Basque Arts at San Vicente in Sada, Navarre in Northern Spain

Hearty congratulations to Fr. Pablo Santa Maria for completing his Canon Law studies at the Opus Dei University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.  He just completed his studies and celebrated this Mass at San Vicente in Sada, Navarre, near Pamplona.  He is a dear friend, a fine priest and an eminent canonist.  We have traveled together in the past and I enjoyed immensely visiting him in Pamplona.  In these images he celebrates the same rite celebrated by St. JosemarĂ­a Escrivá.  The Basque people and their culture and hospitality is a real treat to experience.  The same with their art, architecture, and liturgical practices, all formed through the centuries in the medieval state of the Kingdom of Navarre, originally the Kingdom of Pamplona.  These few photos give a rare glimpse of some of the intense Catholic culture in Northern Spain.  Indeed, the wealth of Catholic culture in Spain is immense.  The inspiring spirit of the first centuries of the Iberian Reconquista survives.

That being said, "intense Catholic culture" is difficult to find in Spain today.  In the area of liturgical arts, so much was abandoned to be more concerned with liturgical management as imitation of the world and the social work of the world.  The vast majority of historic old high altars have been mutilated with the practice of creating free-standing altars from the heritage altarpieces bequeathed by the centuries.  This shift in Catholic culture came during the Vatican II years when the Church quickly came under the impact of Marx and communism of the 1960's with the whole emphasis suddenly thrust on the social order.  Catholic culture and traditions were put in the back seat in favor of "social justice" and "reform" and aggiornamento ("updating").  This was in large part a reading of the media and the world rather than the reading of decisions of the Council and the reading of them in light of previous Councils.  Anyone who has read Vatican II knows it most certainly never mandated the mutilation of precious altars or ancient liturgical practices in Catholic countries.  There was a distinct failure of many priests in those years to read the Council's distinction of the world as a theater of redemption versus a spirit which is anti-Christ.  This crisis continues today with the constant experimentation in the liturgy and talk of how "human progress" and "dialogue" and society saving is more important that making available the Rite of the Ages.

This is how Archbishop Sheen assessed the crisis after the Council: "Once the Vatican Council was over and even before it had finished, bishops became sensitive to two extremes that were springing up in their dioceses and among the priests, religious and people, and it all came about by misunderstanding of the word 'world.'  One of the very famous interventions delivered in the Council was made by a Belgian bishop who made a very clear distinction between the world as the cosmos which God made and which is good, and the world as a spirit which is inimical to the Church and which is guided by the primacy of the world and the flesh and the devil.  Those of us who were at the Council knew the balance that was being struck between in the world and not of it, but it was very difficult to convince either of the two extremes - the conservatives and the worldlings - of how the spiritual and social were to be combined" (Treasure in Clay by Bishop Sheen, p. 290).

He continues, "In the Second Vatican Council it was not schism or heresy that was at issue, but rather the Church and the world.  The world pouring into the Church and the Church rushing into the world.  Man was becoming the center and reference point of everything: this the church could not accept, for it was the Church's mission to affirm a divine intervention in the world.  The Church could not pull up all the drawbridges, lock all the doors, close all the highways which united herself to the world.  The answer was not to be found either in an isolation from the world by erecting a red 'STOP' light outside of St. Peter's Square; neither could the Church answer the same challenge the world hurled at its Head on the Cross: 'Come down and we will believe.'  'Come down from your belief in the sanctity of marriage.'  'Come down from your belief in the sacredness of life.'  'Come down from your belief; the truth is merely what is pleasing.'  'Come down from the Cross of sacrifice and we will believe" (Treasure in Clay by Bishop Sheen, p. 293).

Let us pray for a continued renewal of Catholic life in Spain.  Many good Catholics have been heartbroken and appalled by the havoc wrought by the liturgy being turned upside down and the Classical Rite taken from them.  While materialists and humanists and atheists take this world very seriously because it is the only world they are ever going to have, we who possess the Faith know that this world is not the only one and therefore our paradoxical (seemingly absurd) liturgy must speak the language of another world, a mystical world of heaven, an affirmation of the faith and liturgical practices of the previous centuries.

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