Clericalism and the Liturgy

Here is Fr. Paul Philibert, OP, on clericalism and the liturgy in the NCReporter.

52 comments

  1. My 2 immediate thoughts are, first of all, the position articulated by Fr. Philibert is nothing new, it was long advocated in the years following the Council, often at the expense of the preceding vision, which rightfully needed to be challenged. The supposed return of “clericalism” is just a balancing act taking place. It is the same thing that happened in the wake of the Council, another vision is challenging the status quo. For so long the vision articulated by Fr. Philibert had been presented to us, yet it isn’t the only one. It is right that Fr. Philibert draws our attention back to the issue, much as people in the 1950s and 1960s did when the new vision of the Council was presented. It is a simple, dynamic process that takes place in any good discussion: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. I think what is happening is good, we are being reminded of the fullness of the symbol of ordained ministry without setting aside the richness of the priesthood of the baptized. There can’t help but be a change in dynamic as the discussion continues and is lived out.

  2. I wonder if the mistake of “overemphasizing the part played by the ordained in the life of the church” doesn’t often take the form of a supposition that the lay faithful are only doing something important if they are doing “clerical” things. Most lay people do not have time to participate in some liturgical “ministry”–we have our hands full with the temporal tasks proper to our state in life, chiefly work and family responsibilities.

    Put another way, why is “the promotion of laypersons to ministries of service in the church” so vitally important? Does this not send the message that ministerial participation is the form of participation in the liturgy that matters the most? Is there not a risk here of a continued clericalism that simply expands the circle of clerics, with reception of certificates, diplomas and degrees replacing the reception of the sacrament of orders?

  3. Well, well, well! It’s da ja vu all over again! I had Fr. Paul as a professor in the 1970’s at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore. I loved him. But what he has written comes from that period. I’m getting nauseous. I am well schooled in his theology! I do think we have to be careful about the word “clericalism.” It is evil when priests become so tight, secretive and exclusive that they harm the laity and themselves. Fr. Paul trivializes this by making it liturgical.
    We need now to look at how our “clericalizing” the laity in terms of “churchy” things would make the most “clerical” priest blush today. We have not emphasized the laity’s proper role at home, at work, at play, in politics, nor have we taught them the complete truth out of fear of alienating them. Our liturgies in many places fail to inspire, direct people to God during Mass and then to one another after Mass, where the role of the laity in the world should be most profound. Fr. Paul, I love you, but it’s time to move on!

  4. I’m concerned that some of these comments are dismissive by means of a type of name-calling: this position is old or from another era, and thus it can be ignored. I wish to say: the issues are the issues are the issues. Engage what he says, engage his arguments, but don’t label it by the era it allegedly comes from. For one thing, he is addressing the CURRENT situation and naming dynamics of the last ten or fiteen years, which is to say, this article couldn’t have been written in the 1960s. I rather doubt that Fr. Philibert’s thinking hasn’t changed and developed since there. The labelling is inaccurate and intellectually lazy.
    awr

    1. With all due respect to intellectual honesty, I have to say that Fr. Paul’s article is exactly what he taught me and others of that period (1976-80) castigating the Church and her liturgy prior to the Second Vatican Council–his words are verbatim but now directed toward a newer bread that has abandoned the “spirit of Vatican II in his mind. But the verbiage is identical. It was the bad old Church prior to the Second Vatican Council that the Second Vatican Council changed that he spoke about then and not just him. The same stereotypes he uses for today, he used back then concerning the pre-Vatican II Church, it was snarky then and snarky now. It’s pre-Vatican II aphobia!

      1. Fr. McDonald, I think you have to see beyond the stereotypes to a genuine theological critique which has merit. Calling Fr. Philibert’s comments “snarky” is neither fair to their measured and thoughtful presentation nor responsive to the issues he presents. It sounds to me as if you have dismissed out of hand any possible critique of liturgy, custom or culture of the church in the pre-Vatican II era. Any student of history will tell you, this is sheer foolishness. This side of the parousia, EVERY era has drawbacks. The documents of Vatican II were instrumental in clarifying first principles by which we can assess them better; they remain relevant.

