Monday, August 31, 2015

Reason 5 Why The "New Mass" Is Superior To The Old Rite

Doesn't it just say: I have been
crucified with Christ; it is no longer
I who live but Christ Jesus who
lives in me.
Well, by this time it is probably clear that I have some form of ADHD as I start various series and keep jumping around from one topic to another.  I need to focus.  And so I want to get back to my ten reasons why the Ordinary Form of the Mass in the Roman Rite (the Vatican II Rite or the 1970 Missal) is superior to the Extraordinary Form (The Tridentine Rite, or the various editions of the Roman Missal—and associated rites such as the Dominican or Carmelite or Carthusian—that were produced in 1570 or at other points between the Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council).
This series was triggered by a set of articles in New Liturgical Movement by one Professor Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College making the opposite claim.  While New Liturgical Movement often has some well researched historical articles that are invaluable sources for the historical development of the Liturgy, Doctor Kwasniewski usually contents himself with more specious essays bordering on the inane.  Nevertheless, as poorly reasoned as his article was, it does give me the opportunity to point out why the Liturgical Reforms of Vatican II are not only greatly beneficial to Christian life but were absolutely necessary to correct the faulty trajectory the Church was headed down ever since the Neo-Scholastic/Romantic revival of the 19th century.  So lets look at reason 5 of why the New Liturgy is superior to the pre-conciliar rite: Because of its centrality in conforming us to Christ, the Liturgy must be a clear and unambiguous witness of our Trinitarian and Incarnational faith
Let’s begin with “What is the Mass?”  And let’s go back to the old Baltimore Catechism so beloved of the krazies who want to bring back the old Mass and everything with it.  the Catechism says
The Mass is the sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine. 
This actually isn’t a bad answer.  At least as a beginning.  The trouble with the Catechism, however—and the theological framework which produced it—is that it takes the sacraments in isolation and does not see the relationship between them.  The key sacrament of the Catholic Church is not the Eucharist but Baptism and the Eucharist can only be understood in the light of what happens at Baptism
Now for Baptism I am not going to go back to the Catechism because the Catechism reflects the problem created when Scholastic Theology—based on Aristotelian logic—replaced the ancient Patristic theological tradition in which the Fathers of the Church rooted themselves.  The Fathers of the Church drew on scriptures and interpreted them in the light of neo-Platonic thought which was not so much rational as mystical.  The Fathers saw our earthly rites as having spiritual or heavenly meanings.  They were big into symbolism while the Scholastics liked a certain literalism.  The Scholastics got a bit carried away with the idea that Baptism is about “washing away” original sin.  The Fathers of the Church, drawing on Saint Paul, had seen Baptism as entering into death with Christ and being raised with him to newness of life. 
Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
The earthly rite of entering into the waters of baptism and emerging from them are symbolic of being buried with Christ and being raised with him.  It had nothing to do with original sin.
The idea of original sin is in the Fathers of the Church, Saint Augustine in particular, but it is found only in the Fathers of the Western Church and is rooted, in great part, in a misunderstanding by Saint Augustine of Saint Paul’s famous line
Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned
Augustine had mistranslated this passage to read
Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death came to all because one man (Adam) had sinned.
As the Western Church began more and more to emphasize original sin in the central Middle Ages (800-1100) it also forgot the Patristic theology that Baptism is about dying and rising with Christ.  When the Scholastics came along in the 12th and 13th centuries, they saw the water being poured and thought: “Washing, we are purifying the person of original sin. Scrub! Scrub!  Scrub!  Out, out, damned Spot.” 
The Eastern Church kept the practice of immersion baptism and so the visual symbol of dying and rising in Christ was strong, while the sacramental minimalism of the Western Church permitted baptism to be reduced to a sprinkling or pouring and the sign became purification rather than dying and rising.  This is one reason why it is so important to restore immersion as the normal form of baptism.  But I don’t want to wander far away from the topic of the Mass, so let me refocus.
