Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mario Vargas Llosa on politics, and how writing can change the course of history.

This morning's Wall Street Journal includes an interview with Mario Vargas Llosa.

Among other things, He tells us, "The woman is almost always the first victim of a dictatorship." He explores this truth in his novel about Trujillo's Dominican Republic, The Feast of the Goat (La Fiesta de Chivo).

How universal is this truth? Emily Parker writes, "'I went to Iraq after the invasion,' he tells me. 'When I heard stories about the sons of Saddam Hussein, it seemed like I was in the Dominican Republic, hearing stories about the sons of Trujillo! That women would be taken from the street, put in automobiles and simply presented like objects. . . . The phenomenon was very similar, even with such different cultures and religions.' He concludes: 'Brutality takes the same form in dictatorial regimes.'"

How the Church Lost Generation X, Part I

The Francis Beckwith Story

Francis Beckwith, until a few weeks ago the President of the Evangelical Theological Society, returned to full communion with the Catholic Church. He explained his reversion in an interview with Christianity Today and on the blog Right Reason. This was big news and not everyone one reacted kindly. You can read here how the Evangelical Theological Society's Executive Committee reacted publicly.

By far the most interesting take on the story is given by Jeffery Tucker on the New Liturgical Movement: "Bad liturgy drives people away; embracing our heritage draws them back."

Beckwith, who was born in 1960, is among the first years of Gen X. Listen to what he tells the National Catholic Register:

"Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I believe that the Church’s weakness was presenting the renewal movements as something new and not part of the Church’s theological traditions.

"For someone like me, who was interested in both the spiritual and intellectual grounding of the Christian faith, I didn’t need the 'folk Mass' with cute nuns and hip priests playing 'Kumbaya' with guitars, tambourines and harmonicas. And it was all badly done.

"After all, we listened to the Byrds, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and we knew the Church just couldn’t compete with them.

"But that’s what the Church offered to the young people of my day: lousy pop music and a gutted Mass. If they were trying to make Catholicism unattractive to young and inquisitive Catholics, they were succeeding.

"What I needed, and what many of us desired, were intelligent and winsome ambassadors for Christ who knew the intellectual basis for the Catholic faith, respected and understood the solemnity and theological truths behind the liturgy, and could explain the renewal movements in light of these."

The Jessica Hahn Story

Oddly enough, his story reminds me of another Gen Xer, Jessica Hahn. Jessica Hahn was a church secretary who was invited to the P.T.L. (Praise the Lord) ministries by televangelist Jimmie Bakker. She wound up having sex with him. That much both accounts agree on. According to his account, she ("that Jezebel") seduced him. According to her account, he, with the compliance of his director, drugged and seduced her. I found her account the more plausible. She was no Delilah much less Ahab's queen. Whichever was nearer the truth, the affair led to Bakker's down fall.

Jessica Hahn having failed to find salvation in evangelical Protestantism sought it in America's quintessential neopagan: Hugh Heffner. He offered all the Playboy empire could offer to rebuild her self esteem: money, praise, and bare breasted fame.

I read her Playboy interview. I must have actually paid money and bought a copy of the magazine. Certainly there was no one I knew from whom I could have borrowed it and it would not have been in the St. John's University library. (The University of Connecticut library had a complete collection in braille, but that is another story.)

Jessica Hahn was born in 1959, a year before Beckwith. Her parents were Catholic, but divorced. Apparently her mother had remarried because she lived with her mother and stepfather. She lived on Long Island on the south shore which is much less fancy than the tony north shore. When she was fourteen (according to her Larry King interview) or sixteen (according to her Playboy interview) she was attracted to an evangelical church she would walk by. It was the music that brought her in.

The year would have been 1973 or 1975 (depending on which version of her story you count the years from.) What was the state of Catholic liturgy at the time? The new Missal of Paul VI was imposed in 1970. Concomitant with this was the banning of the fifteen hundred year old liturgy that had been reformed at Trent. Although Vatican II had ascribed pride of place to Latin in the Latin Rite, there was a de facto ban of Latin for liturgical use. The forty years that the American Catholic was exiled in a liturgical desert had begun: little wonder that Holy Mother Church could not compete by offering "lousy pop music and a gutted Mass."

How to Appeal to the Modern World

Many advocates of change in the Catholic Church of the 1960s and 1970s had a set of assumptions on how to make the Church appeal to the modern world. The more I study Generation X, the more I become convinced that their theories drove away the very people they thought they were appealing to.

More in my next posting.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy Fathers Day, Tony

Tony Woodlief poignantly states a problem many of us could identify with: "But what makes a good father? ... Though my father left when I was young, and my stepfather found me uninteresting, I now have three sons of my own..." Fathering is a trade learned by the ancient master/apprentice method of tuition. Without a master, it's a hard art to "master." As far as I know, there are no correspondence courses, distance learning modules, or night school offerings.

What do you do? You do the best you can. If you are smart you pray a lot. You learn from whatever sources and examples you can. You learn from your wife. You keep trying.

The tutor in the ancient apprenticeship gave a very concrete form of tuition. A blacksmith showed by example the very physical art of hammering on an anvil, of raising the temperature with the billows, and cooling iron in sizzling water. Most of our work is far more abstract. Have you ever tried to tell a bed time story about the exciting adventures of an economist? The problem was brought home too vividly when my oldest was four or five and asked his mom to take him to the bank so he could see the interest rates go up and down.

