Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Cannot Live Without The Mass

So says Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver.

And yet, what did I hear on Sunday? A pointed homily, starting with a joke. For every good Catholic knows that a homily must start with a joke, otherwise how could we pay attention? And every mass must begin and end with A Praise the Lord greeting, with a joke to close mass at the final blessing.

As if!

And Archbishop Chaput would agree with me. He said {We should } strive for liturgies that are reverent and beautiful, and that point our hearts and minds to things above.

So, what did I hear in the homily? I heard that the mass is about people. The priest said that the mass was about the people. That it is nice to pray and to pay attention to what happens at the altar (I think the priest meant the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass here; the consecration, when we receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord, under the appearance of bread and wine)...yes these are nice, we were told, but we need to be friendly, to talk to our brothers and sisters, to get to know people in the church. This is what church is about..not prayer or the niceness of what happens at the altar.

And so we were exhorted to wander around, to meet and greet, to talk, to chat, to laugh, to be noisy, to focus on people.

Liturgy is both the source of the Church’s mission and its goal, explained Archbishop Chaput. The reason we evangelize is in order to bring people into communion with the living God in the Eucharistic liturgy. And this experience of communion with God, in turn, impels us to evangelize.

Hmm. The opposite of what was preached Sunday. If one can call a joke, a pointed remark looking at certain members of the congregation, at those who don't shout out Praise The Lord and who kneel for communion and kneel in the pews in reflection after ..if this, followed by meet and greet your neighbour, can be called preaching, then this preaching seems contrary to all that Archbishop Chaput, indeed all that Pope Benedict XVI, has had to say about liturgy.

If the Liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the Liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age. As against this, the Liturgy should be setting up a sign of God's presence.

Yet what is happening, if the habit of forgetting about God makes itself at home in the Liturgy itself, and if in the Liturgy we are only thinking of ourselves? In any and every liturgical reform, and every liturgical celebration, the primacy of God should be kept in view first and foremost. (Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, as quoted in Benedict XVI and liturgical reform)

Worship first, then evangelization. Evangelization through liturgy and formation. God first, worship first and this love then attracts others and goes out to others.

Perhaps logic and rhetoric should be taught in seminaries, if they are not already. For it seems to me that the homily mentioned above,contained a fallacy of logic.

There was a false dichotomy created, a dichotomy between praying at Mass, caring about liturgy and caring for people. As though the two states are related in an opposite fashion ie if one cares about prayer and liturgy in mass then one doesn't care about people, hasn't a friendly word for a fellow parishioner.

This is bunk, pure and honest garbage. There is no dichotomy between care for liturgy and care for people.

We need to recover the intrinsic and inseparable connection between liturgy and evangelization. Liturgy is both the source of the Church’s mission and its goal. This was the teaching of Christ and the practice of the early Church. And it was reaffirmed by Vatican II....life lived from the Eucharist and for the Eucharist. This should be the foundation not only for our thinking about the liturgy but for our pastoral strategies as well....we cannot look at the liturgy as something distinct from our mission. Our worship of God in the Mass is meant to be an act of adoration, submission and thanksgiving. It’s also meant to be loving acceptance of our vocation as disciples. That’s why every Eucharistic liturgy ends on a missionary note -- we are sent out, commissioned to share the treasure we have discovered with everyone we meet.(Archbishop Chaput again)

When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that prayer and love of God led to love of neighbour, that prayer and adoration and contemplation preceded social justice and action and that these , prayer and liturgy and social activism and good old fashioned works of charity, existed alongside each other. Were, in fact, are, in fact, co-existent.

The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's Supper.(Sacrosanctum Concilium)

We cannot live without the mass, as Archbishop Chaput said. We need our prayers, the sacred liturgy, our holy priests, good catechesis (not exercises in feeling good)..and we need to share this with others. Our interior life forms our external life…for, if faith without works is dead, surely works without faith, without the underpinning of prayer, without our hearts and mind being lifted to God in sacred liturgy, are dead too…are do-goodism and me-centred.

