When I tried to fit myself into a few of the caricatures of the Catholic Tribes in American put together by Michael Warren Davis and Damian Thompson I somehow fell flat in the middle of nowhere. However, I know that there are American Catholics that think like I do since I know many of them personally, and perhaps, if I put this out there, I will find more of them.
A few years ago I wrote about a group of people that I called “Hipster Traditionalists”—people who love the Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but don’t quite fit in with other traditionalists. These days I think that the title Modern Traditionalist is a better fit.
A Modern Traditionalist is a lover of all things traditional, not out of a nostalgia for things pre-1965, but out of a real love of the beauty preserved in it. For them it is not just a preference, but the realization that the older liturgy is more beautiful and profound. In the fast-paced world, the Modern Traditionalist loves the contemplative silence of a low Mass and the smells and bells of high liturgy as alternatives to their digital social lives. They are either converts or Catholics raised attending the Novus Ordo Mass, probably of the Xennial or Millennial generations. They had never imagined the stunning beauty possible in the Roman liturgy until their first Solemn High Mass with polyphonic chant that left them in awe.
However, the Modern Traditionalist does not shy away from new things.
The memory of the 130,000 martyrs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries helps us to face the challenges of consumerism and compromise with power. The prayer for the martyrs of the present times, the Catholics arrested and persecuted by the government in Vinh, Hanoi, Thanh Hóa, Long An, Xuân Lộc, Cà Mau.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – “On my job I suffer injustice because of my faith. But when I think of the martyrs of Vietnam, of these saints who have been faithful and loyal in following Jesus, I feel comforted. They accepted to be condemned and killed rather than to renounce their faith. We are descendants of these martyrs and are called to live the same way. This is why I continue to live and bear witness to my faith at work and in society.”
This is the testimony of one young Catholic to AsiaNews, on the occasion of the feast of the 117 Vietnamese Martyrs, which is celebrated in Vietnam on November 18 (in the universal Church, the feast is November 24).
The awareness of being “descendants of the martyrs” is very much alive among the more than 7 million Catholics in Vietnam and the more than one million expatriates in the world. “We are happy and we honor these 117 martyrs”, continues the young man, “who represent the more than 130,000 of the faithful who were killed for their faith in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These saints are our heroes of the faith.”
Two days ago, in all the churches and chapels of Vietnam, masses were celebrated in honor of the martyrs. And it was an opportunity to reconsider the way Catholics live the faith today.
Today the Church honors 117 Christians who suffered and died for their faith in Vietnam since the 17th century—they stand as representatives for the hundreds of thousands who suffered for their faith in that nation.
The canonized group includes 96 people who were from Vietnam and 21 missionaries from Spain and France; eight were bishops, 50 were priests, and nearly 60 were lay people.
St. Andrew Dung-Lac was a diocesan priest—he was named Dung An Tran when he was born in 1795 in North Vietnam. When he was 12, he moved to Hanoi with his family so his parents could find work. A catechist there offered him food and shelter, and helped him receive an education. Dung was baptized, and chose the name Andrew—he became a catechist himself, teaching others the faith, and eventually was chosen to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1823, and was known as an effective preacher and a model of holiness for those he served.
When the emperor began persecuting Christians, Andrew was imprisoned several times, but released when his congregation purchased his freedom. Eventually, though, he was arrested, tortured, and beheaded.
Dominican and Jesuit missionaries were the first to suffer martyrdom in Vietnam—they brought the faith to that land in the 17th century. Since then Christians have suffered under political regimes that suspected the faith as foreign influence.