“After This Our Exile”

For many years, I was privileged to have a permanent deacon as my spiritual director. Very early on, I realized I was in good hands. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling with a profound sense of dissatisfaction. I’m dissatisfied with myself. I’m dissatisfied with the Church. The list is longer still: family of origin, education, musical skills, friends, colleagues, politics, hobbies, bosses, institutions … I don’t think I’ve ever let it completely color my life, but on occasion it can get out of control.

Len suggested I treat it as a spiritual gift. Dissatisfaction should be a normal attitude for a Christian in the world. The world is sinful and flawed, and its people don’t do what they should do. But when combined with patience, dissatisfaction has a transformative potential. It can sprout compassion, tenacity, and a pilgrim ethic. I recall the line from my childhood prayer, “… after this our exile …” and it is good to be mindful of this.

It is a bit dismaying to see dissatisfaction running off the rails. A sure sign one has decided to treat an exile as a place of permanent residence is when one suggests a close ally is “defensive” or the people who don’t even bother with you are plain confused.

Beauty and quality are largely subjective experiences. They are enhanced, to a certain degree, by diplomacy and persuasion. Dialogue, on other words. Observers can be invited to return. Perhaps they begin to listen, to encounter more deeply. They make the leap to becoming sympathizers, or eventually, advocates.

The notion that chant advocates can get away with this scenario is plain silly:

1. We have all the answers in church music.

2. You are people are confused, defensive, ignorant, and what you do and say “smacks of evil.” Sometimes more than one of the above.

3. You will now listen to us and adopt our treasured methods.

4. It is better to do what we think is good for your people rather than what you think is good for them.

5. Pay no attention to liturgical law because it’s confusing, and worse: it doesn’t agree with the Church’s ideals.

6. Everything will be fine.

I can agree with step six. But otherwise, really: is this the best case to be made for plainsong and propers? It just sounds like dissatisfaction run amok.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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