Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Welcome to Town, the Real World

Two friends of mine from different parts of the country, settled into a parish of their liking, more or less, picked up to move to other parts of the country, leaving their parishes behind and encountering a terrifying situation in looking for a new parish. Both of them are in a state of complete shock.

They are bouncing from parish to parish only to find liturgy after liturgy dominated by pop music and liturgy directors with heads full of mush, places completely untouched by the reform of the reform. They describe themselves as living in a liturgical house of mirrors in which crazy and menacing heads of Marty Haugen haunt them at every turn. It is driving both of them batty, and even to despair. They tell stories of the most shocking sort, week to week, and are both at their wits' end.

Moves can do this to you. One's perspective on whether Catholic liturgy is getting better or worse--whether it is time for panic or calm improvements--depends in large part, if not wholly, on one's local situation. People in good situations tend to have an exaggerated sense of the well being of American Catholic liturgy. People in awful situations ere in the other direction, assuming that there is no hope.

For this reason, we all work very hard to find liturgical environments that are suitable to our sensibilities and then feel a bit of comfort, only to have this completely upset when we move across the country into an unfamiliar place and encounter that horrible reality that Catholic liturgy in the United States really is in a relentless state of emergency. You can at this point make up a statistic, but I'm guessing that something like 85% of Catholic Masses in this country stand in complete violation to the letter and spirit of the Roman Rite.

I have no answers here to provide. But clearly despair is not an option. Neither is dropping out. Once you rule out those two options, you realize something important. Our generation has been called to work at the margins to do whatever we can, in our own time, wherever we happen to find ourselves.

I would counsel getting involved in the parish, even if it means singing bad music for a time or teaching CCD under a mixed-up DRE or otherwise making a contribution in the spirit of love and sacrifice. After a time, opportunities will present themselves for starting a chant schola, opening a new bookstore, recommending a new text, or starting a new group or ministry, or whatever. This are positive ways to turn a bad situation into a slightly better one. This way you can prepare a path for the future.

Another friend of mine five years ago found himself in a dreadful situation and didn't know what to do. But he stuck it out and kept working from within the parish in every way he could. Then one day a new pastor came, and he was seeking out people who could be leaders to take the parish in a new direction. Next month, that very parish will have a Tridentine Mass and he will assist. My friend's support was invaluable.

There are ways to make a difference where you are. Think of it as Providence at work: you are being called to assist the reform. There is nothing to be gained by regretting that you don't live in the 15th century or longing for the stability you have known in the past. You must look to a brighter future and work and pray as the means to make it happen.

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