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  • Justin Haggerty | The Daily Knight

How the death of my grandfather led me to Traditional Catholicism

Six years ago, my grandfather, Richard "Dick" W. Haggerty, next to the comfort of his wife of 61 years, Emily Haggerty, passed away in the early morning hours of November 18th, 2013. By his death, however tragic, he has won many graces for my family and I. After God, our Lady, and the Saints from whom I descend, I give thanks for and credit my grandfather for leading me to Traditional Catholicism.

My grandfather, an Irishman from Stamford, CT, was as hard a worker as he was a devout Catholic. He raised five children in the Faith and resisted, as hard as he could, the changes in the Church by the Second Vatican Council. Although a prideful man, he, like so many in those days, failed in their resistance and under humble obedience, watched the Church evolve into something unrecognizable to the Church of his youth.

I had always been drawn to the Faith. As a teenager, I desired higher reverence in the Mass. In Michigan, we had bounced around several Catholic Parishes, because I felt them to be too protestant like. Now that I think of it, how would I have know that? I had never been to a protestant service.

My desire for reverence eventually brought us to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, downtown Detroit, with Archbishop Allen Vigneron for the Novus Ordo's Pontifical High Mass. This is far before I knew anything about the changing of the liturgy from Vatican II, the Novus Ordo, and the errors behind the Archbishop. My desire was pure and ignorant of those issues, I simply wanted more.

I now know that it was the Holy Ghost who was blessing me with the graces to yearn for a more reverent Mass. There is no other explanation.

In fact, it was on November 10th, 2013, only 8 days before my grandfather passed away, that I attended my first Traditional Latin Mass at St. John's Basilica in Stamford, CT. After visiting my grandfather in the hospital, I felt the need to attend a more "traditional" Mass that Sunday. I was oblivious that it was the Tridentine Mass or that the Mass would be said in Latin. St John's was an old Basilica downtown, and I felt a strong interest to attend.

Without a Catholic Missal, and never having used a missal before, I was lost during that Low Mass. I couldn't hear the priest, even though I sat in the fourth or fifth pew, and was caught off guard by the different sequence of standing, sitting, and kneeling. It was strange to me, but the reverence was right.

Soon after he passed, my grandmother gave me the Haggerty family bible, my grandfather's daily missal, his prayer book, and a work titled Life of Christ. Each text came as a set, bound in red leather, by the Catholic Press in 1952. I was one of three in the family who regularly attended Mass, although I wasn't perfect, and she wanted me to have the set for when I have a family in the future.

Instead of my West Point cadet bible, a modernly translated KJV, I began to read two pages from the old testament and two pages from the new testament every morning. Of course I failed to maintain the daily ritual, something I wouldn't master until the birth of my daughter. I also started to bring my grandfather's Catholic Missal to mass, and soon found that it was impossible to follow the liturgy.

Over the next couple of years, the rigors of Army training pulled me away from the Faith. I bounced around different training posts and Novus Ordo parishes. As I hinted above, it wasn't until the birth of my daughter that I became rooted in the Faith. Cooperating with God to create life, and having the responsibility to care and raise a new life, gave me the push I needed to nest my life, and my Army career with the Faith.

The first thing I turned to was my grandfather's family bible and missal, picking up where I left off at West Point. While stationed at Fort Bliss, TX, we attended Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral downtown El Paso, TX. Again, my desire for reverence led me there and away from several parishes, near our apartment, that were extremely modern and protestant like.

Instead of the Pontifical High Mass, we found many different versions of the liturgy. I slowly got frustrated, not that the Bishop would rarely attend and consecrate the Mass at the Cathedral, but that every month there was a different priest with a different structure of the liturgy. The Diocese rotated priests through the Cathedral, and it was blatantly obvious to see the lack of liturgical discipline and unified administration by priests of the Mass.

Many times, I wanted to close my grandfather's missal, pack up our things, and walk out of mass. We never did. However, I recall on several occasions, continuing to kneel and read my grandfather's missal, refusing to join the parish in whatever they were doing.

With a little more spiritual reading and research, my family and I started to attend the Traditional Latin Mass and we haven't looked back.

God, with His omnipotent wisdom and love, gave me the graces I needed to build a foundation to not only embrace the Faith, but to recognize truth and error. He gave me the desire to seek a more perfect and reverent form of worship of Him, for Him. My grandfather, the life he lived, the examples that he left me, and by his death, helped provide the final graces I needed to come to Traditional Catholicism. I owe the eternal lives of my children to him.

I pray that my grandfather passed away in a state of sanctifying grace and that God may shine many graces upon his soul to lessen the pains of Purgatory and welcome him into the Beatific Vision in Heaven.

Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum. Benedícta tu in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae.


In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.

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