In the first centuries of the Church, the practice was that only the baptized faithful could be present for the Eucharist.  The unbaptized, including the catechumens, were dismissed at the end of the sermon.  Thus the first time Christians were present at the Eucharist was on the night of their baptism.  They had just been through this profound rite of being led down into a pool of water where they were submerged three times—in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  They had died in Christ and were then led up out of the pool and anointed with sweet oil as prayer invoking the Holy Spirit were said over them by the bishop, and finally dressed in a new white garment.  Carrying a lighted candle or small oil lamp they were then brought into the Church where they heard the Bishop invoke God to send that same Holy Spirit which had been called down upon them to now come down upon the gifts of bread and wine so that the bread and wine too could be transformed into Christ. 
They had died to selves and been raised in Christ; now they were to be fed with bread and wine that had been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  There is an intimate contact between Baptism and Eucharist.  Every Eucharist is a renewal of the Baptismal commitment:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ Jesus who lives in me!
And so too for us.  We are nourished by the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word.  Then gifts that represent us—bread, “which human hands have made,” and wine, "the fruit of the vine and work of human hands”—are placed on the altar and the priest prays that the Holy Spirit will come upon these gifts to make them for us to be the Body and the Blood of Christ.  But the priest also prays that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and make us One in Christ, that is unite us in the Body of Christ which is the Church.  Thus the Eucharist renews our Baptismal Vocation to be transformed into Christ by being joined with him in his death and raised as a member of his resurrected Body the Church.   
Now, why didn’t Sister Mater Dolorosa teach us this back in the fifth grade at Saint Sophronia’s Academy for the Pour Souls?  In great part it was because over centuries of deformation the Roman Rite had obscured its own rich heritage.  Perhaps the greatest flaw in the so-called Extraordinary Form is the lack of a proper epiclesis in the Canon of the Mass.  The epiclesis is the prayer invoking the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.  This is not a minor prayer.  In the Eastern tradition—including the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church—it is considered the consecration proper, the same role played by the Words of Institution in the Western Church.  It is essential for validity—or would be, if only we hadn’t lost it in the Western Church.  Thank heavens for economia which is the theological principle that permits the Church to jump the theological gaps between theory and practice.  The equivalent prayer in the “Roman Canon” used exclusively in the Extraordinary Form reads:
Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
See, no mention of the Holy Spirit though still the petition that the gifts will become the Body and Blood of Christ through God’s action (as differentiated from the “power” of the priest celebrant.)
The prayer invoking the Holy Spirit upon us to make us one in Christ’s Body is even more ambivalent with, again, no mention of the Holy Spirit and no explicit mention of us being united in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, only that we may be filled with every grace and blessing. 
In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.
In the Mass, then we are intimately joined to the sacrifice of Christ where we renew our commitment to be crucified with Christ into death and be rasied no longer alive to self but alive in Christ Jesus as a member of his Risen Body.  While such grace is operative in the Liturgy regardless of the rite in which it is celebrated, in the so-called “Traditional Mass” it has been obscured by rituals that imply that the sacrifice is Christ being offered for us by the priest rather than directly involving ourselves—by grace, not our own efforts—in dying and rising with Christ.  Nor is it clear in the “Traditional Rite” that we ourselves are to be transformed into Christ.  We are passive recipients rather than active participants of grace. 
It is ironic that Luther was so opposed to this theology of the Sacrifice of the Mass because the Traditional Mass really reflects his anthropology.  For Luther, the human person was was sinful to the core—“a pile of shit” is how Luther described him.  Grace does not change that but rather like the snow that covers the “pile of shit” covers the flaw from God’s eye.   Man is still worthless, but Grace bridges the gap with God.  Our Catholic understanding begins in the same place.  We are—and this is for all your fans of original sin out there—that same pile of shit.  But grace transforms us—makes us, as it were, into manure: something good  and life-giving.  In fact, the Eucharist takes us sinful people and transforms us into something far greater than manure but into Christ himself.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Like Sharks In A Feeding Frenzy

The World Meeting
of Families Targeted

In my last posting I mentioned how the Krazies have turned on their one-time champion, Cardinal William Levada whom Pope Benedict had appointed to succeed him as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when he (Benedict) was elected Pope.  Levada headed the failed witch-hunt against the American nuns who are member of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  The Cardinal was recently arrested for a DUI in Hawaii and it set the Krazy’s blogosphere alight with all sort of insinuations about a darker side to the Cardinal’s behavior.   Frankly it is a mess but the Krazies, far from having compassion for one of their own, have been feasting on Levada’s blood with an enthusiasm you would have thought they would have reserved for Cardinal Mahoney or Archbishop Cupich or even their arch-nemesis, Pope Frank.   
