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Friday, 16 February 2007

No hard sayings!

I think Amy Welborn, and some of her commentators nail a serious problem here:

Step out of your uber-involved, hyper-informed Catholic bubble for a moment, and look at things from the perspective of the typical shoddily-catechized young adult who steps into a typical parish on a typical Sunday.
Given their background, which usually consists of the message, "Be nice and admire Jesus" and given what they typically encounter in that Mass which is more of the same plus perhaps a more urgent, "It's really important to be a part of Church and for faith to be important in your life...we can't get more specific, but trust us...it's really important..."...

She mentions hearing the unending prayers of older Catholics - that their children/grandchildren would return to the practice of their faith. Sad...
But my experience is a little different, and a little sadder - most of the older, ultra faithful Catholics that I know have children who have fallen, or are in the process of falling away and basically say, Oh well, as long as you're a good person.
How can they value the treasure they are fortunate enough to possess so little that they don't burn for their loved ones to share in it?
"Well, he doesn't always get to Mass, but you know that fellowship at Rev, V's church is very affirming."
"No, she went to Mass at the Methodist church this weekend."

One poster mentions this dissonance: This disconnect between what the Church has to offer (Jesus Christ the Savior) & what it communicates (Jesus Christ the Nice Guy)

A writer somewhere on the internet put it thusly (and I've never forgotten it, though I may paraphrase and add my own spin,): Are we gathered for a nice memorial dinner in honor of that nice Jewish teacher who, sadly, died so young? Or are we there to be mystically present at the ritual murder of the Son of God, of God Himself, whose torturous death was a ransom for an often ungrateful humanity? He goes on, that when we think about the model of Church that is the "laity" we:

need to stop thinking "The Paid People in the Chanchery" or "Extraordinary Ministers/DREs/Other Middle-Management-on-the-Church-Payroll" types and start thinking: Me

Yes, yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Okay, up front, no, I DON'T remember "how it used to be." But I cannot help think that when, other than the priest, (and a few altar boys, and a choir or solo voice YOU COULDN'T SEE,) the ONLY role was played by all of us, the PIPs -- that role seemed a whole hell of a lot more important.

That layer of middle-management was referred to on another blog as "the Demi-Clerics." And they are killing lay participation. If these demi-clerics truly wanted the faithful to "own" (to use a favorite buzz-word,) the rites, they would get the hell out of their line of sight, and stop making the rites seem like their own personal invention, and therefor their own personal property.
(It is not unlike the mistake of having a mic'ed song leader (including the priest-celebrant, at times,) -- why would anyone belt out a hymn, why would anyone feel responsibility to produces sound when someone else, with someTHING else is taking care of it and making my contribution not only unnecessary and superfluous, but insignificant, maybe imperceptible.)
I have heard people (and not my choir, not people involved in the Liturgy Committee,) mutter, "Oh, Mass was so long, we had one of [X]s] things in the middle of it."
They are not stupid, they understand intuitively that half of that stuff is made up.
And we will never convince the PIP to fully embrace the Liturgy and the rites as the Church asks us to do them when most of our effort goes in to foisting our personal whims on them.
It's why I ask the choir "do you like this?" when we try a new anthem, or I pull out an old war-horse, but NEVER put the question to them on the psalms, or a (far too rare) Gregorian Proper, or the little peculiarities of once-a-year Liturgies (e.g., the Reproaches on Good Friday. the correct canticle for L of H, the real Litany of the Saints.)
Their, and MY, for that matter, "liking" them is immaterial. (Although I am quite certain that with sufficient exposure, these things will be not just "liked," but "loved.")

Another poster: what's missing is . . . the need for a Redeemer - which is only felt once one has grasped that one is a sinner... There's plenty of abstract, beating-around-the-bush talk about sin, but it's usually somebody else's sin, rarely our own. It's those bad guys over there that need a Redeemer - we're ok here.

Furthermore, sin is hardly ever spoken of us individual -- it is corporate (often literally, of Corporations, but of countries, communities, Churches, societies, as well.)
Surely if it's not my, personal fault, I don't personally need to do anything about it? And the same mindset may be extended to worship -- I don't personally need to be sanctified, or to worship the almighty.... "I got people."


Kathleen Lundquist said...

Right on, Scelata.

I'm a convert to the Catholic faith from evangelicalism (confirmed in 1999), and a parish cantor. I'm about two inches from quitting because of the attitude of those who choose the music and plan the liturgy is totally what you've described - this idea that "it's ours, we make it what it is".

We've been doing lots of newly-composed black gospel-style stuff - entrance rite, psalm settings, Mass parts - and I've got to say, even though I sang for a time in an _actual_ black gospel choir and I like rock'n' roll as much as the next person, I am _very uncomfortable_ with doing it at Mass. My choir director has even encouraged me to "improvise a little at the end of this part" here or there, and I'm like, no thank you. I already feel like I've been made to walk a fine line between doing justice to the style of music they've chosen and drawing too much attention to myself - and it seems like they've finally tipped their hand to say, "You know, the music/Mass experience _is_ about you. It _is_ about us and what _we_ want to hear." As I've attempted to educate myself in what the real Catholic liturgy and history are all about, I find myself at terrific odds with this whole thing. I would love nothing more than to sing from a choir loft and contribute my gifts without being seen, but my church doesn't even have one, and as it stands, people come up to me after Mass and treat me like a rock star, which also is uncomfortable, and you know what? I have the distinct impression that in this "warm and friendly" church, very few people care about getting to know me as a person. I'm important in their lives because of what I do on the platform every Sunday.

Sorry to rant - this touched a nerve, I guess. I think I do need to quit and do my own songwriting and coffeehouse gigs for a while, and see what happens from there.

Thanks for your post.

Scelata said...

Thanks for posting, Kathleen.

I've had a lot of the same feelings -- I think I know exactly what you're talking about; the "performer in me" has a very different agenda from the "pray-er in me," and the latter has to quash the former's tendencies.

I went to a diocesan liturgy seminar last year, big name presenter, and he talked about the danger of burn-out, when we put in all this work "making these wonderful liturgies" and no one seems to appreciate it -- I was sure there would be a punchline that such thinking was the root of the problem, that that was the wrong way to think about it, that we DON'T "make" the Liturgy, but no... he was speaking without irony, he was genuinely sympathizing with the self-pitying, self-centered notion that we middle management types "make" the Liturgy.

(Save the liturgy, save the world...)