THE SACRED, PRESENT MOMENT

In the summer of 2007 — time flies — Edwin Faust, a writer, married father of three, New Jersey resident and news editor for a daily metropolitan newspaper (don’t know which one), reflected on his faith. His was and presumably remains a very traditional brand of Catholicism. I don’t know him. I know that people like him — and me — who prefer a more traditional liturgy, even in the traditional Latin, are often viewed as rigid, reactionary and spiritually hidebound. Not the case.  We simply prefer the reverent sense of sacred mystery and quiet solemnity to be found in the ages-old practice of the immemorial liturgy. Many people far younger than me feel the same way. The “new order” Mass — new since about 1968 or so — is, in most instances,  perfectly fine and valid and in recent years priests have taken pains to restore a serious sense of reverence to it.

I don’t feel any particular competence to be judging such things. It’s widely acknowledged that there have been periods of improvisation and silliness in liturgical practice and that the jejune, often trite and banal influences of pop culture have invaded the sanctuaries. This is especially true of the music. The happy-clappy, toe-tapping affective or emotional melodies and tonalities continue in many instances to win out over the spiritual and devotional in parishes still under the superficial influence of modern culture. I suspect a lot of people who don’t go to church stay away because they feel they can get more enrichment from a good Sunday morning walk in the woods. I confess I often feel the same way. A considerable degree of spiritual gravitas, not to mention a sense of divine obligation, has been lost. Some modern services can move one to tears, sort of like a Hallmark movie. But I prefer to have my soul, not my tear ducts, moved. So much for that. Just my opinion.

Anyway, Mr. Faust counseled, “we should proclaim our faith when opportunity allows and prudence counsels it, but we should not do so angrily,  nor should we become preoccupied with politics. So much time is wasted in fruitless agitation….A man generally has his hands full earning a living, raising a family, managing a household and saving his own soul. I think he might justly exempt himself from having to formulate domestic and foreign policy for the United States of America according to Catholic principles…. I sometimes reflect on the irony that Vatican II , an avowedly pastoral counsel (i.e., not meant to alter doctrine, just improve spiritual outreach to the world) triggered a doctrinal crisis, while Traditional Catholicism, in defending doctrine, brought about a pastoral crisis.

(Note: Vatican II was the major church conference between 1962 and 65 — encompassing, as it happened, all my high school year — which inadvertently unleashed enormous confusion, squabbling, division and loss of vocations in the church, partly because if fell right into the middle of a worldwide secular cultural and sexual revolution.)

Faust continues:

And when our churchmen want to make their peace with this world of depravity, rather than oppose it, this leaves us….temporarily orphaned, but it doesn’t leave us without recourse….Every day we have an opportunity to remove from our lives all that keeps us from God, so I can say as Saint Paul said, “I live, but not I,Christ lives in me.”

Wonderful spiritual advice, chanced upon in my pile of mental and material junk this Saturday morning.

I know — but have not seen in years — a once-very devout Catholic guy who formerly manifested a good deal of evangelical fervor. He drove St. Paul’s point home to me one evening over coffee at a Dunkin Donuts. Sometime afterward I learned that he had pretty much abandoned the practice of the faith and spent his Sunday mornings flying model airplanes. That’s good clean fun but not a great substitute for religion. Our faith can be a fragile, precious possession too easily lost.  I sat listening on that Dunkin Donuts evening, myself  a person of struggling faithfulness,  suspecting that this somewhat younger companion of mine had not yet been entirely subjected to the sharp teeth of life’s buzz saw — or fully matured emotionally. St. Paul would have told him he needed to “finish the race” — and advance from a childhood faith, then adolescent faith to an adult faith. (I think we encounter that exhortation in Corinthians I.)

Yes, we must keep the faith — as busy, sin-prone, tempted adults. And I must go to any Mass I know to be valid, even if the liturgy or especially the “pretty” music, annoys me a trifle. The supernatural graces are the same. And I’m aware that I’m given sometimes to overstating the problem (though, forgive my pride, not by much.)

Mr Edwin Faust continued — actually concludes — It is only by erasing that little ‘I’, that hard nut of egotism that can taint even our noblest aspirations, that Christ will live in us and in those we want to share in the life we have found. Or, I would add, in the life for which I am still searching as I join others in the search, trying — often failing — to lead by example.

Mr. Faust’s article, by the way, from which I’ve culled these excerpts, is called: “Finding Our Place in Salvation History or How to be Happy in the Present Moment.” 

It appeared in the Summer, 2007 issue of The Latin Mass magazine.

 

 

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