Catholic Herald: the new generation of solid and clear Catholics and liturgical reform

There is an opinion piece in the Catholic Herald which merits some attention.

My emphases and comments.

A breath of fresh air is wafting through St Peter’s

James MacMillan
Friday January 18, 2008

There is a bewildering array of American Catholic blog sites these days. Some are liberal, but the overwhelming majority seem to express an ever-more confident Catholic orthodoxy on matters of faith, morals and liturgy.  [This is itself an interesting point.  My theory is that the Catholic blogosphere, like American talk radio and cable news, has finally presented an alternative to the old guard which dominated Catholic media for so long.  Thus the success also of EWTN and Catholic radio.  Also, the Catholic blogosphere is overwhelmingly conservative for the same reasons: when you are right, you have a way a) to defend your positions and b) you can display a sense of humor and joy.] Many of the posters seem to be young, and take an apparent delight in winding up that generation of post-Vatican II Catholics still moaning about not getting their way in the contemporary Church.

One particular American blogger, Fr John Zuhlsdorf, [!] has recently hailed what he calls “the return of triumphalism”. Ever since Vatican II this has been a taboo word in the Church, but he sees it as a good thing. Is this yet more evidence that we are moving into a new, more confident era for the modern Church? That Catholics are more and more prepared to stand up for their identity and their core values? [Yes.] That liberal secularists and liberal Christians have failed in bullying orthodox Catholics into submission? [Yes.] Is it really time to become assertive about the faith in the public square? [Assertive?  Well… yes, in a sense.  When we are sure about who we are, we can get engaged in the public square with the confidence that we have something good to offer.  This is what Pope Benedict is trying to accomplish in what I call his "Marshall Plan" for the Church, which seeks to strengthed the Church ad intra so that it has more impact ad extra.]

To be honest, there is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical about Fr Zuhlsdorf’s site. [ROFL!  He hasn’t read the WDTPRS pieces.] There is, however, a knowing lightheartedness in appearing to indulge some guilty pleasures. He is in raptures [well….] about recent liturgical developments in St Peter’s, and that “more and more, Pope Benedict’s intentions are being clarified in regard to the Church’s traditional liturgical expressions”. There is great enthusiasm for the increased reappearance of Gregorian chant, flappable excitement [LOL!] at the use of the correct, ornate vestments, and at the good taste [long over due] of medieval images of Mary chosen for the ceremonies. The Holy Father is hailed for his “dedication to formal liturgical ceremony and also popular devotion, which is also of great importance in the life of the Catholic people. They strengthen each other, and the Holy Father understands that.

“He is giving a good example as Bishop and chief pastor of Rome to his city and to the world… his way of showing the bishops and priests of the world how this is to be done”. Confident, assertive, provocative stuff.

It is not just in the liturgical sphere that we see a new impatience with the comfy laxness of the previous generation. For many years successful professional Christians have sought to ingratiate themselves with their liberal secular associates by playing down the parts of the Church’s teaching that caused most offence. [O well said!  Hear! hear!] Nevertheless there was more at stake here than just their incorporation into trendy sophisticated company.

Secular liberals have gladly gobbled up all these concessions and now want more – the complete obliteration of religion from public life. In the process liberal Christians have lost the respect of their secular peers.  [A symptom of this is perhaps playing out in Italy over the debacle with La Sapienza.  We even see radicals like Dario fo defending the Pope’s right to speak against those who would silence him.  I grant that that is a battle amongst secularists.  However, paradigm is the same.  you cannot claim respect when you have squandered what is most important.] They gave no indication of intellectual rigour or ethical integrity in their eagerness to ditch bits and pieces of the faith. Their faith has been caught in a cruel light – their Christianity is bland, sentimental and anaemic.  [Well written.]

History will look back unkindly on the generation of Vatican II Catholics who were handed such a precious pentecostal gift of grace – a unique opportunity to purify the Church, only to squander it disastrously. They bent over backwards to accommodate the zeitgeist, rather than open a generational heart to the Heilige Geist. This is not what John XXIII foresaw when he inaugurated his great reforming council. He would have been horrified to see how many Catholics fell prey to the trendy nihilism of the 1960s, duped by a destructive iconoclasm which has eroded so much of the West’s culture and morals.

This is the basis of the new positivist impulse among young Catholics, disdained and dismissed by some of their elders as conservative and reactionary. In the new generation, we need to rediscover the optimism that lay at the heart of Vatican II. We need to confront the radical dissatisfaction that led many 1960s Catholics to turn away from or against the Church. We need to challenge their disdain for tradition and that smug superiority that many Catholics of a certain age display towards the deep pieties of the ordinary, “old-fashioned” faithful. Catholic liberalism has had its day, and the legacy of Vatican II requires us to understand the pernicious, corrosive effects of the pick-and-mix tendency.  [We must apply a "hermeneutic of continuity".]

