I am sorry that I didn’t post about this blog earlier, but it is well-worth catching up with if you haven’t. Ecce Ego, Quia Vocasti Me is written by a thoughtful young man from the Philippines with an eye for the strange and the beautiful. His last post, Beati Pauperes Spiritu, has made me reflect more on the conclusions I have been confronted with in my own life.
I start with a quote:
But some of us don't have the luxury of debating Aquinas and Scotus during our spare times. We don't have the luxury or the money to spend on gas while looking for that 'perfect' Mass with Solesmes chant, Gothic chasubles, ruby-encrusted chalices, and clean and polished floors. And while these things are certainly pretty and nice to see, there are far more pertinent things to which we must attend to.
As a student in a cosmopolitan area of a First World country, with no commitments (yet), I can certainly chase the dream Mass. I have been pleasantly amused by people who will defend Vatican II yet run as far as they can from the real liturgical outgrowths of that movement willed by the bishops. After all, what is “active participation” supposed to mean other than what the bishops, the pastors of their flocks, have meant it to mean? What is the use of using the Pauline Missal if you are going to dress it up in as much Counter-Reformation clothing as possible? To use Gregorian chant in a Pauline Mass is to alienate the People of God (none of whom know Latin) who are gathered around the Lord’s table.
So I have no qualms in saying that I am a complete liturgical snob, that I can’t stand worshiping in a Mass with guitars and drum sets, and if I wanted to hear Protestant hymns I would just go to an Anglican service since they sing them way better than we do anyway. I acknowledge that this is very superficial. I even acknowledge that this is pharisaical and almost anti-Christian. I may have my reasons, but none of them are good enough to get on a bus and go to the other side of the city when I have a perfectly good Catholic Church down the street.
The question comes down to something very simple: is the issue enough to break communion? And by not supporting your local parish, what else are you doing in a de facto manner?
Maybe those with a much more sensitive conscience might be bothered by what I say, but I am not. I know that I am a pig who focuses on minutiae and not on more pertinent things. I like pretty things, I like things that sound nice, and I like things to be tasteful. But that doesn’t mean that I expect God to run His Church according to my expectations on how things should be like. (Though it would be nice…)
I have featured many blogs recently that have given a very particular slant to Roman Catholicism that I sympathize with. I have singled out these blogs since they offer a much more sober, organic, and intelligent response to the confusion in the Church than the blogs of the Catholic mainstream. However, I must put forward my own position when I say that when it comes to “traditionalism” of whatever stripe, I am a total defeatist. I don’t believe in the restoration of the Tridentine Mass, the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the rise of a new St. Pius X, or any other pipe dream of that nature. I believe in the Church. I believe in the Church as the violent, sloppy, and disorganized confrontation between the infinite mercy of God and the seemingly infinite capability of man to royally screw things up. There are no solutions, no permanent triumphs. Just retreats, groupings, and re-groupings… dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.
Thus, we are confronted with two models of the Church. We can accept the Counter-Reformation model, based on absolute Jesuit-style obedience that states that the progress of the Church is a Hegelian ascending straight line. In this model, “everything is going to be okay” as long as we do XYZ, and the Holy Ghost has us all by some magical leash. Clearly, this model is far from realistic. The alternative is the model of Jacob wrestling with God through the night, when we are honest about our doubts, uncertainties, and sins of all stripes. When Jacob wrestled with God, he was not playing Mr. Nice Guy. He didn’t earn the name of Israel by being a pansy.
And while this chaos is going on, while the world and the Church flirt with destruction, I will continue to enjoy Roman chausables, sacred polyphony, and endless lines of altar boys who fidget and pick their nose. At the very best, it is like being a bearded Old Believer in Nikonian Russia, and at the very worst it is like being some effeminate Anglo-Catholic clergyman who has nothing but Styrofoam peanuts in his theological brain. (Although all of the Anglo-Catholics I know are very intelligent.) It may not be the answer, but a little beauty and peace never killed anyone. The solution, I know now, does not lie in these things, but rather in life itself, in all of its hardship, joy, and sacrifice. After all, the Cross is not very beautiful. At least at first….