Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Wisdom of Cardinal Mayer

At WDTPRS Fr Z discusses the mood of traditionalists. What really caught the eye was his story below;

When I was working for the PCED we were having a terrible exchange with an American bishops. People wanted the old Mass, and he refused absolutely. They petitioned, he rejected. They sent us the copies of the petitions, he would deny there was any interest. Volley of letters after volleys of letters back and forth across the Atlantic. He would say he never got petitions, we would mail back copies of his acknowledgement of the petitions to the lay people who had sent them. He would write a stern letter reminding us to mind our own business, we would write back saying that this was our business. It became uglier and uglier.

One day a letter came from him that was so nasty it simply couldn’t be borne. I wrote a draft of a response entirely proportioned to the tone and content of that bishops letter. I wrote a draft designed to end the issue.

When the Cardinal came in, this was the great Augustine Card. Mayer, first President of Ecclesia Dei – now very old and ailing – please I beg you to pray for him in his infirmity and suffering – he eventually called me in to go over the various drafts that had to go out. At last we came to The Letter.

Card. Mayer, who was nearly 80 at the time, and who had been a monk, expert at the Council, abbot, professor, curia Secretary, Prefect, is perhaps the holiest man I know, had a practically perfect grasp of English. He would make subtle changes in the language of all the letters he would sign. So there was no surprise at all when he said,

"Here you write X. Do you suppose we could say Y?"

There was no question but that we could, but that was his style. He was ready to hear a reason for or against, but he was usually right with each "suggestion".

We went on to the next word in that manner… and the next… and the next, until – both of us chuckling a bit – there was nothing at all left of what I had written and the page was filled with corrections and cobwebs of lines and marks.

At last, I said "Clearly Your Eminence wants something else. It’s my job to make your job easier. Give me some direction."

He paused and looked at the large Murillo painting of the Blessed Mother on the wall of the office for a while and then said:

"At a certain point we must stop arguing and try to open their hearts." (my BOLD)

With that I went back to my desk, pondered this for a while, and then rapidly wrote a short letter of response to that American bishop.

I took it in to the Cardinal, who make a minor change here and there, and off it went.

A few weeks later we received news from people in that bishop’s diocese that, not only had the bishop permitted the older form of Mass, he came to celebrate it himself for them.

What did I write?

After the usual clink of incense at the beginning, common to all curia letters, I merely wrote that we regretted greatly the way our correspondence had gone and its tone. We hoped that it might improve. But given the earnest desire of the people in his diocese, ...

"Would Your Excellency please not open your heart to these people and help them?"

That seems to have been the real problem, after all.

At a certain point, arguing isn’t going to achieve the result you desire. Sometimes you must strive to open hearts.

A real reminder that while it is legitamate to debate and argue about positions or issues, there always comes a point where to avoid conflict or to defuse it, we must stop and ' strive to open hearts'

Therefore the Abbess ought not to teach or ordain or command anything which is against the Lord's precepts; on the contrary, her commands and her teaching should be a leaven of divine justice kneaded into the minds of her disciples. (RB Ch 2)

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