Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W Hudson

1/23/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Our renewal must begin with the act of worship, with our liturgy. What will it take for the Liturgy to become an encounter with the Beautiful once again?

[T]he most convincing demonstration of [faith's] truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful. How much lost "connectedness" would be recovered if more attention were paid to encounters with "the Beautiful" in the liturgy, so that it was never perfunctory, listless, or offensive to the ear and eye? - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Highlights

By Deal W Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/23/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: beauty, Liturgy, culture, enthsuiasm, renewal, reform, Catholic Culture, rubrics, worship, Holy Mass, Divine Liturgy, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - In a recent column, I suggested that Catholics need to be more welcoming to each other and to parish visitors. It's not the first time I have made that observation, and it's not the first time much of the response has been negative.  Why? I'm accused of forcing evangelical habits on a Catholic parish, of endorsing the expression of enthusiasm.

My critics respond with their preference for silence, solemnity, even privacy.  All this, they argue, is the appropriate attitude towards the Real Presence of Christ in the Mass.  There is sometimes the sly insinuation that I still bear the stamp of my evangelical past, now 30 years past this month. 

No doubt there is some truth in that, but the kind of truth that Catholics should pay attention to.  Evangelicals are constantly aware, and desirous, of witnessing to their faith.  To put it crassly, they are selling. By contrast, Catholics are hoarders, a practice arising from any number of sources, the first of which is simply stated - the pious habits of one generation handed down to another. 

The critics also reject what I described as a lack of "connectedness" with other worshippers.  Either they called it unnecessary, a distraction, or trivial; the only connection that counts is that with Christ and His Body. In order to avoid this sort of buzz saw, I should remember to avoid any allusion to what is felt by Catholics. I'm after a much larger fish, and I employed the word enthusiasm for what that might be.

Judging the present usage of any word or concept by comparison to the distant past is problematic. But the roots of the word in the Greek language and culture is instructive: The original meaning derives from the Greek enthousiasmos, derived from enthousiazein; to be inspired, specifically to be inspired by God, en/theos. The Greeks regarded such men and women with awe and fear, and for good reason, they were often dangerous. 

Taken in this way, one can see that generic enthusiasm is a state that exists in tension with the tradition and practice of the Catholic faith - recall what the saints, true enthusiasts, often passed through on their paths to sanctity. 

I spoke about the lack of "connectedness" that many non-practicing Catholics report when they are asked why they have stopped attending Mass. I limited my interpretation of this to their sense of rapport with other worshippers - that is, I think, what elicited the criticism. It gave the impression that Catholics should primarily nurture an emotional connection among the members of the parish community to evangelize. Personal recognition is a good thing, but it is not the primary thing, at least among Catholics.

What makes Catholicism distinctive among other Christian groups is its historic institution, hierarchy, and preference for objectivity. Real Presence makes the claim to be objectively true.  Papal primacy, the authority of bishops and priests, the universality of the Church, the Magisterium, and the sacraments provide hierarchy and institution.
All of these qualities, it would seem, quash the kind of enthusiasm that concerned Msgr. Ronald Knox in his famous book from (1950) of the same name. He was well aware of the ancient background to enthusiasm:

" the emphasis lies on a direct personal access to the Author of our salvation, [thus] at the root of it lies a different theology of grace. Our traditional doctrine is that grace perfects nature but leaves it nature still. The assumption of the enthusiast is bolder and simpler; for him, grace has destroyed nature, and replaced it."

The question of enthusiasm, for Knox, leads directly back to the Protestant Reformation debate over the effects of the Fall on human nature, the extent to which nature is corrupted, and the relation of grace to our fallen nature. 

Thus, I must conclude a recovery of enthusiasm is not the best way to address the process of renewal in the Catholic Church. The language must be found elsewhere, at the heart of what it means to practice the Faith. How then is renewal to be pursued? This is where I think the "logic" of being Catholic sends us on a different course than that followed by other faith groups. There is the tendency to assume this renewal should be summoned up from within, based upon prayer, rosaries, or some sort of spiritual exercises. These are all good to do, of course, but that leaves aside the most obvious place to look for renewal: the Liturgy itself.

Let me offer the following example: Have you ever prayed in a great cathedral when the organ was playing or the choir was singing a Gregorian chant, a Mass by one of the Renaissance greats - Palestrina, Victoria, Tallis, or Byrd - or some form of music that moved you? Did you find it easier to pray? Did you find yourself going deeper, praying longer, and rising to leave with a rare sense of joy at having knelt?

I know that the local parish is rarely a great cathedral, or even a building of architectural distinction, and I know that most parish choirs are not schooled in either chant or Renaissance polyphony. But, I would ask, how much effort are we, both laity and religious, putting into the beauty of our liturgy? After all, isn't it the beauty of the music, architecture, stained glass, images, homily, and the liturgical gestures that engage our senses and focus our minds on divine things?

