Transcendence?

I saw this piece linked in social media from ChurchPop. I don’t have an argument to make against transcendence in the liturgy. I think a lot of clergy are ill-prepared to facilitate it. Not every priest is good at crafting homilies, leading people at prayer, or engaging artists, visual and musical. Some struggle with leadership. Many of those who do cannot or will not allow a lay person to take the reins of leadership in their place, even now and then.

From Fr Bill Peckman’s 2018 piece:

Parishes would do well to at least start doing Mass as the Church intends. You would be surprised at how few do.

This looks like a smack against perceived liturgical abuses. Most deviations from the red-n-black are small. They are often unintentional or ingrained from long practice learned from other clergy. It’s a point of commonality, not causality that people have left active worship life at the same time the combo of the vernacular and the internet has uncovered widespread deviations from the Roman Missal.

One priest friend of mine, an elderly guy, had the habit of inserting “and” at some moments in the Mass. “And let us pray.” “And the Lord be with you.” “And the Gospel of the Lord.” Frankly I found it annoying. But I wasn’t going to make a thing out of it. It didn’t chase anybody out of the parish. Another priest I knew who was born and educated in Africa would announce after his reading, “The Gospel of our salvation.” Some years later I heard it on occasion from an Asian-born priest. Again, I wasn’t going to make a thing of it.

Things during liturgy that do make people run away: too much talking about money or politics, criticism (even warranted) of parishioners, being impolite, ungrateful, discourteous, or selfish in public.

If the premise about transcendence were true, we would have found that the new Roman Missal and bishops’ insistence their clergy follow it to the letter would have seen a small uptick in returning Catholics. Eleven years would seem to be enough. But I don’t think we’ve seen that at all.

 Transcendence needs to find its home again.

Among other virtues, yes. If people were really looking for transcendence, they would be gravitating to other Sunday experiences that provided it: communing with nature, listening to inspiring music, reading a good book, sexual intercourse with a committed partner, visiting museums and art galleries.

Pastors of souls would do well to start challenging the 77% who rarely if practice the faith to practice the faith…starting with calling their people to the Eucharist. We might start with families whose parents who send their children to any Catholic education system (school, High School, PSR/CCD, etc.).

The 77% would be a worthy target, yes. But I’m unsure challenging people on their Sunday practice is necessarily the best first step. What about being sure why people don’t come? That will take an intrepid person (or more likely a team of people) to get out to the inactive folk and ask them. Maybe engage in some chit-chat before and after school parent meetings.

My suspicion is this: people have a large variety of reasons why they come to church and why they leave active practice. I do think we need to ask them. If it seems scary to go door to door to absent folk, perhaps a worthy start might be to ask those who stay why they do.

As for the rest, I don’t think transcendence is going to be a lure from sports, work, tv, gardening, the Sunday paper in bed with a cup of coffee, or what-have-you. If we want to know what will get people into church, we will have to ask them. We will have to be prepared to listen. And most challenging of all: we will need to be prepared to change. It’s on us. Not them.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News, Commentary, Liturgy. Bookmark the permalink.

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