NAAL report: CAL; Opening liturgy

The Catholic Academy of Liturgy, made up of the Catholic members of NAAL, met Thursday. Bishop Douglas Crosby of  Newfoundland reported on the work of ICEL with much charm and good humor. He brought down the house with his explanation of “And with your spirit” – it’s not dualistic and it certainly refers to the whole person, like when we say to someone, “Get your butt over here.” [Your editor has lightly edited that last word.] Msgr. Tony Sherman from the BCDW reported on the amazingly extensive catechetical resources being developed – e.g., by the Leeds group and FDLC.

I thought the mood of the room during the discussion was not so much angry as serious, resigned, and sad. Though the new missal is a done deal, several rose to say what they wish had been possible with greater consulation, open discussion of the basic principles of translation, incorporation of the gains of the 1997 ICEL sacramentary, and so forth. Fr. Bob Daly, SJ rose to say that, in bleak times in the liturgical life of the RC church, maybe the hopeful image to embrace is that of sowing seeds for the future in fallow times.

The mood got even more serious as talk turned to the future work of CAL. Over and over people raised the issue, Where are the young people? Why are our churches emptying? We can have the most elevated language, the most beautiful rite, the most profound mystagogical catechesis – what’s it all worth if the Catholics aren’t coming to church anymore? Sobering stuff.

The opening liturgy Thursday evening, ably planned by Steve Janco, Fred Holper, and Todd Johnson, brought together the entire membership of NAAL, many Christian traditions and also Jews and Muslims. The interfaith service began with Sr. Delore’s Dufner’s well-known hymn “Sing a new church” – here altered slightly for inter-faith reasons to “Sing a new world.” Throughout the service, God-language had no male pronouns. Quite moving was the remembrance of the NAAL members who passed away in 2009. Six priests, five RC (Ellis DePriest, SM; Mark Garrett, OSA; Jerome M. Hall, SJ; Conrad Kraus; Jovian Lang, OFM) and one Episcopal (Marion Hatchett), were eulogized, and each time we all sang Steven C. Warner’s lovely refrain from Julian of Norwich, “All will be well, and all will be well, all manner of things will be well.”

The text of the closing hymn, “In star and crescent, wheel and flame, in rugged cross and empty tomb…”  was by my friend from the Hymn Society, Mary Louise Bringle. The poetic imagery is so creatively well-done, I hope she doesn’t mind if I try to be a systematic theologian and raise a few questions.

“Though different cultures, tribes, and lands / use lenses ground to differing sight, / each color of the prism’s bands / refracts from one all-dazzling light.”

Some hold that all the various world religions  mean the same thing, but use different words and rites to express it. Is that what this hymn is suggesting? Others hold that the religions of the world are intractably diverse and shouldn’t be thrown into one melting pot. George Lindbeck and Stanley Hauerwas are in the second camp. So is the Second Vatican Council, in a way, with its resolute proclamation of Christ as the world’s only Savior, and its welcome call for greater respect, understanding, dialogue, and cooperation between Christians and those who do not yet know Christ.

“With varied hopes and dreams and creeds, / all tiles in one mosaic whole, / we serve our God in faithful deeds / on pathways to one common goal. / No Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, / no male and female set apart / but all are one, as family held close within our Maker’s heart.”

One feels a bit small-minded and ungenerous raising questions about poetry this beautiful. But if I understand the Second Vatican Council correctly, the appropriate image might be, rather than tiles in a mosaic whole, concentric circles, with ever greater humility and self-questioning on the part of those whom Christ has called to be in the circle at the center, which is Christ himself.

But of course one can’t use an inter-faith service to proclaim Christ, however humbly. Mel Bringle, faithful Presbyterian, is hardly bound to my understanding of the Second Vatican Council. These problems and challenges are inherent in interfaith worship. This was a service for faithful believers of all three Abrahamaic traditions, and this was the right hymn for the occasion. The questions I raise are bound to go through the mind of a Christian at interfaith worship. Finally, above and beyond all our inadequate images (circles or tiles or anything else) for things divine, let us give the last word to Julian of Norwhich. “All will be well, and all will be well, all manner of things will be well.”

awr

4 comments

  1. “I thought the mood of the room during the discussion was not so much angry as serious, resigned, and sad. Though the new missal is a done deal, several rose to say what they wish had been possible with greater consultation, open discussion of the basic principles of translation, incorporation of the gains of the 1997 ICEL sacramentary, and so forth. ”

    And just how do you suppose we all felt when progressive clergy and church agencies mutilated our sacred rites and texts in the 1960s and -70s? Well, Father Ruff, I was around then (an undergrad at a fine Benedictine college); and I can tell you directly that we were told directly to “like it or lump it.” There has been ample, no more than ample, time for greater consultation and open discussion regarding these long-awaited and necessary corrections to the Sacramentary, etc. So all I can say to the attendees at this stellar event is: “I am so ineffably sorry and boooo hoooo!

  2. “And just how do you suppose we all felt when progressive clergy and church agencies mutilated our sacred rites and texts in the 1960’s and 70’s?”

    “How you ALL felt?” Some of us, Mr. Henry, had been waiting for years for the liturgical studies of 150 years to be able to continue and transform the necessary work of the Council of Trent. Some of us were in parishes in 1930 and 1940 where the “Mass of the Presanctified” was celebrated on Good Friday, rather than the traditional Tre Ore sermons; where we were encouraged to attend the early Saturday morning “Vigil” service and grew up to study theology and learn that the work of liturgical reform had begun in the monasteries of Europe; where we were taught to use the “observe, judge, act” method to discuss and apply the Scriptures every week with fellow high school students. When, after such a formation, we heard the announcement that a new ecumenical council would be convened, I, for one, ran down the hall, waving the newspaper.
    If the bishops and seminary faculties were not up to educating the clergy as well as some of us were educated in the parishes, diocesan high schools and colleges, those of you without our experience can, indeed, rail at your experience of worship being snatched from you — even in a Benedictine college — where “like it or lump it” was the “reason” given for what was going on.
    Apparently, experience such as mine must have been rarer than rare in the decades of my childhood and adolescence. I grieve for the pastors and professors who were apparently unable to open the treasure of the liturgy beyond the experience of prayer in which they had been formed by a Latin liturgy. A prayer of contemplation and mysticism, no doubt; but formation in that prayer is not limited to the Latin liturgy . . .

  3. [sorry–forgot last name on previous comment] The churches are not emptying! I just returned from the FOCUS conference (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) in Florida where 3,000, yes 3,000 Catholic college students gave up their college breaks, even over New Year’s Eve to attend. What did we do? We sure as heck didn’t argue over women’s ordination and the word “ineffable ! We discovered the Biblical roots of worship, how to pray lectio, we cheered, sang, swing danced, had 3 hours of Eucharistic Adoration on the last night where over 2,000 people went to confession. We sang praise music, traditional hymns, saw and supported the seminarians in our midst, heard Jeff Cavins and Fr. Groeschel and learned about the Beauty of our Faith. We came home energized and on fire! It wasn’t “conservative” and it wasn’t “liberal–it was True and Beautiful. Praise God!

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