      2. Rita, we have problems, but the bigger is with how the Ordinary Form of the Mass is celebrated, not the smaller issue of how the EF Mass is celebrated or how some young priests dress or comport themselves at Mass. We need to critique the experience of liturgy since the Second Vatican Council for what it is. In some places it is great but in other places it is abysmal. It doesn’t have to do with priests taking over things, but how the liturgy is understood, celebrated and perceived. We don’t need to beat a dead horse in terms of the EF Mass–it is what it is. The OF Mass is what it is–how can we make it what it should be? I could easily write a “stereotypical” article on that and silly expressions of priests of the OF Form. I have videos of them on my blog–so let’s focus on the real problems that the “spirit of Vatican II” created. Just my two cents. By the way, apart from the two ministries of lector and Eucharistic minister, our monthly EF Mass is very participative for the congregation with me joining them in facing the same direction. Who would have thought?

      3. This sounds to me like you are changing the subject. If you don’t want to comment on the topic of this thread, perhaps there is another…? I would submit that the church does have some work to do in realizing the interrelationship of clergy and laity not as a zero sum game where if I am more, you are less, but as the varied, gifted, ordered, Spirit-filled community of faith manifest in the liturgy. I’ve admired what you have shared of your pastoral work with your people, so I say this with respect: there is an issue of importance here.

      4. Going back to the original article, Fr. Paul and his generation of theologians in the 1960’s and 1970’s used the hermeneutic of belittling the pre-Vatican II Mass and Church by poking fun at some of the eccentricities of the Mass and Church of that recent past. It was meant to help us young seminarians, some of whom even then had priests and pastors who were formed in the Pre-Vatican II Church and resented some of the changes to move beyond it to the new and improved “ecclessiology” and way of doing Mass. Again, in the 1970’s the worst insult you could hurl at someone in the seminary or priesthood was that they were pre-VAtican II, which meant wearing cassocks, and acting priestly. It was very manipulative. You can still respect the laity and especially encourage them in their primary vocation of being in the world and evangelizing it where they are and have them actively involved in the parish and liturgy and a priest can still wear a cassock (which I don’t) have elaborate vestments, face in the same direction and sing Gregorian chant in Latin. The new group doing this now will have to test it and if it fails like so much of the 1960’s stuff, they’ll need to move on. Time will tell. We’ve lost 80% of the Catholics who should be attending Mass as it is, will we lose more? Yes if the faith is not strengthened and the transcendent not experienced and lives not changed to help Catholics interact and evangelize the world as a new creation.

  5. Fr. McDonald: well said.

    I would only add: I feel that it would be much more helpful and positive to simply go out and do good, rather than complaining about Gregorian chant, incense, vestments, etc.

  6. I think an underlying theme here, which we need to grapple with, is the question of how we celebrate — or more precisely, how the laity celebrate. Full, conscious and active participation (FCAP for short) is more difficult if the rite is perceived as ‘belonging’ to the priest and performed only by the priest. The way in which people are engaged is going to be different the more hieratic the rite appears and the less it appears as the celebration of the entire assembly under the leadership of the priest.

    When SC 14 talked about FCAP being demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, I believe it was describing a liturgy that is (or should be) by its nature collaborative, not one that is the preserve of a particular group of people within the whole. If clericalism is damaging that concept of liturgy, then we need to ask serious questions. Only when this is resolved can we start to talk about improving standards of celebration.

  7. Paul, to respond to your comment. There is a great danger in the liturgy seen as belonging to only a certain group of people. But, in the last 30 years or so in many places that certain group that claimed ownership was not the clergy but those now knows as “lay ecclesial ministers.’ Many sought to changethe liturgy each and every time so that it would be relevant. They had to implement everything they read in the latest magazine and saw at the latest conference. When questioned by “the people,” they response was often “We know more about this than you.” This could be seen as an over-simplification, but it was very true in many places. Clericalism is alive and well–but not just among the clergy!

    1. Fr. Christopher, I object to such negative generalizations about lay ecclesial ministers. This new movement in the Church has been very fruitful and has been endorsed by many bishops. Bishop Matthew Clark’s recent book, Forward in Hope, addresses the question of clericalization precisely as a fear that has not been realized in practice. That is not to say that there haven’t been some indivduals who act “superior” to others (a general sin), but if so, who has promoted them? Much more often the experience has been, as one lay minister put it: “You have to check your ego at the door.” Poor liturgical education is a general problem too, and can’t be laid at the feet of lay ecclesial ministry.

  8. Christopher, I would be the first to agree that there have been excesses of enthusiasm in the past. And I think this was partly occasioned by the fact that at one point it was possible to say that a substantial number of lay people working in parishes and dioceses were in fact theologically better-educated than the clergy who were attempting to instruct them. They had paid out of their own pockets for their education, and had obtained their masters’ degrees. I view all that as a kind of flexing of newly-discovered muscles on the part of lay people who hitherto had been ‘kept in their place’.

