Friday, July 13, 2012

Why can't we be ourselves?

Why isn't our group more Catholic in our view of the Scriptures and the Church?

So often when I go to the local Young Adult Ministry, I see and hear so may other Catholics who seem to have become or perhaps always were assimilated into Protestant culture and ecclesiology. I had to restrain myself from laughing when I first went and the seminarian who was at the parish for the summer was announcing a workshop on "reclaiming our Catholic identity". We had after all just sang praise and worship all through Adoration (no Tantum Ergo, no litany, nothing Catholic about it except the Eucharist and monstrance) and had some banal talk on what the Bible passage meant to us (no reference to Sacred Tradition, Early Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church or any other saints, nothing more than what the words meant to everyone). As Catholics, we have tools and resources available to us to make both come more alive and delve deeper than the surface into each (i.e. lectio divina, other contemplative techniques and the liturgy).
I've talked to the people with the guitars and in fact to anyone else who would listen about more traditional music, possibly Tantum Ergo or a litany. I dare not go so far as to suggest that we have a priest (Btw, I found out while writing this that Adoration is no longer considered a devotion, but is a part of the Church's official liturgy.) who actually brings the Host (instead of a lay volunteer) or even that he should read from the Gospel during Adoration and preach or that maybe he could use (gasp!) incense. Did you know that in the Bible angels worship with incense or that the word incense is in the Bible 129 times? I've talked to multiple people also about incorporating more solid and substantial teachings of the Church into the Bible studies. The response has gone one of two ways: a) Create another group and do it another time. b) There's not enough time.
Would it kill the person leading the study to take 10 minutes to consult a commentary such as Catena Aurea? Or to look through what a Catholic Scripture study group such as Agape Bible Study has to say?
Another example of what I'm getting at is this week's topic, "Growing closer in a personal relationship to Jesus." That theme and the wording are pulled straight from  door-to-door Protestant proselytism. Meanwhile, to my knowledge, as long as I have been a part of this group we've never had a talk on "Covenant and Sacrament" or "Experience of God as the Mystical Body of Christ" or "Union with Christ in the Eucharist" or "Marriage and Eucharist as Sacraments of Covenant and Renewal".
I've tried to steer our conversations towards what Tradition teaches and what Church Fathers/Doctors of the Church have to say, but I get a mixed bag of blank stares, rolled eyes, sighing, and pushback. I just can't grasp why we as Catholics seem so reticent to worship and pray to our God in a way consistent with our identity as Catholics. Why can't we be ourselves? Why are we afraid to worship and draw nearer to our God in the Catholic way; in a way that goes beyond praise, that transcends and brings Heaven and Earth together? Why do we always go back for more ice cream (see #2) when we have a steak dinner so near to us?
To be fair, its a problem well beyond the confines of that group. The local St Joseph Parish might be mistaken for a mainline Protestant church. The sign out front and the discreet confessionals (although I'm told Anglicans have these too) in the back give it away. I've seen many other parishes like it. There isn't the traditional artwork and statuary that point to the glory and majesty held within the tabernacle of the parish. There is little in the way of artwork to teach the stories of the Bible and the Church or provide assistance in contemplation.

So I ask, why can't we be ourselves? 

Why have we become so assimilated into Protestant culture, theology and worldview?
I've heard Vatican II get the blame, but honestly if you read it you would no longer say that. There's as much ressourcement as there is aggiornamento. I personally think its the absence of catechesis from Catholic sources.
  • There is no longer the artwork to subtly point out the Catholic viewpoint on stories from the Bible and the Saints. For instance, Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches have the Hospitality of Abraham in almost all of their parishes. These Christians grow up knowing about this prefiguring of the Trinity. Older parishes often still have this Sacred Art. A good example from the Latin Rite is Pelican in her piety on the right. The Pelican is cutting itself in order to feed its chicks, like Christ offers His Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Most new parishes lack much artwork at all it seems and we are that much poorer for it.
  • CCD is bland. It lacks the sharpness and flavor of our ancient Apostolic patrimony. Confirmation is usually the first and only time that most Catholic parishes earnestly try to teach the richness and depth of the "fullness of Truth", the Catholic Church. Only the Eastern Orthodox can compare in the interwoveness, completeness and consistency of Catholic theology. That is because we both have teachings that can be directly traced back to Jesus Himself. Most of Protestant theology is similar to ours but there are crucial differences such as the Eucharist and most Protestants will only ever experience 2 out of the 7 Sacraments.
  • In the absence of instruction from their parishes, Protestant churches, radio stations, tv stations, door to door evangelists and everyday people on the street who've been taught to bring Jesus into every conversation with a stranger have filled the void. I don't blame then for acting on the Great Commission and doing their best to bring the Gospel to every dark corner of their hometowns and the world. I do blame us for not stepping up.With EWTN, Ave Maria Radio and others there is a resurgence in catechism and I am glad of it.
  • Christian music stations are just about everywhere. They play praise and worship and/or various other genres of Christian music anywhere from Christian Screamo to Amazing Grace. I've often heard these songs used at Adoration and Mass. Amazing Grace I especially think is nails on a chalkboard. None of us is a "wretch"; we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are not "dungheaps covered in snow". We cannot undo the inherent goodness of God's image and likeness that is fundamental to our very nature. Many accept the theology of these songs which may or may not run contrary to the Catholic theology. I don't understand why there are no Catholic music stations. There are Catholic musicians in every genre. We could do it too and have beautiful songs loaded with meaning, with ancient truth, with a love for the Triune God and the Sacraments.
In short, why can't we be ourselves? Why can't we worship and pray as our fathers and grandfathers did, in ways that had been handed down from the Apostles who received Jesus' teachings and revelation firsthand? Why do so many of us not want to worship in the way that Heavenly worship is described in Isaiah and Revelation?
I am off my soapbox for now.

source for the Adoration picture
May God bless all who read my ramblings,

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The one thing I will say is that there are a growing # of Catholic artists getting air play on Christian radio, too, and that's all to the good. I get frustrated too, by the lack of passion and prioritizing shown by Catholics--but all I can do is try to change it within my sphere of influence.