Sunday, October 02, 2005

Young adults and traditional liturgy

The other evening I gave a talk on the sacred liturgy to the young adults group at my parish, St. Peter's Cathedral-Basilica (see picture). It's a group made up of various people, some converts, some converting, some cradle-Catholics. Many of them are coming to learn more about their Catholic Faith, and of course for fellowship with other Catholics.

In thinking about how I would present such a broad subject to this diverse group, I quickly wrote off the idea of getting too indepth on the whole theology of the liturgy, except of course for mentioning the basics. To that end, we discussed how the liturgy, while about community, is first and foremost worship of God; how it is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy and how it is a perpetuation of the one sacrifice of Christ on the Christ, mystical yet real.

Ultimately I determined the talk would focus on the beauty of the liturgy and how beauty draws us closer to God, deeper in prayer, and conveys a sense of the sacred. I also determined as part of this to introduce these young Catholics to the great richness of liturgical diversity which exists.

I thought it necessary to address a couple of commonplace objections that I have heard from other people in the past. One such objection is that there is no place for beauty in the liturgy; that this is contrary to Gospel poverty. We looked at the book of Exodus and God's commands for the design of the Temple, and the objects used in the sacred worship of the old covenant. We talked as well about beauty as it manifests itself in our own lives outside of church, and we talked about how beautiful churches and worship are something for all the faithful, rich and poor alike. A second objection that some may speak of is that they believe Christ was against tradition and ritual. This is of course fairly easily addressed.

Now, good liturgy incorporates all of our senses, so I felt a good talk on the liturgy should do likewise. I brought in some of the liturgical articles at the parish, passed around incense, etc. More importantly, I brought in some video clips of the classical Roman liturgy and the Byzantine divine liturgy.

What amazes me is that there is a belief out there, often expressed in my experience, that people, particularly the young, thirst for the modern. What I have found is that while the young are open to the modern, they recognize in our tradition the holiness of beauty and they thirst for this once they know of it. People were obviously impressed by what they saw and heard on these clips. Both during their presentation and after this was manifest. In fact, people were asking how they might go an experience this for themselves at either the local Byzantine rite church, or the local indult Latin Mass.

When these ancient traditions are presented to them, they grab onto them. I have also noticed that there is a sense of disappointment that these things haven't been handed onto them.

It's clear there is a great openness and hunger out there. As well, I took a moment to explain "ad orientem" (since many would have never seen this before). I very quickly explained it, and how the priest and people turn together toward the Lord in worship and praise. There seemed to be no objections to this. To many in fact, when you explain what the liturgy is, and then explain ad orientem, it makes perfect sense.

I share this with you because it is both encouraging and demonstrative that many people are perhaps not so far from accepting the tradition as is sometimes made out, and that indeed, there is a hunger for it. This is perhaps especially encouraging for the reform of the reform.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: