Saturday, December 10, 2005


"Our Father, who art in Heaven... " This article from Crisis is speaking my mind today:
Among Lumen Gentium's strongest emphases is the laity's call to "make Christ known to others... by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity." The laity's means of drawing on these virtues are rooted in the closeness of man's relationship to God through the person of Christ. The council Fathers understood that the laity were to find courage enough in this bond to accomplish the work set out for them by it: "Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling 'against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness' (Eph 6:12)." This is Vatican II at its boldest and truest: The call for aggiornamento does not mean an accommodation to the world but rather a Christ-centered contradiction of it in the immediacy of daily life. John Paul II counseled as much in the signal phrase of his papacy, "Be not afraid!" expressed first during his opening homily as pontiff. Some 27 years later, Benedict XVI offered a profound restatement of his predecessor's hallmark sentence in his own opening homily as pontiff: "Do not be afraid of Christ!" It is this fear that, in part, accounts for post - Vatican II Catholicism's obsessions with what the council may or may not have meant. By focusing on these matters - to the exclusion of the Church's status as the bride and mystical body of Christ - Catholics have let theology degenerate into sociology, politics, and self-interested name-calling. They have thereby ignored the foremost message of the council, encapsulated in Lumen Gentium's opening: "Christ is the light of the nations. Because this is so, this sacred synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature... to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church." To bear this light in its Christ-centered fullness is the mission of the Church and of every Catholic, and this has been so from Pentecost through the 21st century. The Second Vatican Council, through John Paul II, told Catholics and the world to fear not because of Christ. This was a message needed in a time of regnant, atheist ideologies. The council, through Benedict XVI, tells Catholics and the world to fear not Christ Himself. This is a challenge that both testifies to weakened convictions about Christianity's particularity in the present age and proposes Christ alone as the only possible point of origin for future renewals of the Church and the world.
Our parish priest has put in his one year of getting settled in and observing how the parish runs and at a meeting for all of us involved in the liturgy he let it be known that he has ideas about "improving things." Last Easter he "improved" the Mass by replacing the reading of the Passion (!) with mime of the crucifixion set to music and performed by school kids of various ages. I was horrified but said nothing. He let us know today that somebody did, in fact, call the Chancery Office to complain and he was reprimanded. He voiced disappointment that we had people so unwilling to "open up." The real kicker came when he mentioned that he has been trying to work in more "inclusive" language but is worried about how things will go if he was to go as far as offering a prayer to 'God the Father, the Mother, and so much more." I knew Father X, who is the only priest in the parish at the moment, was a liberal Jesuit. I didn't think it would go this far, however. I feel like I have been sucker punched in the stomach. I've been miserable since I came home from the meeting, wondering how this is going to play out. I know many people in the parish who were not there who would find all of this objectionable. The only voices at the meeting were in favour, but they made up only about 1/4 of all who were there. I suspect that there were many like myself who were simply too surprised - and of a non combative nature - to say anything at the time. That 1/4 were mostly a few old women (not a majority), so I don't know where he gets the idea that his opposition consists entirely of "culturally bound" old timers. I was one of the youngest people there! Personally I don't know why people who want these things always want to take over the Mass with them. Go to, I say, and respect that the Mass is not mass entertainment. Ignorant people should not go mucking about with something as carefully thought out and evolved as the Mass. This is not a democracy, thank Heaven; expertise counts. In the long term I do not think that Pope Benedict will side with this kind of silliness, which Father X insisted is what he was always taught at seminary and which is already practised in parishes in eastern Canada, where he was based for many years. He also suggested that the Canadian Council of Bishops is okey dokey with this sort of thing too. I'm left with the problem of how to respond in the short term, which could last for many years. I'm a lector, which means that I do Bible readings at Mass about once a month. If am ever handed an "amendment" to a Bible reading I will ignore it or refuse to read. Beyond that, I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that God chose a man's body for the incarnation, and while he was incarnated he always referred to God as Father. Now I know that God has no gender but I respect his revelatory choices as being worthy of remembrance and reflection. I am not afraid of what other's might think about those choices. Changes like the ones Father X raised the possibility of today are always raised a means of reaching out to the modern age, and to young people. I am not afraid of youthful ignorance; they'll outgrow it. I know that young people naturally test and probe things and that they ultimately respect those who stand proud. If they value courage in the face of adversity - and assuredly most of them do, they will secretly despise appeasers. I would very much like advice from those in the know about how conflicts like this play out. Are the Canadian Bishops really as out of touch with Rome as it was made to sound? Can the Parish Council keep Father X at bay?

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