In 2002, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger delivered a sermon, "The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty," where he said:

"[T]he most convincing demonstration of [faith's] truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful. How much lost "connectedness" would be recovered if more attention were paid to encounters with "the Beautiful" in the liturgy, so that it was never perfunctory, listless, or offensive to the ear and eye?
Don't misunderstand me. Beauty in the liturgy isn't just a matter of better music and homilies; it requires its proper form (i.e., rubrics ) as prescribed by the Church."

This is precisely the kind of "connectedness" I wish was encountered more often in our Church. The beauty of liturgy, emanating from the Eucharistic sacrifice, has been marred by misguided liturgical improvisation and horrid, or silly, music. Dumbed-down liturgies have only increased the distance - created an obstacle to connectedness many Catholics feel from their Church, whatever their good intentions. Our renewal must begin with the act of worship, with our liturgy. What will it take for the Liturgy to become an encounter with the Beautiful once again?

Summary:

1. Calls to Catholic renewal are often judged as an invitation to ignite religious enthusiasm.
2. Enthusiasm has an historic meaning deeply at odds with the Catholic faith and tradition.
3. Benedict XVI suggested the way of renewal lies in the beauty of the Liturgy.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More U.S.

What is she hiding? Hillary Clinton refused to use government email address while Secretary of State Watch

Image of Hillary Clinton did not use an official government email address while she was Secretary of State, potentially violating a law regarding open and free access to official documents.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Potential 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton may have shot herself in the foot; it has been revealed that as Secretary of State, Clinton used a personal email address for official government business, which may be a crime. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Is your teenager in danger? 1 in 5 teen girls experience dating abuse in the U.S. Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems like teenagers nowadays have forgotten what "respect your partner" means. Oftentimes, teenage couples leave one battered and the other selfish. Some even find fulfillment in impeding the rights of other people, and American teenagers have fallen into the hands ... continue reading


The top 5 things you need to know about the United States' quickly changing religious landscape Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For many years, Protestants made up the majority of the United States' population. A recent report from America Values Atlas tells us that, as the United States demographically shifts, this is no longer the case. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The United States as ... continue reading


EMPTY! Is there any gold in Fort Knox? Government's denial of audit raises serious concerns Watch

Image of While the U.S. government claims that about 3% of all minted gold sits in Fort Knox, recent and troubling rumors say that this is not true.

By Al Wooltin (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

About 3 percent of the gold ever refined in the entire history of mankind sits in the vaults of the United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, equaling about 5,000 metric tons of gold. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At least this is what the government of ... continue reading


Billy the Kid's New Mexico hideout now up for sale Watch

Image of According to legend, Billy the Kid is said to have killed 21 men, but it is generally believed that he killed eight.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a beautiful home in New Mexico, spacious, with breathtaking mountain views. It's hard to believe that it at one time sheltered Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney, one of the American Wild West's most notorious outlaws. It is now on the market for ... continue reading


Obama spends an alarming $3 billion on Obamacare WITHOUT Congressional approval Watch

Image of President Obama's administration is being accused of illegally spending money on Obamacare without Congressional approval.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Treasury Department may be moving forward with Obamacare regardless of Congressional concerns and a lack of funding, approving a $3 billion payment to health insurers despite the fact that Congress has not authorized any payments in annual ... continue reading


Obama Administration as Global Advocate for Radical LGBTI Agenda

Image of Randy Berry

By Keith A Fournier

Robert Reilly is right. The Obama administration is doing profound damage to the very understanding of human rights. We have fundamental human rights precisely because we are human persons. No-one should support the denial of truly fundamental human rights for ... continue reading


Climate change - WHERE IT HURTS: Scientists say warming will hit nation's agricultural heartland Watch

Image of The climate change panel's verdict came as a bit of a surprise: Greenhouse-gas emissions played a substantial role in Europe's misery, but not so much in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are very few positive things to result from climate change. Researchers now say that warmer temperatures will hit America where it counts: the nation's agricultural heartland. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers presented their latest findings ... continue reading


WITCHES ARE BACK: Witchcraft reappears in today's popular mainstream culture in unexpected ways Watch

Image of Witches are seen in both religion and as a feminist symbol.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The idea of the witch is making its rounds through history again. Females, both young and old, are embracing the power that comes with the feminist witch in today's society. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a recent twitter post, popular female rapper, Azealia ... continue reading


Alaska lights up as it become the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana Watch

Image of Twenty-three states still prohibit cannabis outright. The other U.S. states have either legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized marijuana possession.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The state of Alaska is lighting up in celebration... following Colorado's lead, Alaska has become the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Voters passed the Alaska Marijuana Legalization ballot measure last ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
10 Hear what Yahweh says, you rulers of Sodom; listen ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23
8 'It is not with your sacrifices that I find fault, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12
1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Katharine Drexel
March 3: Saint Katharine Drexel, Religious (Feast Day-March 3) Born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter