Last week, some friends offered to pay my way to Chicago and back to see Mass of the Ages 3 (henceforth, MOTA 3).  I was featured in episode one and two, but not three, so I didn’t have a lot of reasons to come out.  But a free flight and seeing friends who would be attending the premier sounded like it might be worth it.  Besides the fact we all had a great trip, the movie was excellent.  (There were a few caveats to this, like how the movie got wrong a major-premise to the current state of papacy, but that is not the point of this article.) What I didn’t expect is that the flick turned out to be an unexpected jaunt through the life of my own mother and what it means to be the mother of a priest.

My mother (top right) grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  Her four grandparents came from Ireland to Chicago and she grew up around her immediate and extended family.  The first coincidence (or God-incidence) of MOTA 3 was that I flew to Chicago to see it.  As a few of you may remember, my family is coming up on the first anniversary of my mother’s death (3 Apr 2023.)  Being in Chicago last week was both more difficult and more rewarding as I took so many unexpected strolls down memory lane.  It seems so many of the people I love (including my own mother, my grandparents, my great-aunt, an uncle, my mother’s cousin, etc.) from the Chicagoland area have died.  What does one do with such memories except pray for the faithful departed?

Last year at this time, I wrote about my own mother’s death here.  In it, I explained that at Christmas 2022, my mother was briefly in the hospital for the flu.  None of my family was too worried.  However, as I attended Midnight Mass carols at a local traditional parish, God gave the insight at the choir singing of Lully, Lulla, Lullay (a hauntingly beautiful song I had never heard before) that my mother was going to die.  Although I would offer my own low Mass the next day on Christmas in my mother’s hospital room, the midnight Mass found me kneeling in choir in the sanctuary of that traditional parish in the dark for these carols before a Solemn High Mass.  Happily, no one could see me crying.

So also in the movie theatre of MOTA 3 in Chicago, no one could see me crying.  This is because the opening scene of so many Catholic Churches burning (especially in France the last few years) was set to that song, Lully, Lulla, Lullay.  All of a sudden, I was caught off guard:  Here I was in Chicago (the land of my mother’s birth and childhood) in a movie theatre while the opening scene included a hauntingly beautiful song that had originally transmitted God’s gentle message to me of my Mom’s impending death.  But the Catholic Church is also my mother, and to see scenes of Notre Dame being destroyed (above) made certain parallels in my heart and mind for which I was not prepared.

Now, many of you know I came from a progressive Catholic family, not a traditional Catholic family.  So my movement towards Catholic tradition was a bit unnatural (considering my pedigree that my great-aunt—our matriarch of the South Side of Chicago— once told me she thought Cardinal Bernadine was so holy he should one day be canonized!)  And so, while my mother was not a traditional Catholic, it was quite amazing that she always supported me in what I did.  She may not have understood certain decisions I made, but she always wanted me to be happy as a priest.  Thus, you can imagine my shock when the movie continued and I found myself not only in Chicago, listening to Lully, Lulla, Lullay in the MOTA 3 movie, but that the film was entirely about the mother of priests.

Several mothers of traditional priests in France (seen above, two of whom came to Chicago for the premier of MOTA 3) walked from Southeast France to the Vatican to protest or rather request leniency on stringent restrictions on the TLM that their sons (traditional priests) believed they had to obey.  Again, notwithstanding false major-premises they miss on the papacy, this was an astonishingly beautiful part of the movie:  Mothers of priests walking hundreds of miles for the Traditional Latin Mass.   How could I not think of how much my own mother suffered during her life when she stood by me as I was smeared in the media so often?  To be the mother of a priest seems to participate somewhat in the life of Our Lady of Sorrows.  During the VIP dinner after the movie, many people received applause.  But the above mothers of the priests from France all received standing ovations for their pilgrimages in support of tradition.  Again, me who cries so infrequently, was again weeping.

The theme of the mother of a priest continued in MOTA 3.  This last year, following the death of my mother, I asked that three mothers intercede for me:  The Blessed Virgin Mary, my own mother (if she be saved) and Sr. Mary Wilhelmina (seen above in a pilgrimage I took to her incorrupt body.)  I never planned on sharing it on a blog post, but I have considered the last year to be the “Year of the Three Mothers” in honor of those three.  The most unusual and unexpected of those three was Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, that I felt an extremely strong devotion to her, even asking her to be my spiritual mother from heaven.  Yet another God-incidence:  MOTA 3 had a section about Sr. Mary Wilhelmina.  Yet another unexpected indication that this movie was not only about the mothers of priests, but specifically my “three mothers” and me.  In fact, a few paragraphs up I named the Catholic Church as my mother.  So, I guess I should have named this blog post in honor of “my four mothers:”  1) The Blessed Virgin Mary, 2) my own late mother Claire Nix, 3) the Catholic Church and 4) Sr. Mary Wilhelmina (the newest addition to my line-up!)

Of course, the most important mother of a priest is the Immaculate Virgin Mary (seen above in the Tridentine Brewery image who hosted and sponsored MOTA 3.  No, Tridentine gave me no money to me to write this;  I just think they are an awesome family with a great business.)  In any case, MOTA 3 had references to Our Lady.  But the most moving line came from Dr. Scott Hahn.  Hahn rarely weights in on politics, but in reference to the Church crisis, Hahn said the only answer was for “all bishops to fall hopelessness in love with the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  I think he is exactly correct:  Imagine if every priest and bishop in the world “fell in hopeless love with the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  Of course, more tears unexpectedly rolling down my cheek in the Chicago movie theatre as everything came back to my earthly and heavenly mother.

Of course, under current Church leadership (especially in Chicago) the Latin Mass is not welcome.  Thus, I had to offer Holy Mass in my hotel.  The above is a picture of my TLM-kit between Masses in a downtown-Chicago hotel.  The entire thrust of MOTA 3 was the TLM restrictions, so even the above hotel-based Mass turned out to be another God-incidence linking my own life to MOTA 3:  Guardians of Tradition.  That is an obvious double-entendre on Traditiones Custodes, asking the viewers to ask who are the real “guardians of tradition:”  Are the real guardians those trying to destroy tradition (as the Vatican document is ironically named) or those going to the catacombs of nice hotels (and not-so nice hotels, at times) with portable TLM kits as seen above? 1

An African priest and superior of a group of missionary priests highlighted in the movie how, on the feast of the Assumption on any year before 1962, Catholic priests and bishops on any continent would have worshipped God and honored Mary with one voice (cum una voce) as they sang Gaudeamus on that August feast of the Theotokos’ entrance into eternal glory.  As the African superior said, this was done by “one Church, one voice, one prayer,” which is the Latin and the old rite.  Indeed the old rite united all Catholics under one banner and one Faith that was lost in the babel of the alleged aggiornamento—opening windows of the Church to let in all the bugs.  And by “bugs” I do not mean Catholics of other nations.  The African bishops were frequently very resistant to the NOM changes, resisting the Protestantization of their dioceses occasionally even up until the 1970s.

Towards the end of MOTA 3, a little boy in Tanzania was asked in his own native tribal language outside the Traditional Latin Mass what he believed would be the future of the Catholic Church.  Probably prophetically, the little boy answered:  “It’s going to be very good.”  You might be surprised at this, but I agree with him.  I think it’s going to be very good, too.