Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Strategy and the Reform of the Reform

Over at his blog, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf shares with us some stunning images from the modern Roman liturgy as offered at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It shows one particular aspect, or "stage one" as I like to think of it, of the Reform of the Reform movement. You see, the reform of the reform, I think, must be understood strategically. Strategically because it involves vast numbers of the faithful, many of whom are unformed or even de-formed. Many unaware of their own tradition and who haven't a real sense of Catholic liturgy. It isn't that they are necessarily apathetic; many just don't know. My experience has shown me that when many of them, particularly the young, do come to have some sense of our tradition, they have two responses: 1) they feel somewhat betrayed to not have been introduced to it, 2) they want to learn and experience it more. Still others need to be gradually "won over", having for the past few decades come to believe that the Church no longer deems it "right" to do things like use Latin in the liturgy, or say Mass ad orientem. Such fables about the Council and the post-conciliar liturgy are unfortunately even passed on by some of our parish priests -- perhaps because they too are ignorant in this regard.

The faithful need to be re-adapted and re-sensitized to a more Catholic ethos in liturgical celebrations (such as we see at St. Agnes or the Oratory) and also shifted away from a sense of certain roles being a "right" and means of lay participation - e.g. EMHC's.

That more Catholic sense found within a traditional liturgical ethos in turn helps re-orient the focus of the liturgy to Divine worship, and away from unbalanced or incorrect perspectives which can turn the liturgy inward on itself, not as an act of worship of God followed by our sanctification, but as an act of self-worship so to speak; the gathering of a community celebrating itself.

While some of the more hardline traditionalist sorts have been critical of this, considering it shallow, those who think so must understand that the reform of the reform is itself a work in progress; one that will happen in stages. This first stage is crucial and necessary.

After the Church brings us a better and more faithful English language translation of the modern Roman Missal most of our parishes use, and after she generally minimizes the presence of liturgical abuses in parishes -- abuses which have often fostered an incorrect or distorted approach to the sacred liturgy, and as the state of continuity with our tradition and conformance with Vatican II grows and spreads (helped along by the wide and generous presence of the classical liturgy) it is especially then that the even deeper work of reforming the post-conciliar reform can begin.

In the case of St. Agnes', this Church, like the Brompton Oratory, they are examples of those parishes well advanced in "stage 1."

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