The recent experience of our sister faith communities in the Reformed tradition has shown that those who strive to make their churches [Remember the CDF document that says they are not really "Churches"…] “acceptable” to the prevailing, but probably transitory zeitgeist, have triumphed. There are those, within and without the Catholic Church, who have been encouraged by this and are forever pushing in the same direction. They see no problem in being fully communicant while urging the rejection of the most precious doctrines on faith and morals. This rejection can sometimes cover the divinity of Christ Himself, can involve a campaign to legitimise abortion and euthanasia (there is an organisation in America called Catholics for a Free Choice), and the defeatist acceptance of the sexual hooliganism which has so harmed the position of marriage and the family in modern life.

The western world’s love affair with self may have taken off in the 1960s but it will only get worse. The Catholic Church must provide a counter-cultural challenge to this, and offer the alternative of Christ’s own way.

It is not triumphalist to say this, but it requires the Church to be happy and confident in its own skin. [Yes.] Catholics need to know what it means to be Catholic [Exactly.] – to understand what our core values are, and to feel they are not just worth defending, but worth proclaiming from the rooftops. The young generation of Catholics are right to be assertive about our beliefs in the public square. If we do not speak boldly and honestly to power in these contexts, if we run scared in the face of the new anti-religious elites, we will be expelled from the public square, never to return.

Perhaps American bloggers like Fr Zuhlsdorf know this. Our British reserve can make us cringe with embarrassment in the face of such brash self-confidence, but we may have to develop our own ways of being assertive.  [Frankly, I take great heart and inspiration from blogs of priest friends in England.  Perhaps reserve and brashness are creating a synergy in the Catholic blogosphere as we polinate across the Pond.]

We can begin with the liturgy. [We MUST begin with the liturgy.] Nothing signals the weakened state of the modern Church more than the contemporary practice of Catholic liturgy in hundreds of churches throughout the land. A breath of fresh air is wafting through St Peter’s, and in his own gentle way Pope Benedict is inviting the universal Church to taste the beauties and spiritual sustenance of true Catholic worship. I am convinced that from the liturgy everything else will flow. We British don’t flap with excitement, [You are "unflappable"?] but there may be good reason for us to pray for Christ’s Church with a warm glow of expectation and confidence as we look with hope to the future.

James MacMillan’s St John Passion
will be premiered by Sir Colin Davis
and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on April 27

You can read the rest of our news coverage in this week’s Catholic Herald

 

This fellow has his head screwed on in the right direction.

This cannot be said too often:  The Pope is working to reinvigorate Catholic identity in a secularizing world and liturgy is the tip of the spear.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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33 Responses to Catholic Herald: the new generation of solid and clear Catholics and liturgical reform

  1. Humble says:

    What do you think of the Pope rewriting the Good Friday Prayer?

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0800325.htm

    I’m curious as to your reaction Father, as well as the reaction of your readers. Thanks.

  2. dob says:

    Splendid article. Thank you James and Fr Z.

  3. Brian Day says:

    To be honest, there is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical about Fr Zuhlsdorf’s site.

    I guess Mr. MacMillan subscribes to the MSM view of bloggers.

  4. Paul says:

    A wonderful article although the assertion that “there is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical about Fr Zuhlsdorf’s site” is complete balderdash. Your blog is one of the most analytical on the web and a pleasure to read every day. Please keep up the good work Father. God Bless.

  5. Mark Johnson says:

    Fr. Z: When I read these words: “The Pope is working to reinvigorate Catholic identity in a secularizing world and liturgy is the tip of the spear”, I got goosebumps. Well said!

  6. Paul Murnane says:

    Brick by brick indeed. I hope our British friends can leverage the positive new coverage. I also hope Mr. MacMillan stops in and browses around, maybe listen to a Podcazt or 2.

    All in all, great stuff.

  7. Dave says:

    I, at 30, count myself in that new generation of Catholics. Only having found the TLM a few years ago I quickly came to appreciate its beauty and reverence. When I lived in Chicago I frequented St. Cantius Parish and the Monastery of the Holy Cross. Both of which offer a beautiful Novus Ordo in Latin as well. Now that I’m in the burbs, my choices are much more limited.

    I imagine that the Catholic Blogosphere is having some effect on educating many Catholics about their heritage. If I hadn’t been “hooked” on a handfull of blogs I would have never approached my pastor about offering the TLM at my parish.