A speaker at mass , asking for donations to the Sacrificial Offering, said that we need money for parish events and that if we invite people to our barbecues and our carols and our social functions, they will eventually come to church. But, you know what? There are many, many people who come for social functions who will not come regularly to Sunday mass. They feel good about themselves and so they think that church is about a social life, feeling good, and they don’t need to go to mass.

How do we turn this around? If we make our churches about social activities, then this is the response we get..people attending the social functions, the me-centred big event liturgies but not people who attend mass week in and week out. They see no need for God, for mass, for religion, in their every day life..apart from the social calendar.

If, however, our liturgy sets us apart, inspires us, makes us shine with Love, makes our parishes vibrant with prayer, then others will see a difference. There will be a difference in our worship, in how we act, in how we show what we believe…and then the church is not just another church competing with social functions but a living, growing community of faith..in worship and then in action.

This being different attracts others. Not endless cups of tea and chatting in church…but prayer, a prayer life permeating all that we do. Starting with sacred liturgy and good catechesis, and extending to our morning teas, our women’s groups, our young men’s group, our youth group.

You know, if the the message in church is nothing more than Oprah dressed up in (vague) Christian language. then given a choice, most people would rather listen to Oprah. Or Dr Phil. At least they are up-front about what they're doing. And you aren't exhorted to give money.

And statistics prove this to be true. A large mega-church in Australia, with good social activities, also has a fairly high turn around figure with regard to members. The average member lasting six years, before moving on.

So, we don't want our parishes to go this way, away from sacred liturgy and to consumer style religion.

Statistics, also, prove the reverse to be true ie that sacred liturgy and prayer, attracts people, young people, and encourages vocations.

The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people.Booming Traditional Religious Orders

Lex orendi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

The rule of prayer is the rule of belief, and consequently the rule of life.


Tricia said...

Here here, Leonie! What a wonderful post.

We had our parish assembly on the week end where all were rightly worried about the serious lack of people under 30. One suggestion was that we need to have youth masses with upbeat music etc. The assumption being that young people are incapable of appreciating reverenct and beautiful music and liturgy. We expect too little of our youth I believe.

Leonie said...

Tricia, thank you! We both know, as parents of young people, that young people need a challenge, something to strive for, meaning. Not necessarily entertainment.

Beate said...

Hey Leonie - Don't you just love Archbishop Chaput? Our parish has a youngish priest, and Mass is all about him :-( He tells jokes and stories, wants people to shout, wants things to be interactive, etc. and thought he really drew the younger people. Mass attendance is dropping fast, and for the first time since we've been there, the teen ACTS retreat didn't have enough team or retreatants. Most years there was a waiting list. Sad!

Lately we've attended somewhere else, the priest can be prickly and even harsh, but my teen loves those homilies - teaching moments - and will discuss them with me throughout the week.

What a fun new layout btw :-)

Fr. Benedict said...

And yet this was the same weekend that St Paul warned us against self-indulgence and Our Lord following from last week exhorts us to renounce ourselves in order to follow Him!! What was this priest thinking?? Did he not realise he was doing the exact opposite of what the Sunday Liturgy of the Word was proclaiming??? Go figure!! You have a lot of patience to put up with that nonsense!!

Leonie said...

Beate, good to hear from you! And sad/interesting re your new PP and experiences.

Fr, oh so very true! Without being too critical of a priest, :-), the homily did not relate to the readings but seemed to be set for a private agenda.

Hopewell said...

You know the joke thing is everywhere in Church. Pastors work over time trying to be "likable" or "one of the guys" instead of teaching us God's word. That teaching should, of course, REACH the audience. I left one Church we visited for about 6 months because of all the "in" jokes in the sermons. All were a "hat tip" to the "Gold Circle" members of the pastor's clique. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to listen to a Victorian sermon. Just keep the jokes to relevant ones! They ARE often very illustrative and DO help seekers as well as life-long believers.

