Five Questions, Plus

My friend Charles and I part company on the value we place on the Rorate Caeli site. I’ll end commentary on the source with that, but offer his five questions here:

1. Since the promulgation of the Pauline Missal (c.1970) have the goals of greater participation and greater understanding of the Eucharistic sacrifice been demonstrably met?

Participation, yes. I’m not sure what “greater understanding” would look like. I think pre-conciliar Catholics were fine with identifying what happens at Mass in terms of traditional language. I think the needle has moved a bit from a narrow interpretation of Calvary and a wider view of the Paschal Mystery. But I’m not sure most Catholics then or now could describe that. Many, maybe most of the Catholics with whom I’ve interacted in the past thirty years of ministry might be able to articulate it, but not in a theological way. I don’t think some traditional-leaning Catholics have picked up on the nuance here, though they would be able to parrot the 50’s language in such a way that Father Smith would understand and accept.

2. Have the translations of scripture and other texts into the vernaculars demonstrably raised the critical thinking skills and personal piety of the Faithful?

I don’t know that critical thinking skills were a priority of the Council bishops or the reformers. I think Scripture texts are well-integrated into the prayer lives of many Catholics. I suspect that now, as then, Catholics have little practice in applying the Word to their daily lives. Lectio divina, for example, was a practice limited to the monastery before Vatican II. The same cannot be said today. “Personal piety” may be a careless term here. Has the accessibility of the Bible at liturgy improved the prayer life of Catholics? Undeniably yes. Does room to grow remain? Certainly.

3. In addition to perceived benefits of the use of vernaculars in ritual and devotions, have there also been both subtle and obvious dangers, divisions and contentions in multi-cultural demographic regions?

This was an issue also floated in Liturgiae Authenticam. I’m not sure that Catholic contentiousness can be pinned on Mass in the vernacular. The blogosphere is certainly more to blame. I think we’re looking at a phenomenon of human nature and parochialism. But at least we have fewer stories of rival Eucharistic processions brawling in the streets.

4. Have foreign concerns to the sacred rites such as nationalism, patriotism and secularism resulted from vernacular and polyglot usage in the liturgy? What are some consistent experiential experiences of such detriments?

See above. These existed before the council. In a country like the US, the melting pot of suburbia has blended ethnic Catholicism into a fair shade of brown.

5. Does an appreciation of great diversity among vernacular usage at liturgy result in a sort of “Babel-like” confusion, or has it achieved the coherence and unity the rituals seek to convey?

I suspect that where we lack uniformity, we have the opportunity to appreciate Catholic unity in expressions of diversity.

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Amoris Laetitia 127: “Beauty– That Great Worth”

amoris laetitia memeJust a reminder that when beauty is spoken of here, it is not something of a physical or emotional appeal, but something deeper and different:

127. The love of friendship is called “charity” when it perceives and esteems the “great worth” of another person.(Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 26, art. 3) Beauty – that “great worth” which is other than physical or psychological appeal – enables us to appreciate the sacredness of a person, without feeling the need to possess it. In a consumerist society, the sense of beauty is impoverished and so joy fades. Everything is there to be purchased, possessed or consumed, including people. Tenderness, on the other hand, is a sign of a love free of selfish possessiveness. It makes us approach a person with immense respect and a certain dread of causing them harm or taking away their freedom. Loving another person involves the joy of contemplating and appreciating their innate beauty and sacredness, which is greater than my needs. This enables me to seek their good even when they cannot belong to me, or when they are no longer physically appealing but intrusive and annoying. For “the love by which one person is pleasing to another depends on his or her giving something freely”.(Ibid., q. 110, art. 1)

After a springboard supplied by Thomas Aquinas, Pope Francis offers a familiar theme, tenderness. When a person annoys me: note how people of modern society behave. Unfriending on one of that most consumerist of media, facebook. Gossip and threats. Wishes for as well as actions toward someone that impinge on an individual’s freedoms.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 126: Joy and Beauty

amoris laetitia memeJoy and beauty: seems like the themes of the current and retired pope respectively.

In speaking of joy, let’s be sure to distinguish between this quality and simple happiness. Joy strikes me as an Ignatian quality, something that will draw a person to a deeper fulfillment. Not just immediate gratification.

