Why I Stay: A Liturgical Reflection

It is reported that when Karl Rahner was asked to state why he remained in the Roman Catholic Church, he refused in principle to answer the question. “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,” we read in Ephesians 5, and so should it be for the Catholic Christian. Even to entertain the question of whether to stay, also with an affirmative answer, is a sort of betrayal.

Something deep within me agrees with Rahner. Given my upbringing, it’s hard for me to imagine life outside the Catholic Church, without the Mass, the sacraments, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the calendar of saints, the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, the prayers for the dead, and all the rest.

But we are admonished in 1 Peter 3 to give an account for the hope that is in us. The Catholic tradition affirms both faith and reason – fides et ratio – and is open in principle to rational inquiry into every aspect of the faith. Some years ago a speaker at the nearby University of Saint Thomas affirmed emphatically that the Catholic university must doubt everything – everything! –  including the existence of God. The speaker was Joseph Ratzinger.

And so I doubt, and I wonder why I stay. Of course, this isn’t just an abstract philosophical question or a stimulating intellectual game for the theologically inclined. It is made timely by the current crisis of the Roman Catholic Church. The response of the Pope and the Holy See to the crisis thus far is disturbingly inadequate, with seemingly little honesty, humility, or sensitivity. The exercise of authority in our Church can’t help but raise the question of why one stays.

Our Lord says in Matthew 20, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” Among us, alas, it is so. The hierarchy of our Church does lord it over others. Pope Benedict readmitted the preconciliar liturgy universally and without restriction, despite the earnest pleas of several bishops’ conferences, thereby taking away from bishops the authority to regulate the matter. In announcing the change he wrote: “Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop.” Pope John Paul II erected the new archdiocese of Vaduz, Lichtenstein in 1997 solely as a face-saving strategy because he could not admit that he had made a mistake in appointing Bishop Haas to the diocese of Chur, much less apologize. Archbishop Haas now presides over an archdiocese with 12 parishes. The Holy See is about to impose a revised Mass translation upon unwilling clergy and laity with virtually no consultation of those whose prayer lives will be most affected. Even if the coming translation isn’t as bad as its reputation, it is difficult to read Bishop Maurice Taylor’s insider account of the process and not conclude that Rome lorded it over others.

Why, then, do I stay?

It’s the liturgy. More precisely, it’s the reformed liturgy. This is the only liturgy I’ve ever known, and I love it deeply. I am still moved, after all these years, when I read the stirring and revolutionary words of Sacrosanctum concilium, the liturgy constitution of the Second Vatican Council. Or the introduction to the restored Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, with its thoroughly evangelical vision of conversion, discipleship, and church membership. Or the introduction to the lectionary, with its inspired understanding of the place of Scripture in the liturgical life of the Church. Increasingly often, in these days of overheated liturgical controversy, I go to Mass and think to myself, “They got it right, the reformers.” (OK, there are little things here and there I would have done differently, but let it pass for now.) It was the reformed liturgy which brought me to Christ and brings me to Christ, and I’m grateful.

And therein lies the paradox: the reason we Catholics have in common a beautifully reformed liturgy is that the full authority of the magisterium promulgated it. The Pope is unable (as of this writing) to address forthrightly in his own name the serious charges from Munich, or take responsibility for what happened there under his leadership, or apologize to Father Hullermann’s many victims – but without the papacy there wouldn’t be a reformed liturgy uniting 1.1 billion Catholics. The Congregation for Divine Worship which now seems ready to divide the English-speaking church with a controversial translation is the Congregation for Divine Worship which once worked mightily in the production of the reformed liturgical books. The centralism which sometimes lords it over others or fails us in other ways is also the centralism which gives us a common liturgy and holds us all together.

I’m glad that we Latin Rite Catholics, in all our different liturgical languages, share a common missal and a common lectionary. Whether it’s the monks of Solesmes doing it in Latin, or the inmates and I at the Stearns County jail doing it in English to volunteer’s guitar strumming, I find it tremendously moving that every Sunday the monks and the inmates and everyone else around the globe hears the same Scripture readings and follows the same Eucharistic rite.

