Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Catholic World Report: Summorum Pontificum Benedict's gift to the young

Editor of the top-drawer conservative publication, Catholic World Report, George Neumayr, has come out with a remarkable editorial in the June, 2010, issue of the magazine, entitled "Ever Ancient, Ever New: Summorum Pontificum and the Young." Neumayr begins:
Pope Benedict's critics had hoped Summorum Pontificum would disappear without a trace. It hasn't. His apostolic constitution authorizing wider use of the Traditional Latin Mass continues to bear fruit, some of it annoyingly visible to these critics.

Far from just a sop thrown to aging traditionalists, as some liberal bishops cast it, Summorum Pontificum has proven popular with the young. As Pope Benedict noted in its accompanying letter, the Traditional Latin Mass is old in origin but new in appeal: "young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction, and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Sacrifice particularly suited to them."

An illustration of this appeared on April 24 in Washington, DC, when more than 3,500 people -- many of them children, teens, college students, and young families -- filed into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a Pontifical Solemn High Mass that lasted two and a half hours.
According to The Paulus Institute, which sponsored the event and scheduled it to mark the fifth anniversary of the Holy Father's pontificate, it was the first Tridentine Mass offered at the Shrine's altar since 1965.

To Catholic liberals, whom Neumayr describes as presiding over seminaries that look like "ghost towns" and preaching "to pews that are almost empty," the vision of Catholic youth flocking to the Tridentine Mass in Washington was enough to trigger apoplexy. One of its publications, US Catholic (which I once dishonored in a review entitled, "What I Learned from U.S. Catholic Magazine," in This Rock) lashed out at the Mass. Usually an avid proponent of liturgies "relevant" to the young, it found this one disheartening. In fact, liberal heads exploded. Bryan Cones, managing editor of the magazine, could not restrain himself, blurting out in a blog post, "A ridiculous mountain of red silk" (US Catholic, April 29, 2010):
I've been holding back all week for fear of stirring up a hornet's nest, but my only response to the Latin Mass celebrated last Saturday at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington has to be: Really? Seriously? (You can read the fawning CNS coverage of "ancient chants and pomp, splendor and majesty" here.)

Who thought it was a good idea to dress up a bishop in a cappa magna and parade him around triumphantly in celebration of what Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma referred to as "the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne of Peter" while the church is in such a profound crisis of confidence in its leadership? Ascension to the throne, eh? Are we speaking of the "servant of the servants of God" here or the Emperor Augustus?

... If we're going to get stuck on a particular period in church history and its liturgy, does it have to be the 16th century? It was hardly a time of--how to put it?--liturgical modesty, much less the "noble simplicity" that is, after all, the historical hallmark of the Roman rite. Unless His Excellency is going to wrap that cappa magna around his waist and start washing feet, as Jesus did in John's gospel.
"Noble simplicity." Did you catch that? As if your local Gather-Us-In AmChurch group fest is an incarnation of that! And "stuck in the 16th century," did he say? As if the Gregorian Mass, called "Tridentine" in honor of Pius V's reform at the time of the Council of Trent, were created out of whole cloth by Pius V. (What do they teach in Church history classes these days! Or did I forget: do they teach that anymore?)

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the managing editor of US Catholic, which bills itself as being "In conversation with American Catholics," had conversed with any of the young people after the Mass. As Neumayr remarks, "What he snidely dismisses as absurd pomp, they see as powerful and otherworldly symbolism, which is far more 'relevant' to their search for God than anything contained in the secularized and insipid 'youth' liturgies US Catholic normally touts."

