Father Perricone recalled how his noon Mass at St. Agnes that Sept. 11 was packed with people, many of them caked in ash from the towers’ collapse.
The need to pray and the desire for God remained strong for many days and weeks, he said. But it proved ephemeral.
Writing 20 years ago, he observed, “Words like ‘sin,’ ‘Satan,’ ‘saintliness,’ and ‘virtue’ have all been made to sound slightly eccentric by secularism’s totalizing reach. It is no surprise that it has tunneled deep within religion itself. More than a few priests are slightly embarrassed by the vocabulary of religion.”
What was true in 2001 is even more true today, he believes, after two decades marked by a steady loss of faith and ever-rising secularism.
“I never thought our beloved America would worsen, but it has,” Father Perricone told CNA. “I mean, not by degrees, by magnitude.”
“We’re still addicted to that notion that evil is just a psychological syndrome,” he explained, ‘[that] evil is simply not evil, it’s some social mechanism gone wrong.”
That is not now, and has never been, the Catholic worldview, he noted.
Today, Father Perricone resides at Sacred Heart parish in Clifton, New Jersey, and he celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Jersey City.
Many of those who attend his Masses are Catholics in their twenties or thirties with only hazy memories of 9/11. What draws these young adults to the Traditional Latin Mass?
“The absolute certitude of the Catholic faith, the granite-like truth that the Church has preached for 2,000 years and never changed,” he replied. “They’re hungry for that.”
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That desire suggests that, deep down, many today still search for answers that secularism can’t provide. But redeeming our culture will take time; there are no “quick fixes,” Father Perricone emphasized.
“We need those great, heroic bishops, like John Chrysostom, and Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Great, Leo the Great. At that time, at the dying of the Roman Imperium, they were the superstars. The people were led by their bishops; they adored them. … They looked to them for their strength, and they looked to them for rebuilding.
“And, indeed, Western civilization was rebuilt,” he said.
“We desperately need that today.”