To be sure, I’m all for a bit more cultural adaptation and a bit less centralism. (It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that some Roman officials would want to examine the red ink used for the rubrics in the new English missal, lest a variance in color shades introduce a spirit of nationalism into the Catholic churches of the English-speaking world.) At the same time, I’m quite glad we don’t have “high church Catholics” who favor weekly Eucharist and “low church Catholics” who favor monthly Eucharist. I’m glad we don’t have a “ritualist” faction which uses ashes and palms and holy water and a “pietist” faction which rejects all these. I’m glad that the RCIA isn’t a hobby program for a few “liturgical types” here and there, but the universally mandated manner of initiating adult converts.

[I know, I know, the readmission and increased use of the preconciliar liturgy threatens to impair the liturgical unity of Latin rite Catholics. As far as I know, it is unprecedented for Catholics in the same territory under the same Ordinary to employ two forms of the same rite, one of which is an earlier version of the other. Surely this is the biggest innovation and the largest rupture introduced into the liturgical life of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. For the purposes of this essay, I simply bracket this problematic issue and hope that the liturgical anomalies will remain limited to the fringes of the larger church which uses the so-called “ordinary form.”]

When I uphold the liturgical unity which is typically Roman Catholic and is made possible by the office of the Pope, I do not mean to cast negative judgment on my Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters with their unique polities and liturgical practices. I don’t think it’s the properly Christian thing to claim that “we are the One True Church and you aren’t.” Competition and comparison hardly befit people believing in a Christ who “emptied himself.” There are many aspects of other Christian traditions which I esteem – the hymn heritage of Lutherans, the careful textual crafting of Anglicans, the peacekeeping of Mennonites, to name a few. The inadequacies in the Christian witness of the Roman Catholic Church would benefit from the salutary influence of others. But at a time when the failures of the Catholic hierarchy give rise to the question of why we remain Roman Catholic, it seems good to recall some particular strengths and blessings which are ours in the Roman Catholic tradition.

And so, at a time of scandal and embarrassment, let us treasure the reformed liturgy. Let us treasure the bonds which unite us with Catholics around the world. Let us pray for greater unity between all the Christian traditions. And when we hear the familiar words of the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, let us pray more than ever “for Benedict, our pope.”

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Saint John’s Abbey

47 comments

  1. Fr. Anthony,

    Thank you for these words. All these scandals do inspire one to consider the reasons for staying. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing: to stay simply because one is told to do so or because of the “One True Church” mentality can easily lead to an empty faith.

    Yes, the liturgical life of our church is indeed gift. I know I experienced much healing during the Holy Week liturgies that I attended.

    Paradox indeed.

    I will mull over your reflection. It bears contemplation. Again, thank you.

  2. Just as this scandal has forever changed this current generation of Catholics and the Second Vatican Council has forever changed the Church, we have been and indeed are in a season of tremendous change. How Pope Benedict will respond remains to be seen. To deny too that there isn’t an anti-Catholic feeding frenzy with the latest inept report on the pope from the AP wires is a bit naive. At any rate, we also have two forms of the one Roman Rite, the Ordinary, Post Vatican II Form being primary, normal and regular. Having two forms is no big deal and easily accommodated in most parishes which love celebrating the Sacred Mysteries of the liturgy. It will strengthen our Catholic people and our priests at this critical time. It’s prayer! Sin and a secular media without journalistic restraint and common sense can divide and conquer us but not ultimately. Jesus has and continues to see to that. Have faith, keep the faith and celebrate it in the approved forms; apart from Jesus to whom shall we go?

  3. You are moved by the words of Sacrosanctum concilium which say “36. The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites… 54… [C]are must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them,” and “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited for the Roman liturgy… it should be given pride of place in liturgical celebrations,” and “The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church.”? Me too, its too bad so much of these conciliar words have been lost.

    1. Dear Mike,
      I’m an organst and I direct a Latin chant schola and I presided at a fully sung Latin Mass at a conference in Belgium this past year, OK? If your point is that I don’t interpret Vatican II the right way or your way or whatever, I can only say I’m sorry. I’d really rather not hash out these issues for the thousandth time, not just now anyway. I think other points in my post are probably more timely. I welcome hearing from others, speaking from the heart as I tried to do, why they stay in the Roman Catholic Church in difficult times.
      Peace,
      Fr. Anthony, OSB

  4. I have no grand answer to this question, though I suspect 1 Pet 3 does not require us to have grand answers.

    It’s a combination of love and inertia, and the fact that non-belief make much less sense to me that belief as a matter of both heart and reason. The inertia is revealed in a lack of being drawn to seek another tradition; while I’ve had my attractions to the Eastern churches, I also realize many of the things that annoy me about my own tradition exist in slightly different form in those churches, too. I’ve often quipped that if I left the active practice of the Catholic faith, I’d probably end up in the Society of Friends, which makes no pretense of liturgical worship but does channel a sometimes lively residue of medieval spirituality, though with some spectacular habits of schism that many non-Friends appear to be unaware of.

