Ternaries and Trinities
Bailiwick and I are moving in a new direction.
I had an odd upbringing, from a religious point of view, in that when I was a young child my father was a lay leader with the Society of St. Pius X, a Catholic dissident group, founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, that continued to ordain priests and hold Latin or “Tridentine” masses after Vatican II (1962-1965) had directed priests to say Mass in the vernacular language of the countries in which they ministered.
I think my parents must have contributed financially to the building of a church to house the congregation for Latin masses celebrated by the priests: Holy Nativity Roman Catholic Church, located along Moorestown Road in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
The church was completed in 1979, when I was five or six years old. [Correction 3/30/22 - I thought the church was built in 1979, based on deed information I found online. Just learned from a 2002 Morning Call article that the church was built in 1935, but the SSPX congregation bought it in 1977 and celebrated their first Latin Mass on Sept. 18, 1977.]
My earliest childhood memories include getting up very early in the morning in wintertime with my parents and three older siblings, putting on a white blouse, a wool plaid skirt and itchy wool tights, skipping breakfast (fasting before Communion), piling into our family’s red Volkswagen bus, which had no heat and old scraps of carpet covering the metal floor, and driving from our house in Allentown to the church in Nazareth.
There, I would sit and stand and kneel and listen to the priest and the parishioners say the Latin words, and watch him perform the rituals, and pray with my parents and sisters and brother. I spent those hours looking at the concrete floor under the kneeling benches, and waiting impatiently for the final words of the Mass — the few words I recognized at that young age: “Ite, missa est.”
Go, Mass has ended. Then followed the delight of breaking the fast, eating donuts in the church basement while the grown-ups drank coffee from big stainless steel urns.
I had my first confession and my First Holy Communion preparation at that church, receiving the sacrament of First Holy Communion from Archbishop Lefebvre in Spring 1981.
My brother served as an altar boy, and my sisters participated in the May Queen ceremonies.
Later, after my older siblings had left for college, there was a rift within the Holy Nativity congregation. For awhile, we worshipped in a conference room at the Holiday Inn in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, using a folding altar that my father helped to build, that was kept in our basement between services, draped in altar coverings that my mother laundered each week.
When the society leaders were excommunicated in the late 1980s, the congregation we had been attending fell apart before I could go through Confirmation. My parents marriage also hit a rough patch, and I spent a couple of years attending Episcopalian services with my mother.
I went to college, met the man I would later marry, and served as president of the Penn State Students for Life club, which worked to protect unborn children from abortion. I organized campus demonstrations and wrote essays for the student newspapers.
I studied Philosophy and Natural Sciences, trying to approximate the Great Books curriculum at St. John’s College in Annapolis, which was financially out of reach. I read Plato and Socrates, St. Augustine and St. Aquinas, Husserl and Heidegger: the Ancients, the Medievals and the Moderns. I got very interested in social and political philosophy, and my views on many issues moved away from traditionally conservative views, toward liberal and “social justice” views. During my three years at Penn State, I attended one or two Catholic services at the campus Catholic center.
After graduation, I moved to Massachusetts to work as a reporter, and after a year, I moved to Boston to enter a doctoral program in Philosophy at Boston College, a Jesuit university. But I only lasted one semester; after taking a class with feminist theologian Mary Daly and other things happened in my personal life, I realized I wanted to be with the man I loved and raise children with him.
After I moved to Tucson, Arizona, to join my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and got pregnant and gave birth to our first child, we briefly attended English-and-Spanish Catholic services. Then we moved to New York City (just before the terror attacks of September 11, 2001).
As George W. Bush moved the country toward war with Afghanistan and Iraq, we began attending lectures at Unitarian-Universalist congregations, where speakers including one of the Berrigan brothers gave voice to the concerns of anti-war people coming from many different spiritual traditions.
This was also around the time that the full extent of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse of children and coverups and denials by church authorities became widely understood all around the world, a betrayal that lead to widespread disgust and a turning away from the church by millions.
In 2003, my father gave me a copy of Malachi Martin’s The Keys of This Blood. I read it, and then tucked it away on a bookshelf.
Our admiration for the eclectic traditions and social justice work of the Unitarian-Universalists carried us through the next seven or eight years, while we lived in North Plainfield, New Jersey and were active members of the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield.
We taught Sunday school, helped at church suppers, and I chaired the social justice committee at FUSP, organizing events and trying to live my moral values. This went right up to the point of one cold winter night, bringing home a homeless woman named Maria who sheltered in an unused covered doorway on the stone steps of the stone church, spoke only Spanish, and struggled with mental illness.
After a few nights at our apartment, I took her to a mental health inpatient clinic, but she didn’t stay more than a few days, because she had no money and no health insurance. In my memory, the next time she appeared on the doorstep, the other members called the police to have her moved along. I don’t know the exact sequence of events, I may remember wrong. But the result was that I realized I had less in common with the other members of the congregation than I had previously believed.
Shortly after that, we moved our family to State College, Pennsylvania, and after a few visits to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, we kept our distance from organized religions altogether.
Following my interest in the peak oil writing of John Michael Greer, who also served as the Archdruid of an American druidry organization, I read and explored nature religious rituals and beliefs for a few years. I read about Taoism and Buddhism.
My father passed away in 2017, and I put a memorial stone in my backyard raspberry patch, bearing the words:
“Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.”
The Breton Fisherman’s prayer, a needlepoint of which still hangs on the wall in my mother’s kitchen.
A few months ago, I realized that druidry wasn’t the spiritual path for me, and also came across a comment thread at one of Greer’s websites in which someone observed that the Catholic Latin Mass as celebrated for centuries, before Vatican II, is one of the most powerful white magic rituals in the world.
