A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about one Deacon Sandy Sites wherein he talks rather pridefully about the kind of liturgy his parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, has. The liturgy he extols is far from what is called for in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and all of the other documents that the Church has given us over the course of several centuries.
In the spirit of fraternal charity, I wrote to Deacon Sandy to express my concern about the plethora of liturgical abuses that he seems to promote in his video. I received a very tacit response thanking me for my comments. That is all well and good; however, nothing has changed. In fact, things have gotten worse.
In the homily that he preached for the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Deacon Sandy uses the video screen to ridicule Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, taking a cheap shot at the retired pontiff to make a rather sorry point. Deacon Sandy resorts to ridicule, perpetuating the serious misunderstanding of why Pope Benedict wore the red shoes.
He accuses Benedict of being superficial; however, the one who rightly deserves that accusation is Deacon Sandy himself. If he does not understand basic theology, how can he comprehend the rich symbolism behind what a Pope wears and does?
Red is the color of martyrdom. It is also the color of suffering. It the color of one who is carrying the weight of the Church on his shoulders. Perhaps Deacon Sandy might want to read this passage from Isaiah, one that is used during the Stations of the Cross when referring to the Second Fall of Christ:
2 Why is thy apparel red,
and thy garments like his that treads in the wine press?
3 “I have trodden the wine press alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments,
and I have stained all my raiment.
Blood is the color of the Passion. Ultimately, the Pope, as the Vicar of Christ, trods the wine press alone. Those red shoes symbolize the Holy Father's willingness to give his own lifeblood for the sake of the Church, just as St. Peter did before him, just as Christ did.
It would also do well for Deacon Sandy to ponder and pray over the words that the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his meditations for the 2005 Stations of the Cross:
What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).
Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.
The meditation seems to me to describe the state of things at Good Shepherd and at other places that do not respect the sacred nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The parish seems to celebrate itself without even realizing Christ is there. Deacon Sandy seems to think that poking fun at Benedict will garner him some laughs, as though he were practicing to stand in for Jimmy Fallon or David Letterman. It, unfortunately, shows his true colors, and they are not hues of red.
Deacon Sandy pulled down his video, but, others have copied it in the hopes that he will see the error of his ways. He lamented to our friends at the Creative Minority that he was faced with ridicule. Might I remind Deacon Sandy that he chose to air his laundry on a VERY PUBLIC forum, YouTube. He is the one who is bringing attention to himself and to the very sad state of affairs in his parish.
May the Lord have mercy on him and on those who joined in on the jeering. Deacon Sandy talks about "not worrying about clothing", but, he neglects the supreme example that Jesus showed us, as Benedict notes in his reflection on the 10th Station:
Jesus is stripped of his garments. Clothing gives a man his social position; it gives him his place in society, it makes him someone. His public stripping means that Jesus is no longer anything at all, he is simply an outcast, despised by all alike. The moment of the stripping reminds us of the expulsion from Paradise: God's splendor has fallen away from man, who now stands naked and exposed, unclad and ashamed. And so Jesus once more takes on the condition of fallen man. Stripped of his garments, he reminds us that we have all lost the "first garment" that is God's splendor. At the foot of the Cross, the soldiers draw lots to divide his paltry possessions, his clothes. The Evangelists describe the scene with words drawn from Psalm 22:19; by doing so they tell us the same thing that Jesus would tell his disciples on the road to Emmaus: that everything takes place "according to the Scriptures". Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan. The Lord passes through all the stages and steps of man's fall from grace, yet each of these steps, for all its bitterness, becomes a step towards our redemption: this is how he carries home the lost sheep. Let us not forget that John says that lots were drawn for Jesus' tunic, "woven without seam from top to bottom" (Jn 19:23). We may consider this as a reference to the High Priest's robe, which was "woven from a single thread", without stitching (Fl. Josephus, a III, 161). For he, the Crucified One, is the true High Priest.
Oh, and about that linen cassock that Deacon Sandy ridicules Benedict for wearing? It is the proper attire for a high priest. I believe that Deacon Sandy may have missed that crucial detail, especially since the man he was berating was the High Priest and Chief Shepherd of the Church on Earth.