    I can sing my love, but I can’t write or speak much about it. When in doubt, sing.

  5. Thinking about “staying” depends upon the sociological metaphor one uses for Church, such as family, or house (business), city, or nation, or empire. I am Catholic because my family and friends are Catholic. Parishes, schools, etc. are businesses run by Catholic professionals. My changing involvement with those businesses is not a matter of staying or leaving the Church. My place of giving service, the public mental health system, has been more of a Christian community than most Catholic businesses. Culturally I am Catholic. Since grade school I have prayed various forms of the Divine Office (Roman, Monastic, Byzantine,). This prayer is supported by an extensive and varied collection of liturgical music, but it can be a challenge to find a Mass that is the aesthetical highpoint of my liturgical week. The Pope and Bishops are like the Queen of England; imperial figures seen on television. When they abuse their rule, they should be found accountable ASAP

  6. Thank you for your words. They are a welcome relief to a generation x-er Catholic who often wonders if he is still in the same church he joined some years ago.

    I was received into the Church through the RCIA. It is that singular time of grace in my life that continually lifts me to life in the moments that axes are wielded at the roots of the reformed liturgy prompting me to question if the liturgy I fell in love with and inspired my Catholic faith will survive for myself and others.

    The liturgical reformers understood what was at stake in making from an ossified liturgy a reformed liturgy in which liturgy stopped being about books and became a matter of the heart. The exact moment I entered that reality my sponsor was signing my senses and speaking to me words of life:
    Receive the sign of the cross on your ears,
    that you may hear the voice of the Lord.
    Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes,
    that you may see the glory of God.
    Receive the sign of the cross…

  7. May I mention a 1975 book by the late Peter Hebblethwaite: The Runaway Church. My copy was long ago ‘borrowed’ by a friend and never returned, but in it, in those far-off non-inclusive-language days, the author categorized four “men of the Church”:

    The first man says “I can’t stand any more of this — I’m off!” and leaves.

    The second man can’t see that there is anything wrong with the Church at all. (Unlikely that there is anyone now left in that category.)

    The third man senses dimly that all is not well with the Church but cannot see how to do anything about it (and many of the clergy I was working with seemed to fit into that category).

    The “Fourth Man of the Church” cannot envisage life outside the Church, and so stays within it, trying to work for change from the inside rather than sniping from the exterior. I always felt that this was the category I belonged to, and I feel that it relates to the entire life of the Church, including its liturgy.

  8. Fr Ruff
    Your post surprised me – I came to the site today actually wondering if those most active here really pray for His Holiness during the liturgy. I was therefore most surprised to see your last line – I certainly should not make assumptions. As we say in here in Los Angeles, “spooky”.
    That said – I am glad you love the reformed liturgy so much. Please allow me to mention just this. Until 2 years ago I was a lapsed Catholic, largely due to what I perceived as a loss of reference in the liturgy and a lot of improv. My wife, a member of no faith, became interested in Catholicism watching the funeral of John Paul II, and followed carefully the pronouncements and actions of Benedict XVI. Thanks to Summorum Pontificum, we began to attend the Mass of John XXIII – it led her to become a Catholic and she was just baptised at Easter. It also led me home to the faith – we now attend that Mass most weeks. However, it has also given me a new understanding of the roots of the Mass of…

  9. (continued) Paul VI which we now also attend regularly – for me, Summorum Pontificum was a *bridge* back to the Novus Ordo Missae which I now appreciate anew. It has also given me a new feel for the ancient Jewish roots of our faith, the Anglican Rite, and the rites of the Eastern Churches. Benedict XVI is a liturgical liberal – he does not force people to pray in one way (unlike some posters on here!). His fostering of true ecumenism is opening the way for ultimate union with SSPX, Eastern Christianity and those parts of Anglicanism still believing in Bible and Tradition. He deeply respects the Lutheran Church. I honestly think that his showing us that accepting Peter does not mean giving up their liturgical patrimony may allow “ut unum sint” to become a reality for all the churches having or claiming apostolic succession. If nothing else, he at least brought one new person into the Church and one stray sheep back. Ad multos annos!

