Liturgical solemnity opposed to ministry to the poor?

This is from the conclusion of an essay I wrote a couple years ago for PrayTell Blog. Given some of the current confusion about how the priorities of Francis are somehow opposed to the reforms of Benedict, it seems apt to restate here.

Sometimes I worry that we all get a bit too wrapped up in these [liturgical] issues – issues which seem, from what I can read, to have been fairly unimportant to the Teacher from Nazareth. He cared about feeding the poor, clothing the naked, caring for orphans – not about translations or modes or altar placement or any of the rest of the things that liturgists and musicians are into. How can we, in good conscience, spend our time obsessing over these external elements?

I think a certain amount of obsession, by those who are called to it, is actually quite worthwhile. It is in the public liturgy of the Church that we come to understand the love of Christ which we are called to emulate. It is in the sacrifice of the Mass, dwelling in the sacrifice of Jesus, that we hear our calling to sacrifice ourselves. Recognizing Christ in the Eucharist, recognizing Christ in the assembled family of believers, gives us the eyes to recognize Christ in His “disturbing disguises” out in the world. We know how to clothe the naked because our God has clothed us in the garment of Baptism; we know how to feed the hungry because our God has fed us with his very body; we know how to comfort the dying because Our Lord has died in our midst; we know how to visit the imprisoned because God has visited us in the prison of our sin; we know how to care for orphans because our God has given us a spirit of adoption.

8 Replies to “Liturgical solemnity opposed to ministry to the poor?”

  1. "Sometimes I worry that we all get a bit too wrapped up in these [liturgical] issues – issues which seem, from what I can read, to have been fairly unimportant to the Teacher from Nazareth."

    To a point, I would agree with this. It would seem whenever He was involved in a worship service in a synagogue, He would follow the rubrics of the time.

    However, He is the first liturgical re-former.

    He changed the Seder meal at Passover into the first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Didn't He?

  2. Frankly, Adam, I can understand why you began engagement with PT but not why you continue: it's a thoroughly illiberal place that wouldn't understand free speech or tradition if they hit it in the face with a wet kipper. Life's too short to spend casting the bleedin' obvious before swine.

  3. An interesting aspect of the post-Conciliar liturgy is the way that it has been taken over by middle-class laity. Everywhere they are in your face – meeting and greeting, reading from the ambo, acting as EMHC and identifying themselves (erroneously) as "Eucharistic Ministers", performing a highly visible "music ministry" (not that the sort of music they perform is anything like what they listen to at home), writing 'bidding prayers' and so on. Given the do-it-yourself nature of the new liturgy, they even get involved in "liturgical planning" (which should really be a contradiction in terms).

    Not long ago I was at a Solemn Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form, where the deacon intoned the Offerte vobis pacem (I was expecting it). I don't particularly like the 'holy handshake', but out of courtesy I greet those on either side, but I never, ever, turn round. I was prodded in the back. I ignored it. I was prodded again, harder. Turning round I encountered the inevitable middle-aged, middle-class woman. I said, rather testily "I don't make a habit of turning round, but pax tecum all the same".

  4. When Cardinal Heenan witnessed the trial run of the Missa Normativa , celebrated in the Sistine Chapel by Annibale Bugnini in 1967, he remarked that it would not appeal to working-class men. Despite only a minority of bishops voting 'placet', Paul VI went ahead with it anyway. A few years ago I heard a talk by Laurence Paul Hemming (a genuine liturgist, unlike the faux-liturgists who keep popping up on American blogs) during which he reminded his mostly clerical audience that the person who comes in off the street and kneels at the back while Mass is in progress is connecting with the liturgy just as much as those who are busily (and usually noisily) 'participating'.

  5. I thought that the point of your article was how relatively poor, uneducated and inarticulate people, as opposed to comfortably-off, supposedly educated and highly articulate people react to the liturgy. My comment is certainly related to the CH article that Harry linked and which you claimed was the impetus for your post. From someone who on his own admission embraces a wide number of options, both orthodox and heterodox, I would have expected more in the way of lateral thinking.

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