Sunday, November 14, 2010

47th Convention of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors in the USA

I was interested to read this address to the National Convention of Vocations Directors in the USA, given on September 14th, on today`s Zenit report. Fr Roscia is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, which is new to me. A glance at their website reveals an impressive enterprise. Fr Roscia`s address however raises some interesting points.
He said:

I would also like to address several important questions that are surfacing among those preparing for ministry, and those recently ordained. Why are candidates for ministry and newly ordained priests raising questions about the validity and enduring significance of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council? Why does there seem to be a fascination with old liturgical practice and things that appear to be external and superficial? Why is the divide growing between younger priests and older priests? How can we foster dialogue and build bridges between the generations of the presbyterate?
I thought it was interesting that such questions are being asked at the highest level of the vocations world in the Church in the USA. I can`t imagine it being on a similar public agenda in the UK.
However the answer to these questions appears to be that the seminarians and younger priests are simply misguided. He continues:
The pillar of the renewal of priestly life is the liturgy. If the priest does not rediscover the true meaning of the liturgy in his life, he cannot find himself. The liturgy is the place of education to communion. The protagonist of the liturgy is Christ, not the Pope, the Cardinals in Rome, and not even the parish priest. By living the liturgy, we can enter into the life of God, and only thus can we priests journey effectively with the men and women of our time and of all time. Nevertheless the liturgical reform must concern itself not only with texts and ceremonies, rubrics and rituals, vestments and the number of candlesticks on altars, but also with the spiritual hungers of human communities that we serve. Without authentic evangelization, participation in the liturgy is ultimately hollow– an aesthetic pastime or a momentary palliative; without the works of justice and charity, participation in the liturgy is ultimately deceptive, playing church rather than being church.
Nor can we forget that permission for the "Extraordinary Rite" of the Mass was granted for the sake of unity in the Church and nothing else. "The Extraordinary Rite" is exactly that: extraordinary. What is ordinary is what the vast number of our faithful celebrate each week. To impose what was meant to be "extraordinary" on ordinary situations does a great disservice to the unity of the Church and goes against the intent of the Holy Father. To misuse the special permission of the Holy Father for the Extraordinary Rite for political motives causes division. We must be about the work of unity in a Church that is often so divided.
Of course the liturgy must not become divorced from life but unfortunately Fr Roscia doesn`t really understand why anyone would be attracted to the Extraordinary Form. He admits this in the next issue he discusses as he calls it `another perplexing reality`. I found this paragraph interesting too:
Another perplexing reality I have encountered, especially among those in formation and those newly ordained, has been in the area of Sacred Scripture and preaching. A number of students, usually in their final years of the Master of Divinity or Master of Pastoral Theology program have complained saying they would never take another Scripture course again; that their previous Scripture courses had nothing to do with the reality of the church and liturgy and that the courses were "without a soul". This topic was addressed numerous times at the recent 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, a Synod which I experienced in a very significant way, having served as the English language media attaché to this historic, world-wide gathering at the Vatican.
One cause of the present disinterest and seeming impasse in Scriptural studies has been the atomization and dissection of the Scriptures, and a lack of integration of biblical studies with faith and lived spirituality. Are today's Catholic Scripture scholars and teachers adequately prepared to draw from their exegetical knowledge and their own life of faith and prayer to help fellow Catholics discover the meaning of the biblical Word today?
I agree completely with Fr Roscia on this. One of the brightest stars in the modern world of Biblical hermeneutics, Jon Levenson, has written regarding this problem:
The goal was to place the Hebrew Bible in its historical context, and we could do that only if we could reconstruct the cultural world in which its many documents were written—an arduous task but one that bore, and continues to bear, much good fruit.
Almost from the beginning, though, I felt there was a certain problem with this. What the biblical texts meant in the world of their authors is in considerable tension with what they mean today—including what they mean personally to the professors and students who devote themselves to that historical task. But the very method rendered that question of what they mean today one that could not be asked. It belonged somewhere else, to the theologians, for example, or to the preachers. Of course, when the theologians or preachers interpreted the book in light of ongoing tradition and contemporary experience, the historical-critical scholars were none too reluctant to accuse them of taking the Bible out of context.

