Where’s the Mission?

I saw this CathNews story from Australia and a few things about it just seemed a bit off. Archbishop Mark Coleridge on the ritual reception of the pallium in Rome last week (from CNA/EWTN news):

It’s a shot in the arm at a time when I think we need that.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Church is in great need of a new vigor and sense of evangelism. I was a bit curious about the former Archbishop of Canberra participating in this ceremony. Clearly, the pallium is a function of being appointed to a new archdiocese, and less about being named as an archbishop. Moving from Canberra to Brisbane would be sort of like Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington DC being assigned as head of the Catholic Church in the third-largest American city, namely Chicago.

I hadn’t planned on commenting about Archbishop Coleridge at all. And then I read the lead-off article in the latest edition of Worship, a piece by Georgia Masters Keightley titled, “Summorum Pontificum and the Unmaking of the Lay Church.”

And a few pieces fell together.

Ms Keightley’s premise is that the re-advance of the 1962 Missal is theologically troubling. She cites the poverty of this form on three matters: the General Intercessions, the Rite of Peace, and the Offertory Procession.

These rites were ancient, and nearly universal to the early Church, up through the Middle Ages. According to Ms Keightley, they signify concrete and appropriate expressions of the baptismal priesthood of the laity, and our role in the world as priests, prophets, and kings–a continuation, in other words, of Christ’s explicit mission during his time on earth.

Ms Keightley criticizes the reintroduction of the 1962 Missal as being out of step with the conciliar views on the laity and our mission in the world. She suggests that the “performance” of these rites by lay people embody what is to be done in the world, our evangelical mission to “the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

It struck me that the careerism model has also sullied the effort of evangelization. Archbishop Coleridge is correct to cite …

(The pallium) is a call not just to me as the archbishop who wears it but it is a call to whole Church to be more apostolic and you can only become more apostolic by entering into deeper communion with the See of Peter.

While I’m not prepared to suggest that deeper Communion with Peter isn’t congruent to being “more apostolic,” I think I would question some modern practices as not exactly reflecting a proper Petrine communion. Canberra to Brisbane isn’t exactly a lateral move, but I suspect eyebrows would raise if Donald Wuerl had a forthcoming transfer.

The awarding of the pallium is so far removed from the ordinary experience of the faithful of a diocese. I don’t think I go out on a limb by saying that most Catholic priests never see this ceremony. Is it likely that Australian Catholics, who like most of the rest of their countrymen and women, aren’t easily impressed by ceremony, especially empty ceremony.

What seems far more likely is that ordinary Catholics are more deeply formed by ordinary rites, possibly even some of the rites overlooked by traditionalist Catholics.

Ms Keightley argues that the 1962 Missal is a challenge to the evangelical nature of the Church, citing Ad Gentes 2, 11, and 15. SP seems to contravene the notion that the evangelical project is something for all believers, and not just a mission of the clergy and religious. And this is not to suggest that other elements, other rites, or the Scriptures cannot or do not communicate the urgency of the mission orientation. SP did not abrogate the Great Commission, certainly. But what is at stake is the regular reinforcement provided in the three rites lacking in the Tridentine liturgical practice. One important insight:

(I)t is in performance of the Church’s liturgy, whose ritual acts embody the memory of Jesus’ own priestly, prophetic and servant activity, that the Spirit of God is present and operative, continuing to form believers in the ways of witness and mission. And, just as Jesus’ messianic work was understood to have begun at his Baptism, this is also where the Spirit’s work in Christians begins.

As for the three rites mentioned, Ms Keightley suggests that even after the General Intercessions were moved in the liturgy and evolved into a Penitential Rite (Kyrie Eleison) faithful Christian never lost their sense of intercessory prayer, and the innate understanding that our experience of prayer should lead us to concern for the concrete needs of those around us.

The Rite of Peace, by kiss, embrace, clasping of hands, bow, or whatever sign, is a display ofcommunioand something more than play-acting, or even practice. The Rite of Peace urges believers to “genuine community … in Christ, offering their common thanksgiving and praise to the Creator.”

As for the procession with gifts, Ms Keightley writes:

Perhaps more than any of the other liturgical reforms of Vatican II this action testifies most emphatically that it is all of the Church’s priestly people, clergy and laity together, who embody Christ’s priesthood and who in company with their Lord offer the eucharistic sacrifice Sunday after Sunday.

The reclamation project of the clergy-centered Church is worrisome. Archbishop Coleridge:

I’ve been saying that in my meager six weeks in Brisbane that we are at a time in the Church in Australia – and in Brisbane in particular in my case – that we have to become more missionary.

I don’t doubt it. But the Catholic liturgy needs to reinforce this week after week, day after day, and Mass after Mass. And the archbishop, and all of us, can realize that the missionary apostolate is assigned to every baptized believer, not specialists, not wearers of the pallium, not those who appear close to Peter, either by pilgrimage, state in life, or intellectual association.

Most bishops receive the pallium once in a lifetime. Their flock(s) see it week after week. But seeing, while it might be believing, isn’t the same as acting and doing. I’m sure that Archbishop Coleridge’s second pallium rite was quite moving. If any of us had been in attendance, we would doubtless report it was quite an experience. But the concern is not for those special few thousand. It’s more for the entire Church. Even Fulton Sheen could not sway a whole nation to Catholicism, popular and well-regarded as he was.

I think the experiment with the 1962 Missal can engage more deeply on these grounds, and less on peripherals, even important peripherals such as the treatment of Jews in the Good Friday prayers. To my friends who feel attached to the old form, I’d have to ask: what do you have that instills the needful sense of mission of all the baptized? Or will you be content to rest on a sense of Catholic entitlement, to be serviced by the clergy, and to blame others for the decline in faith and Christian practice?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in evangelization, Liturgy, Ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Where’s the Mission?

  1. Jimmy Mac says:

    Are there special indulgences associated with having TWO pallia?

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