Saturday, May 23, 2015

Meeting people where they are; leading people to where they are not yet

It's ordination season, a time of great joy in the Church as dedicated young men are called forward and consecrated for conformity with Christ and priestly service to all of us.

As is usual on intergenerational ecclesial occasions, something of a generation gap is in evidence.

  • Current and recent ordinandi are likely to process in a reverent and calm way, looking straight ahead, perhaps with a slight smile but with a certain recollection.
  • Older priests are likely to wear large smiles in the entrance procession, looking for friends in the crowds and waving.

Standing outside this phenomenon and only being able to guess at the reason for the difference, I believe that there must have been a time when a particularly extroverted interpretation was given to the Pauline ideal of being "all things to all men."

According to the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, the goal of the Entrance Antiphon has four specific aspects.
47. When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and ministers, the Entrance Chant begins. Its purpose is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers.
This fourfold goal would not be met in any way by individual greetings or casualness. It is well addressed, however, by an attitude of recollection and prayerfulness on the part of all, ministers and people.

As we have often noted here before, we're still in the middle of an awkward, upside-down time in the Church, when the young are more formal than their elders. As we continue to think through these matters together, it helps to keep an open mind.

It could well be that received wisdom has sometimes overemphasized one aspect of pastoral concern at the expense of others.