Tag Archives: The Tablet

The hermeneutic of continuity

I don’t normally go for the controversial on here, but this is a brief exception for the sake of the Year of Faith. Recently I’ve been getting the Tablet sent to me weekly (much to the bemusement of my parish priest) which is fun for the odd lunchtime game of ‘heresy spotting’, besides which, I am more than happy to take a copy off their hands if it means someone else doesn’t get it. However, living in the rarefied Catholic air of Balham, you forget the nonsense that goes on in some parts of the Church. So, I was happy to read Fr Tim Finnegan’s response to the Tablet editorial on the Second Vatican Council, which also led me to Fr Z’s excellent response.

It is still a commonplace among many lay people that “Vatican II changed things” and ultimately, they have been let down, because they have not received the formation they should expect from the Church. Returning to the four Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council is a wonderful opportunity for us to wake up and take adult formation really seriously. This should not be an option in parishes! It should be the heart of the life of our communities. The seven-year-olds we have in our classes I am sure understand the Faith better than many adult Catholics.

A classic example of a failure to accept the hermeneutic of continuity (and not some Tablet spin on the phrase) is the paraphrased Vatican documents by Bill Huebsch. If you have not come across them, stay right away! It is an extremely interesting exercise (which I had the chance to do in a seminar this summer) to compare, for example, the actual Opening Address of John XXIII and the Bill Huebsch paraphrased version. The agenda is utterly blatant. Sadly, the people reading this stuff without the necessary formation are being duped into a false understanding of the Council. As Fr Tim Finnegan says so well:

In fact, a return to the texts of the Council will reveal to many younger people that the Council was not what the Tablet and others have pretended. It is full of sober orthodox teaching entirely in continuity with the tradition of the Church which has over the years been obscured by the mythical construction of a non-existent version of Vatican II.

Don’t read the paraphrases and dubious commentary! Read the texts…

New Translation Catechesis

This is a fantastic video explaining the New Translation for teenagers, which most adults would probably benefit from too:

It is sad that someone writing for a purportedly “Catholic” publication did not watch this video before they claimed that teaching children the Confiteor is tantamount to child abuse. This article which I stumbled across recently has been addressed elsewhere, but to give you the gist of it…

Surely if Catholic children are cajoled by teachers at the behest of the Catholic hierarchy to beat their breasts on regular solemn occasions and pronounce themselves inwardly filthy, we should be shown the psychological impact study they carried out. Or did they not do one?

This is the damage that happens when someone isn’t taught the doctrine of sin: they have a completely warped understanding of what “sin” means so they write it off altogether. Why do we need to go to Mass if we are free from sin, anyway?

Being sorry is part of being human

Valuable, liturgical catechesis can come from the New Translation. Here, in the Confiteor, it is evident: the words “through my fault, through my fault,¬†through my most grievous fault”, are a closer translation of the Latin (well explained in the video clip above).

We are human beings, we are body and soul, we pray through our bodies as the physical expression of the inner world of our soul. The striking of the breast gesture is richly biblical: the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who beat his breast and prayed from his heart, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” was the one Jesus said went home at rights with God, not the proud Pharisee.

Humble like the tax collector or proud like the Pharisee?

It goes without saying that we have lost consciousness of sin in our culture. But there is something deep inside of us (our conscience) that wants to repent to the Father when we have gone wrong, and our bodily gestures both express our sorrow and help to foster it.

Romano Guardini wrote in Sacred Signs:

It is an honest blow, not an elegant gesture. To strike the breast is to beat against the gates of our inner world in order to shatter them. This is its significance. … “Repent, do penance.” It is the voice of God. Striking the breast is the visible sign that we hear that summons.

To me, it strikes me as a lack of emotional maturity when adults refuse to acknowledge that they sin. And it is sad that they project this lack of maturity onto their children.

For catechesis with adults, this raises the big question: How can adults move away from the certainty that they are sin-free, and come to experience the beauty of being a child of God who can freely repent to God their Father? With most people, this can take years of stubbornness, complaining and whining, but it is possible to see a turnaround. We see it in people in the parish. What is needed, however, are strong, honest and unflinching sermons on common areas of sin and the invitation to repentance. What is needed is faithful, convincing catechesis that presents the beauty of living the freedom of life of Christ. What are needed are Catholic friends who are willing to challenge them, pray for them, and make sacrifices for them. Slowly, but surely, I think we can win people back over for Christ.

Dumbing down the Mass is not Liturgical Catechesis

I recently read an article on parish practice which discussed the importance of liturgical catechesis in First Communion preparation. I am all in favour of liturgical catechesis, as I have written about here. However, the author seemed to present quite a different concept of it from the one I am accustomed to. From what I have studied, liturgical catechesis means teaching people the signs and symbols of the liturgy in order to draw them deeper into the Mystery of what is taking place. Through the visible signs, the invisible reality is made known. Catechesis – because it always leads to the Liturgy, the source of grace – can itself be ‘liturgical’: i.e. using signs, symbols, gestures, Scriptural readings. This links catechesis to the Liturgy.

However, I didn’t recognise what this author was describing as liturgical catechesis. His main point seemed to be that if you use a children’s Mass, and explain what is happening to the children, and ‘include’ them in it (whatever that means), the adults themselves will be catechised on the meaning of the Mass. This seems to me to have two clear problems:

1. Infantalising adults: Surely adults need to understand the Mass on an adult-level, not on a child’s level. Sadly it is the case that many Catholic adults’ understanding of the Faith and spirituality remains at the level of a child. It really is sad that the only way adults can understand the Mass is to be spoken to at the level of a child. This approach seems to favour disregarding external symbols in preference of banal ‘chat’ – in doing so, it obliterates the real meaning of liturgical catechesis: the visible leading to the invisible. Disregarding the visible signs in favour of mini-homilies throughout the Liturgy often means that the truth of the mind-blowing, invisible reality remains completely obscure. The much better solution it seems to me, is to let the Mass be the Mass – the words, liturgy, signs speak volumes if done reverently and beautifully – and give adults the solid, adult catechesis they need on the Mass, outside the Mass.

2. Diminishing the Mass, instead of drawing children up to it: In our parish we have three Presentation Masses through the year for our First Communion children. Each time they are presented at the end of the Mass with a different item: a Missal, a crucifix and a Rosary. Each of these Masses is a solemn high Mass, with a full choir, lots of servers and the Mass setting sung in Latin. The children do the readings (usually brilliantly) and the bidding prayers, but that is it. To me it seems much more important that these Masses are liturgical catechesis for the children, than that they each have ‘a part to play’ which gives them completely the wrong understanding of participation. Early on they are taught that we participate in Mass by praying in our hearts. It strikes me that, when they are sitting at the front of the church watching everything that is taking place reverently before them, taking in the beauty of the singing (one boy whispered as we were singing the Kyrie, “is this Latin or Greek?”), and becoming increasingly engulfed in billowing incense, this is nourishing their spiritual lives far more than standing around the sanctuary holding hands during the Our Father ever could. Instead we emphasise that the sanctuary is the holiest place in the church because this is where Jesus’ Sacrifice happens.

Teaching – implicitly through liturgy, or explicitly through catechesis – that the Mass is the most powerful, life-changing event that happened on earth, shows children that the Mass is bigger than they are, it is a great, magnificent Mystery that we go to be present at, immerse ourselves in, but never pretend we understand fully or dumb down for our own convenience. If liturgical catechesis tries to get across a different message than this, in my view it has missed the mark.