Parallel Universes


Do you know the concept? Some historical incident went differently than it did, and a science fiction author goes to town on the possibilities opened up from it. Ward Moore’s time traveller from a 1950’s science commune in the impoverished US gets his butt caught during Gettysburg, resulting in an argument in which a confederate officer gets killed. He escapes the scene, only to realize the dead Rebel’s great grand-daughter invented his time machine. To the historian’s shock, the North emerges triumphant from the War Between The States and Everything Changed. Great book, by the way.

I was thinking about that during my busy day today. Drive Brit to school, then drive my wife to school. Back to school myself to catch up on our four school liturgies in the pipeline. Lunch with a colleague, back for a staff meeting. After Brit gets out of school drive to my wife’s school to pick her up, in the process, forgetting about my ten-minute appointment in church. Off to Target to pick up extra school supplies for my wife’s botany course. Needless to say the Liturgical Chef prepared a simple dinner of grilled tuna sandwiches with vanilla pears. No gratins. No tasty stir-fry. No brownies for dessert.

Then I noticed a simple comment on another blog about the Tridentine Mass surfaced the usual suspects with the usual fussing. I repeat it here for y’all:

“The limited use of the 1962 Rite is a boon in disguise for traditionalists. A universal permission for that Rite would guarantee a significant drop in quality of those Masses where prayed. As it is, in large cities, all eggs can be put into one basket, as it were. If you had the Tridentine Mass groups splintered into various sympathetic parishes, it would weaken these groups and dilute the witness they try to provide.”

I thought about another alternate timeline. What if some time travelling RadTrad knocked off Father Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli the day after his ordination in 1905. Vatican II never happened. What would I be doing now?

I wouldn’t be worried about missing that meeting at 3PM today. I wouldn’t be concerned that I received identical music lists from the two music teachers for the school Masses tomorrow (grades 6-8) and Thursday (grades 2-5). I wouldn’t have had that heart-to-heart at the Jerusalem Cafe.

I would be preparing bits of chant for the student choirs of the school. I’d be thinking how my musical resources of the parish are otherwise mostly concentrated in on High Mass on Sunday, and I wouldn’t be much concerned about the other five Masses. Maybe I’d be putting together a Requiem setting for a funeral choir. My life would be lots simpler. More music. Less thinking. My family would’ve had a more substantial meal on the table tonight.

The upshoot of it all is this: traditionalist Catholics can bemoan their losses and yearn for the day when the world will be Tridentine. I think they should be pleased with what they have: a surefire formula for success. Most indult communities don’t have to worry about schools, funerals, weddings, daily or Sunday Masses. Plural, that is. One per week. That’s it.

If Kansas City Catholics had five or six parishes and priests sympathetic to their worship sensibilities, instead of one community of two to three hundred, there would be a half-dozen Masses populated by forty to sixty people. It would be divided along old lines: northside, plaza, south city, north suburbs, east suburbs, etc.. They’d have to actually find six musicians and six choirs that knew Latin, not to mention six priests who could pull off the 1962 Missal prayerfully. Were I a cruel person, I’d say, “Sure. Let ‘em have all the 1962 Masses they want.” Then I’d wait for all the little Tridentine boats to sink.

We have the present God gives us. There is no what-if. What-if is a fiction, a diversion. At its worst, it draws our energy and seduces our attention from the tasks at hand in the here-and-now: doing our very best for Christ and the Gospel with what we have at hand. There’s no time to bother wishing ill fortune on people. Nor harboring grudges that make us ponder, “What if …” and imagining the worst for our adversaries.

It’s a busy time, but I’m glad I’m in it. I should have substantially more time tomorrow to do something nice with chorizo, rice, tomatoes, and maybe even some brownies.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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