Parish Art

St Thomas Aquinas statueOne of our parish’s Liturgy Commission members wrote a series for the summer bulletins on the stories behind various works of art in our parish. It was adapted for our parish website here.

We have moved exclusively to commissioning artists for pieces like those at the link, as well as other liturgical items like a Book of the Deceased and a credence cabinet.

Upcoming priorities include rebinding our lectionaries, a monstrance, a hymn board, and maybe a columbarium is on the road ahead.

It’s a nice thing to be able to involve parishioners, and among them, especially our students to work with artists and engage a dialogue with our own faith, and with others who can help us express this faith in substantial ways.

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Not So Bad

I missed Cathleen Kaveny’s favorably nostalgic look at the 70’s. Maybe we weren’t sleeping on catechesis after all:

My parochial elementary school used the very popular Life, Love, Joy series published by Silver Burdett and written by Carl Pfeifer and Janaan Manternach. My own textbooks have long gone to their eternal reward. But my mother, who taught sixth-grade CCD for many years, held on to her old teacher’s handbook, which I recently perused. The content is surprisingly rich. The series proclaims itself to be “grounded in the traditional teaching and practices of the Catholic Church, while respecting recent developments in the theological and social sciences.” Among the theological developments it reflects is the emphasis on Scripture called for by Vatican II. The theme of sixth-grade religious education was “Growth in the Spirit,” which is explored in units titled: “Abraham and the Mystery of Faith,” “Moses and the Mystery of Freedom,” “David and the Mystery of Service,” and “Jeremiah and the Mystery of Hope.” The series took care to emphasize that these mysteries were deepened and revealed in Christ Jesus, and passed on in their fullest form in the Catholic tradition. A final unit in the book reinforces the Christocentric understanding of the themes by reflecting on the meaning of major Catholic holy days.

Judging by this text, the content of the series was both rich and deep. So what was the problem?

Good question. Let’s remember these authors and the writer’s parish catechists were all formed in the faith in pre-conciliar times.

Still, the skeptics persist. One of Ms Kaveny’s commenters spoke about 33% of  Catholics not believing in the Real Presence and not knowing the Church teaches it. Clearly, that’s not perfect. But what if the pre-conciliar number on that was 40% or even more?

Another commentator, while lamenting the quality of some of the compositions sung at Mass in those days, did look with some longing at the enthusiasm carried over from the 60’s. I recall a lot more verve in many aspects of Catholic culture when I was a teen and a college student.

Today’s university students have more cars, more jobs, and more working hours to get deeper into debt. But they don’t seem to have the time for a full weekend retreat anymore. Even in the 80’s when I was a young adult in a parish, the pastor and staff convinced sixty-some of us to attend a parish leadership and discernment retreat that ran Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.

I think we’ve let the JP2/B16-era frowny culture of complaint to go on for too darned long. I think for the next decade, I’m letting up on blaming poor catechesis. I’m going to say that we, meaning the Church, needed an attitude adjustment in the face of cultural pressures. Forget the sex, people. I want to know who filched our joy.

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DPPL 91: Inculturation and Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallWe’re going to wrap up Part One and Chapter Three with a look at inculturation. DPPL 91 contains two long footnotes, one from Cardinal Ratzinger, and the other from the Pontifical Council for Culture. So we’ll tackle the witness of the recent magisterium for inculturation today. Then finish up tomorrow.

Let’s read:

91. Popular piety is naturally marked by historical and cultural factors. The sheer variety of its expressions is an indicator of that fact. It reflects forms of popular piety that have arisen and been accepted in many particular Churches throughout the ages, and are a sure sign of the extent to which the faith has taken root in the hearts of particular peoples, and of its influence on the daily lives of the faithful. Indeed, “popular piety is the first and most fundamental form of the faith’s ‘inculturation,’ and should be continually guided and oriented by the Liturgy, which, in its turn, nourishes the faith though the heart”(J. Ratzinger, Commento teologico, in CONGREGAZIONE PER LA DOTTRINA DELLA FEDE, Il messaggio di Fatima, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2000, p. 35.).

It’s the same work cited in yesterday’s post.

Notice Cardinal Ratzinger’s acknowledgement of faith being formed in the heart.

The encounter between the innovative dynamism of the Gospel message, and the various elements of a given culture, is affirmed in popular piety*

*Cf. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE, Per una Pastorale della Cultura, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1999, 28: Popular piety remains one of the principal expressions of a true inculturation of the faith because in it faith and liturgy harmonize, as well as sentiment and the arts, while affirming a consciousness of a proper identity through local traditions. Thus, “America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, ‘in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization’ …..(Ecclesia in America 11) Popular piety allows a people to express its faith, its relationship with God and Providence, with Our Lady and the Saints, with neighbors, with the dead., with creation and strengthens membership of the Church.”