    But all that was 20 years ago, and this is now. Things have settled down a lot. The time is ripe not to revisit old conflicts and tensions but for clergy and laity, both better-educated than ever before, to work in partnership, not in rivalry.

  9. Full, conscious and active participation, I believe is at the heart of what anyone would want for a person attending a liturgy. But I think the question that people have struggled with is, what does it look like? Unfortunately the word active in English which translates the Latin actio, gives an impression of external movement, whereas actio envisions more of a process, an internal and external disposition and engagement. One of the greatest steps towards this was the liturgy in the vernacular. If people were to follow all that Order of Mass asks of them, then what SC 14 desires would be realized, I don’t think we need to invent more ideas or symbol to do so. Perhaps the occasion of the new translation will help us draw more people in FCAP.

    1. Both BEFORE Vatican II and AFTER Vatican II, the Church explained what she meant by “active participation”. See De Musica Sacra #22 (from 1958, quoted below) and Musicam Sacram #15 (from 1967).

      Interior participation is the most important: paying devout attention, lifting up the heart to God in prayer. In this way the faithful “are intimately joined with their High Priest…and together with Him, and through Him offer (the Sacrifice), making themselves one with Him” (Mediator Dei).

      The participation of the congregation becomes more complete when participation is manifested by external acts, such as bodily position (kneeling, standing, sitting), ceremonial signs, and especially responses, prayers, and singing.

      Active participation is perfect when “sacramental” participation is included. (i.e. receiving Holy Communion)

      Adequate instruction is necessary before the faithful can intelligently, and actively participate in the Mass.

  10. Fr. Philibert’s responses to the three forms of clerical distortion he addresses are excellent. What I don’t think he does adequately here is to explain in what way these are “new.” It seems to me we have recycled some old dysfunctional behaviors; we shouldn’t treat them as though they are novelties.

  11. “shifted its focus from mission to maintenance, from evangelization to ritual sanctification”

    I don’t see that in my experience. I do see that the Church is working on BOTH frontiers (mission AND maintenance, evangelization AND ritual sanctification).

    “active players are no longer (or not often) imagined to be the baptized, but the ordained.”

    People need to read Apostolicam Actuositatem from Vatican II and see the dignity and vocation (mission!) to which the laity are called. They also need to recognize that the mission involves “certain liturgical actions” (AA 24) to a minor degree.

    “seminarians and young priests living full time in cassocks”

    This article, as many others, brings up issues (such as clerical attire) in the context of Vatican II as if the Council made some stirring pronouncement on that issue. Skimming Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum Ordinis, I can’t see any reference to clothing, attire, or dress.

    I will continue in another comment.

  12. “consequent demotion of the spiritual dignity of the faithful”

    This makes it sound as though the “spiritual dignity of the faithful” depends on them having some particular liturgical ministry to carry out. What about those Catholics who are content to worship from their pews? Do they have a lower spiritual dignity than, say, a lector or EMHC?

    “the priest represents Christ, while the people represent those to whom Christ ministered”

    The priest is “in persona Christi capitis” (in the person of Christ the head) and the congregation is “… corporis” (… the body). This isn’t just “popular theology”, this is Catholic theology.

    “hungry to hear Gregorian chant”

    I’m hungry to SING Gregorian chant, not be a “passive bystander”.

    I agree with him (I think) regarding the Holy Spirit. See AA 3.

    I fear that further commenting on his essay will result in a breach of the blog’s comment regulations, so I will restrict myself to replying to others’ comments.

  13. I doubt that “full, conscious and active participation” is possible in a Church that has neglected to catechize its members for over 40 years, with 70 percent of them not bothering even to attend Mass regularly on Sundays.

    Compromises are required right off the bat.

  14. I found a story told by Romano Guardini of a young man who served Mass for him, and who in his home parish attened Mass daily. [This was well before Vatican II] One day the young man counted up the number of times in the half-hour Mass the priest made certain gestures, according to the rubrics then in force: 16 genuflections, 52 signs of the cross, 10 times kissing the altar — so a genuflection every 2nd minute, a sign of the cross every 35 seconds, and a kissing of the altar every 3 minutes. Guardini (and the young man asking him) says what sense could one find with these gestures, these signs? The story continues, the young man’s pastor could not answer the question, but for the young man the meaning of the Mystery of the Church was at stake. My question: Why even dream of returning to such a style of ‘celebration’?

