Friday, 25 September 2020

The Counter-Revolutionary Weekend That Changed My Life

I became a Catholic on St Wenceslaus Day, 1980. I knew nothing about any Traditionalist movement, but I had converted in a fairly 'conservative' Diocese. For instance, in that long ago time, our Bishop did not allow Communion under both Species. A few months after my conversion, I traveled to another Diocese for the baptism of a friend's child, At Communion, the laity lined up to receive the Chalice. I was confused!

When I got home, I asked my Pastor about it. He explained that it was one of the 'reforms' of the Council, but it was at the Ordinary's discretion and our Bishop didn't like it.


A couple of years later, I moved to that same Diocese, where I had first seen Communion under both Species, which I came to realise was a very liberal Diocese. Oh, not 'Chicago liberal', but by far more liberal than anything I had experience in my short time as a Catholic.


I married, settled down, started a family, and became active in our Parish. Today I'm ashamed to admit it, but I became a 'lector' and an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. Our Pastor was a Capuchin friar who was even more liberal than the general tenor of the Diocese.


I had always been interested in liturgy, theology and Church history. In fact, with more than a little help from Our Blessed Mother, I was living proof of St John Henry Newman's dictum,  "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."


I continued to read not only the history of the Church, but things like liturgics and Papal Encyclicals. One Lent in the 1980s, I decided to read the then extant 'Social Encyclicals', beginning with Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, and each of the 'anniversary' Encyclicals issued from Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno on.


In those pre-internet days, I had to read them in actual books, but I was blessed to live in a university town with an excellent library. Many of the books were footnoted with references to works that had developed the Papal Social Teaching. I started reading those books, which also were footnoted with references to other works.


In this way, I read long past Lent, but I was introduced to political thinkers like Fr Denis Fahey, François René de la Tour du Pin, Albert de Mun, Msgr Wilhelm von Ketteler, the Count de Chambord, Fr Heinrich Pesch, and members of the Central Verein in St Louis, MO, The Central Verein publishes 'Social Justice Review', but it should be noted that the term 'social justice' was coined by a Priest in the 19th century and that the SJR was named decades before the Left co-opted the term.


At the same time, my reading in liturgics was leading me to be more 'traditional'. I at least had the advantage of having a bit of knowledge of the old Mass. As an Anglo-Catholic Anglican, I had attended Catholic Mass, before the changes took effect, whenever there was no Anglican 'Mass' available. As I began to wonder about the changes I was led to read Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.


I was horrified! What I was seeing in my Parish Church seemed to have no connection to what the Council had actually decreed!


I read things in the Constitution like, '3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.' All I had to do was look in my missalette to see that the Celebrant was ad libbing parts of the Mass.

I read, 'Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing', and all I had to do was attend Mass at St John's on any Sunday and compare what I saw with an old Missal and with my memories of the Old Mass to know that this had been largely ignored.


The Council had decreed, 'The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services'. I don't think I ever heard Gregorian chant at an NO Mass until I moved to the Diocese of Lincoln where it is occasionally used/


But the kicker was this! 'Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites'. To the best of my recollection, with one exception, I NEVER heard Latin in the Mass after the Council. That exception was in the 1980s, a graduate student in mediaeval history at my university got grudging permission from our Archbishop to have a Tridentine Mass celebrated in thanksgiving for the completion of his doctorate. One of the conditions of the permission being granted was that the Mass not be advertised, but word will spread!


It was just as beautiful as I remembered from 20 years before, even if it was celebrated in this barn of a Church:



Then came Ecclesia Dei.

At that point the only TLMs in the Diocese were on alternating 1st/3rd and 2nd/4th Sundays in Topeka and Kansas City. If there was a fifth Sunday in the month you were out of luck, and if you lived in or near one of those two cities, you had an hour's drive to Mass on alternate Sundays (fifth Sunday excepted).

After Ecclesia Dei was issued, I wrote the Archbishop asking permission to have my children receive the First Sacraments in the Traditional Form. Only after Rome became involved did I receive an answer. It consisted of a four page letter. The first page explained how much he supported the Holy Father in issuing the motu proprio and an explanation of why he had no intention of obeying it. The rest of the letter consisted of a screed accusing me of being a 'secret Lefebvreite' out to destroy the Church.

I had never mentioned Monseigneur or the SSPX in my letter. If I had been a 'secret Lefebvreite', I lived within easy driving distance of both St Vincent de Paul and St Marys. I'm sure I'd have had no problems with having the kids receive their First Sacraments at either. However, AT THE TIME, I believed the SSPX were in schism so that wasn't an option.

