DPPL 22: Liturgy and Popular Piety Throughout the Centuries

STA altar at night smallTime to check our roadmap. The DPPL is divided into two parts. History (DPPL 22-59), the magisterium (60-75), and theology (76-92) are addressed in part one (22-92). Those three chapters will occupy our attention on this blog for the next two months.

Chapter One will look at history (22-46) before assessing the present state of affairs in Roman Catholicism (47-59).

The history lesson is outlined in the document as follows:

  • Christian Antiquity (23-27)
  • The Middle Ages (28-33)
  • The Modern Period (34-43)
  • The Contemporary Period (44-46)

Whew! Makes me want to stop for a rest just looking over all that. But the curia is right: we need to take time with how the spiritual life of the laity has developed through the liturgy and popular piety to be able to bring our best assessment to the current Church:

22. The relationship between Liturgy and popular piety is ancient. It is therefore necessary to begin by surveying, even rapidly, how this relationship has been experienced down through the centuries, since it will often help to resolve contemporary difficulties.

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

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LCWR Meets Tomorrow

Leaders of American women religious meet in Nashville starting tomorrow. The five day conference will include private meetings with Archbishop Sartain the prelate designated by Rome to get results. NCRep summarizes here. There seems to be a tired and pessimistic note in it all. I don’t know why it seems so serious.

The ground under the bishops and bureaucrats has shifted in the past year or two. And most decidedly not in their favor.

Conservative bishops are under fire. Some say a backlash for unpopular stands. More likely, the loss of credibility over the past decade has led to questioning their “bling” and what some might say are aggressive political stances. Some few bishops, they say, have intimidated people in their care. They’ve used, so it is said, law, sex, and church politics to dominate seminarians, priests, sisters, abuse victims, and allies.

The Church nets headlines for its actions on things like the sign of peace (something few people place as a priority). A new generation of bishops trots out a document on preaching (having largely ignored the previous one). The culturewar has not turned out so well, and many of its chief generals are under fire for legal or moral misconduct.

And to rub salt in the palliums, one sure way to get people to read controversial theologians is to criticize their books. It shows just how cheap episcopal regard is these days. And how valuable their opposition might be.

Even if Pope Francis were not reminding us constantly of the Church’s proper place with the poor, I’d say that the crisis of corruption and violence around the world would demand that we, the Church, address humanitarian issues in Central America, Iraq, the Ukraine, here and there in Africa, and in Gaza. Here in the US, I suppose some sounds might be made about foreign policy. Maybe more effective would be to bypass our frozen government and just welcome refugees into our homes, churches, and neighborhoods. Bishops and sisters could move on this together with the rest of us laypeople. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Despite the soundings from the CDF, I think women religious have the high ground here. I think Cardinal Müller is no friend of Archbishop Sartain. And the archbishop knows it. And the sisters know it.

My prediction for this meeting is that nothing much will come of it. The sisters are gracious enough to allow the Seattle ordinary to save face. The other two bishops on his committee have largely disappeared from view on this, have you noticed? Leonard Blair now has his own archdiocese. And I can’t even remember the name of the third bishop.

The sisters don’t need Vatican recognition of a leadership organization. And clearly, the Vatican isn’t getting what it wants: a bureaucratic watchdog–somebodies to do the dirty work of another century’s CDF.

Archbishop Sartain could press his luck. He seems like a sensible guy. But he could press. Then I think the sisters just walk. They can conference however much they like, and not invite any bishops at all. They continue with their communities and acts of charity and ministry. The men stay totally out of the loop.

The only way this becomes win-win is if the bishops here in the States bring to the table some common sense and a willingness to listen.

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Bishops On Retreat

The farthest I’ve ever traveled to go on retreat was about 2,000 miles. For the Spiritual Life Institute, it was either there or Nova Scotia, about a thousand miles in another direction. Every other time, it’s within a day’s drive of home. I prefer monasteries and isolated retreat houses.

When I read this story of Cardinal Dolan being asked to host an interfaith gathering to explore reconciliation in his hometown, it occurred to me he’s taking the poke about “airport bishops” seriously. No more Irish visitations to drop the blame on gays in seminaries, I thought.

I noticed this bit in the news item:

Dolan, now headed to Australia for a spiritual retreat, said he was grateful for the mayor’s invitation.

“Religion and faith are powerful agents for what is good and unifying in the spirit,” Dolan said in a statement.

Australia? Halfway around the world for a retreat? I wonder if such things are encouraged for his diocesan clergy. There aren’t some Jesuits or Benedictines nearby? Maybe it’s an extraordinary experience. Hopefully unlike the Napa Institute where the Catholic equivalent of the spiritually-rich-n-famous rub shoulders for $400 a night.

I think there’s more to be said for simple surroundings, closeness to nature, and home-cooked meals. One director. No group conferences. Preferably lots of silence.

Over the past five years especially, I’ve found it’s not unreasonable to expect significant changes and insights while on retreat. I wonder if bishops have similar experiences. I wonder if a bishop has ever returned from a serious retreat and been moved to life-changing actions and attitudes.