And now they are moving on to a second course in their ghoulish cannibalistic banquet going after none other than Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia.  Led by media wolves Michael Hichborn of “The Lepanto Institute” and Michael Voris of “Church Militant TV,” the pack is turning to feed on Chaput and the upcoming World Meeting of Families held in Chaput’s See City of Philadelphia this September. 
Poor Charles Chaput doesn’t deserve this; His Excellency (an ironic title) is the personification of the Episcopal mediocrity with which the Catholic Church in the United States was blessed under the papacies of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.  In his days as Archbishop of Denver, Chaput had a tendency to walk the same political line as Cardinal Raymond Burke though he eschews Burke’s love of buttons and bows when it comes to matters liturgical.  Back in 2004 Chaput was quoted in the New York Times as saying that it was a serious sin for Catholics to vote for John Kerry because of the pro-choice plank in the Democratic Party platform.  He supported Burke’s position that Catholic politicians who vote for pro-choice legislation should be denied Holy Communion.  He also said that Catholics themselves who vote for pro-choice politicians “need to go to confession” before receiving Holy Communion.  As Archbishop of Denver he also supported a Catholic school that refused to re-enroll the two children of a same-sex couple, though he had no problems with children of divorced and remarried couples attending Catholic Schools. He also does not believe that same-sex couples can love their children to the same degree that mixed-sex couples can. 
Archbishop Chaput also brought the Neo-Catechumenal Way to Denver while Archbishop there, and opened a newly reorganized seminary for the Neo-Catechumenal students as well as for vocations from his own Archdiocese.  It has a reputation for insularism, never a good sign in educational circles. 
Since moving to Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput has taken a considerably less provocative stand in pastoral matters.  Most likely it doesn’t represent a conversion of heart as much as a change in the wind.  On the other hand, Philadelphia has a long tradition of being among the most conservative dioceses in the United States and seems to be a good match for Archbishop Chaput’s style.  He can just hold the course—he doesn’t have to make waves. 
The upcoming World Meeting of Families is providing a bit of a challenge however.  First of all, the highlight of the meeting is the visit of Pope Francis.  Francis’ understanding of the Family is somewhat more open than Archbishop Chaput’s, and this meeting really isn’t the Archbishop’s.  Secondly, a Papal Visit is a pastoral visit but it is also far more.  The Pope’s position not only as a world leader but also as a Head of State complicates things immensely. 
Protocol of the Papal Visit demands participation of civic officials.  Governor Wolfe (an Episcopalian) and Mayor Nutter (a Baptist—though Catholic school educated) are both Democrats.  Both are pro-Choice.  Both are pro LGBT rights and supported legal recognition of same-sex marriage.  Their appointment as “honorary co-chairs” of the event have infuriated Hichborn and Voris who have rallied the blogosphere’s torch-and-pitchfork gang in furious indignation against Archbishop Chaput.  What Hichborn and Voris have not pointed out is that there is a third co-chair, former Governor Tom Corbett, a Catholic and a Republican.  It would be unusual for a sitting governor and a sitting mayor not to be the “honorary” chairs of a civic welcome to the Pope.  The only thing unusual about this team is the inclusion of a person no longer in office and Mr. Corbett’s inclusion is undoubtedly to balance the team with at least one Catholic and one person who can witness to our core values.  Governor Corbett will do that but, as he is a gentleman, will probably do so without leaving a trail of blood.  That always disappoints the krazies. 