  8. Fr Edward says:

    It is a good article. The good news is that I am fairly sure that MacMillan is working for ICEL in producing good music for the forthcoming translation of the Missal (chants). The thing that worries me (about the music in the forthcoming Missal) is that there is no music set for the Sunday Prefaces. Sure, there is no music in the 2003 Latin Missal, but surely that was an oversight. Why repeat it in the English edition? What are we to do? Either SAY the Preface or use the present corrupt translation!

  9. Yes, I agree with Paul.

    “There is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical” about Fr. Z’s blog.
    Oh dear. How wrong can you get.
    No visitor to this blog could seriously believe this for a moment.

    But in the description of post Vatican II Catholics who have squandered a precious gift, I was particularly struck by these words :

    “They have bent over backwards to accommodate the zeitgeist, rather than open a generational heart to the Heilige Geist.”

    Goodness, that’s rather well put.

  10. elizabeth mckernan says:

    I guess the words ‘Heilige geist’ mean ‘Holy Ghost’ but can someone please tell me what ‘zeitgeist’ means so that I can understand the sentence?

  11. Diffal says:

    “To be honest, there is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical about Fr Zuhlsdorf’s site.”

    Is there another Fr Z out there somewhere?

    WDTPRS lite prehaps?

    Or maybe just maybe you lack the “Spirit of Vatican II” now that would be a shame :D

  12. I’m glad you enjoyed the article: we at the Catholic Herald were excited to receive it, because James MacMillan is one of Britain’s leading composers and also strongly associated with the political Left. That such a radical socialist warmly welcomes the Benedictine reforms powerfully underlines their universality.

  13. Well, Father, I can’t say that I have ever had to cringe with embarrassment even slightly at any brash self-confidence on your part. I do like the idea of being unflappable, though. We Brits admire the exchange between Lord Uxbridge and Wellington at the battle of Waterloo “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” — “By God, sir, so you have!”

    Good article, though – also Alcuin Reids’ comment piece accompanying the report on the Sistine Chapel Mass – “Looking at the priest has no importance”

  14. Fr. Finigan: I do like the idea of being unflappable

    On that, you Brits will always have a leg to stand on.

  15. la mamma says:

    What a cracker! They use a Macmillan Mass setting in my parents’ church, but I’ve not heard what the man has to say before. Did you spot his use of ‘without’? It’s peculiarly Scottish, so don’t bother using it in conversation when you come to England, Father. He sounds very encouraging, not least his comment about this blog being neither scholarly nor analytical because perhaps some folk who wouldn’t read anything scholarly or analytical will wander over unwittingly and convert!

  16. bill says:

    elizabeth mckernan:
    Since no-one else has responded, I will.
    “Zeitgeist” means “the spirit of the age”. It is not, in itself, a loaded term: it can be meant either positively, or at least neutrally (the defining attitudes and understandings of an historical period), or negatively (the transitory preoccupations of an ephemeral age).
    I shall leave you to decide which meaning is intended in this context!

  17. James MacMillan says:

    Fr Zuhlsdorf, I apologise if I have made a hasty analysis of your blogsite – I am new to this strange world, the blogosphere, and will follow up with some remedial reading.

    Damian – your comment about me being on the political Left is interesting. I certainly have my roots there, but in recent years have moved so far from it, that is a travesty to describe me as a socialist. That is nobody’s fault but my own, though. But it continues to haunt me – so much that I have decided to write an article about it for The Spectator next month. Maybe I can sort this out once and for all, and in the meantime explain why people like me have abandoned the Left. Some of the issues described in my CH article are directly connected to my journey out of the past, but there is also the question of why The Arts are dominated by secular liberal types of a rather bullying, hectoring and unthinking variety.They will be my next targets…

    God bless you all.

  18. berenike says:

    Dear Mamma. I work as a translator, and have immense satisfaction in putting “without” in as many texts as I possibly can. As for pronounciation? Who wants to learn to speak perfect English? Let him read.
    http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/eadulf-i-of-bernicia-father-of-received-pronunciation/
    (not my post, am not plugging me)

    mffff. (miffed Scot)

  19. la mamma says:

    Sorry to hijack your combox for a moment, Fr. Z, but huzzuh for you, Berenike the Translator. Being evangelical (with a small ‘e’, always with a small ‘e’) with ‘without’ must be a good thing. I hope you and the good Mr. MacMillan (enjoying your homework, Mr. MacMillan?) succeed at home and abroad.

  20. caesium says:

    “There is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical” about Fr. Z’s blog.