  10. I, for one, don’t see how the liberalization of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite imperils the unity of the Roman Rite. In our history, there was normally a great diversity of uses of the Roman Rite. The Ambrosian is still used, there was the Sarum, Mozarabic, etc. Even in the same city within this century, it was possible to see both the Roman Rite and Dominican Rite celebrated. I don’t think this pointed to any disunity, but rather a unity in diversity.

    I realize that there are extremes that this can take, and that is part of why it is so important that we actually follow the rules we have. Still, we have always been a very diverse Church. Ultimately, what unites us, from all the various uses of the Roman Rite (and indeed all the rites) is the faith. I’m sure everybody here knows that, but I don’t know that we can ever stop repeating it.

    1. Dear Jonathan,
      Please double check what I wrote, and see that none of the examples of liturgical diversity which you cite are like the unprecedented and innovative diversity of two forms of the SAME rite, one an EARLIER version of the othor, employed by Catholics under the SAME ordinary. (Ambrosian and Mozarabic are NOT Roman rite, btw – they are Ambrosian and Mozarabic rite, respectively.)
      And for all that, the topic of my post is scandal and staying in the church. I look forward to good posts on THAT topic.
      Pax,
      awr

    2. I found the bracketed part interesting as well. I have never celebrated the EF, or been to one, or plan on celebrating one in the near future. However, the fact is that it has brought people back into the fold and it has increased the faith and practice of some. It hasn’t been millions, but didn’t Jesus say something about searching for the one lost sheep? Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t know anyone who has left the Church because some people, the “fringe group” according to this blog, celebrate the EF. So if it isn’t causing people to leave, and it fact is bringing people back to the Church, how is it so bad?

      I would also respond that we have experienced 2 different rites over the last few years. One is the Rite based on the documents of Vatican II, promulgated by the Pope and bishops, using the Sacramentary, Lectionary, and GIRM. The other “rite” is the one based on the “spirit of Vatican II,” promulgated by Fr. X and the liturgy committee of Saint Y, using whatever words they come up with and whatever they read in the latest magazine.

  11. Jonathan – hear, hear. Whether we prefer a Life Teen NO Mass or a Gregorian Chant TLM, we are all Roman Catholics – what makes us such is our unity with Rome. What all in the Church must realise, and Christians outside the Church must realise, is that the enemies of Christianity don’t care which form of liturgy we prefer. It is telling to me that the stoutest defences of the Church I have seen in this sad scandal have come from the leader of the British Humanists, a New York Rabbi, former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Alan Dershowitz, and the Montreal Gazette. They can see what is at stake for everyone here – not just the Church. This is not a time for petty bickering among ourselves.

  12. Father Anthony,

    Thank you for your thoughts, and for putting your thoughts so carefully into words for us to read and ponder on. You said many things that I myself have said, to myself and to others. May the Paraclete keep us all honest and faithful to Christ, Way, Truth, and Life.

    JMT

  13. Fr. Anthony,
    Just well written, beautifully considered. May I also add, for what it’s worth,
    that I stay because of Catholics? You know, people like you, and Rita Ferrone, and the Berrigans; Mother Teresa, and Oscar Romero, and my pastor, and my choirmembers, all the heroic people who approach the table of the Eucharist with no thought of reward and who learn the hard grace of “agape” and teach it by their example. Daughters of Charity, School Sisters of St. Francis. Jim Dunning. So many who could have cut and run and who didn’t. Anyway, thanks.

  14. I don’t know if this is cliche or corny, but I stay in the Catholic Church for the same reason that I presume St. Paul didn’t go off and make his own church after confronting St. Peter over Jewish-Gentile relations.

    Despite the sinners in the Church (of which I am one), the faith is the one I believe to be the true faith; and the Church which professes that faith, I believe to be the true Church.

  15. While I do not derive much spiritual nourishment from many celebrations of the Ordinary Form, I respect those who do. We Catholics need to put aside our liturgical grievances for an indeterminate amount of time while the Universal Church reforms and strengthens itself.

    In the midst of this storm are those who have been abused by clergy. Whenever I think the “other side” is going to use the crisis to stall the new Missal, I always remind myself of those who have lost all trust in the Church because of evil perpetrated by her representatives. Which is more important now? Healing broken souls or arguing about how to translate “et cum spiritu tuo”? Charity points to the obvious answer.