Hichborn and Co. have gone on to slam the rest of the welcoming team, the Executive Board, which—unlike the “Honorary” folk—actually do the work.   The co-chairs of the executive committee include David L Cohen and Brian Roberts.  What is their sin in the eyes of their eminent critics Voris and Hichborn?  Well, for one they’re Jews.  Imagine that.  What would Saint Peter say if some Jews came out to meet him?  “Shalom,” I would guess.  Jesus was a Jew—though, as one krazy in my parish keeps reminding me “He’s a good Catholic now.”   Moreover, Mr. Cohen is on the board of the “racist” Hispanic organization La Raza.  (Whenever non-whites get together we can be sure they’re up to racism.  There is a long history of People of Color skewing the system to disenfranchise the white folk.  You remember affirmative action.)  Oh, and he raised 1.2 million dollars for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign; that disqualifies him for sure. And now he supports Hilary—and he gets to meet the Pope?  Not fair!!!  And he has a history of working well the LGBT community.  Mr. Roberts also has a history of creating Gay-friendly environments in the workplace.  Both men are married (to women, not to each other) and have children, but that is no qualification for being on the board of a World Meeting of Families.  I mean we aren’t talking about Jewish families.  We want good old fashioned Catholic families with one man married to one women and all the children you can squeeze into a house.  ‘Cause when we talk about families with two mommies or two daddies we say “families,” and this meeting is for families and not for “families.” Capiche?
And then there is Denise Morrison being on the Committee.  Ms. Morrison—also married and parent of adult children (and Boston College graduate with the Maiden Name of Sullivan, so probably “one of us”) is the CEO of Campbell Soups and Campbell Soups has run adds showing “families” when we all know that people who eat Campbell’s Soup only belong to families (without the “ “).  We don’t want that sort of publicity around of World Meeting of Families.  And there is Eric Foss who is President and CEO of Amarack.  You remember Amarack; they filed a Amicus Curiae brief favoring same-sex marriage in the recent Supreme Court case.  And, in his days at PepsiCo Foss also made it a nice place for gay people to work.   I don’t think it was just about gay people, but it did include them.
I had this all written and ready to go, when Michael Hichborn brought up a new problem.  The President of the organizing committee is Robert Ciaruffoli. From everything I had been able to find out, Ciaruffoli seemed to be Mr. Squeaky Clean by all public records.  But then Mr. Hichborn found that Mr. Ciaruffoli has contributed to a number of campaigns, including that of Vice President Biden, who have supported pro-Choice and LGBT agenda.  Ciaruffoli has also, Hichborn tucks away in a subordinate clause where he hopes it won’t be noticed, supported candidates who are pro-life and pro-Traditional Marriage.  It never dawns on ideologues—not that Mr. Hichborn is an ideologue but his financial base would be composed heavily of ideologues, that one contributes to campaigns for reasons beyond one’s own narrow views, in this case anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage.  Most of us good Catholics need to do some anguishing and even soul-twisting when it comes time to write a check or cast a ballot.   
To move down a level from the Committee President, in addition to Messers. Cohen and Roberts there are four other co-chairs for the event.  And the Executive Leadership Cabinet includes 13 other members beside Ms. Morrison and Mr. Foss.  Why didn’t Hichborn find the dirt on the others?  Or even tell us there are others who might possibly not have soiled hands.  Of course, since God would have spared Sodom for even ten righteous souls, we really don’t want to pay attention to those who might have clean hands and pure heart.  It is always embarrassing when we are hurling our fire and brimstone before God decides to show his displeasure. 
So what is the problem?  The problem is a weltanschauung.  That’s a fancy shmancy word for “worldview.”  Hichborn and company pander to an audience that buy into exclusivity. “If you don’t do it our way, you can’t be part of the club.”  They want this to be, not a World Meeting but a Catholic Meeting as if the Church’s mission is only to its own.  There is no concern for those who are not in the Church and, as they see it, in the Church are only those who fit in the cookie-cutter mold of their particular Catholicism.  When Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago says that we need to “show mercy to non-traditional families,” they go berserk.  Their vision of a World Meeting of Families would be for a convention center filled with mantillaed women and girls in long jumpers and men and boys in grey flannel slacks and white shirts and dark ties where all would spend hours on their knees adoring the Blessed Sacrament in between lectures by Cardinal Burke and Alice von Hildebrand and workshops about achieving holiness in your marriage by renouncing sexual intimacy once one had reached menopause.  While I certainly hope that prayer will play a central role in the upcoming Philadelphia meeting, we need to face the realities of life in the twenty-first century and figure out what the Gospel has to say to the Family-in-the-pew and the Family-not-in-the-pew today. 
