In favor of traditional Catholic spirituality

Shh Silent Retreat

UPDATE April 2017: A friend alerted me that a Facebook page associated with Fr Relyea is sharing this post. I want to point out it was from 2012. Fr Relyea is no longer in the Diocese of Madison, he was given a good chance to succeed ultimately it grew obvious that was not going to work, and sadly it is my understanding he may not have any official ministry in the Church at this time, so if that is the case I would not recommend such a retreat now [UPDATE of my update: Since some had been bothered by my comment which was based on no one seeming to know what diocese or institute of consecrated life he was incardinated in, I inquired to the Vicar General of the Diocese of Madison, WI who responded that although he is not aware of Fr Relyea’s current status, Fr Relyea had faculties through the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate during the time he was in the Diocese of Madison, and barring anything to the contrary that would presumably still be the case. I was very relieved and glad to hear this!]. Anyone could see he is a sincere man; I am a repentant sinner and do penance too so I loved him and was and continue to be inspired by him even while I saw rough edges. I hope he is well and I pray for him.

I was fortunate to attend, a couple of weekends ago, a traditional women’s silent retreat at beautiful Durward’s Glen retreat center near Baraboo, WI. I could also accurately say traditionalist, since Father Isaac Mary Relyea celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass each day and it was a very long skirt and chapel veil wearing group of women. This human environment of modesty, dignity, silence, and Christian sincerity was in itself refreshing.

Our Lady, from the marble Holy Family sculpture at the Durward's Glen outdoor altar

But in digesting the experience, I have wanted to put the emphasis on the tremendous good of simply traditional Catholic spirituality. Although it takes slightly different forms with different emphasis, there is actually only one authentic Christian spirituality, just as there is only one Holy Spirit and one Body of Christ in which we are united.

Wild lily in the woods

In fact I want to plead, if there are seminarians or young priests who happen to read my blog, I especially want to plead to you: study and be formed by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, for your theology and spirituality, and draw on all the Evangelical Councils. It is strong, beautiful, saint-making stuff, this plain vanilla Catholicism.

Stream at Durward's Glen

It is necessary to apply the hermeneutic of continuity with Sacred Tradition to the field of spirituality. I feel that there is no particular 20th or 21st century spirituality or lay ecclesial movement or (least of all) private revelation that is “what the laity need today,” more than we need the one perennial and universal spirituality of the Fathers and Doctors. We can keep Garrigou-Lagrange. But for instance the Charismatic Movement is among the things that I don’t mind mentioning that I do not believe we have need of, and is not soundly in continuity with the universal and perennial Catholic spirituality of the Fathers and Doctors. “Interreligious spirituality” is another thing that we do not have any need of. Etc.

Little daisy flowers by the stream

I do not accuse good priests I know of not liking traditional Catholic spirituality! But I guess the thought that crossed my mind was that the priest who is considered by some to be controversial and “not Vatican II enough” is among the few who gives us satisfying helpings of this.

Stream flowing in the gorge at Durward's Glen

From my retreat notes for the third conference on Saturday–my notes, not direct quotes of Father. I am assuming he would not mind me sharing this for others’ edification:

On the sin of “human respect”.

Are you afraid to proclaim God’s truth? Do I go the way most of the theologians are going, or do I speak the truth even if alone?

One of the biggest problems today is Catholics entering into [invalid] marriage outside the Church. The majority of priests lead souls astray, out of human respect. One cannot attend such a wedding.

Pilate gave in to human respect. He didn’t want to crucify Jesus. It is a wicked sin.

John the Baptist didn’t give in to human respect. He died for the sanctity of marriage.

If you give in, you will never have peace. The Saints had peace. They didn’t give in.

Don’t run from the Cross. Run to it. Did St Paul give in to human respect?

How many babies have been slaughtered in their mothers’ wombs because of human respect? Millions.

People must refuse to go to bad movies or let their children go to bad movies, which they may be tempted to by human respect when others are going.

The obligation of confessing God before man is ignored, due to human respect.

Women, never give in to sin to your husband, the due obedience cannot require that. Many women tell him their husband wants them to wear immodest things.

One man slept on a couch 6 months after he wouldn’t go with his wife to an invalid wedding. But his marriage after that was very blessed.

It is necessary to choose between a few scoffs from men now, and the torments of demons from all eternity.

Escape from the influence of those who will one day have to acknowledge, “we scorned them, but now they are in glory and enjoy God, and we do not.” Fear not them who can kill the body, but cannot hurt the soul.

It’s a beautiful thing to serve God. Painful, but beautiful.