“Innovative dynamism” isn’t quite how I would describe the institutional approach to the preaching of the Gospel. Still, it is a goal toward which we can be reaching.

Take a look at that long note to DPPL 91b. Affirmation for what has developed around the Lady of Guadalupe. Subsequent apparitions seem to have less power. Lourdes is where I would draw the line. But Juan Diego’s vision is certainly attractive and deeply meaningful for the Americas.

Your thoughts on any of this?

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Cor Ad Cor

Cardinal NewmanWe observed the memorial of John Henry Newman this past Thursday night at the student liturgy. Sort of. The visiting presider from the other parish in town used presidential material for the Common of Pastors, but the readings were straight-up ordinary time: stupid Galatians and fish eggs and scorpion snakes.

Britain’s Catholic Herald is an enthusiastic counterpoint to The Tablet, but I still find their blogging and news-gathering interesting. Have a look at fellow Oratorian Ignatius Harrison’s piece promoting Cardinal Newman as saint and Doctor of the Church. The post-essay commentary is, as usual, hilarious.

Fr Harrison’s most persuasive and striking reason is this:

Newman drew others to Christ through the attraction they felt towards him, their pastor. In this, he is a fine example of how we can best pursue our mission to evangelise. Merely repeating with cool detachment the words on the pages of the Catechism, true though they are, will not by itself turn hearts and minds to the Lord. Human warmth and inter-personal engagement are also needed. Heart must speak to heart. The human element is essential if the Spirit’s gift of faith is to take root and bear fruit.

What a contrast: cool detachment versus the warmth of the human heart. Perhaps that is what is missing in forming Christian disciples today.

When I gave blood earlier this week, I felt the warmth of the tube wrapped around my forearm as the unit was draining out of my inner elbow. The machine then switched to a different phase, and the plasma and saline solution was sent back through the same tube. It wasn’t exactly cool, but it might have been a few degrees shy of body temperature. It was just something I noticed.

cor ad cor loquitorSometimes the information we impart to others has a deeper chill about it. When we press an extra large bite of ice cream against our hard palate, the pain can be excruciating. Icy treats are nice, with small bites. But how often does the Church (and its witnesses) try to cram too much frigid stuff down people’s throats?

Cor ad cor loquitur: what a beautiful image for evangelization in this century. Not head speaking to head. But one heart reaching out to another: warmth to warmth.

When I was a young boy, I think our family pediatrician was one of the last who made house calls. I recall him as a kindly man coming to my bedside once or twice. As a medical man, he certainly cared for my heart, and other parts of my body. The warmth of Cardinal Newman’s relationships certainly suggest his heart beat warm and strong for the Gospel mission and for his sisters and brothers. We can always use one more doctor, I would say.


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The Armchair Liturgist Greets at Mass

Greeting at Mass: let’s talk about this. My associate pastor likes to make a thing of it before the ritual greeting after the Entrance Song.

This morning at Mass, the choir director invited visiting alumni to stand and be noticed. I think people get a little shy about that. Maybe with good reason. I whispered to the priest before the song began, “I think she stole your usual thunder on greeting people.”

What constitutes a good greeting? Is it enough to have a smiling face at the door, handing you a hymnal? Do parishioners need to be reminded of visitors in our midst and be nice to them? Who should do it: the priest, music director, lector, or other person? When should it be done: before Mass, just after Mass starts, or at the “regular” announcement time? Should it be omitted?

I wonder occasionally: for whom do we greet? To give ourselves a good feeling of congratulation that we are giving lip service to hospitality? Or a genuine warmth to people who don’t come regularly?

Bottom line: what do seekers and visitors in our culture really want when they come to Mass?

Posted in The Armchair Liturgist | 11 Comments

DPPL 90: Popular Piety and Private Revelation

STA altar at night smallWhen God speaks to people in extraordinary ways …

90. Popular piety has always been interested in extraordinary happenings and events that are not infrequently connected with private revelations. While not confined to Marian piety alone, this phenomenon is particularly involved with “apparitions” and “messages”. In this regard, it is useful to recall what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about private revelation: “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called private revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church” (n. 67)*.

*On this question see J. Ratzinger, Commento teologico, in CONGREGAZIONE PER LA DOTTRINA DELLA FEDE, Il messaggio di Fatima, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2000, pp. 32-44

What are we to make of the burgeoning instances of believers claiming special revelation? Medjugorje seeings, as a prominent example, have been going on for decades. They develop great enthusiasm that doesn’t ever seem to be matched by liturgy, or the ho-hum experiences of day-to-day Christianity. What sort of inspiration are people seeking? Why do these private revelations have such attraction? What is missing in the rest of the Christian spiritual and religious experience?

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Working Weekend

Just so I can establish some sliver of cred as not being a Francis-yes-man, let me suggest some criticism is in order for his adding six clergy and no lay persons to the weekend writing committee. I suppose it could be worse. He could have appointed six female secretaries.

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