Tuesday, April 29, 2014

1970s prelates and parishioners come into their own

Apparently the generation has come into its own now. The Bauhaus generation. The lava lamp generation. The glory and praise generation. The polyester generation.

It reminds me a little of an inner city evangelical service I once attended in Grand Rapids in the early 1970s. The complexion of the congregation, despite a scattering of blacks, was predominantly white. Middle class. I remember feeling uncomfortable as a white man in his late thirties wearing a business suit accompanied a praise band with a tambourine. Or trying to -- flopping it against his leg more or less in time with the rhythm of the music, but awkwardly. Very awkwardly. He was decidedly non-hip. The whole thing was decidedly non-hip. But by golly they were surely trying to be hip.

Now people aren't as sweaty-palmed about trying to be hip in this way, but this sort of ethos -- the laid-back "hip" thing with praise bands and high-fiving priests -- is matter of course in many parishes I've seen. Altars are off-center, "presidential chairs" angled in curious ways, naves replaced by spacious horizontal spaces that no longer shepherd the eye to front-and-center, but invite one to chill out and relax. Have a nice day. So nice. Like waiting for a lounge show to begin.

In a slightly related vein, a correspondent of ours wrote to tell me this:
I read the coverage over at Whispers in the Loggia on the celebration of the weekend. Interesting, and parts were inspiring.

I think we are simply witnessing the gradually ascendency of Vatican II's effect now that the Old Guard is disappearing and an entire generation of Catholics weened on Vatican II is taking the reigns. Like every other precinct of society, things are simply far more man-centered and far more concerned with the goodness and joy of this life. For better or worse. Old emphases are not outright denied, just countered by newer emphases that pretty much suffocate them. The Papacy used to be viewed as the office of the Vicar of Christ, where "the Pope" was not so much a personality as an office. No more:
the joint ratification that John XXIII and John Paul II now live in the Father's House doesn't merely validate the verdict of the sensus fidelium on the holiness of their lives: it represents the ultimate recognition of their respective roles as the twin architects of the modern papacy – a munus in which a man's personality doesn't vanish at the moment he donned the white, but one that would see the Petrine charism amplified across the globe by its respective holder's gifts, talents and areas of concern...
Likewise Holiness used to be very much God's precinct, something we might experience or arrive at via his grace in some measure, but which only a few exuded in a manner that distinguished them as saints. Again, not so now. Holiness will now be common DNA.
Vatican II's powerful reminder that, in the Church, holiness is not the unique province or privilege of neither the papacy nor the ordained presbyterate, but of the shared priesthood which, through Baptism, is the life and mission of all the People of God...
Ideas of religion as demanding, God as other, narrow ways and dark nights ... These won't be jettisoned, but they also won't be referenced except in terms of litigations over government over-reaches that really touch no one very directly. Even as affluence reigns, these will be the things construed as persecution, and even as churches close, we will be instructed about a New Springtime. I was surprised to see Whispers post the two TIME magazine covers of the Popes as Men of the Year. Even my Protestant brother, not anti-Catholic really, when I exclaimed over JPII making the cover of the one years ago, said something to the effect of, "I would think he'd wish they hand't put him on it." And that spirit, one of wariness to the world along with a gratitude for its good gifts, is the one that seems altogether lacking no matter what lip service is given to it. Catholicism has always by association been the religion of blood and the crucifix, of The Last Things, rites, priests and reconciliation. Now those things are rolled into a very Protestant-sounding refrain of helping others, and an explicit and intense concern that people have education and jobs but an almost non-concern for whether or not they articulate any interest in organized religion. Francis' observed that "In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led ... This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit." Seems like an entirely progressive sort of eulogy.
The correspondent apologized for what he called his "repetition" and "constant laments," saying that he found all this "rather depressing."

Well, it just all depends, doesn't it. I wonder how God sees all these events of mice and men.

[Hat tip to GN]


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