In the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller stars as a daydreaming nobody working at Life magazine. Based on the 1939 American classic short story of the same name, the story recounts how an average individual about to lose his less-than-epic job stumbles into an exciting adventure. Often blurring the line between reality and fantasy, even Walter Mitty cannot always tell fact from fiction!
This represents a striking departure from the original short story. The written version leaves Walter Mitty as a simple daydreamer aimlessly strolling through life. This major discrepancy between the narratives serves a striking parallel of Catholicism in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Just as the film and literary version of Walter Mitty present us with a slight variation on the same character, we have seen a shift in the approach taken by traditional Catholics in Milwaukee over the past few years. For years, traditional Catholics have spent their time dreaming that the Archdiocese would simply turn itself around. Those Walter Mittys have been replaced with their Ben Stiller counterparts. Half-dreaming Milwaukee tradvangelizers (tradition + evangelizers = tradvangelizers; H/T Paul Schultz) have gone from simply dreaming of a daily Solemn High Mass in every parish to effecting real reform.
Although not nearly as exciting, fifty years of pent-up enthusiasm are getting ready to make their mark on the Archdiocese. Emboldened by a thorough reading of the Second Vatican Council, Milwaukee Catholics have realized that many of the so-called “reforms” not only blatantly disregard the Second Vatican Council but also violate it. Understanding the delicacy of correcting others out of and with a true sense of charity, Milwaukee Catholics have channeled their brave enthusiasm into humble love for neighbor. What will these signs look like in the coming years?
- Gregorian chant reclaiming its rightful place
- Latin being used in the Novus Ordo
- Communion received kneeling and on the tongue
- Ad Orientem (or the Benedictine arrangement) entering more parishes
- Re-sacramentalization in the Church with more occasions for confession
- Gregorian or Tridentine Masses seeing more usage
None of these are the daring reforms dreamt of by the Walter Mitty Catholics, but they sure come off as fighting words in Cream City! Where are we seeing these changes, you ask? What follows is a short list of Cream City heroes humbly serving God and neighbor in an effort to restore reverence to the Almighty.
First up is a local school. Some of the parents, likely with a traditional bent, requested that there be a kneeler during school Masses. Was there widespread revolt? Did the children storm the principal’s office? No. Someone put the kneeler there, and a priest during Mass even explained why it was a tragedy that the Church lost its altar rails. One small step for a city, one giant leap toward deeper reverence for God. This reform was previously adopted by Pope Benedict XVI for Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and last I knew was still followed by Pope Francis.
Next up, a church in our archdiocese chose to have its Christmas Mass in Latin. Parishioners had been asking for it, and the pastor acquiesced. Unfortunately, there was nothing exciting here. Just a minor step toward following Vatican II. (Note: A careful reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium shows that the vernacular may simply be extended in the Roman Rite. Moreover, the usage of Latin was to remain in place. This begs the question: which follows Vatican II more, the average Vetus Ordo or Novus Ordo?)
Rounding out the line-up is an initiative called Cor Jesu. I doubt any of the leaders would call themselves traditionalists; nevertheless, they have made some exceptional progress promoting the Sacrament of Penance and Eucharistic Adoration. Even more edifying still is the use of Gregorian chant. Although I am not on the same page with all of their liturgical activities, I cannot help but be excited from these restorations. Kudos to them.
There you have it! A few Cream City Walter Mittys doing some glorious things for the Savior Who did so much more. Mountains may not have moved. Lake Michigan did not part. However, that respect which Jesus Christ is owed as King was amplified in each case. Feel free to share to any good news you have of liturgical reform you have seen in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.