    I’ve decided to reflect on the Te Deum this Eastertide. Chant it, read it, Latin, ICEL translation, whatever … this is the great hymn of thanksgiving and unity. Reflection on the Church visible, invisible, yesterday, and today will advance the healing of a hurting Church.

  16. Dear Jordan,
    Thanks for your post. You wrote “Which is more important now? Healing broken souls or arguing about how to translate ‘et cum spiritu tuo’? Charity points to the obvious answer.”
    If I may be so honest, I used to believe for a long time that the abuse crisis was about preventing abuse and helping victims, and issues of institutional structure and reform should be kept out of it. Others have convinced me that the issue of EXERCISE OF POWER AND AUTHORITY is common to both problems and cannot be responsibly avoided – not if we really want to prevent future abuse. I don’t mean this flippantly, but I think the “obvious answer” to your question is that it is both.
    I’m with you on the Te Deum – great idea.
    Pax,
    awr

  17. Casta Meretrix

    from Part II, “Stretching the Shape of Forgiveness,” Chapter Six, “Original Sin Known in its Ecclesial Overcoming,” in James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin through Easter Eyes (New York: Crossroads, 1998), 175:

    . . . In this sense the “foundation” of the Church is nothing other than the efficacious revealing of the forgiveness of sin, which is itself our only way back into God’s original plan for us. It might be more correct to speak of the Church as an un-foundation, since what it is unbinding is precisely our being tied into foundations. J. Ratzinger points out that the early fathers

    expressed this fact with the bold image of the casta meretrix: by its own historical origin the Church is a prostitute, coming from the Babylon of this world; but Christ the Lord washed it and converted the prostitute into a wife. Urs von Balthasar has shown . . . that this is not only an historical…

  18. affirmation, in the sense that once it was impure and now it is pure, but that it indicates the permanent existential tension of the Church. The Church lives perpetually from forgiveness, which transforms it from prostitute into wife; the Church of all generations is Church through grace, into which God is continually calling men from Babylon, where, of themselves, they live. [From J. Ratzinger, “Franqueza y obediencia,” in El nuevo pueblo de Dios (Barcelona: Herder, 1972), 284, with reference to H. U. von Balthasar, “Casta Meretrix,” in Sponsa Verbi (Einsiedeln, 1961)]

    Father Anthony,

    What a wonderful profession of faith, hope, and love! I say Amen to every sentiment expressed. Thanks again and again for the spirit you bring to PrayTell.

  19. I think of three quotations these days.
    1. In the Song of Songs, Ambrose hears Christ speaking to a newly baptized soul. “Christ, beholding His Church, … seeing, that is, a soul pure and washed in the laver of regeneration, says: ‘Behold, you are fair, …” Therefore, Ambrose concludes “the Church is beautiful in them.” He reverses our ordinary grammar. The Church which comes into us is beautiful; the Church we go into is still undergoing its purification.
    2. So in his ecclesiology, Charles Journet writes “The Church is the world being reconciled to God,” and pointedly adds “Thus the frontier of the Church passes through each one of those who call themselves her members …”
    3. Anscar Vonier said something like, “The Church is always holy. But sometimes she shows her holiness by her purity, sometimes by her repentance.”

  20. I, in concert with Paul Inwood’s “fourth man” choose to stay and work within and well as with out. The names of many posters in this thread compel me to turn the cliche into “What such friends we have in Jesus!” That Jesus whose Divine Mercy, unto Dismas, the woman caught, to Simon made Cephas, to Didymus/Thomas, and to us, is offered without reserve if we recognize Him and offer up our sins with repentant hearts.
    Whatever we do, we must be true to the gospel and not be lukewarm in word and deed. Particularly while celebrating the liturgies.
    Good to hear from JMT after many years.

  21. One doesn’t simply walk away from one’s family…even if there are manifestations of dysfunctionality…of course, if the dysfunction harms one, then it may become necessary to walk away to preserve one’s integrity of body and mind and soul.

  22. Why, stay, by all means! They may keep trying to marginalize me as they have so many others, but they will not succeed. I’ll line up with Sister Louise Lears who was excommunicated for standing beside other women, with Jon Sobrino who was smeared by the institution for standing beside the poor, with many others living and dead whom I admire, and with the Marginal Jew himself. That’s good company, God knows.