I think what is really sad is that if you read their posts and watch their videos people like Hichborn and Voris are charlatans who have found their niches from which to prey on those who are overwhelmed by the collapse of a world and a culture which had all long taken for granted.  When I read the krazies I find—for the most part—older women who want desperately to pass on to their grandchildren a world where all is sure and safe and through which there is a clear, well-illumined and definable path to bring us from the milk and cookies of Grandma’s house today to all being together again forever in God’s house.  That path does exist, of course, but it is a path of faith and sometimes dark faith, that takes us through the tangled underbrush of our modern world trusting only in promises yet unseen.  It is frightening to many that we live in a world where some families have two daddies and where a child is not safe in the sacristy or in the womb and where “to death do us part” are only empty words, but that is the reality.  It doesn’t have to be frightening however if we remember that perfect love casts our fear.  For those who love God and love their neighbor this world can be a beautiful place rather than the ruins of a bygone Christendom.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

And We Watch The Neo-trads Devour Their Own, Bon Appetit.

Earlier this week Cardinal William Levada, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, before that, Archbishop of San Francisco was arrested in Hawaii for driving under the influence of alcohol.   Levada, you may recall, was the bull dog sicced on the good Sisters of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious because they were suspect of supposedly unspeakable heresies.  The charges against the nuns were later dropped.  The charges against His Eminence probably won’t be.  
Despite his complicity in the LCWR mauling, Levada isn’t a bad man.  Like many who rose to power under Benedict and John Paul he was a careerist who bent his conscience and sold his soul to the prevailing winds of Church politics.  He had some good pastoral sense in his days as Archbishop of a very complex city.  While he stood firm on the Church’s teachings on abortion and on same-sex relationships, he refused to follow the lead of Archbishops Burke and Chaput to desacrate the Eucharist by making it a weapon in the culture wars over abortion or same-sex marriage.  When the City of San Francisco passed a regulation that all agencies dealing with the city had to offer spousal benefits for those in same-sex unions, the Archbishop bypassed the controversy by permitting Archdiocesan employees to designate any one person whomsoever of their choice—traditional spouse, parent, child, “friend,” milkman—regardless of relationship, as beneficiary.  It is hard to say why he agreed to go after the nuns.  The criminal minds behind that debacle were our old buddies Raymond Burke, William Lori, Bernard Law (aka the unholy trinity) and buffoon-in-residence, Carl Anderson—the grand poobah of the Knights of Columbus.    It may have been Benedict himself who ordered the inquisition; we will probably never know.  Pope Francis put an end to the nunsense however several months ago.
Pope Benedict replaced Cardinal Levada as the Grand Inquisitor with Gerhard Ludwig Müller when Levada turned 75.  It is normal for Cardinals who are not residential Archbishops to remain resident in Rome at least until their 80th birthday as they remain members of the various congregations, but Francis (distanced himself from and) dismissed Cardinal Levada from this tiresome obligation and His Eminence joined other retired Archbishops of San Francisco living at Saint Patrick’s Seminar in Menlo Park.