    1. Huh? So because one man couldn’t explain something we should abandon it.

      What specifically is wrong with these gestures and the number of time they were done? For instance, much of the kissing of the altar is done because it is venerated this way whenever the priest turns his back on it. I beautiful gesture.

  15. I found a story told by Romano Guardini of a young man who served Mass for him, and who in his home parish attened Mass daily. [This was well before Vatican II] One day the young man counted up the number of times in the half-hour Mass the priest made certain gestures, according to the rubrics then in force: 16 genuflections, 52 signs of the cross, 10 times kissing the altar — so a genuflection every 2nd minute, a sign of the cross every 35 seconds, and a kissing of the altar every 3 minutes. Guardini (and the young man asking him) says what sense could one find with these gestures, these signs? The story continues, the young man’s pastor could not answer the question, but for the young man the meaning of the Mystery of the Church was at stake. My question: Why even dream of returning to such a ‘celebration’?

    1. Phil, good to see you! Are you still in Brussels?
      The Guardini story you tell is poignant. “The mystery of the Church was at stake.” So true. I am reminded of many people I’ve taught and worked with who need and deserve a better icon of the great mystery of the Church, one which includes them in all their dignity as the baptized.

    2. I celebrated this Mass at 5:00 PM today, right after your comment and do it every Tuesday at that time. I don’t go to the gym on Tuesday because of the physical and spiritual exercise I get from this marvelous expression of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and it is indeed a workout in both areas.

    3. Samuel, in the sense that making meaning is integral to human life. This was a young man; there comes a time when it’s not enough to say “It is that way because I said so, and I’m your mother.”

      1. Samuel – I agree. Here is an example of liturgical catechesis from the Douay Catechism of 1649:

        Q. What signifies the “Hanc igitur oblationem…” when the priest spreads his hands over the Host and Chalice?

        A. It is an earnest begging of God to accept the sacrifice that is presented to be offered for the safety and peace of the whole church, and salvation of all from eternal damnation.

        Q. Why then doth he sign the offerings again five times?

        A. To signify the mystery of those five days which were between our Saviour’s entry into Jerusalem and his passion.

        Is that the original reason for the five signs of the cross? I don’t know.

        Is that the “right” explanation? That’s subjective. I don’t think it’s wrong. I’m sure there’s not only one explanation for it. Some reasons come later, just like some vestigial vestments (e.g. maniple) acquire a spiritual meaning later.

      2. Other examples from the Douay Catechism:

        Q. Why in the middle of this prayer [Te igitur…] … sign the Host and Chalice thrice with the sign of the cross?

        A. He signeth the Host and Chalice thrice to signify that our redemption made upon the Cross, was done by the will of the Holy Trinity.

        Q. Why then doth he again sign the offerings five times with the sign of the Cross?

        A. To signify the five wounds of Christ, which he represents to the eternal Father for us.

        Q. Why then doth he again sign the Host and Chalice three times with the sign of the Cross?

        A. To signify, that this sacrifice is available for three sorts of men: for those in heaven … for those in purgatory … and for those on earth…

        Q. Why then, uncovering the chalice, doth he sign it five times with the Host?

        A. … The three crosses made over the chalice, signify the three hours which Christ hung dead on the cross; the other two made at the brim of the chalice, signifying the blood and water flowing from his side.

      3. Jeffrey, you write: “Is that the ‘right’ explanation? That’s subjective. I don’t think it’s wrong.” Do you know about the critiques of this type of explanation that go back now about 100 years? I think the consensus is pretty wide, among liturgists of all stripes, that this type of explanation is wrong-headed. It’s on another plant than the rich symbolic-sacramental understanding of the church Fathers. I’m surprised you quote such stuff approvingly.
        awr

      4. I apologize for offending your sensibilities, Dom Ruff. 😉 I certainly don’t have the education you do in these matters; I didn’t know that liturgists for the past century consider “this type of explanation is wrong-headed.”

        I do know about the four general types of symbolisms associated with the priest’s vestments: moral (virtues), allegorical (armor of God), dogmatic (doctrines about Christ), and Passion-ate (evocative of our Lord’s Passion). But I don’t have the background or schooling to be well-versed in the “rich symbolic-sacramental understanding of the Church fathers.”

