OON AFTER the assassination of her husband, Jacqueline Kennedy instructed agents to go into special archives and research the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. She wanted JFK’s funeral arrangments to resemble Lincoln’s. Because the lights were controlled by a timer—only turned on during normal business hours—the agents had to use flashlights. (How cool is that?)
But why did Jacqueline Kennedy want the funeral to be modelled after Lincoln’s? Was she acting eccentric, similar to how she insisted upon wearing her blood-stained dress as Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic Missal? 1
I would suggest that Catholics who grasp the crucial role played by Tradition in our Faith do not require an explanation. Nor is an explanation required for those who understand the reasons behind the Church’s insistence on LITURGICAL TRADITION, like the priest’s vestments which—because they stretch back all the way to the Roman Empire—serve as a constant reminder of our Church’s antiquity.
If Jacqueline were asked why, she’d surely reply: “Traditions are important.”
SOME PEOPLE WILL NEVER understand this. Similarly, some people will always mock the ancient ceremonies of the Church. Wagging their fingers, they’ll exclaim: “Why use liturgical torches? Why use candles? Those were used before electric lights were invented.” They’ll continue: “Why use music and prayers from the 6th century? Why perform so many ceremonial actions during the liturgy, such as having the priest intone the Gloria and Creed, or having the subdeacon guard the paten? These actions no longer serve the practical purposes they once did.”
To respond seems pointless. Either you get it, or you don’t. I fear some people never will.
So many fall down and worship modern “oracles” like Wikipedia. If Wikipedia tells them something, they accept it. If Wikipedia disputes it, they reject it. Years ago, such people were called philistines. They mock anything they don’t understand. A case in point is Robert Schumann’s “Sphinxes” from his Carnival, Opus 9. Wikipedia says not to play them, since they’re a secret “code” from Schumann to the performer. (Schumann was a bit strange.) Yet Rachmaninov, in his recording, does something creative with them. Who’s right? I’m sorry, but I’ll take Rachmaninov over Wikipedia any day.
Sometimes it takes considerable effort to come to an appreciation for that which is great. I still can’t believe WLP’s Vice-President attended a Latin Mass JUST ONE TIME and proceeded to draw conclusions. Can you imagine? It’s like someone picking up a Shakespeare play and saying, “Oh, I spent five minutes on it, and I didn’t care for it.” Or, it’s like someone visiting a new country for twenty minutes and saying, “Oh, I spent some time there. I don’t care for that place.”
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal instead of a Bible, since that was all they had available on Air Force One. It was John F. Kennedy’s. (It probably wasn’t the Jogues Illuminated Missal, because that wouldn’t be produced for another five decades.)
By the way, Jackie Kennedy told LBJ’s wife she wore her blood-stained suit because “I want them to see what they have done to Jack.” However, during a truly remarkable audio interview from 1964 (revealed for the first time in 2011) Jackie Kennedy reveals that she thought Lyndon B. Johnson had killed her husband. Was the bloody dress meant to send a message to LBJ? Kennedy had no regrets about refusing to take the blood-stained suit off; her only regret was that she had washed the blood off her face before Johnson was sworn in.