When he was in office in Rome Cardinal Levada was a cherished icon of the Katholik Krazies.  They had had some misgivings at first given his pastoral solution to the complexities of San Francisco’s “diverse” population but had been won over by his hard line on the nuns and on other issues and especially by the support he received from Pope Benedict.  But it is interesting to see how they have turned on him now.  One particularly cheesy Krazy blog, Eponymous Flower, has gone on, without any evidence, to “expose” Levada’s “gay lifestyle,” claiming that he is “shacked up” with “life partner” and his successor in San Francisco, Archbishop George Niederauer, and implying that the night of the arrest the two were out in various gay bars on The Big Island.  In fact, Levada was alone when arrested for drunk driving and there is no mention anywhere of his having been at a bar of any sort.  But you see, this is how the crazies are.  They are so filled with anger that they devour their own when a more liberal target isn’t available.  The point of this entry isn’t about a Cardinal who had too much to drink—a sin many of us have shared at one time or another.  Or about a prelate who got behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated—a far more serious sin.  But it is about the tendency of the Krazies to make up stories and piss in the dirt to make mud to sling at whoever happens to be the object of their wrath.  Nice going, Eponymous Flower—a few more Krazies like you and the neo-traditional movement will be gone forever and never missed by Christians anywhere.  Oremus.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What In The World Will be Postmodern Catholicism? 2

Notre Dame du Cap in the
heartland of what was once
French and Catholic Canada

I am spending a vacation week in French Canada—my first return here in almost fifty years.  The area is stamped with its Catholic heritage.  Place names: Sainte Anne, Saint Benoit, Notre Dame du Cap, Saint Sebastian, Sainte Madeleine, l’Ange Guardien, Saint Luc.  Streets are named after saints, bishops, nuns and priests.  Every significant ville has its Couvent des Ursulines, invariably now a museum.  Driving along route 138 north of Quebec the towns are dotted with their charming 18th century church steeples.   But the Catholic faith—vibrant only a few decades ago—is now all but dead.  This is not only the story in Nouvelle France, but in Old France as well.  And Spain.  And Germany.  Ireland is falling fast into the crevice of a post-Christian banishment of God from the culture.  And we are not far behind.
This is not simply a Catholic problem.  Calvinist Holland and Switzerland, Lutheran Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Anglican England, Baptist Wales, Presbyterian Scotland all find their empty churches turning into discothèques and restaurants and senior centers.  God simply is not relevant to contemporary culture. 
The problem is not, of course, God.  And while contemporary culture may be the challenge, it is not the problem.  The problem is our reluctance to have enough faith to be able to strip away the cultural accretions we have added to our faith over the centuries and shape the essentials to speak the Good News of the Kingdom of God in the language of our Postmodern culture. 
I write of “accretions” and “essentials.”  The Gospel remains the Gospel across the centuries and cultures.   God so love the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  God did not send his son to condemn the world but rather that the world might have live in him.  That message remains ever valid.  The problems are the layers of gilt that we have applied to the lily in God’s name when they really have always been more to our fancy.  We don’t need the gilt.  The Lily is enough the way God made it.  And God has given us a rich heritage that, remodeled to present its best face to our world, can be an invaluable tool for re-evangelizing our Postmodern culture. 
What aspects of our Catholic heritage speak best to the contemporary world?
1.    A sense of mission.  Mission challenges people today.  Many feel a need to make a difference in bettering the world.  For some this may be the challenge of turning back the negative impact we have had on our environment.  For others it may be making a difference in third-world nations.  For still others it might be making a difference in our inner-city public schools.  The campaigns are as varied as are the interests.  One Catholic Church that has been enormously successful in attracting people of all ages and backgrounds is the Church of the Nativity in Burke VA.   A huge part of the glue that binds this community of faith is the passion for the people of Haiti which their late pastor, Father Richard Martin, encouraged.  They have made a huge difference.  The parish’s Operation Starfish has, since 1998, built over 1300 homes along with schools, clinics, sewing co-ops, fishing co-ops, small businesses, and vocational training centers in 10 “Nativity Villages” in Haiti.  Under Father Martin’s leadership and with his drive to make a better world in some very concrete and demonstrable ways, the parish tripled in membership.  This is only one example of how a sense of Mission can energize people and give them a reason to be plugged into Church. 
