they are built on different notions of virtue. It is also clear that this strategy underestimates the ambitions of the identity politicians. Common ground with an opponent is only of real interest to those who are on the losing side. The PC lobbyists are increasingly in control of the political and legal environment and will thus see the linguistic games of the Christian establishment for what they are: Signs of fatal weakness. Ultimately, they will present such institutions with a straightforward choice: Abandon the common language or adopt the common concepts... As the language of traditional Christian pastoral concern is taken from us and turned on its head, we are left with no language ... the very language by which we understand virtues, well-being, and concern becomes not a tool for care but a barrier preventing us from caring.
Overly academic? Unduly pessimistic? For disturbing confirmation watch this video and ask yourself: wait a sec, did I just fall asleep and wake up in the Interfaith Observers Booth at the Synod on the Family next to Tim Tim Keller and Robert McAfee Brown?

Conservative Evangelical celebrity Tim Keller discusses homosexuality, and after dodging all the bullets he can, finally agrees the gay sex is not optimal for "human flourishing," but also crows this jaw dropper that “It’s misleading to call homosexuality a sin”! [Hat tip to JM]

Church crisis illustrated by country music?

According to one amusing wag, HERE.

"Pope Leo XIII speaks on the duty to fight openly against the Kasper Agenda"

Br. Alexis Bugnolo's application of Leo XIII's encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae, to the Kasper crisis in the Vatican and beyond (From Rome, March 26, 2015).

[Disclaimer: Rules 7-9]

[Hat tip to L.S.]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Abp Luigi Negri: Western Civilization is at an end"

He puts the end of Western Civilization in the Museum of Mosul, where ISIS thugs destroyed timeless treasures, blowing up places of worship, and burning libraries.

I would have put it in the 2008 election of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States; but that's a detail. Western Civilization has been in decline since the Endarkenment, better known as the so-called "Enlightenment."

There were many milestones along the way, as there will doubtless be others. But we have for some time now been well into a new Dark Ages far more bleak that those following the "Fall of Rome" in AD 476. We just haven't quite realized it yet.

Traditional Mass increasingly re-accepted in mainstream

Practically every month I head about a new venue in which the Tridentine Mass is being offered locally; and when one expands the field nationally or internationally, the incidents are even more common.

Here's the most recent example: the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris celebrating the ancient rite at Saint-Germain-L'Auxerrois, in the heart of Paris:

"The Traditional Mass re-enters the regular life of the Church" (Rorate Caeli, March 25, 2015):

Sunday, March 8, 2015
It seemed a regular unsurprising event for the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris (and not the first time for him, either). In the historic parish church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, in the heart of Paris (right across the street from the cour carrée of the Louvre), where the traditional Mass is celebrated every Sunday, Cardinal Vingt-Trois celebrated the Traditional Mass (Mass in the Extraordinary Form) for the faithful in his visit to the parish. The Church in France will rise again - one day, it will rise again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I guess none of this matters anymore? Check it out. We had this running during a single class period today at the seminary, and the amount that the debt mounted in that hour-and-a-half was simply staggering. I was under the illusion that the national debt was still around $14 million. I guess that must have been last week. But it's all just electronic digits, so it doesn't really matter, right? Right? Right? Of course the stock market is up so we're in the middle of a reasonable "recovery," right? Right? Right? Oh, that's all electronic digits too? Well what does that mean, then? He who dies with the most debt on his credit card "wins"? What a noble example our government sets for our children!

One seminarian told me that he checks this every morning the first thing after he wakes up, though I'm not at all sure as to his sincerity. Wouldn't this give you an ulcer after watching it too long? Or should one regard it as something more like a video game. Would any of you like it as a screen saver? Or perhaps a background on your desktop? Do you sleep better each night knowing that our dear leader has the best golf handicap of any of our presidents so far? The US Debt Clock has made me a bit dizzy. Think I probably should turn in for the night. Cheers. Have a restful evening.

Here's a video from last year, back when the debt was about $1 trillion less. Enjoy:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fr. Z: "Doctors of the law" a straw man of Pope Francis?

Well, it does seem the Holy Father has his favorite hobby horses, caricatures, and a few straw man constructs he likes to pummel with insults as well, such as the well-known "Promethean Neo-Pelagians."

But HERE it looks like Fr. Z is suggesting that the Pope is using "doctors of the law" to refer to those who are legalistically preventing the gay or divorced and remarried from receiving the sacraments.

