Monday, November 19, 2007

40 years in the desert

It's been almost 40 years to the day since the close of Vatican II on December 8, 1965. And the Promised Land is now in view.


* Cardinal Ratzinger, the then-most renowned conservative Prince of the Church has been elected to the Papacy.

* As pope he has stirred global controversy with his infamous Regensburg speech, driving home the unspoken message that Muslims will respond violently to anything, including comments on Muslim violence.

* Summorum Pontificum

* Bishop Skylstad has been replaced by Cardinal George as president of the USCCB

* And, perhaps more exciting even than the last bullet (which is a wonderful change of pace in itself), Bishop Donald Trautman's term as head of the Committee for Liturgy ends.

Trautman (or 'Trautperson' as he is affectionately called among Catholics who still believe in things like an all male priesthood), whom we have to thank for the banal, gender-neutral pablum that is our American Mass, has been replaced by Bishop Arthur Serratelli.

It's hard to envision a more dramatic change of command, as Serratelli is known to be outspoken on both life and liturgical issues, and shares in the rare distinction among his brother bishops of actually having supported Papa Benny during the 'fallout' (read: Muslim violence and MSM anti-Catholic hysteria) from Regensburg.

This, in contrast to Trautperson, who is known for his dedication in making the Gospels more apropos to pew-warming Catholics like myself. Take, for instance, his committee's rendition of Luke 13:6-7,
There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener...
It's extremely important to realize that anyone could have owned that fig tree. A man, a woman -- it doesn't really matter; and Our Lord would have used the gender neutral term "person" if he was here today. That's why he gave us the Church, and bishops like Trautperson. Well, that, and to restrict the unrestricted celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

Anyway. Back to Serratelli who writes:

The Liturgy of the Church is a moment where all the dimensions of our lives come before the living God. It is the place where we have an active encounter with God. It is the place, therefore, where we can rediscover the sacred in our lives.


Certain settings demand their own particular etiquette. Dress at a wedding reception differs from dress at a sports event. Conversation in a bar is louder than in a funeral home. The more we realize we are coming into the Presence of God in Church, the more respectful and reverent our whole person becomes. Chewing gum in Church, loud talking, beach attire and immodest dress simply do not belong!

In church, we need to cultivate a sense of God who is present to us. This is why we are called to observe moments of silence. Both before Mass begins and during Mass. Liturgy is much more than our joining together. It is our opening ourselves to God. By our singing and praying, we respond to the God who addresses us in Liturgy. A constant torrent of words and songs filling every empty space in the Liturgy does not leave the heart the space it needs to rest quietly in the Divine Presence.

In the Annunciation, after the angel announces to Mary that she is to be the Mother of the Lord and Mary gives her fiat, there is silence (cf. Lk 1:38). In this pregnant silence, that Word becomes flesh. Mary remains the model of the disciple before the Word of God. She reminds us that we need moments of silence for God to enter our life. We need those moments in our personal prayer and in the Liturgy.


We are not just spirit when we pray. We pray in our total reality as body and spirit. And so, to recapture the sense of the sacred, therefore, we need to express our reverence through our body language. The norms of the Liturgy wisely have us stand in prayer at certain moments, sit in attentive listening to the readings, and kneel in reverent adoration during the solemn prayer of consecration. These norms are not arbitrary nor are they left to the discretion of any individual celebrant.


Observing the norms of the Liturgy helps to create a profound sense of the sacred in each of us at Mass. Celebrating Mass and observing liturgical norms also makes us visibly one with the entire Church to which we belong. “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

Today it has become commonplace at the end of the Liturgy to recite a litany of gratitude for all those who, in some way or another, have made the celebration beautiful. No doubt there is a way to express gratitude at the end of Mass. But is it possible that each time applause breaks out in the Liturgy at the end of the Mass for someone’s contribution, we lapse into seeing the Mass as a human achievement? Sometimes even during the Mass after someone has sung a beautiful hymn, there is spontaneous applause. At such a moment, does not the real meaning of Liturgy lapse into some kind human entertainment?

The 40 years of wandering are coming to a close. Deo Gratias.


Andrew St.Hilaire said...

Tom, great post! Although, aren't we nearing the 42nd (opposed to the 40th) anniversary since the close of the Council?

Lou found a great article from the Adoremus Bulletin on the great Bishop Serratelli.

Also, you can browse through the large collection of weekly column's by the bishop, here.

It's great stuff.

Tom & Carrie Herring said...

"Although, aren't we nearing the 42nd (opposed to the 40th)..."

Yeah...but the Israelites were only wandering for 40. :)

Andrew St.Hilaire said...

No contest :) But you said, "It's been almost 40 years to the day since the close of Vatican II on December 8, 1965."

The way I read this: "we're currently at 39 years since the closing of Vatican II, after Dec 8th, it will be 40."

Don't get me wrong -- I understand your point entirely :) Just not your math :P But please, let's continue arguing...

Tom & Carrie Herring said...


Yeah I thought about saying "42 years in the desert" but it just didn't have the same ring to it. :)

I probably should have left out the date VII ended altogether, and let people take my word for it. :P