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Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Value of Ritual Over Spontaneity

A thread over at PrayTell misled me with the lede, I thought it would be about the General Intercessions, since it concerned a book by James McCartin, Prayers of the Faithful.
No, it more generally concerns the spiritual life of American Catholics, and to some extent, the expression finds in devotions, in popular piety.

Two commentators had thoughts that caught my attention:
Most of us don’t live in our parents’ neighborhood or even their state. ISTM that the rise of the traditionalists in all their varieties are one of many attempts to build praying communities within a widely dispersed Church.
Michael O'Connor
I'd never thought of that before, but surely the hunger for custom, and ritual denied so many of us either by our nomadic existence, or by deliberate suppression, is a force to be reckoned with in the burgeoning of the various forms of neo-traditionalism.

And I thought this was a wonderful apologia of liturgical worship in response to another poster's bemoaning the lack of aptitude, (I would ascribe it to a wholesome reluctance,) for spontaneity he finds in Catholics:
Catholics have traditionally understood talking to God through the use of non-spontaneous texts as being just as authentic as spontaneous prayer.

...At times of significant rituals of life – especially [death] – spontaneous words are not often lacking, but often become obstacles, whereas ritual expressions convey the inexpressible more aptly.

To some extent, that reliance on ritualized texts is a sign of the inexpressible dimension of our conversation with God. ... the use of the ritualized texts has more dimensions to it....I would be wary of is the assumption that spontaneity=authenticity.
Karl Liam Saur
Not only do words other than of our own immediate devising better convey the ineffable, but there is extraordinary comfort in being able to rely upon them, in not having creative demands added to the burdens one is already under at some of life's great moments.
I really think this, the notion of a received pattern to our worship, is one of the greatest strengths of Catholicism, and one of its strongest tools in effecting true catholicity, and I think TPTB have ignored that to their perils, and ours, in recent Church .... doings.

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