We attended, as usual, Fr. Altman’s 11:30 TLM this morning. As we pulled up, a half an hour early because the boys were serving, we noticed the crowds milling about outside–men in suits, ladies in dresses, veils blowing in the wind, and little children running everywhere.
Of course we expected a larger crowd, as the Rosary Rally was later in the afternoon, but this was something! Since moving to the area, today’s Mass was the fullest I’ve ever seen it.
Prior to Mass, I had to take the 2-year-old to the bathroom and was met with a fifteen minute line, which was interesting. A woman from Colorado had driven all night with her family and was apologizing for her red eyes. Moms from Montana were straightening out their dresses. An old lady from northern Wisconsin was chatting with some Minnesotans about stumbling upon Fr. Altman and thanking the Lord for his courage and witness.
Well, anyway, we eventually made it back to our pew for Mass–it was a beautiful High Mass with all the bells and smells and eight altar boys. I thought the Collect was especially striking:
Let Thy continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Thy Church: and because it cannot continue in safety without Thee, may it ever be governed by Thy goodness.
And how was Fr. Altman’s homily, which was not live, due to restrictions put forth by Bishop Callahan?
It was short and surprisingly, nonpolitical. He seemed tired, and my heart went out to him, as I have some idea of how this week went for him. The office was bombarded with phone calls, emails, and letters–most of which, I understand, were positive and encouraging, but the few that weren’t, were vile and disgusting. New measures of safety were taken this last week, and anybody who was paying attention at Mass will have noticed a few gentlemen monitoring the activity of all present.
In any case, after Mass I found myself visiting with a young lady from Chicago. She and her father drove here to support Fr. Altman and were presently on their way to the Rosary Rally, where Fr. Heilman would be leading the community in prayer. We, too, were loading up the van and driving straight to the Cathedral, for what kind of crowd would we find there?
We weren’t disappointed. We parked a few blocks away and followed the dads and moms and teenagers and babies and grandmas and grandpas and you-name-it. The crowd wrapped around the Cathedral block. When Fr. Heilman showed up, cheers and clapping erupted on both sides of the street and everyone attempted to move closer. The local TV/News station filmed it all. I think they were about the only ones wearing masks. And there certainly wasn’t any social distancing. (We’re all family, right?)
Fr. Heilman spoke movingly about watching Fr. Altman’s videos and feeling, sensing in his gut that here was something. This was truth–finally! He knew he had to back Fr. Altman. He compared our whole insane situation in the Catholic Church, with its very few courageous leaders, to those brave men who sacrificed their lives on the beaches of Normandy.
Indeed, he told the story of his sister-in-law’s father, who fought on those beaches and survived. That man found himself in the chapel of a bombed-out palace. As he was crawling to safety, he came across a large crucifix, which was lying on its face. He reached out, turned Jesus over, and something fell out of the skullcap. He thought it might be something important, so he put it in his pocket. Later, back in the States, he found that he had saved a relic of the True Cross.
At that moment, Fr. Heilman unveiled that very relic. We fell to our knees, and then Fr. Heilman began reciting the rosary.
I’d like to say it was a deeply prayerful moment for me, but alas, I have seven children. One was digging in the gutter and another was piling leaves on someone’s car. A drone was humming overhead videoing the whole thing. Others with video equipment were strolling about, filming the crowds. And my knees ached from kneeling on concrete. (I’m such a wimp.)
Nevertheless, I was happy to be there–happy to support Fr. Altman. May more priests find the same courage to speak out.
Lastly, if you haven’t had a chance to watch Dr. Taylor Marshall’s recent interview with Fr. Altman, click HERE. It’s excellent and worth your time.