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EG 277: Struggle, But No Excuses

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis,in Evangelii Gaudium, acknowledges that workers can be discouraged and even get dismayed as new problems surface to thwart the Gospel of Jesus. Watchfulness is needed: do we pause longer than needful because of circumstances beyond our control?

277. At the same time, new difficulties are constantly surfacing: experiences of failure and the human weaknesses which bring so much pain. We all know from experience that sometimes a task does not bring the satisfaction we seek, results are few and changes are slow, and we are tempted to grow weary. Yet lowering our arms momentarily out of weariness is not the same as lowering them for good, overcome by chronic discontent and by a listlessness that parches the soul.

Sometimes our grasp is tight on the wrong thing:

It also happens that our hearts can tire of the struggle because in the end we are caught up in ourselves, in a careerism which thirsts for recognition, applause, rewards and status. In this case we do not lower our arms, but we no longer grasp what we seek, the resurrection is not there. In cases like these, the Gospel, the most beautiful message that this world can offer, is buried under a pile of excuses.

The message on economics got a lot of attention. I certainly noticed the liturgical impact of Pope Francis’ words on homilies and one or two other things. But these final sections are a good check on my life in ministry. This feels like Pope Francis, spiritual director, at work. What do you think?

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DPPL 21: Responsibilities and Competencies

STA altar at night smallLet’s wrap up the introduction to the DPPL, with a note that the local bishop is the key person, the go-between if you will, for Church teaching on liturgy and devotion, and knowing the pulse of local piety. It makes the best sense to do this, the bishop, along with pastoral leadership:

21. Manifestations of popular piety are subject to the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary. It is for him to regulate such manifestations, to encourage them as a means of assisting the faithful in living the Christian life, and to purify and evangelize them where necessary. He is also to ensure that they do not substitute for the Liturgy nor become part of the liturgical celebrations (Cf. Vicesimus Quintus Annus 18; Varietates Legitimae 45). The local ordinary also approves the prayers and formulae associated with acts of public piety and devotional practices (Cf. canon law 826.3). The dispositions given by a particular local Ordinary for the territory of his jurisdiction are for the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral care.

A concern about people promoting devotions, even the clergy within a diocese:

Hence, the faithful – both clerics and laity, either as groups or individuals, may not publically promote prayers, formulae or private initiatives without the permission of the ordinary.

This presumes that bishops possess the theological and pastoral competence to make decisions, and in many of not most places, bishops have the authority, certainly. But others have a better view of one or both.

In accordance with the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, n.70, it is the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to assist the Bishops in matters relating to prayers and devotional practices of the Christian people, as well as to issue dispositions in those cases surpassing the bounds of a particular Church, and in imposing subsidiary provisions.

And as many of us church geeks know, Pastor Bonus is getting a serious revision.

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

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EG 276: The Power of the Resurrection

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, offers a reflection on the Resurrection and how it contrasts with a world which, at times, seems dead:

276. Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force. Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. On razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history. Values always tend to reappear under new guises, and human beings have arisen time after time from situations that seemed doomed. Such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power.

For disciples, Easter is more than an historical event. Signs of life around us remind us of the resurrection. When this happens, it might suggest that God touches our hearts and inspires us anew.

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Aparecida 61 – The Economic Dimension of Globalization

The bishops recognize in paragraph 61 that globalization is multi-faceted, but its economic dimension is the most apparent. They also note that globalization should not be either totally dismissed or totally embraced; careful and nuanced analysis is needed.

Globalization is a complex phenomenon with various dimensions (economic, political, cultural, communicational, etc). Correctly appraising it requires an analytical and nuanced understanding, allowing both its positive and negative aspects to be detected. Unfortunately, the most widespread and successful face of globalization is its economic dimension, which becomes paramount and conditions the other dimensions of human life.

Yet the bishops are mostly concerned about  the absolutizing aspects of globalization, especially as experienced by Latin America and the Caribbean.

All too easily efficacy (efficiency) and productivity became the only significant factors to evaluate human life. Reliance on these criteria can lead to injustice and inequality.

In globalization, market forces easily absolutize efficacy and productivity as values regulating all human relations. This peculiar character makes globalization a process that fosters many inequities and injustices.

Thus globalization tends to reduce evaluation of cultures and economies in quantitative terms. “Objective values” such as truth, justice, love, dignity and human rights are considered secondary, not important for an evaluation.

In its current form, globalization is incapable of interpreting and reacting in response to objective values that transcend the market and that constitute what is most important in human life: truth, justice, love, and most especially, the dignity and rights of all, even those not included in the market.

One way of understanding what the bishops are say is to note how often analysis of the quality of life or “development” in countries is measured almost exclusively in terms of GNP or GDP or statistics of violence and crime.

Even if there is an analysis of income distribution or land distribution these are often not considered as important as economic statistics.

Here is the USCCB translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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