Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Pope's Liturgical Example - and our response to it

PrayTell blog has a short post covering different views about the relative importance of the the liturgical example set by the Bishop of Rome.

The (somewhat cynical) thrust of the post is stated at the end:

It appears that we have a new principle of liturgical renewal: our theology of the importance of the pope depends on whether or not we like the pope in office.

This might be a bit unfair, as the pro- and anti- quotes don't just come from different papal periods, but come from different people. Nevertheless, I think it is likely there is some truth in it, as I have said before:

Everyone's an ultramontanist when they like the guy.

To me, the question isn't quite so theoretical. These issues of what people "should" do (as in- "Should people look to Papal liturgy as an example?") are pointless: the FACT of the matter is:

  • Some people DO, and ALWAYS WILL, see Papal liturgies as an example to follow
  • Most people will continue to do whatever they like, and either ignore Papal exemplars (when they disagree) or invoke them as cover (when they are in alignment).

The more important influence seems, to me, to come from the whole operation of liturgical culture- which the Pope has a big hand in swinging one way or the other - not in the actions of individual priests and liturgists deciding to copy one aspect or another of a Papal liturgy. (Fanons, anyone?)

In that way, the influence of Benedict - who influenced liturgical culture both actively and passively - will be long with us, whether any of us like it or not. Since Francis seems somewhat less interested in liturgical matters, it strikes me that his influence is less in some particular direction, and more like a loosening that allows a return to the "natural" development and habits of liturgical culture and practice (both good and bad).

All that being said: I think the worthwhile questions are not "What should people do in reaction to Papal exemplars?" (as the prescriptive fussbudgets in every age declare), or "What should the Pope do, since he ought to know that everyone is watching?" (as so many papal pundits seem to be blathering on with), but rather:

What should I do? What should we do?

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