As the human world has descended into dark evil during these last two years of dehumanization through government-led and government-sanctioned lies and medicalized totalitarianism, protection from and banishment of evil — and the promulgation of good to thwart evil — have both come to preoccupy me a great deal.
In January, I attended a meeting of FreePA in York, to connect with other Americans increasingly worried and angry about tyrannical and profoundly immoral government-driven corporate intrusion into private, personal lives and liberties. A speaker at that meeting mentioned the name of a psychologist who was helping others process the cultural and spiritual collapse, and after contacting her, and getting the name of another psychologist who had more available time, I started meeting online with him. His viewpoints were strongly shaped by his Christian beliefs.
In March I joined Gab, at which many users are open and joyous about their Christian beliefs and how those beliefs shape their lives and inform their decisions.
Over those months - roughly May to July this year - my late father’s presence in my imagination grew. I began reading the Bible, pretty much for the first time (I think I tried once before in my early 20s, bogged down in Numbers and gave up).
From there, I reconnected a month or so ago with the rosary, and got some books of daily reflections by St. Francis and St. Augustine. And then in emailing with my mother — with whom I have a difficult and painful relationship — I learned that she had recently attended a Latin Mass in the Allentown area.
I was surprised. I thought they were banned. But some online research turned up the information that Pope Benedict XVI, who served from 2005 to 2013, explicitly authorized and endorsed Latin Mass celebrations by Catholic priests in 2007 through a papal letter called Summorum Pontificum. With a little more research, I learned that the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated once each month in Centre County, at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Bellefonte, by priests who travel from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe.
Last Sunday, I attended. Being there, with the smell of incense and the familiar motions and the Latin syllables rising from deep memory, was strange for lots of reasons.
But it was powerful and I will continue attending and trying to learn more. Afterward, reading the church bulletin, I learned about local radio stations that broadcast Catholic programs and have been saying the rosary along with the radio programs one or two times a day.
We live in a time of enormous fear.
It is worsened by the media we consume.
Some people are terrified of Covid and virus-caused death, watching the case numbers, hospitalization numbers and death numbers rise and fall, and listening to the authorized narratives about spread and containment and the promise of “safe” and “effective” novel and experimental “vaccines” as salvation.
For those who have already taken one or more doses — whether freely, with informed consent, out of a sincere risk-benefit analysis based on their personal medical situations, or whether in ignorance, or under duress and coercion — there is now a growing fear of the suffering, pain and death they and their loved ones might experience as the medium and long-term effects come more sharply into personal and public focus. They may now be starting to explore sources of information that have been blocked from most mainstream platforms.
Others, who started considering dissenting information earlier, have not taken any doses, are not afraid of Covid. We see it as a normal human respiratory/vascular disease from which most people, with healthy immune systems, recover completely, and which takes away people already sick enough, or old enough, to be near death. We see Covid as one among many risks that humans confront in the normal process of living a human life circumscribed inevitably by mortality.
Many of us are, however, terrified of being forced to choose — and watching our loved ones be forced to choose — between seeking truth, exercising reason and medical and bodily autonomy, honoring the dignity and integrity of the human individual, following our consciences and upholding our religious faith and moral values on the one hand, and holding onto right livelihoods and educational opportunities on the other.
We are terrified of the political maelstrom that finds the American government coercing private businesses — through financial bribes and threats of financial reprisals — to coerce individuals to take experimental injections that are by-now-obviously deadly on their own for many previously healthy people, and also demonstrably useless for stopping Covid infections and transmission.
We are terrified of becoming complicit in evil, and damning our eternal souls to hell.
All while cheap, safe treatments exist and are withheld from the sick by their own governments, and doctors and nurses prepared to care for the sick compassionately and safely using these medicines are blocked and fired from doing that lifesaving work by their own governments.
We are terrified by the prospect of continuing to live in a web of lies and injustice still being spun and promoted and imposed to this day by secular authorities, despite all the evidence of the intrinsic harmfulness and infection-control-ineffectuality of the inoculations.
We are terrified by the seeming impossibility of finding the exit from this nightmare as it becomes clearer each day that the war we are in is not a medicinal war with a virus.
We are in a spiritual war between good and evil. Our government leaders are not simply ignorant, or innocently mistaken, or even innocently silent bystanders — those who do not speak up to protect and defend human dignity and free will.
They are engaged in evil acts of commission and omission.
However you conceive of the Divine, unless you worship Satan, God doesn’t condone or advocate for psychological and physical torture, medicalized forcible rape or killing. God doesn’t condone throwing people out of work and throwing their lives into chaos to increase profits or expand social control.
Fear on all sides. Where is the ternary? Where is the mid-point in which we can find refuge and resolution and ways to regain confidence and move forward with living life?
The ternary is faith in God, and God’s plans for the world and its people.
So last night, I pulled the book my father gave me in 2003 off the shelf and started reading it again.
Published in 1990, The Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin is a detailed account of the three-way spiritual battle being fought on the geopolitical battlefield of all our lives, between Leninist communism, corporate globalism and the Catholic Church, as it was fought by Pope John Paul II.
So, pulling together the threads of my early childhood religious training, my philosophy and natural sciences studies, and my young adult vocations of motherhood, journalism (reporter and blogger), law (paralegal) and community organizing, I’m setting out on my mid- to late-adult path.
What that means for Bailiwick is that it will, until God steers me in a different direction, be a place where I write and post essays about geopolitics from a Catholic perspective.
At first, and probably for several years, it will be essays inspired by readings of Martin’s book, including efforts to research and pull into the writing information about developments in the spiritual battle that have taken place since 1990, when Martin published his work.
I plan to post the essays here, and also at a new Dreamwidth site that will include a comment section so there can be moderated discussion of the ideas and issues for anyone interested in such discussions.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.