Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes has perplexed (or even shaken the faith of) many Catholics who find refuge in the sacred tradition preserved by the old Mass. Perhaps some souls are motivated by the nostalgia that Pope Francis has cited. But surely something deeper than romanticism motivates young families to endure inconvenience for the sake of a High Mass.

A Catholic deeply attached to the sacred and disappointed in Francis’ decision may therefore be tempted to hold out hope for the New Pope of St. John Bosco’s final dream. Faced with the Church’s last great struggle, “The new Pope, putting the enemy to rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship right up to the two columns [the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother] and comes to rest between them….” A pope who decisively vindicates orthodoxy and tradition is the sort of thing for which one might pray. At the same time, Bosco himself taught the boys in his school devotion to the papacy, not to the individual who occupies it, admonishing them never to shout “Long Live Pius IX!” but only “Long live the pope!”

The challenge of Traditionis custodes is not the bitter trial of reactionaries awaiting a pope who will bring about the day of vindication. Rather, it is the enduring (though nearly forgotten) challenge of ordinary Catholics to stand for the pope’s authority even when they behold the man as corrupt, politicized, or simply misguided.

Praise the Lord

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