Reflections On Rupture

One of the flashpoints in the so-called liturgywars involves the chasm between continuity and rupture. That last word wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice, but it is used by people on the traditional side of the divide. In my view, a synonym might be reform, change, or renewal. Positive spin on upheaval, to be sure. I’ll use rupture, though–it’s not really outside my own experience.

I am aware that unlike my home parish in the 70s, some parishes did experience upheaval. It’s what my wife refers to as “Vatican II done in a Vatican I way.” But reform wasn’t performed hamfistedly everywhere. Some places found their implementation of Vatican II to be very life-giving and positive. There’s no denying that.

Elsewhere on the internet I was involved in a side discussion that drew out my own experience of rupture as a spiritual good. My baptismal anniversary gave me another opportunity to reflect on that. I made certain personal commitments as a result of that: watching foul language, striving for some deeper level of kindness. The year before I was baptized, my mother took to listening to a Christian talk radio program. It consisted of conversion stories of people. Many were along the lines of alcoholics, drug addicts, materialists, narcissists, and the like. People who did bad things hit bottom. They found a way out through conversion to Jesus Christ. I liked those tales. I wasn’t a hedonist or addict at age eleven, but I did enjoy stories about underdogs and others doing unexpected things and coming back from life’s defeats.

As I became familiar with many saints, I found a commonality with the stories of that radio program. Augustine finally committing to his mother’s faith. Anthony going off to the desert. Francis dropping his clothes in the town square. So many women religious founders leaving the home country of Europe for the Americas, Africa, or Asia. Those were all serious rupture from their past lives. In some cases, as with founders and missionaries, they were already committed to the faith. But they made a total break from their past life. In our own time, Mother Teresa moving from Albania to Kolkata, Joseph Ratzinger from university to cathedral to curia, just to name two.

I would view marriage as another opportunity for rupture. We don’t think of it as such, because we give up an old life for a new union. But the truth is: after wedding vows, I did not date other women, keep a private bedroom, bathroom, checking account, or such. I made a lot of changes, and not just in merging kitchens, media or cleaning appliances, or closet space. The rupture from the bachelor life, however, was a joy.

In geology, rupture is a traumatic thing for a period. Canyons open up in the landscape and animals are separated. Earthquakes occur. Water rushes in to gorges and canyons. Maybe rivers are directed to new paths. Human hikers have to go the long way around, or Mars appears as a red-orange globe with darker blotches and white icecaps visible on both of its poles.perhaps down and then up. But without the movement of tectonic plates, our planet would be like Mars: no ruptures, and eventually quite dead.

I don’t think Catholics have anything to fear with rupture. Like any change, it should be well-discerned. People with a stake in it should be consulted. Leaders can be gentle. But if continuity for its own sake is desired, perhaps people can be gently moved off that.

I like that big image at the top. A gorge has opened up in the alps. A river runs through it–you don’t see rivers at mountaintops. The walls give shade. Some enterprising people have built a little raised path on one side. Greenery has come.

I’m going to maintain my premise that non-continuous reform isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Church. On some issues, it might be a lifeline for us.

image credit of Aare Gorge, Switzerland

About catholicsensibility

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