His attitude was the same as many Bishops in those days. His excuse was that his Priests Council had forbidden any Masses other than those I mentioned above as well as any of the Sacraments being conferred in the Old Form.

I wrote back saying that I must have been badly catechised because I had been taught that authority flowed downward from the Pope to the Diocesan Bishop, and thence to the Parish Priests, not upward from the Priests Council to the BishopMy Dear Wife said I'd better be careful or I'd get myself excommunicated. I repliedied that at least I'd be in good company!

In 1991, I was an invited speaker at the Catholic Voice International conference in Chicago. I had had a few articles published in Catholic reviews. One or two had been translated and published in France and Brazil. I was also publishing a little 'review' of my own called 'The Ultra Review'. The name was taken from the Ultras of Restoration France who were 'more royalist than the King'. At any rate, I had made somewhat of a name for myself as a Catholic Monarchist, and I was invited to speak on Christ the King and Monarchy.

The conference organisers were unable to pay the speakers, except for the keynoter, Michael Davies, but our travel, hotel rooms, and food were paid for.

I lived in Lawrence, KS at the time so I was flying out of Kansas City International to O'Hare. Another speaker, a lady who lived in Wichita, KS, was flying to KCI and we were to be seatmates on the the flight to Chicago.

The flight was my first on an airliner. My total flying experience at that point consisted of a short hop and back in a Beechcraft Sundowner, a three passenger aircraft. I was nervous to say the least. Mary Ann, my seatmate, checked her luggage, (being a man, I had just a small carry-on), when it was announced our flight had been canceled. I called my wife to let her know what was going on, and Mary Ann retrieved her luggage.

After an hour or so of waiting to see what would happen, the airline announced that our flight had been reinstated. As we boarded the aircraft, I mentioned to the stewardess that it was my first flight in a big plane.

The flight proceeded uneventfully until we were approaching Chicago, when the captain came on the intercom and announced that we couldn't land at O'Hare so we were going to Detroit. As we approached Detroit, he came on the intercom again and said we couldn't land there either, so we had been diverted to Indianapolis.

At that point, Mary Ann turned to me and said she certainly hoped we could land in Indianapolis. I asked her why. She informed me that she was a former stewardess, that she had flown in this model of plane, and we would run out of fuel if we were diverted again! Oh boy! First flight in an airliner and I was going to die!

Well, since I'm sharing this story, we obviously landed in Indianapolis. I saw the Brickyard as we flew over it, and Vice President Dan Quayle had come home for the weekend so Air Force Two happened to be parked on the runway next to us as the we were refuelled.


The rest of the flight was uneventful until we approached O'Hare. My total experience of large airports was Kansas City International and Wichita Mid-Continent, where the Beechcraft had taken off and landed. Both were on the outskirts of the city. Not O'Hare! I'm still convinced, whether it's true or not, that I saw streets crossing runways, with stoplights to halt traffic when planes were taxiing. As we were deplaning, the stewardess asked if I would ever fly again? I replied that it was a long walk back to Kansas City. She laughed and said she meant after my return flight on Monday. I have since,flown a number of times, without a repeat of the excitement of that trip!

At any rate, we landed safely, only to find out that our excursion around the Old Northwest was caused by a radar outage at O'Hare. Not something to give a tyro flyer great confidence.

We rushed to the hotel, where I was informed that my room was not ready. I told the desk clerk that it was not a problem, because we were leaving immediately for Mass and dinner, but they upgraded my room. My single bed in a small room became two king sized beds in a large room with several upholstered chairs. This turned out to be a boon.


We were attending the Mass of All Saints in what is now called the Extraordinary Form at St John Cantius. This was, of course, before Fr Phillips founded the Canons Regular, but it was already an oasis of Tradition in Chicago.

It was a Solemn High Mass, one of only two or three such that I've been privileged to hear, and was the first Solemn High Mass I'd ever experienced, my previous attendance at the TLM being in small, country Parishes prior to and during the Council, weekday Low Masses, and the one grudgingly granted Low Mass at the St Lawrence Student Centre at the University of Kansas that I mentioned above.

It was glorious! And because it was All Saints Day, the side Altars were covered with all of the precious relics of the Saints that the Parish possessed for the veneration of the Faithful. It was a beautiful experience, and one which I will never forget. 


After Mass we adjourned to a restaurant called Das Deutsche Ehre for a German dinner. The sauerbraten was delicious, but for me the high point was that I was seated with Michael Davies (R+I+P), the well known writer and lay theologian, who was shortly to become the President of the International Federation Una Voce.


