Saturday, February 5, 2011

SWLC-- Final Thoughts.

Greetings from the final morning of the Southwest Liturgical Conference in Salt Lake City!

Well, it's not quite over yet, but I think that I have come to my conclusions about the conference. It was definitely worth coming, if only to better understand the problems. (and, it gives me blog topics for a while!)

I have had quite a few conversations with folks while here, including several people from my diocese. They might consider me to be "conservative," but I hope that, in charity, they can see my perspective as I have seen theirs.

Here's the thing. Everyone here has the same goal: renewal of the liturgy, that Christ might be not simply made present at Mass, but that we might be changed by that encounter with him. Unfortunately, many of the folks here think you do that by evoking an emotional response in the participant at Mass, or by trying to make it relevant, or respecting local cultures to the detriment of the culture of the Mass.

As for me, I'm looking at all this more theologically, rather than sociologically, or psychologically, etc. From my perspective, the Roman Rite does not need our fiddling in order to bring someone in to a real encounter with Christ. It does, however, need constancy and fidelity.

It finally hit me yesterday during a talk by Dr. Jane Regan from Boston College. She didn't talk very much at all about the Missal, but rather, people. She talked about how to do adult formation, and formational principles. It was all very good and all, and I even got a few ideas for our own adult formation program.

Here's what hit me: people need baby food before they can have a steak.

There's no way to dialogue over the transcendental nature of the Mass, or that music isn't a matter of taste, or that, in humility, we should bend our will to what the Church says, when, in the case of many of these folks, they're still on baby food.

These are the people who are standing during the Eucharistic prayer, playing feel good music on the guitar, trying to figure out how to involve more women, etc. Once I realized that its just baby food for most people, I was really able to stop being so critical, and just appreciate that, though a difference of experience and perspective, we have similar goals.

Whether it should be or not, the Church in the post-conciliar decades has been almost as wide as it is deep. The object, it seems, is that, especially with regard to the liturgy, we should be working with the Holy Spirit to turn that wideness into a funnel-- that's the only way to get to heaven, after all.

This wideness stems from a wrong-headed notion of inculturation, or the need to make the Mass relevant, or whatever good intention that people start off with. Unfortunately, it's wrong.

During one conversation, I posited that music is not about taste. It's about beauty, which is an objective quality. If there is such thing as more beautiful, there unfortunately has to be such thing as less beautiful. But we should take heart, because that also means there is something called most beautiful, and that is what we call God.

Many of the folks here are happy to talk about principles, and find that we come to agreement on them. Unfortunately, it's taking principles to praxis that is where the conflict begins.

In some ways, this makes me ever more critical of the main presenters. Their job, and the job of the organizers, is to be good stewards. They're not to be innovators, not pushing theological opinion on various topics (I still stand firmly by what I said after the first night), but simply baby food-- catechesis, not theology.

For example, how does singing the Mass, rather than singing at Mass, bring people in to a more full, conscious, and active participation in it? How is this different from hymn singing?

What is it that the rubrics call for in this situation-- why is it that, in humility, we should follow what the Church says here, rather than try and be "pastoral"? Is it truly pastoral to lead folks away from what the Church has to say?

All in all, the week has helped me to see the work to be done. I am by no means a "true believer"!  I have sat it out from the "worship" whenever I could, because of the overly horizontal nature of it all.

But the week has helped to "human-ize" those on the other side, and realize that they're not intentionally out to ruin the Church-- they're trying their best... they can just do better. And so can I, for that matter.

I think that I would much more appreciate an academic get together of folks who were able to engage at a deeper level on the subject. I wonder whether we'd have liturgies like we have had this week at that kind of gathering... something tells me probably not.

Right, well, it's almost time for the last session-- until next time, God bless!

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