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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

FSSP Seminarian Confronts Remnant over Juventutem

I received this forwarded e-mail a couple of hours ago with the request to post it.

Background: The Remnant is a traditionalist newspaper where, in a recent edition, there appeared a negative portrayal of Juventutem and World Youth Day, written by a reporter who apparently played fast and loose with certain facts and photo captions. (I have not seen the article in question as I do not read the newspaper in question.) Below is FSSP seminarian Robert Martin's attempt to set things straight, while affirming the facts that the reporter got right.
From a FSSP seminarian who attended WYD w/Juventutem. With permission to forward from St. Josephs in Richmond.

+AMDG

Dear friends and family,

First, let me apologize for not contacting you all for quite some time. Since returning to seminary, I've been quite busy as I've been promoted to be the no. 2 MC in the seminary, which meant I had a lot of work to do for last week's Pontifical Mass with conferral of tonsure (please pray for the eight men who were tonsured and received the cassock). Things have gotten back to normal this week, so now I'm in the midst of writing letters and thank-you notes. Second, I thank all of you who sponsored me in sending me to Germany for the Juventutem program. I've been compiling pictures from the Juventutem program, which ran in conjunction with World Youth Day in Cologne. This was a wonderful experience for me, because not only did I get to see some wonderful places and participate in some beautiful liturgies, but it was also a great joy to meet my fellow FSSP brothers in Europe. There was truly a sense of camaraderie among us, even though most of us had never met before.

During the first week of the program, we based our operations at the FSSP seminary in Wigratzbad, which is in southern Germany, near the Austrian and Swiss borders. Pilgrims had the option of touring churches and sightseeing for the week or participating in the St. George Walk, which was a three or four day walking pilgrimage through the countryside around Wigratzbad.

During the second week, we went to Dusseldorf, which is one of the three cities that hosted World Youth Day activities (it is an half-hour from Cologne). Juventutem was allowed use of St. Antonius parish church, which is very large and holds about a thousand people. There, we had some beautiful liturgies and heard some heavenly music. The second week culminated in the Papal Mass at Marienfield near Cologne.

I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. I have put up a gallery, which you can see by clicking on the link below:

http://www.filehigh.com/viewgallery.php?f=4623

Finally, to give you a better sense of what the Juventutem program was like, I'm attaching a letter I wrote to a Catholic journalist in response to an article he wrote about WYD which appeared in The Remnant Newspaper. In the article, this journalist made an extremely unfair characterization of Juventutem. Hopefully my response gives you an idea of how edifying I found the whole Juventutem experience to be. The letter is attached below.

In Christ through Mary,
Rob Martin, FSSP



Dear Mr. -------

I wish to comment on your recent column in the Remnant pertaining to World Youth Day 2005. While I agree with your assessment of the sad state of affairs in the Church (particularly with the problems of ecumenism) and the scandalous nature of many events that are sponsored by WYD organizers, I must voice my great disappointment in your two-paragraph mistreatment of the Juventutem program.

It is obvious to me that you did not attend Juventutem functions. If you had, you would have seen that at most of the public Masses offered in conjunction with Juventutem, offered daily over the course of two weeks, the attendance was closer to 900 to 1000, rather than the meager figure of 300 which you gave in your article. According to the organizers, there were approximately 900 youths directly enrolled in the Juventutem program. Just looking around, I thought the number was closer to 1000. Most of these youths were with Juventutem for the whole two weeks, which included a week in Wigratzbad and surrounding areas and a week in Dusseldorf (where we had use of a very large parish church, St. Antonius, which probably seats close to 1000), one of the three cities in the diocese of Cologne where WYD activities took place.

At the Masses offered in Dusseldorf, the number of faithful probably exceeded 1000, because I noticed many young people attending these Masses who did not seem familiar with the traditional Mass. I know because I held the paten for several different priests as they distributed communion (there were usually around eight or so priests distributing communion at these Masses), and I noticed many of the faithful saying "Amen" when presented with the Sacred Host, or even trying to receive in the hand (needless to say, they were politely made to receive on the tongue). Why do I mention this? Because this is exactly what we, the participants of Juventutem, were aiming for: to expose the youth gathered at WYD to the glories of the traditional Mass, and to do our best to show them what it means to be an authentic Catholic. In fact, those priests who led the organizational efforts of Juventutem made it explicitly clear to the participants that this was to be our principal aim.

The response of the Juventutem youth was positively edifying. Many offered their talents as singers, rehearsing one to two hours a day. The result was beautiful sacred music, the likes of which I have only rarely encountered at Tridentine parish Masses back in the United States. In addition, the young people in the pews were as devout as any adults I have ever seen at a traditional parish. They were silent, prayerful, and reverent, and they sang hymns with great zeal (again, more so than I have ever witnessed in a parish setting).

Our influence extended beyond the confines of our own program. Unfortunately, as you pointed out in your article, there were many so-called Catholic organizations at World Youth Day who were expressing positively un-Catholic beliefs. One such organization was distributing literature near the FSSP's parish church in Cologne. A group of our Spanish participants took all of their literature and disposed of it appropriately. Other participants engaged in debates with members of these organizations to convince them of the truth of the Church's teachings.

Indeed, the response of our participants to the proponents of immorality was zealous, perhaps even to a fault. As our group passed a pro-contraception advertisement in one of the subway stations, several Juventutem participants proceeded to deface the advertisement, rendering it illegible. I'm not sure about the morality of such an action, but we can certainly say that these young Catholics are militant in their hatred of error and sin.