        Although… I have read St. Ambrose’s (?) ‘De Sacramentis’ and ‘De Mysteriis’, as well as St. Cyril’s mystagogical catechisms and some of St. Augustine’s sermons. Is that heading in the right direction?

        Is there much in the way of Church Father commentary on the Roman Canon? Any resources you could share for the new Eucharistic Prayers?

      5. Dom Ruff, could you point me to some of the critiques of this sort of explanation so I can have a balanced picture?

        Or could you provide a resource that provides a more symbolic-sacramental catechesis on the Roman Canon? I’d really like to get more from this discussion than a scolding that I should know better. 🙁

      6. Dear Jeffery,
        Thanks for your sincere question. But first, an apology. I’m sorry for the scolding tone of my reply to you. I apologize. Alas, I’m not sure I can fit into a post an adequate response to a complicated question. It takes me (or any prof) a whole semester to teach even the basics of Eucharist to grad students, and it takes the students years to acquire a basic understanding of the many areas of liturgical theology. Perhaps examine online syllabuses and texts used for grad courses (I don’t put mine online but perhaps others do), or read the books on Eucharist published by Glazier/LitPress, or read things by members of the NAAL, especially the Eucharist and the Liturgical Theology seminars. I mean this as encouragement, and I hope it helps.
        Pax,
        Fr. Anthony

    4. Perhaps it’s not the total count which is significant (although I’m sure someone would disagree), but rather the words he is saying when he makes the Sign of the Cross, or the circumstances of the genuflections, or the purpose of kissing the altar.

      In my estimation, in the Ordinary Form on a weekday (about 25 minutes), the priest makes 8 signs of the cross, kisses the altar 2 times, kisses the book of the Gospels 1 time, genuflects 3 (or 5) times, and bows profoundly 2 (or 4) times. So?

    5. Jeffrey Pinyan’s question to Fr. Anthony brought to mind a book which I’d like to mention, even though the query was not addressed to me: Louis Soubigou’s A Commentary on the Prefaces and the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal, translated by John Otto (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1971). It’s a theological reflection on the Mass formularies which avoids the pitfalls of an ahistorical, typological reading, yet is certainly spiritually rich, and impressively literate with respect to Catholic liturgical tradition and the Scriptures. It’s quite theologically conservative, but does not share the approach of the 1649 text Jeffrey quoted.

      1. Thank you for this suggestion, Rita! I bought a copy through Eighth Day Books and I started reading it last night. I am finding it a pleasant and enlightening read, and definitely good research material. 🙂

  16. Avery Dulles, The Ways We Worship, First Things http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/11/002-the-ways-we-worship-10, concluded that we are asking the Eucharist to do too many things, and that perhaps we need something to balance it such as a revival of popular devotions.
    My suggestion is a Divine Office that would have many different forms, as in the Cathedral and Monastic traditions, to be used not only in parishes, but also by families, groups, and individuals. Such a liturgy would not be very clerical in addition to providing for greater variety in worship.
    As long as the only liturgy is the Eucharist there will be clericalism and endless cultural wars because it will never satisfy everyone.

    1. I’m with you there. I’m working on a liturgy of the hours for the domestic church, especially for families with small children, but haven’t found a publisher.

      1. Dr. Belcher – that’s been one of my passion for many years. I am very interested in this project. As I teach people in the diocese to pray the hours, I encourage them to pray them at home and in our schools. Some have tried and to their surprise the kids loved it! That’s always been my experience. I can’t wait for this book. Fr. Allan Bouley, OSB and Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O. Praem are two people who inspired me to continue my work with the Liturgy of the Hours

      2. Remember that a larger percentage of Americans pray daily (e.g. 48%) than attend church weekly (e.g. 32% in the 2005 Baylor study). That daily prayer might be simple and unsophisticated, probably in many cases the equivalent of “O God come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.” I suspect many people, even those who do not go to church regularly, might appreciate developing their daily prayer life, particularly if they could do so in small steps, with a variety of options of gradually increasing complexity.

  17. In the “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests,” we read: “Jesus gave his whole mystical body a share in the anointing of the Spirit with which he was anointed. In that body all the faithful are made a holy and kingly priesthood, they offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ … therefore there is no such thing as a member who does not have a share in the mission of the whole body” (Presbyterorum Ordinis 2). Put another way, each of the faithful, positioned in some way at the church’s periphery, has the potential to initiate a more dynamic expression of the living church, calibrated precisely to the real existing possibilities for life that are always emerging there.