Apologies in that this is not the normal Forest Murmurs stuff but I think it is relevant here.
A few more thoughts of Fr Roscia gave me hope in that he shows a will to understand:
Many of us are afraid of the new generation, of their robust sense of Catholicism, their manifestations of piety, their desire to "reclaim" many things that have been lost or forgotten. Deep down inside of many of our hearts, we would like clones of ourselves, and not new, free, thinking beings of a new age. There is a great wisdom to the Church's ban on human cloning!
The younger generation easily uses the word "solid" to describe those who are rooted in tradition and unafraid to manifest authentic piety and devotion. The younger generation is wary of those who equivocate and speak around issues rather than addressing them. What can we learn from their questioning? We must learn that we have to avoid the temptation to fudge -- to adapt the Catholic faith so as to make it palatable to modern tastes and expectations. This so-called "accommodationist" approach generally fails. There is a risk in this approach that the Christian message becomes indistinguishable from everything else on offer in the market stalls of secularized religious faith. We have to be convinced that the fullness of the truth and beauty of the message of Jesus Christ is powerfully attractive when it is communicated without apologies or compromise.
The Second Vatican Council recommends that older priests show understanding and sympathy toward younger priests' initiatives; and it advises young ones to respect the experience of older priests and to trust them; it suggests that both treat each other with sincere affection, following the example of so many priests of yesterday and today; the parish priest and other priests, including the religious, are called upon to testify to communion in everyday life.
Well said Fr Roscia! At 51 years old I cannot claim to be young but the aspirations he describes in the latest generation of seminarians have always been mine too. Only by listening to each other without prejudice can the older and younger generations of priests and Catholics learn and move forward.
UPDATE 15.11.10 For another take on Fr Roscia`s talk see Vox Cantoris.

1 comment:

Fr Dickson said...

Much of what Fr Roscia says is, as you say Father, very good, particularly on scriptural studies, but I feel he displays the same negative attitude expressed by many towards those of us who seek to read Vatican II in a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’. The tone of his address was one which left me feeling insulted, and that he had lost some understanding of the Church as the Body of Christ.
For example: “There appears to be a trivialization, a fastidious and affected attention to externals more than a deep desire to find meaning, and foster reverence and respect for the Sacred Liturgy.” Not so; one gives attention to detail in the Eucharist so as to ensure a worthy celebration. We can at least give the same attention to correct arrangement and adornment of the altar that we give to our dining tables at formal suppers.
Fr Roscia goes on: “Among a particular segment of the Church today, and among some of our young people preparing for ministry or recently ordained, there is a resurgence of triumphalism. The triumphalist approach would like Church leaders and pastors to exercise authority through aggressive condemnation and excommunication and believes that the Church not only has the truth but also all the answers to every modern dilemma!” This is an overstatement of the desire for better use of authority in the present crisis, while ‘triumphalism’, if present, merely reflects the fact that the Church is the Body of Christ Who has triumphed and is in glory, seated at the right hand of the Father as King of kings and Lord of lords. Indeed, it is only from His throne of victory that Christ confers the graces of salvation. The idea of a ‘wounded healer’ to counteract triumphalism has some merit but is actually 1970’s mush: Alcoholics Anonymous would be of little use to alcoholics if it used active drinkers to sponsor those aiming for sobriety, and the church cannot use the lame to support the lame. I think a very telling phrase used by Fr Roscia is one that might find an echo in the hearts of many of our Bishops, clergy and laity in regard to those of us who use the EF: “Many of us are afraid of [this] new generation, of their robust sense of Catholicism, their manifestations of piety, their desire to ‘reclaim’ many things that have been lost or forgotten.” How sad to be afraid of one’s heritage.
All that said, I agree with Fr Roscia that liturgy divorced from pastoral care (I hesitate to use his phrase ‘justice and charity’ since for some, this seems be the ‘be all and end all’ of the Church’s mission) is indeed close to being “an aesthetic pastime or momentary palliative”. Our liturgical participation must be one where we bring to the Eucharistic Sacrifice our self-sacrifice of time and energy in the service of others. But this must be true of the laity too, and there is a need for promotion of the true nature of active participation which is not merely engaging in the Dialogues of the Mass, the signing and the ‘Offertory Procession’, but of participating in the Mystery of Faith: the self-sacrifice of Christ. I therefore resonate with Fr Rocia’s idea that liturgical reform “must concern itself not only with texts and ceremonies, rubrics and rituals, vestments and the number of candlesticks on altars, but also with the spiritual hungers of human communities that we serve.” However, I reject his exaggerations and caricatures.