Even at the papal Mass, the one Novus Ordo liturgical event we attended, we did our best to set a good example (although many participants opted not to go at all, but rather attend private Tridentine Masses, instead). As soon as the Mass began, many of the young women put on their veils. The Juventutem youth participated silently and with devotion, while all around us, I saw people walking around and chatting. It appeared to me that these devout young people must have been making acts of reparation the whole time, as they seemed visibly saddened by the lack of reverence among many of their fellow Catholics. At communion time, Juventutem participants lined up, knelt on the ground, and received communion on the tongue from a priest assisted by a seminarian with a paten. It was certainly a sign of contradiction. The circumstances of the papal Mass were unfortunate, but I believe the Juventutem youth tried their best to make the best out of a bad situation. I think they must be commended for trying.

Contrary to what you seem to suggest in your article, there was no other formal participation with WYD activities, aside from the papal Mass. We did not attend any of the catechesis sessions (we held our own), we did not attend any of their concerts (we had our own sacred music concert one night, interspersed with spiritual meditations given by various priests throughout the musical pieces), and I do not know of one instance of Juventutem participants engaging in scandalous behavior.

So what was the result of our efforts? Only God knows what seeds may have been planted. We do know that there were many non-traditionalists who attended our Masses. We also know that several Juventutem participants were approached by locals and WYD participants, commenting about the beauty of the liturgy and the devotion of the young people in attendance, and even mentioning that it brought them to tears. Though we cannot tell the extent of Juventutem's influence at WYD, we are confident that God will bring forth much good fruit as a result of our efforts. Our Lord said, "You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). We, as Catholics who love Tradition, believe that the traditional Mass, along with authentic Catholic doctrine, is a light to the world, a candle that is to shine in the house of God, His Holy Church. Our involvement with WYD was our attempt to share that light with the rest of the Church. There are many young Catholics who don't even know about the traditional Mass. Who knows how many might have attended just one of our Masses and left completely changed? We sought to show the traditional Mass to the young Catholics of the world, and we did so with missionary zeal and without compromising our loyalty to Tradition. We did our best to respond to Our Lord's injunction to "let your light shine before men." I pray that God was pleased with our efforts, even if you are not.

I'd like to comment on one final aspect of your article, and that is your use of photographs. In one photograph (taken from the NY Times photo spread on WYD pilgrims), a 16-year old girl from Michigan is shown wearing a miniskirt and with cigarette in hand. The caption reads, "The New Face of Traditional Catholicism?" Is this caption trying to suggest that this girl was enrolled with the Juventutem program? That is certainly what it seems to imply. I can assure you that she was not, as I met all of the American pilgrims and got to know many of them quite well (and none of them dressed this way). Yet even if she was one of our pilgrims, would that be grounds for dismissing Juventutem (which seems to be the objective in using this photo in combination with such a caption)? Do you believe her appearance to be grounds for dismissing her as an impious young woman? One can learn a lot about a person just from his or her appearance, but there is much that remains hidden. The girl pictured may have a deep love for Jesus Christ and His Church. Perhaps no one has ever spoken to her about dressing more modestly, but she might respond well if it were brought up. It appears that she smokes (which is not necessarily sinful in itself), but maybe only very infrequently. In short, I think there is something very un-Christian in using such a propaganda technique. It's like saying, "Look at this atrocious creature! She is supposed to be Catholic?" It does not seem to reflect a zeal for the salvation of souls, but rather a contempt for misled souls. When you hold up this girl's picture for mockery in such a way, are you loving her as Christ loves her? Do you think she must be a great sinner because of her appearance? Then say so, and then encourage your readers to pray for her.

In conclusion, I suggest that you be more honest and reasonable in your reporting, rather than appealing to emotion by using polemical terminology like "militant Indultarians." That is not how a Christian journalist should write. He should write like a gentleman, rational and courteous. Your two paragraphs on Juventutem are neither.

You are in my prayers. Please pray for me.

In Christ through Mary,
Rob Martin, FSSP

Comments [6]

Blogger Perpétua:

What a fine young man our Lord has called to His Priesthood - what a fine young man for saying 'yes' :) Hooray! :) Tu es semper in orationibus meis :)

I refer the gentleman journalist in question to my liturgical scowl photograph - I would be most happy to share my feelings with him, it would be a most interesting discussion :)

Wed Sep 28, 07:09:00 AM GMT  
Blogger chattr:

Is anyone else having a problem when visiting the filehigh.com gallery?

When I first went to the gallery clicked on a thumbnail to view an image full size, another browser window opened and tried to load a page not at a named domain, but at a bare IP address of 70.86.58.61 .

When that addressed started to load in the new browser window, my Firefox session froze. I worked around the problem, but wonder whether others have had the same experience.

Work around is at

http://inillotempore.com/blog/pivot/entry.php?id=290#body

Wed Sep 28, 11:19:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Liturgeist:

:-). Go Abbe Rob!

Wed Sep 28, 03:26:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

Very good. (Though I don't remember any of us receiving Communion at Marienfeld?) I don't feel I live up to such kindly description! But if I did, it would be an even worse sign, I suppose.

Who runs The Remnant?

Thu Sep 29, 09:44:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Aristotle:

Boeciana: According to their history page, The Remnant is run by a man whose family has been involved in Catholic newspaper publishing in the United States since the 1860s. A relative of his edits another Catholic newspaper, The Wanderer.

Thu Sep 29, 01:22:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Brownthing:

That is wonderful!
And so the Remnant ran a disparaging piece, did it, hmmmmmm.

Thu Sep 29, 08:17:00 PM GMT  

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