Mary G said...

Well said, well spoken ... as always! It's so sad when a priest makes this kind of error in preaching ... it scandalizes those who are listening and does nothing to spread the Good News.

Hugs and prayers ...

Leonie said...

Mary and Lisa,thanks for your comments! You know, I feel strongly about this. Modernism, heresy, poor catechesis,abuses, continue in the Church when good people, those who know better, do nothing and allow the abuses etc to continue, often mistakenly in the name of charity.

Lady in Blue Shop said...

Can I recommend a good read that deals EXACTLY with what you are writing about? Its Work of Human Hands by Father Cekada. You can buy it on Amazon and on www.PhilotheaPress.com.
I converted to Catholicsim and have been to my share of "liberal" Catholic churches where the focus was on everything BUT God. Then I attended my first Latin Mass -- wow, what a difference! Read the book if you can and keep searching for more than what your priest is offering. It IS out there and there are other Catholics who are striving to hold on to the truth of the Church...

Leonie said...

Thank you! I actually do pray at mass in the EF..it is just that I also have a responsibility and a right, as I said above, to stand for what is good and true in my parish..and won't be forced out of my parish by anyone. Wow, strong words I know!

Anonymous said...

we moved this year, to the northern suburbs. We have maintained daily and sunday mass at our former parish, entailing a fair amount of time in the car in peak hour traffic - precisely for the reasons you have so elequently expressed. Our old parish has a devout no frills priest - who celebrates the holy sacrifice of the mass with great reverence, and uses his homily time to call us on to be holy. He himself spends huge amounts of time in Adoration and encourages us to do the same. He could be called boring and repetitive by wordly standards - but he has absoolutely captured the children (and young adults) in our family. They have the option of the bells and whistles (jokes, beetles music as communion reflection, bigger volume of parishioners) but consistantly chose the old parish. As others have said - sometimes people underestimate the youngsters - they recognise truth, they recgonise integrity and are drawn to it. i sometimes think that parents can create in their children a need for 'entertainment' style worship - where there wasn't naturally that need - all part of our underestimating.


Leonie said...

Hi Shannon, hey didn't know you had moved! Interesting to note about your old and new parish and your young people's reactions. It is true, we have to avoid making life all about entertainment!

Anonymous said...

Leonie well said!!!!I wish you could have a column in the Catholic Weekly. So ee could read something decent instead of the usual fluff!!!
Unfortunately some clergy have as much knowledge and respect for the liturgy as I have for motorcar racing ----zilch!!!
Let us Pray that the Holy Father and our local bishops will soon proclaim some defintive edicts to stop the liturgical abuse.The shepherds must come to save the sheep!!!
Lord have Mercy, Mary help!!!
Br Louis Mary

Leonie said...

Br, LOL re the column..but, yes, I agree, some clergy have very little respect for sacred liturgy.

Three Daisies and a Dinosuar said...

Amen, Amen, Amen.
I live in Pa and I am Byzantine but sometimes attend the Roman Catholic Church with my mom and I really notice a difference between the two. It seems to me that in my area the masses that are the quickest get the most people. Its really sad to hear people say they go to a certian mass because Father so and so can get you out of there in less than an hour! What???? Its Holy Mass people. Cant you atleast give one solid hour a week to God?????

Anonymous said...

Leonie well said!!!!I wish you could have a column in the Catholic Weekly. So ee could read something decent instead of the usual fluff!!!
Unfortunately some clergy have as much knowledge and respect for the liturgy as I have for motorcar racing ----zilch!!!
Let us Pray that the Holy Father and our local bishops will soon proclaim some defintive edicts to stop the liturgical abuse.The shepherds must come to save the sheep!!!
Lord have Mercy, Mary help!!!
Br Louis Mary

Leonie said...

Three Daisies - love your blog and the pictures!!