One might think on first blush that this refers to some wacked out raddie traddie foam-at-the-mouth traditionalists. Not so. At the very least, it's a straw man. At worst, it's a charge that finds traction only in the established teaching of earlier popes, like Pope Benedict XVI in his Post-Synodal Exortation Sacramentum caritatis, where he is very clear about guidelines for licit and valid reception of the Sacraments. Have a look for yourself. Interesting.

Fr. Z bends over backwards to be a loyal and obedient son of the Church here, which is to say, diplomatic. Good for him. Read a Fr. Z's well-rounded discussion HERE.

The past is a foreign country

The Rolls Royce Cloud pulled up (of all the ironic incongruities!) in front of my modest condominium. Out stepped a gentleman in a tux WITH TAILS! I watched him out the window as he placed on a silver tray, with white-gloved hands, a cognac glass, popped open a bottle of Camus, and deftly poured some into the glass, then added a rose in a vase, and placed beside it a folded parchment with a red wax seal upon it. Then he rang my doorbell.

First time I ever had Camus Cognac ... along with something else I missed while looking out the window: a neatly-wrapped pack of four Louixs cigs. Amazing.

You guessed it. This guy's got taste. No, not the gentleman courier. I mean the gentleman who sent the courier: the clandestine underground correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep it's secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, who more than makes up for the modest stipend I send him in all these elegant accessories he sends along with his telegrams and sundry other missives. It's like being a seminary professor and hiring a guy with James Bond's tastes (or James Bond himself!) to do a little sleuthing for you. You pay him pennies on the dollar in terms of the good time he shows you. It makes Lent a nearly impossible challenge some days.

Here's what he wrote me: Noir, not Bond (though they could be the same person for all we know):
Interesting meditation here. This part hit me because it is a boilerplate line of recent papacies: "And there is no going back."

Peter Kreeft has a counterpoint line to the effect that, "People say you can't turn back the clock, but why not? Isn't that exactly what you do if it is telling the wrong time?"

Like in discussion of many other items, a lot of informed people would say the old product was simply plain better. They don't make them like they used to. Etc. An odd attitude to have to take to a Church's most prized communal possession.

Oh, and enjoy the cigs. I picked them up in Havana, of all places, last week. [emphasis mine - PP]

The "meditation" Noir was referring to was this piece, by James Casper, "The Past is a Foreign Country" (Ignatius Press, March 19, 2015). Wistful and profoundly true, I was glad to have the Camus Cognac in hand as I read the piece, which awakened some deep sentiments in my own soul:
Much we know about the world would be lost were it not for artistic renderings of the past. Memories otherwise would seldom outlive those who remember.

Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars forced professional historians and casual readers alike to revise assessments of the Catholic religion in England in the years immediately preceding the Reformation:
If medieval religion was decadent, unpopular, or exhausted, the success of the Reformation hardly requires explanation. If, on the contrary, it was vigorous, adaptable, widely understood, and popular, then we have much yet to discover about the processes and the pace of reform.
In the almost six hundred pages following this observation, Duffy develops support for this thesis: that the Reformation in England was more of a revolution against a popular, widely-revered institution than an effort to reform something rife with problems and corruption. He can only build his case by reference to contemporary written accounts and a study of Church artistic works that somehow managed to survive state-sponsored efforts to obliterate the past.

Interview: Cardinal Burke says confusion spreading among Catholics ‘in an alarming way’

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent, "Exclusive interview: Cardinal Burke says confusion spreading among Catholics ‘in an alarming way’ (full text)" (LifeSiteNews, March 24, 2015). Substantial.

[Hat tip to L.S.]

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Children's Crusade and the Age of Mercy"

Boniface, "Children's Crusade and the Age of Mercy" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, March 21, 2015).

Another interesting response to Pope Francis announcement of a Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning this December, and a related announcement of a "Children's Crusade" of prayer for Pope Francis, that the mercy promised might be authentic and protect both the Eucharist and Sacramental Marriage from sacrilege (credited originally to James Larson).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"End of the Reform of the Reform"?

For the record: "End of the Reform of the Reform" (Athanasius Contra Mundum, March 12, 2015). On the past and future of the divide represented in microcosm by the Matt family split over the direction taken, respectively, by the Wanderer and the Remnant newspapers.

[Hat tip to L.S.]

On "going forward" or "going back"

"Who Goes Back is Wrong?" (That the bones you have crushed may thrill, March 11, 2015). Excerpts:
“It was quite a courageous gesture of the Church to draw closer to the people of God so that they can understand well what she is doing. It is important for us to follow the Mass like this. One cannot go back. We have always to go forward, always forward. Who goes back is wrong. Let us go forward on this path.” - Pope Francis

"What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place." - Pope Benedict XVI

Jesus Christ does not simply call us to 'go forward', marching on blindly. He ceaselessly calls us back to Him. Repentance means turning around. We can go forward quite happily and unhappily leave Jesus Christ behind....