126. In marriage, the joy of love needs to be cultivated. When the search for pleasure becomes obsessive, it holds us in thrall and keeps us from experiencing other satisfactions. Joy, on the other hand, increases our pleasure and helps us find fulfilment in any number of things, even at those times of life when physical pleasure has ebbed. Saint Thomas Aquinas said that the word “joy” refers to an expansion of the heart.(Cf. Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 31, art. 3., ad 3) Marital joy can be experienced even amid sorrow; it involves accepting that marriage is an inevitable mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures, but always on the path of friendship, which inspires married couples to care for one another: “they help and serve each other”.(Gaudium et Spes 48)

A married person can struggle with her or his spouse, and yet still gaze on the partner and believe that in shared struggle and mutual service, they will persist on their chosen path.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 125: Passion Directed To Growth

The council bishops of amoris laetitia memeVatican II teaching here:

125. Marriage is likewise a friendship marked by passion, but a passion always directed to an ever more stable and intense union. This is because “marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children” but also that mutual love “might be properly expressed, that it should grow and mature”.(Gaudium et Spes 50) This unique friendship between a man and a woman acquires an all-encompassing character only within the conjugal union. Precisely as all-encompassing, this union is also exclusive, faithful and open to new life. It shares everything in constant mutual respect. The Second Vatican Council echoed this by stating that “such a love, bringing together the human and the divine, leads the partners to a free and mutual self-giving, experienced in tenderness and action, and permeating their entire lives”.(Gaudium et Spes 49)

Are human relationships exceptional or unique when compared to animals? The notion that the primary aim of marriage is procreation ignores higher human aspirations, not to mention simply biology. For the Christian, something higher is suggested by the marriage relationship, something that aspires to something more than the simple expression of sexual expression.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 124: The Challenge of Marriage

amoris laetitia memeToday, a discussion on difficulties. Something more than making up (or out) after having a fight:

124. A love that is weak or infirm, incapable of accepting marriage as a challenge to be taken up and fought for, reborn, renewed and reinvented until death, cannot sustain a great commitment. It will succumb to the culture of the ephemeral that prevents a constant process of growth. Yet “promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love”.(Lumen Fidei  52)

Things in the universe bigger than ourselves: principles, a mission–I think of the impulse of the Gospel. Even for non-believers many people are motivated to higher values and truths than self-indulgence.

If this love is to overcome all trials and remain faithful in the face of everything, it needs the gift of grace to strengthen and elevate it. In the words of Saint Robert Bellarmine, “the fact that one man unites with one woman in an indissoluble bond, and that they remain inseparable despite every kind of difficulty, even when there is no longer hope for children, can only be the sign of a great mystery”.(De sacramento matrimonii, I, 2; in Id., Disputationes, III, 5, 3 (ed. Giuliano, Naples, 1858), 778)

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 123: Lifelong Sharing

amoris laetitia memeHow marriage is like friendship:

123. After the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the “greatest form of friendship”.(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles III, 123; cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 8, 12 (ed. Bywater, Oxford, 1984, 174).) It is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life.

More than just friendship, marriage is properly unique among all human relationships:

Marriage joins to all this an indissoluble exclusivity expressed in the stable commitment to share and shape together the whole of life. Let us be honest and acknowledge the signs that this is the case. Lovers do not see their relationship as merely temporary. Those who marry do not expect their excitement to fade.

Two aspects: the fragility of human relationships, even marriage, and the importance of a marriage among those who accompany the couple:

Those who witness the celebration of a loving union, however fragile, trust that it will pass the test of time. Children not only want their parents to love one another, but also to be faithful and remain together. These and similar signs show that it is in the very nature of conjugal love to be definitive. The lasting union expressed by the marriage vows is more than a formality or a traditional formula; it is rooted in the natural inclinations of the human person.

Yet some skeptics remain on the naturalness of human monogamy. Even if accurate, transcending this nature remains an important witness for those who aspire to permanence.

From the Old Testament:

For believers, it is also a covenant before God that calls for fidelity: “The Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant… Let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord” (Mal 2:14-16).

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Visions of Andromeda

Andromeda_GalaxySome of my listening today: Symphony 48 of Alan Hovhaness. There’s a lot of familiar musical stuff here to the composer’s followers. Perhaps including his interest in astronomy, considering the subtitle: Visions of Andromeda.

I wonder if he means the mythological woman, the constellation named for her, or the galaxy found in that star formation.

Image credit.

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