    In this age of dishonesty throughout the church (myself perhaps the greatest offender, as the Orthodox prayer goes), I pray for the day when those who exalt themselves are humbled where this is due. Otherwise I await the Lord’s coming in joyful hope. I’ll do my small part to pass on the message and the stories my elders told me.

    One story: I have heard and felt the voice of God telling John Paul II “Silencio”! It happened at an outdoor “half mass” in Miami in September 1987, during his homily. God has spoken before in thunder (see John 12, 29).

  23. Dear Father Anthony,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! They nourished me and I find my own love for the Church strengthened by your words.
    When I consider what is being “done” to the liturgy which has been so meaningful, I wonder sadly what the next few generations will experience. Perhaps it will feed their spirits; in any case, I give thanks for the last 40 years and the beauty my sisters and I have experienced.
    Sr Michaelene Devine, OCD

  24. Fr. Christopher:
    Say what? Was there a worldwide sex abuse scandal the hierarchy couldn’t face up to 40 years ago that I missed? Were authorities redirecting or undoing four decades of liturgical reform 40 years ago?? You and I are reading different history books. Or else maybe you’re purposely missing the point of Sr. Michaelene’s post, and my post to which it refers, to avoid the central issues.
    awr

    1. My reply was to sister’s comment that the liturgy that had been so meaningful (to her, I assume) over 40 years was somehow being done away with. I was pointing out that the same thing could have been (and was) said by people 40 years ago that the liturgy that was so meaningful to them was taken from them. The other great irony is that 40 years ago the entire rite was changed. Today we are changing several words. Apparently, the word change will be more difficult to handle than the change of the rite (at least the impression I get from many). I also do not see a lot of “undoing of liturgical reform.” What I do see, in my experience, is the undoing of many things that were not part of liturgical reform yet somehow were added in many places. The liturgy in the centuries prior to 1969 did not have a monopoly on “accretions.”

      1. Fr. Christopher – yes, that was a whole change of rite, and this is just a change of words. But if your argument is that, therefore, everyone should just get over it and agree with you, I predict your cause won’t succeed. The only way it could succeed would be by ignoring everyone’s feelings and also ignoring everything which makes today different from 40 years ago. But if one begins brainstorming, the list of differences between then and now quickly gets long.
        I’ll start it up by listing just one thing. Back then, we had no structures of consultation (parish councils, presbyteral councils, etc.) as called for by Vatican II, so we did the reform with the top-down structures we then had in place. We couldn’t very well ask the Presbyterians to come in and do our reform for us. Now, we have a quite different understanding of church membership and church structures inspired by Vatican II.
        I invite everyone to add to the list. Take it away!
        awr

  25. Perhaps the words from “Healing” by D.H. Lawrence might apply to our current disaffection…

    “…the wounds to the soul take a long, long time,
    only time can help
    and patience
    and a certain difficult repentance
    long, difficult repentance,
    realisation of life’s mistake,
    and the freeing oneself
    from the endles repetition
    of the mistake
    which mankind at large
    has chosen to sanctify.”

  26. Fr. Christopher, I agree! Can you imagine, had there been an internet in 1969, what the discussion about undoing 1,400 YEARS of liturgical development would have looked like!?

  27. To look at it another way, the forthcoming corrections of what Cardinal Mahony has identified as errors in the current translation may be a good opportunity in this difficult time to help Catholics – both lay and clergy – to focus on holiness. It could be part of a fresh start after all the mayhem the Church has been going through. It forces us to focus on the words we use when we worship the Almighty.

    One thing stands out for me regarding the English form of the OF. Were there complaints when “for all men” were changed to “for all”? Did that not confuse the faithful? If anything, it was an improvement, since “pro multis” did not refer to “men” – but – it still left “all” instead of “many” so the grade for that particular translation went from “0/10” (OK, maybe 1/10 – they did get the “pro” bit right) to “5/10”. Surely we can aim higher than that? Or do we only complain of changes we don’t like?

    Many comments here are simply a mirror of those who object to the change in the EF Good Friday reference to the Jews. I repeat: peas in a pod.

  28. Thanks for this, Fr. Anthony. “Doubt everything,” indeed! For the last few years I’ve been asking myself why I stay as well. Always, the liturgy, as awful as we attempt to do it sometimes, is my conclusion.

