February 2020 - How We Kept the Lords Day Holy in the 1970s
In November of 1972 shortly after my 13th birthday, Father James Dunphy came in for Mass two weekends in a row to Oklahoma City. At the time I was in eighth grade in Rosary School. On Tuesday after the second Sunday Mass Mom drove me to school and looked up at the Saint Francis Church, which my school was connected with, and said to herself: "I am never going into that church again." She arrived home as Dad was starting his first cup of coffee, because he got up later since he worked four to midnight. Mom informed Dad of her decision and he replied: "It is about time." After dinner Mom took me into the living room, which made me immediately know that what we were going to discuss was quite important, since we spent most of our time in the den, saving the living room for special occasions. She explained things to me, and I had no problem.
The next Sunday morning, we all got up as usual, got dressed in our Sunday best and proceeded to the living room to say the Mass prayers before going to the catechism class Mom taught at and Dad and I attended. Dad sat in on the high school class, because he was a recent convert and wanted to know his faith better.
In 1972, the Latin Mass was not readily available. Only a few cities actually a priest in residence. About the only priest in the Bible Belt was Father Dunphy from Saint Louis. He went border to border and coast to coast in the United States from the late 1960's until he was grounded by his superiors in Saint Louis in June of 1974. (His story is for another time.) We would see him four to five times a year, which was the only time we could actually assist at Mass.
Father Dunphy came in the first time in November of 1971 to Oklahoma City and many in the catechism class started in the mid 1960's assisted at his first Mass in Oklahoma City. My family was the third family to depart the Novus Ordo. All of us, who left the Novus Ordo took our obligation to worship God quite seriously, especially the obligation to keep the Sabbath holy. We did not all do the same thing on Sunday mornings, but everyone did something. We already had one anchor, out catechism class on Sunday mornings, during the school year. However, we realized this was only part of keeping the Sabbath holy. We no longer had a Mass to assist at on Sunday mornings with rare exceptions.
In the fall of 1973 we met Father Dan Jones from Colorado, who introduced us to a priest who had a chapel in the basement of a home on the north side of Chicago. Father Daly offered to come in once a month on Thursday, before first Friday, for evening Mass on Thursday and morning Mass on Friday. Soon he was able to come on Thursday and stay through Monday, so once a month we had Sunday Mass. In 1975, I realized I would be able to assist at fifty-nine Masses, during the year, and dedicated them to fulfilling part of my Sunday obligation. (53 Sundays and 6 holy days of obligation.) However, I realized that the obligation goes far beyond simply assisting at Mass. Mass is only part of the obligation, binding under Church law. Of course, the Church law does not bind, if it is impossible to fulfill. However, the Third Commandment binds.
After Father Daly stopped coming in early 1975, we asked the SSPX (Society of Saint Pius X), if they could send us a priest some time. They sent Father Hector Bolduc, who had been ordained in 1974. He was teaching at the SSPX seminary in Armada, Michigan at the time. He came to us, and soon, through people we knew in other cities, we moved to the Houston area, that he traveled from on a circuit, bringing Mass weekly to several Mass centers. (We did not use the terms church or even chapel, because only the Bishop of the diocese can establish a church. The term Mass center was adopted, because it did not imply usurping authority that we did not have.)
By 1976, we had Sunday Mass most weeks. We rented a room for Mass in mid 1976 for a week day Mass, and advertised it in the Oklahoma City paper. The Bishop sent out a warning about that time that our Masses did not fulfill our Sunday obligation. Actually the bishop was right, and I knew it at the time. Mass only fulfills the obligation if it is celebrated in a church, a public oratory or outside. Masses elsewhere, such as in private chapels, do not fulfill the obligation even for those to whom the chapel is granted. This is why kings and queens would be found in a church on Sundays and other Holydays of Obligation. And this is the purpose of the law, to make sure we worship as a parish, even if we have privileges other days of the year. Of course, I did not believe that the Novus Ordo fulfills the Sunday obligation, because it is what Archbishop Lefebvre would call in 1976, a bastard mass.
Not being able to assist at Mass on the Lord's Day and other Holydays of Obligation made us take the Mass a lot more seriously. It also made us take our Faith and our obligation to sanctify the Lord's Day and other Holydays far more seriously.
When we got a permanent place for Mass and had Sunday Masses, a certain laxity flowed back into us. We still took things seriously, but fell back into '50's Catholicism, which one priest described as Mass on Sunday, fish on Friday and five dollars in the collection plate. Traditionalism was most fervent, when the Mass was not readily available, and we had to do things on our own to keep ourselves Catholic. Once Traditionalism got named and Traditionalists started obtaining church buildings, laxity soon engulfed us. By 1980, Traditionalism had mutated into something totally different than what it had begun as.
We should consider what two of us call '50's Catholicism. It was Catholicism as it existed prior to Vatican II. This was a time, when laxity had taken over. Some priests were already trying to find ways to permit their penitents to use birth control, if they asked. Catholics were present on Sunday mornings at Mass, but they did not really assist at Mass. Even in the 1950's men would retire, during the sermon outside to smoke a cigarette, which is hardly what we should be doing on the Lord's Day. Of course, many of the sermons were not really worth listening to, as they had no substance.
In the 1950's the priesthood had become a career. The Church was falling apart. Yes there are stories of infiltration of the Church, but the infiltrators would not have been successful in damaging the Church, if Catholics had lived by the Gospels rather than compromising with the world as most did. As Saint Bernadette said: "I only fear bad Catholics." There is a lot of discussion about the Jews, the Masons, the Communists, as if eliminating these enemies of Jesus Christ would end our problems. No our problems come from with in. Our real enemy is our own laxity as Sacred Scripture reminds us: "But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." (Apocalypse 3:16)
In conclusions, let us meditate on this, '50's Catholicism led to '60's apostasy, Vatican II and its perfidious spirit.