Durward's Glen gorge, seen from the trail above the outdoor "Holy Family" altar

In another conference, on the Eucharist, Father described a prison that hadn’t had a priest there in 15 years, yet a deacon and a layman would go in and distribute Communion to thousands each week, though none of the prisoners had access to Confession. He also says the enormous majority of people he visits in the hospital are not in the state of grace, average 25 years away from God. If a lay person comes around distributing Communion, most are too embarrassed to say they need to go to confession, and so they receive sacrilegiously.

Hole through tree

Our Lord meekly, silently, patiently bears all affronts. Let us also bear all things, charitably forgiving those who injure us. Our Lord calls us to imitate Him in all things, let us be meek and humble when people offend against us.

Pink flowers in the woods at Durward's Glen

We need grace. But when we receive Jesus we receive the author of grace. Receive with love. Petition Him for the grace to become a saint. One good Communion is enough to make you a Saint.

Durward's Glen chapel

Let us praise traditional Catholic spirituality, and all priests who let themselves be deeply educated and formed by it, and refuse what is incompatible with it.

The following were among the reading Father recommended during the course of the retreat.

The Holy Bible. Link goes to EWTN’s helpful information about different Catholic Bible versions. Click here if you want to read the New American Bible on the USCCB site.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. That link goes to a free online version translated on a protestant website. Click here if you want to buy Ignatius Press’ nicely bound yet affordable hardcover edition of the best Catholic translation of it. That’s the one to get. Makes a great gift for any Christian too.

The Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard, OSCO. That link goes to a downloadable PDF of the book. I suspect you will want the book version though, which can be purchased here. A perennially highly recommended book that Pope St Pius X kept by his bedside.

Divine Intimacy by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen. Father Isaac said everyone should read some sort of book that teaches about the spiritual life systematically and he recommends this beloved book written in the form of daily meditations.

I Want to See God and I Am A Daughter of the Church by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen. Fr Isaac also suggested this highly regarded and readable 2-volume synthesis of Carmelite spirituality–basically a course in spiritual theology according to St Teresa and St John of the Cross.

Also the writings of St Teresa, especially The Book of Her Life (autobiography) and the Interior Castle. The book editions I linked to is the best one to read (though avoid the “study editions” from the same publisher). These books are also available in older translations for free online.

St Alphonsus Liguori’s pamphlet “Uniformity With God’s Will“. That’s the free online version; if you want a booklet of it click here.

Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure. That link goes to the downloadable PDF version; or you may prefer the physical book.

Fr Isaac Mary Relyea at the beginning of Sunday Mass at the women's silent retreat at Durward's Glen

(The pictures on this post were taken during my retreat at beautiful Durward’s Glen.)

7 Responses to In favor of traditional Catholic spirituality

  1. Yes, priests and seminarians, please let us have traditional (with a small t) Catholic spirituality. Let us have the things that the great saints, and every Catholic up until 40 years ago, was allowed to have. If there is room for Charismatic Catholicism and all the other stuff, there is room for what has fed and nurtured Catholics for centuries. It’s all the rage to be “inclusive,” so include that too. All too often, “inclusive” means “jettisoning what I don’t like and replacing it with only the things I do like.” Really being inclusive means keeping what you have and making room for more. Why would we want to make the Church narrow and contemporary? After 2000 years, it ought to be big! It ought to be full of all sorts of things.

  2. Hmm, I should revise what I said to make it clearer am arguing against a false inclusiveness that would include things like “Charismatic spirituality” that are at odds with the sacred Tradition of Catholic spirituality of the Fathers and Doctors in significant ways.

    For instance, it is not right or licit to seek after extraordinary phenomena or revelations, or to unduly emphasize them and whether people have them or not, this offends God, St John of the Cross writes the most strongly about this in The Ascent of Mount Carmel as opening people to human confusion and demonic influence, and he is actually the Saint the Church looks to with the greatest authority on matters of mystical theology. No one should get involved with the “Charismatic movement.” It originates within Protestantism, very clearly entered the Church through false ecumenism, and although the charisms of the Holy Spirit can definitely be real (St John of the Cross says sometimes, even though God is displeased, He gives people what they were asking for anyway lest they become sad), the spiritual modus operandi of the “Charismatic movement” is just irreconcilable with the sound guidance of our Saints.

    There is ultimately only one authentic Christian spirituality, which takes different forms with different emphasis. We should not be inclusive of other spiritualities based on false theology or false guidance seriously opposed to the teaching of the Fathers and Doctors. They are harmful.

    A priest told me one time in regards to the Charismatic movement, we can’t be against it because the Church has recommended it in various documents. I find Pope John Paul II for instance speaking positive words to “Charismatics” in an address or two. However I have not found ANY Church approval whatsoever of specific practices of the Charismatic movement. They are referred to in specific detail only in documents originating within ecumenical dialogue with Pentecostals, which are something entirely different from magisterial documents of the Church and do not at all represent a Catholic Church promotion or approval of the practices. Since the Saints are completely clear in what they teach against the type of practices typical of the Charismatic movement, I conclude that it is completely fine for people to get together for purposes of prayer, but that what they actually need is the one universal and perennial spirituality of the Fathers and Doctors, not “Charismatic spirituality”, and I don’t agree with that priest that one cannot speak against it. I have encountered a great variety of priests who rightly warn against it.