  29. I remain because I’ve expereinced the risen Christ in the communities I’ve lived with. I’ve expereinced in my tears and laughter the healing touch and compassion of Christ. I remain because I too am broken, struggling on my journey seeking the face of God. In my most desperate times the Church has been faithful to me. I have also walked with others who have been hurt. I have also watched the joy on so many faces as they exit the baptismal font. As a teacher the Holy Spirit was alive in my teaching and my students. I remain because I’ve been changed and continue to change. As I have grown in this community of believers I have come to a deeper understanding of what it means to encounter Christ in the sacraments and WOW – no words can express these grace-filled encounters. I stay because somehwere along the journey I fell in love with Christ and struggle every day to be honest to that relationship. This is home.

  30. These are beautiful, profound reflections. But what if the reform of the liturgy is subverted? In such a way that it no longer feeds us with the words of eternal life? To whom then do we go?

    1. I am usually able to pick out ironies. One that I am finding more and more is that many of the people claiming that the liturgy is somehow being “subverted or sabotaged” are in fact those willfully and deliberately trying to subvert the reform of the liturgical translations. I guess it’s reform when one likes it and subversion when one doesn’t.

  31. Fr Costigan – I read Paulus to mean the reform of the liturgy was subverted through the poor translations and liturgical abuse, hence the need for the reform of the reform. To read it him otherwise would be to suggest that the words of eternal life only came into existence within the past 40 years. But our faith is 2,000 years old. Perhaps I misread Paulus?

    1. My reading was the other way. The reform of the last 40 years was the true reform and any effort to “undo” the actions of the last 40 years is the subversion.

      In general, a distinction must always be made between what Vatican II and subsequent documents actually called for in terms of reform and what people may have heard, interpreted, or put forth as reform in practice.

  32. Christopher, I am in the process of reading Ladislas Örsy’s latest book Receiving the Council, which looks at the canonical and theological implications of Vatican II — what it called for and what has in practice happened. I am finding it very useful, and I suspect you would, too.

  33. Thank you, Fr. Anthony for asking a question which calls me to examine the core of my belief and the foundations of my faith.

    Why do I stay? I stay because God continues to be faithful to me, despite the pain and hurt experienced in ministry and in the church. I am scandalized by the attention and defense given to those who abuse and abused their authority by protected the accused and the convicted instead of giving primary attention to protect and support the survivors of abuse and those who love and nurture them into healing and more functional lives. I sorrow for these least ones and institutional sinfulness, but I stay because I believe in the hope of Jesus Christ’s transformative power in our world and in our church. I stay because I remember Jesus’ love and mercy for Peter, Thomas and the woman named Dismas, and trust in the same mercy for my sins and the sins of the Church and world. I stay because I believe in the redemptive goodness of humanity….. (continued)

  34. (continued) …that Jesus preached and I look forward to the day when we will be healed of all division and become one church, one hope and one faith in Jesus Christ.

    I cry in anguish for the pain of the abused, the denial of hierarchical irresponsibility, and the spiritual agony of the everyday Catholic who reads the headlines and prays that it MUST be the Holy Spirit running the church since our human leaders seem to be so….HUMAN. But I stay because I believe and know in my heart that God is faithful and loves us more than we could ever imagine.

    …How could I leave this Church when the ineffable PRESENCE is made manifest in love to us each time we gather to “do this in his memory?” I stay because I know I am loved unconditionally and I must respond to that love through comm – union with the Body of Christ, the Church. How could I leave that which defines me? This is why I stay…..

  35. Why do I stay?? Why do I stay even in the face of sexual/cover-up scandals. Why do I stay as a (sigh) woman who is trying to be a faithful minister, but keep running into parishes that will only let men in the sanctuary (modeling after Papal liturgies)? Why do I stay as a (gasp!!!!) guitarist who has to listen to the maligning venom of “organ only” people? (despite the psalmist’s urging to “Praise Him with strings and cymbals”)
    I stay because I believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God as revealed to me since my infancy in the Catholic Church. I stay because of the hope of the 2nd Vatican Council, which made things more open (aggiornamento!!) so that the “cover-ups” are less possible and the people of God are an ACTIVE…

  36. ….part of the liturgy and have a voice! I stay because I am called to minister to the people of God in my little corner of the Catholic church through the medium of music.
    In peace, Linda

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