In my dealings with foreign groups and individuals, I had come across a review called The Scorpion, a journal of the Nouvelle Droit, a pagan, neo-fascist movement. One of the writers for the review was Adrian Davies. I had written him, asking if he was related to Michael. He replied that he was Michael's son.

So, as we were eating dinner, I asked Michael what he thought of what Adrian was doing. He rolled his eyes and indicated that he didn't know and didn't want to know!

After dinner, we returned to the hotel. 
However, since there were no cell phones in those days, and because of the flight delay, Mass, and dinner, I'd had no chance to call my wife. By the time I called, she was glued to the TV watching WGN Chicago on cable, expecting to hear news of a Chicago bound flight crashing!

One of the fellows, upon seeing my upgraded room, not quite a suite, but almost, announced, 'Weismiller's room is party central', and so it became.

The next day, Saturday, the conference met in the hotel. The opening speaker started his speech with the words, 'The Counter Revolution begins here!'. I doubt that he was familiar with the first meeting of the Industrial Workers of the World, an anarcho-syndicalist labour union, held in the same city in 1905, which was opened by Big Bill Haywood saying, 'the revolution begins here!'

He introduced Mr Davies, who gave a talk entitled, 'The Reign of Christ the King'. Whilst you won't hear his wonderful Welsh-English accent, you can read the transcript here, or you can hear it read on YouTube here, but not by Mr Davies.

I gave my talk on Christ the King and Monarchy and listened to some very good presentations from other speakers. The high point of my day was assisting at the Mass of Fr Nicholas Gruner (R+I+P), the 'Fatima Priest', and having lunch with him. To all of his detractors, I say, 'Fie!' He was one of the holiest and most humble Priests I have ever been privileged to know.

In the afternoon I was supposed to be on a panel discussion of the subject of my talk. Unfortunately, there was some confusion, and the organisers rearranged the panels and it became a panel on monarchy in general. One of the panel members was John F. McManus, President of the John Birch Society. 

Whilst I and other panel members were pointing out the Freemasonic, deist, and anti-Catholic character of the US Constitution, he was pounding the old 'the US was founded as a Christian nation' line. Ignoring, of course, the fact that there were very few Christians amongst the 'Founding Fathers'. The rest of us pointed out how the Constitution violates the Magisterium of the Church on several points. He just kept blathering on.

Finally, I brought up the Treaty with the Bey of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams and confirmed by the Senate in 1797 by a unanimous vote. It was read aloud to the Senate before the vote, so I don't think there's any doubt that they knew and approved of Article 11 which states, 

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;...
When I pointed out that Article 6, Paragraph 2, of the US Constitution states, 'all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land...', he tried to argue that it had been changed, that that clause was not in the next treaty made with Tripoli. I chuckled, and pointed out that there was no need to include it in subsequent treaties, the point had already been made!

After the talks and a quick supper, my room did, indeed, become 'party central'. Someone had brought ample wine, and Charles Coulombe (just an attendee, not a speaker, since he was still relatively unknown), Gary Potter, Roy Moore, several others, and I gathered to solve the world's problems in a Catholic fashion! Unfortunately, Mr Davies, an American football fan, couldn't make it because he was at a Bear's game! We definitely came up with the solutions, if only we could convince the elites (in both State and Church, unfortunately) to implement our brilliant ideas!

We finally broke it off quite late, despite the fact that we all had to be up for Mass in the morning. Sunday's Mass was in a convent chapel, austere but beautiful in it's own way. We then adjourned to a community college campus for more talks. That ended early enough that we moved to a Knights of Columbus hall, if I remember correctly, in a Polish neighbourhood. Various Traditional organisations and vendors had booths set up. 

I was a poor man, and I'd brought only enough money for emergencies, so I spent most of my time just looking. However, the fine people at Rose Scapular gave me the first Five Fold Scapular I ever had (I was enrolled in all five shortly after getting home). And Father Gruner's Fatima Crusader gave me a couple of books for nothing when I indicated I'd love to read them but couldn't afford them.

At the end of the day, the wives of the Knights of the Council gave us a delicious Polish dinner. Then we went back to the hotel, where the gathering of Saturday night was repeated, tho' with fewer people.

Monday, we all flew back home, with my flight being absolutely uneventful. Upon getting home, I discovered, to my dismay, that the furnace in our house had gone out, and my Dear Wife had no idea how to relight it. Whilst I had been enjoying myself, out of reach of phones (again, no cell phones yet!), she and the children had been shivering.

It was that weekend, the Traditional Masses,the talks, and the long chinwags with solid Catholic Traditionalists and Integralists that tipped me over into full blown Traditionalism and Integralism, where I have remained ever since. I will never forget that counter-revolutionary weekend in Chicago!

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