    I think people are missing the point. He is not accusing Fr Z for his lack of intellect. I think he is praising him for making his site accessible to ordinary Catholics. He is also suggesting that Fr Z is humurous and light-hearted. In other words the canard of the liberals that all traddies our sour-faced, joyless, insufficiently charismatic and remote is being challenged by this and other blogs.

    Come on guys, get with it – this was not difficult to work out for yourselves.

  21. CPKS says:

    It is a cause for rejoicing when a really good composer graces this place with his presence.

    Mr MacMillan has already done much to enrich the church with his art. My parish makes regular use of one of his Mass settings, and I hope that he will live to produce much more! Meanwhile, I commend Mr MacMillan’s works to all here.

  22. James MacMillan: No problem at all! I was in no way put off by your description. We are just having a little fun wit’chya, that’s all. I am glad you might stick around and read a bit. You are always welcome.

    o{]:¬)

  23. Ed says:

    “This is the basis of the new positivist impulse among young Catholics.”

    Please do not dismiss the reinvigoration of “older Catholics.” Many of these Catholics took a while to distinguish between Vatican II zeitgeist acquiesence to dissidence in things theological and moral under the guise of purifying the Church and their subsequent obedience to the full spectrum of the magisterium. This change was assisted greatly by the 1994 publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the reassertions of a faithful band of priests, bishops and religious.

  24. James MacMillan: It just occurred to me that you are the composer of a Seven Last Words. I think I have your CD on my wish list!

    I am working on my own version of a Seven Last Words (text, not music) and am interested in many different points of reference.

  25. berenike says:

    “without” – no no, hang on, I have no idea about the usage being particularly Scots, but the usualy word in this place, and the one I like “to use more often in conversation”, is “outwith”.

    sorry about that.

  26. Jim says:

    HEY YOU LOT….

    That was THE James MacMillan who just posted on WDTPRS.

    That’s like the Queen or Paul Macartney dropping by for tea….

    He caused a right stushie a while back on Scotland’s Secret Shame – anti-Catholic bigots

  27. Paulinus says:

    First, you lot, a bit of respect: it’s DOCTOR Macmillan.

    It must be a thing about being in one’s being in one’s 40’s: abandoning socialism, Guardian-reading and the like. Or perhaps it’s just living in Jordanhill – you’re welcome for your tea any time Dr Macmillan – we’re just over the bridge on the way down to Victoria Park ;-)

    This is a breath of fresh air and very welcome. It is an exciting time to be a Catholic but spare a prayer for Catholic bishops. It’s a pain in the arse when you’ve backed the wrong horse.

  28. Paulinus says:

    BTW, Dr M. The reform is beginning in a parish near you (St Ninian’s Knightswood) very soon. Mass celebrated ad orientem with Gregorian propers and ordinaries for the feast of The Annunciattion.

    You would be very welcome (give St Columba’s a miss that day, eh?)

  29. James MacMillan says:

    Paulinus – it’s a small world! This is very exciting news about St Ninian’s. Is this Fr Joe’s influence? He’s a good man.

    Fr Zuhlsdorf – I write a lot of choral music, sometimes for liturgy, sometimes for the concert hall. My new St John Passion gets its premiere at the end of April in London, with Colin Davis and the LSO. I don’t know where you are, but future performences are in Amsterdam Berlin and Boston.

    All power to you!

  30. James MacMillan: Thanks for sticking around. If possible I will try to take in a performance. Thanks for the tip. It would be nice to hear it in London. What is the date?

  31. Enda says:

    It is so heartening to see such uniform joy in the charism of the Holy Spirit at work among fellow young Catholics, be they 10 20 40 or 90. For many years I matured in my faith from the traditionalist start given to me by two superb parents. Despair threatened, when as a parent I witnessed a weakening of Christ’s message, as preached from most pulpits. Joining Regnum Christie gave me the tools, opportunity and support to evangelize. I am not very good at it; but I try and that is what God asks me to do. The example and words of such discussions as this are a welcome fillip to a clumsy ‘phooter’ such as I. Thank you all and God bless.

  32. Enda says:

    It is so heartening to see such uniform joy in the charism of the Holy Spirit at work among fellow young Catholics, be they 10 20 40 or 90. For many years I matured in my faith from the traditionalist start given to me by two superb parents. Despair threatened, when as a parent I witnessed a weakening of Christ\’s message, as preached from most pulpits. Joining Regnum Christie gave me the tools, opportunity and support to evangelize. I am not very good at it; but I try and that is what God asks me to do. The example and words of such discussions as this are a welcome fillip to a clumsy \’phooter\’ such as I. Thank you all and God bless.

  33. James MacMillan says:

    Fr Zuhlsdorf – the premiere of my St John Passion is on 27 April at the Barbican in London.

    Best wishes,

    James