    The Catholic Charismatic movement has made strides toward shifting away from some of the most egregious errors it received from Protestantism and to make the Mass and the Eucharist much more central to its spirituality and practice. These are developments in the right direction, however the spiritual practices basic to the whole concept of it which place a false emphasis on extraordinary phenomena and even get together with meetings oriented toward the expectation of extraordinary phenomena, and for instance even routinely voluntarily engage in “glossolalia” (speaking in tongues, which can be of human origin, can be of God, or can be demonic) in a group or in public, still are not in sound continuity with Catholic spirituality.

  3. By the way Gail, Catholic World Report linked to both our articles about the “Nuns on the Bus” and one of the commenters thought “everyone involved in breaking the story deserves a Pulitzer.” LOL!

  4. There cannot be traditional spirituality without understanding that Vatican Council II is in agreement with the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    The SSPX has accepted Vatican Council II according to the doctrinal preamble-they must ask Di Noia and Muller to accept the Council with implicit, known only to God LG 8 and LG 16

    I have been asked in a comment by I Am Not Spartacus on the website The Bellarmine Report (Cardinal Levada Muffs Pope’s Agreement with SSPX ) to explain an earlier comment of mine.

    I Am Not Spartacus
    I am sorry, but I do not understand what is being claimed here.

    Dear Mr Andrades. In plain and simple language can you write what you think the SSPX is accepting in Vatican Two and what it is objecting to in Vatican Two?


    What is the SSPX accepting in Vatican Council II?

    1. The SSPX accepts Ad Gentes 7 which says all need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water for salvation.

    What is the SSPX objecting to?

    2. The SSPX is really objecting to Lumen Gentium 8 and Lumen Gentium 16 being considered exceptions to AG 7 and to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. The SSPX assumes that LG 8 and LG 16 contradict the SSPX position on other religions and ecumenism.

    I am not Spartacus
    Are you claiming that Vatican Two essentially teaches Feenyism?

    Yes. Vatican Council II is in agreement with the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. In this sense it is in agreement with Fr. Leonard Feeney.

    If LG 8 ‘elements of sanctification’ and LG 16 (invincible ignorance and a good conscience) are considered implicit and known only to God, they do not contradict the literal interpretation of Fr. Leonard Feeney.

    There is nothing in Vatican Council II to contradict the literal interpretation of Fr.Leonard Feeney on outside the church there is no salvation.

    For Archbishop Di Noia LG 8 contradicts the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. He mentioned this to Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register when asked about extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    The SSPX has accepted Vatican Council II according to the doctrinal preamble-they must ask Di Noia and Muller to accept the Council with implicit, known only to God LG 8 and LG 16.
    -Lionel Andrades

  5. Heh. I simply endorsed traditional spirituality and was not looking to plunge into the thicket in regards to EENS and Vatican II. But what I do like about this comment is that it points to the fact that our spirituality has to be congruent with sound doctrine.

    I am not a theologian. Ultimately, I assent to whatever it is the Church actually teaches. I like the document Dominus Iesus.

    I also was not entirely theologically comfortable with some of Abp DiNoia’s recent comments, for instance his saying that he knows Lutherans and Anglicans who are saints.

    But DiNoia’s statement in regards to EENS was that Vatican II did not change the Church’s teaching on that.

    SSPX has a page on the error of Feeney on their site: Based on how SSPX themselves define Feeneyism (which they reject) at that link, your idea that Vatican II is consistent with Feeneyism does not compute. On the other hand I think Vatican II can be interpreted as being in continuity with what SSPX actually does believe about EENS. I personally (and again, I am not a theologian) do not see a theological problem with what they believe about that. It has seemed to me that this is an area in which there is a slight range of theological opinion within the Church and the truth is that God knows who He saves. It doesn’t seem like the Holy Father sees a theological problem with what the SSPX believe about that. They have been asked to acknowledge VII as being inspired by the Holy Spirit and in continuity with Sacred Tradition. This is my non expert understanding of the matter.

  6. It’s very good to read reminders of how not to give into the sin of human respect! If only this were all the more understood for the sin it is!

    How much we need to learn to respect God! Human reason is nothing compared to Our Lord’s teachings.

  7. Yep. It’s all the same. Vatican II said this in it’s Constitution Dei Verbum:
    “Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.”

    Vatican II showed that traditions should be kept with loyalty.


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