2.    A sense of community.  The old sitcom Cheers featured a bar “where everyone knows your name.”  The increasing isolation in today’s society is counter-balanced by a longing people have to belong to groups where others know them and they know others.  Really know.  Connect.  So often today people are no more than a cog in the impersonal wheel of life.  Gone are the days when one worked for an employer who knew them and cared about them and their families.  Today people migrate from employer to employer, leaving no impact and forgotten within days after their leaving.  The Church needs to be far more personal.  As Catholics we have maintained the heritage of community over the individualism of Protestantism, but too often community is only a theological concept and not a tangible reality.  I have seen churches that are genuine communities.  Within the last year I attended the funeral of a friend at an impossibly large church in Northern Virginia.  The sanctuary seats over 1200, though the funeral was held in the more intimate “Day Chapel” that holds maybe 200.  I was amazed to see how people rallied around my friend’s husband and children.  The chapel was packed.  There were a full set of volunteer ministers: Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, readers, cantors, servers.  A squad of parishioners prepared and served a lunch for us—all 200—after the Mass.  People milled around, talking to us out-of-towners and welcoming us to their “parish family.”  Given the size of the parish, it is not rare for such funerals to happen three and four times a week but an inclusive community makes this possible.  And I want to highlight inclusive.  I noticed that at this parish there are regular meetings for AA and other 12 step programs including for those with compulsive sexual behaviors.  “And we have gone out of our way to welcome the LGBT community,” the pastor told me when, writing this blog, I called for more information.  There are support groups for the divorced and remarried as well as for singles, widows, and others who need the affirmation of a Christian fellowship.  While many of their neighboring parishes are withering on the vine, this Church (the pastor asked me not to reveal it’s name because of its gay-friendly policy in a people-hostile diocese) is growing steadily. 
3.    A recovery of our mystical tradition.  The fine points of doctrine do not interest most people under sixty today but there is a deep interest in the spiritual journey.  X-Catholics are turning to Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, and New Age gimmicks when we have an incredibly rich and far more sound spiritual heritage in Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius Loyola and his Spiritual Excercises, Meister Eckhart, Thomas à Kempis and his Imitation of Christ, Brother Lawrence, Elizabeth of the Trinity, and a host of other spiritual writers.  How many of our clergy or religious today know anything substantial of this heritage?  I have had dinner at Wolfington Hall with the Jesuits at Georgetown University, an experience nonpareil in both gastronomy and lively conversation.  Jesus did figure in the conversations; Ignatius did not.  Pity.  There is a light here not to be hid under a bushel.  For all the academic vigor of the Jesuits, please remember your first and most needed gift is the spiritual tradition of Ignatian Spirituality.  You can educate the best but what we need you to pass on—that which only you can pass on—is that experience of Jesus which Ignatius has revealed.  And you Carmelites—the rigors of your silences and fasts are wasted if you don’t pass on the profound path to heart where Jesus waits that Teresa and John have shown us.  And who hears anything today of Francis de Sales and the Introduction To The Devout Life?   I don’t want a Salesian pastor administrating my parish or a Visitation Nun teaching French—they need to bring out the treasures that belong to the Church and make them available to a world that wants to find meaning in their lives.   I wish I could say that I knew any parish that was doing this, but the popularity of Richard Rohr and Richard Rohlheiser and Joan Chittester and Thomas Keating and the late Thomas Merton and John Main all testify to the powerful draw that the spiritual path has today. 
4.    We need a new path in worship.  The Second Vatican Council called for the Liturgy to be adapted to the cultures it encounters in its outreach to the peoples of Asia, Oceania, Africa, as well as the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia.  We are now encountering a radically shifted culture in the Developed World and we need to be open to adapting our rituals and prayers to that new culture.  I am going to write more on this specific topic in a future posting but suffice it to say that neither a return to the frozen-in-time (which is radically different from “timeless”) farce of liturgical restorationism and the reestablishment of the baroque rite of the 1570 Missal, nor slapping the Band-Aids of “being hip” on the 1970 rite can meet the crisis.  The central core, not of the ritual but of the Mysterium Fidei, can and must remain but we must not be afraid to deconstruct the edifice and from its ancient stones build anew. 
There is an urgency in proclaiming the Gospel in the cultural vernacular.  Saint Paul did it in the first century when he encountered the Greek Culture of the Mediterranean world.  Patrick did it bringing the faith to the Irish as Bonfiace did to the Germans and Ansgar to the Scandinavians.  Matteo Ricci tried to do it to bring the Gospel to the Imperial Court in Beijing and had he not been undermined by the Dominicans and Augustinians who were so locked in the prison of religion that faith was no longer a living reality, China today might be Catholic.  The acculturated Gospel has made the Dancing Church of Africa come alive in faith, has sustained the Vietnamese in their years of limited freedom, and has shifted the center of gravity in the Catholic world from the tired North to the Global South.  It can fan the embers of European and American Christianity in life again.