    Fr. Philibert’s “other way” of explaining what Vatican II wrote with clarity seems unnecessarily verbose and jargony. Did anyone who read P.O. 2 need it to be “translated” for them?

  18. In their recent books, John Allen in The Future Church and Harvey Cox in the Future of Faith devote a lot of space to Pentecostalism. Certainly Catholics and other Christians, especially liturgists, need to respond to this movement. Philbert reminds us that Pope John was ahead of the times in using the metaphor of Pentecost to describe the Council. Orthodox observers at the council said that they would have written a treatise on the Holy Spirit with perhaps an appendix on anthropology. I would have like to have seen them do that.
    Is there a hermeneutic of Pentecost that can get us beyond the clichés of the spirit of the Council and the hermeneutic of continuity and also help us deal with Pentecostalism as a movement?

    1. As you probably know, the Charismatic movement was very strong in the 1970’s and out of this formed many intentional covenant communities, some ecumenical. One such community is the Alleluia Community in Augusta (you know the place where Tiger plays). It has been in existence since about 1970 and has about 900 members who live in two separate neighbors in Augusta. It is ecumenical. In my former parish of Most Holy Trinity, a good number of the Alleluia members belonged. They did bring a very conservative Catholicism to the parish, by the book so to speak, but in terms of piety and worship they are a bit freer. They would raise the roof in terms of their singing and responses but liked the high liturgies, but also raising their hands and quietly praying in tongues. This sometimes made others and me uncomfortable, but for the most part they are respectful of others who aren’t as exuberant. They are indeed evangelical Catholics and a leaven in the Augusta community.

  19. Since I don’t have the EF Mass today, I went to the gym at 5:45 AM and just got back with my brain in high gear and I was reflecting on Jack Rokosky’s comment above a bit more. What is fascinating about Augusta, the center of the universe right now, is the phenomenal number of vocations to the priesthood that have come about since Vatican II. In my former parish alone, we have had two men become Jesuit priests, one a Dominican priest, and seven others to become diocesan priests, this all since 1983, but the majority since the 90’s. That’s a total of ten! Out of this group seven are from the Alleluia community and they have even more men to become priests from the other parishes and the other parishes have had non-Alleluia members who have joined orders or the diocese. In all cases it stemmed from conservative, evangelical Catholicism, serious and traditional good liturgy and strong families and in the case of Alleluia, strong community support with a strong devotional life apart from the Mass, such as charismatic prayer groups. Not only has the south risen again, it is risen! We are the center of the universe! And the Church! Forgive the hyperbole. 😉

  20. The charismatic movement seems to attract many across the ideological spectrum. Cardinal Suenens patronized it. John Carroll University here in Cleveland honored him in 1996 with a symposium Retrieving Charisms in the Twenty First Century (now a Lit Press book).with a variety of presentations from across the ideological spectrum. My impression was that people mostly talked pass each other rather than converging or diverging.

    Also both Allen and Cox in their books emphasized the diversity of the Pentecostal movement and its potential pluses and minuses.

    Philbert’s reminder about John XXIII, especially about the prayer for a new Pentecost, suggests that a good treatment of Pentecost might have value both within and outside the Catholic Church.

  21. As a social scientist I find Pentecost very interesting. I doubt that many people would have been impressed by accounts of the rising of a crucified criminal. Their responses were likely to have been much like those of the apostles to the women who came back from the tomb.

    However I can imagine that a charismatic community, with many striking charisms as we see in Paul, but which also practiced the love and care advocated by Paul as the better way, might have caused people to be much more open to the message of a risen, crucified Savior.

    In today’s world the fastest growing religions are the Mormon’s with their emphasis upon a social support network (new families to town are recruited to Mormon family homes for family night as the beginning of there introduction to the network), and the Pentecostals with their charismatic emphasis.

    Maybe we need to put a Pentecostal experience of charisms and love back together as a way to package ourselves?

    1. Well, a “package” is an exceedingly shallow way to think of proclaiming the Gospel and living the life of discipleship. (Elmer Gantry comes to mind for some reason.)

      I have a cautionary view of organizing communities around charismatic gifts, as typically understood. Communities of that sort tend to blaze for a while and then get spent, often with significant turnover as time goes on. Sustainability is deeply fraught, and the longest-lived communities are often those that temper themselves over time. And so the cycle begins again.

      For all the flaws of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, it should be remembered that they have not forgotten the lessons of this kind of experience. Not only in the early centuries of the Church but also in various kinds of religious communities living under rule.

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