Numerous statistics have been made available over time, not least by the Latin Mass Society that show a certain trend that does not lend greater credibility to the post-Concilliar Church as a resounding success.

And why, exactly, should Catholics, Popes, Bishops and Cardinals, or priests, have an irrational fear of the past, of the tradition of the Church? Why such fear and loathing of our heritage?

... Why is it that the spectre of the traditional Latin Mass is one that haunts so many prelates and brings them out in a sweat? What, exactly, is so offensive about the Latin tongue in the liturgy? What is so terrifying about Mass being celebrated Ad Orientem? No reasons are given, just a kind of psychological 'we mustn't go there' response that any psychotherapist could tell you means you have deep-rooted problems with accepting your past, as if the Latin Mass was some kind of horrendous ecclesiastical inflicted trauma visited upon the Church's children by brutalising, callous parents.

hanks to Benedict XVI, more and more young people, as well as older people, are able to enjoy the liturgical riches of the Traditional Latin Mass. This mission to restore the sacred to the liturgy is being taken up by more and more priests and Bishops as well. This is not a threat to the Church - this is about giving God the glory that is His right and permitting, out of love, the Faithful to seek the Lord in the Mass offered by the Church for 1,500 years or more. This has seen a renewal of the desire for holiness, a thirst for a relationship with Jesus Christ, an increase in vocations in those Orders that embrace it and a real sense of love for the Church as well as fidelity to Her infallible teachings.

"Who goes back is wrong", says His Holiness.

Going back isn't wrong if you are going in the wrong direction. I am only a layman but it seems obvious to me that the Hierarchy must be mature enough to admit that there are paths the Church has taken which have not led to an improvement in catechesis, that have not led to the fulfillment of those ambitious spiritual goals set out by the Second Vatican Council. These words of Pope Francis will have a chilling effect in parts of the Church. It sends out quite a signal to bishops who wish to clamp down upon clergy who celebrate the Mass of Ages. It is, finally, saddening to look at Pope Francis's words and to see that the 'wisdom' of Benedict XVI which he himself has praised openly does not extend to the wisdom the Pope Emeritus showed in bringing forth treasures both old and new in the Church's liturgy. There is an oblique criticism of the Pope Emeritus within the words of his Successor that rip to shreds the hermeneutic of continuity that he sought to restore. More and more Catholics today look at the Church and say, about many things, Benedict XVI was right.
[Hat tip to JM]

Papally-induced exhaustion

First there was one of my colleague's quips about "PIA (Papally Induced Anxiety) Syndrome." Now there is little question that we are seeing pathologies in some quarters akin to something more nearly fatal: "PIE," or Papally Induced Exhaustion. Here's a sample:

"Jubilee of Mercy: An Idea or Two" (That the bones you have crushed may thrill, March 14, 2015). Excerpts:
A Jubilee of Mercy sounds wonderful. In previous pontificates I would be very happy about it. But this is no ordinary time.

Was this Cardinal Baldisseri's idea? Cardinal Kasper's clever idea? After all, he's the expert on mercy, isn't he?

I can only speak for myself. I have had two years of this strange 'mercy nullifies God's law, so there' weirdness streaming from the Vatican. That's two years in which my cynicism has matured.

Faithful Catholics don't - won't - say "hurrah" to what amounts to a blanket betrayal by the Hierarchy of Christ's own teaching by distributing communion to unrepentant adulterers and other unrepentant sinners in mortal sin. They won't say "huzzah" to treating the Holy Eucharist as if it were unchanged bread and wine, so now we are going to be made to feel really guilty to the point of pariah status for resisting the cunning plan made apparent by the manipulation at the Synod by the even more shrewd institution of a Jubilee Year of Mercy....

As I say, I've become quite cynical but I am sure that others feel the same. My good faith in this pontificate with its peculiar 'agenda' has been exhausted....

Still, a Year of Mercy. Let's go with that.... about lifting all those restrictions on the Franciscans of the Immaculate? ... In a Jubilee Year of Mercy, how about teaching the Faithful and others the Truth through proper catechesis so that we may be convicted of our sins and seek Divine mercy? How about granting the Sacraments to German Catholics of good faith and good will even if they haven't paid their Church Tax? How about a cessation of all insults and a hostile atmosphere of recrimination directed at faithful Cardinals, Bishops and priests whose only crime is to wish to hold fast to the Magisterium and promote traditional liturgy?
[Hat tip to JM]