EG 95: Workers Examining Actions and Motives

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis seems to be speaking to some believers. Is his criticism fair of those who value the liturgy itself as something akin to the whole world? Or do the preoccupied have a just focus? Weigh in in the comments if you would. Often I feel too close to the liturgy wars to trust my own judgment on this:

95. This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”. In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few.

There is a degree of faith that suggests that proper liturgy will touch people in a most graced way. But do practitioners of such a liturgy have a concern for the real impact on seekers and believers?

Here, the criticism is for people who look too much to the horizontal aspects of the Church, namely our interaction with others and the development of the psychological self:

In others, this spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or an obsession with programmes of self-help and self-realization.

The social life? Is this a concern:

It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions.

… and the treatment of church ministry or service as another human endeavor boiled down to numbers on a ledger or census sheet:

It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervor is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.

What is Pope Francis’ problem with preservationists, self-actualizers, social butterflies, and business types? Mainly, it seems, that the mark of Christ is somehow obscured. How can we tell? Do we inhabit cliques? Are we willing to travel out of our way, to be inconvenienced? Do we interact with more than the select believers–the people who help us feel comfortable?

As a liturgist in a campus ministry parish, I can see the questions for my situation. Do I meet only with musical or liturgical students? Do I keep to the Mass, where I feel competent and safely ensconced in my expertise? Do I cultivate fervor for the basic mission of the Lord: to seek out the lost? Heaven knows there are far more Catholics on campus who never darken our church’s doors than there are people who come to liturgy here.

I wonder about how parish priests, my musical comrades, and other church ministers might relate to this passage. What are your thoughts?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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