But if Cones is reluctant about accepting their testimony, suggests Neumayr, "he could always talk to John Allen," chief religion reporter for the similarly-left-leaning National Catholic Reporter. To his credit, Allen typically follows the evidence wherever it leads, even if it opposes the leftist prejudices of his paper, as one of his recent reports about the general traditinalism of practicing young Catholics does, in "American Catholic demographics and the future of ministry" (NPR, April 30, 2010):
[M]inisters of the Catholic future will be increasingly “evangelical.” The broad mass of twenty- and thirty-something Catholics today may be thoroughly secularized, but there is an inner core of faithful and practicing young Catholics who are the ones most likely to pursue a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, or to be most interested in making a career in the church as a lay person. The future leaders of Catholicism in America will come from this inner core. By now there’s a considerable body of data about these “millennial Catholics,” and the consistent finding is that they’re more traditional in their attitudes and practices than the “Vatican II” generation they’re replacing. These younger Catholics are attracted to traditional spiritual practices such as Eucharistic adoration and Marian piety; they have a generally positive attitude towards authority, especially the papacy; and they’re less inclined to be critical of church teaching....
Neumayr concludes his editorial with these observations:
Self-consciously "relevant" Catholicism as on display at US Catholic, with its pinched and hostile attitude to valuable traditions from the past and its feeble imitation of the world, has proven irrelevant to young Catholics who have left the church, and boring and off-putting to the ones who stay. They want bread, not stones, and Pope Benedict offers them that substance.

It was assumed that Pope Benedict principally wrote Summorum Pontificum for the old. He actually wrote it more for the young. He wanted them to know what many of their CCD teachers never taught them -- that "what earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred for us too."


Anonymous said...

Cappa magnas are noble, but not simple. I wonder the Eminences never slip or get entangled in their folds. I suppose young people like them for the same reason they like fantasy stories like Harry Potter.

Tawser said...

As a graduate of ND, I was often forced to hear the bloviations of Richard McBrien and his ilk, and one of the most infuriating habits of his generation I noticed was a complete refusal even to listen to those who disagree with them. Browse McBrien's Catholicism. Its like an encylopedia of mid twentieth century academic theology. And for McBrien that IS "Catholicism." His lack of sensitivity to the great tradition and its modern exponents is almost total. Someone as eminent as von Balthasar merits little more than a cursory mention. I see no evidence that he is even aware that serious and substantive criticisms of his point of view exist, let alone that he has a responsibility to engage with them with anything other than smugness. The basic problem with Catholic progressivism is that it is narrow and parochial but that it seriously believes itself to be the exact opposite. And people like McBrien would rather die gasping in their own blood than even entertain the thought that there might be a plausibile alternative to the fatuities of AmChurch.

JM said...

From Fr. Z's com box...

Aidan Nichols, in Christendom Awake states, "The ‘re-enchantment’ of the Catholic Liturgy is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time" (p. 21). He goes on to describe this "re-enchantment of the liturgy" as an important part, nay the single most important part of the New Evangelization which our Holy Father and his venerable predecessor have set before the Church. Offering Holy Mass using all the pomp and ceremony that one encounters in a Solemn Pontifical Mass is a profound way of achieving the re-enchantment Nichols talks about.

The triumphalism of our liturgy – especially the triumphalism of this particular liturgy, offered in honor of the anniversary of our Holy Father’s election – when the world tells us we should be wailing and gnashing our teeth, in sackcloth and in ashes, sends a clear signal to the world. Yes we are sinners. Yes we are wracked by scandal, beset by evil from within and without the community of the Church. Yes, we have, as individuals, failed to live up to the standard of honesty, purity and perfection set before us by Our Lord, and have fallen short of the expectations even of the secular world. Yet, for all our personal failings, for all our institutional imperfections, for all the sinners we harbor in our midst, Christ has still won the victory. Christ has triumped, and the Church is called not only to share in that triumph, but to proclaim it to the world. Loudly. Boldly. With acres of silk, and all the musical and artistic talents He has given to us.

The world is confused at how the Church can celebrate so triumphalistically – right when they think…right when they know they’ve got us cornered. It seems, to the world, to be hubris on our part, or worse, hypocrisy (which is one of only two sins the modern world disdains, "intolerance" being the other). Like the Grinch, convinced he’s stolen Christmas, they wring their hands expecting wails of despair, and yet they hear a melodious "Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram, aedificabo ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam!"

The Holy Mass on Saturday causes the kind of wonderment so needed for the task of the New Evangelization. Even those who find it frippery, and who immaturely cast aspersion on the character of those who prayed deeply, devoutly, sincerely through the Mass on Saturday can’t seem to ignore it. In paying attention to the Mass, presented with all the solemnity and triumphalism the Church has preserved from generation to generation, even the coldest skeptic is forced to ask, mouth agog, "Seriously? Really?" And the Church responds, "Yes, very seriously, and more real than even we can understand."

Pertinacious Papist said...

"From Fr. Z's combox" ...

Thank you! Magnificent.