Tony stumbles on the most important grace of fatherhood for us. It is not what our apprentices learn about our trades, but how we learn from them. As we see our faults in them, we learn to change. We hope we learn in time. It is ultimately our sons and daughters who civilize us, if we make it at all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bearing Witness in a Time of War

The following is from the website for First Things (click on the tittle to go there):

Bearing Witness in a Time of War

By Richard John Neuhaus

Friday, June 8, 2007, 6:40 AM

The following homily was delivered by Fr. Neuhaus at the annual Memorial Mass of the Military Vicariate at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on the Feast of the Ascension, 2007.

The Scripture texts just read are for this day, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. And they could hardly be more fitting also for this Memorial Mass of the Archdiocese for Military Services.

The Ascension of God incarnate, the crucified and risen Lord, bears witness to the sovereignty that you serve as ministers of Christ—ministers of Christ who minister Christ to those who serve in the military. In the first lesson, Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Today, remembering the chaplains of the past, praying for the chaplains of the present, and anticipating the chaplains of the future, we gratefully acknowledge a ministry that has extended and today extends, just as Jesus said, “to the ends of the earth.” That ministry bears witness to the sovereignty of Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. As in the time of the apostles so also now, that sovereignty is disputed. His will be a disputed sovereignty until he returns in glory and, in the words of St. Paul, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

We are servants of a disputed sovereignty. In the responsorial psalm we declared, “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy.” Christ has ascended his throne, but his rule is challenged by rival thrones. For us who believe, St. Paul says in today’s second lesson, it is the fact that Christ rules “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion.” But the principalities and powers of the present age still rage against his rule. We are the servants of a disputed sovereignty.

In today’s gospel reading from Luke chapter 24, we hear the words of Jesus, “You are the witnesses of these things. . . . Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The apostles stayed in the city and then, clothed with pentecostal power from on high, went out to the ends of the earth. And they continue to go, until the end of time. Christ goes with us, St. Paul says, in the form of the Church, “which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” In the face of the principalities and powers, we bear witness to his disputed sovereignty. In the loneliness of military camps, in the terror of battle, in the emptiness of loss, you who are chaplains bear witness to the presence, the sacramentally Real Presence, of “the one who fills all things in every way.”

As the sovereignty of Christ is disputed, so also is the ministry of the military chaplain disputed. How, it is asked, can those who serve the Prince of Peace also serve in the wars of the principalities and powers of the present age? It is an old question, but a question that continues to be asked, and understandably so. It is a question that addresses, as St. Augustine would put it, the right ordering of our loves and loyalties.

The second century “Letter to Diognetus,” which is explaining the Christians to a pagan reader, says, “For the Christians, every foreign country is a homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country.”

In the right ordering of our loves and loyalties, we are patriots of this foreign country called America, which is also our homeland; but we are patriots bound by a higher patriotism to the country that is our true home—the country, the Kingdom, where the sovereignty of the ascended Lord is no longer disputed. Like St. Thomas More, we are “the king’s good servants, but God’s first.” And we are the king’s better servants because we are God’s first.

Jesus says, “And you will be my witnesses.” As chaplains, you are the witnesses of Christ and his Church to a new order of undivided love and allegiance. That kingdom is now present by faith’s anticipation of what is to be. There are many important things a chaplain does: he teaches, he counsels, he encourages, he consoles. But, above all, the chaplain is a witness to the sovereignty of Christ and his kingdom. He is a witness to what is to be; he is a witness to what, for those who believe, already is. Through him, Christ makes sacramentally present a new heaven and a new earth. A new heaven and a new earth where the conflicts of the principalities and powers are no more. A new heaven and a new earth that is now, by the gift of faith, peace in the midst of battle.

Speaking last October to the International Congress of Military Ordinariates, Pope Benedict declared: “The Church is missionary by nature and her principal task is evangelization, which aims to proclaim and witness to Christ, and to promote his gospel of peace and love in every environment and every culture.”

In situations of mortal conflict, in a world too often marked by the absence of peace and love, your task is to bear witness to a promised new world order. In doing so, you are the nation’s good servants, but God’s first. You are witnesses to the sovereignty of Christ, a sovereignty now disputed but one day to be acknowledged by all.

Whatever your military rank or distinction, your defining commission was received on the day of your ordination as a priest of Christ and his Church. On that day, you were, in the words of today’s gospel, “clothed with power from on high.” Our only power is the power of witness. We should want no other, we need no other. The Church is the people ahead of time—the community that bears witness now to what one day will be recognized by all when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The principalities and powers still strut across the stage of history, trailing behind them the bloody carnage of their vain ambitions. So it has been through the centuries, and so it will be until Our Lord returns in glory. We read in the first lesson: “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Between now and that happy day, we have no utopian delusions about the principalities and powers of the present time. The dream of a permanent peace, of a world without conflict, awaits the day when the sovereignty of love incarnate is no longer disputed.

Until that day, the history of the world is marked by what St. Augustine calls libido dominandi—the lust for glory and power. We describe wars as just and wars as unjust, and it is necessary that we make such distinctions for clarity of mind and security of conscience. But, short of the coming Kingdom, all is provisional and approximate; all is riddled through with ambiguity, contradiction, and tragedy. That is how things are, and that is how things will be along the way of history’s long journey toward the perfect justice of Christ’s undisputed sovereignty. Meanwhile, we bear witness to what is to be, and, for those who believe, already is. The Church—her ministers and her members—is the people ahead of time.

Again, St. Augustine: “Peace must be your aim; war should be a matter of necessity. . . . One does not pursue peace in order to wage war; one wages war to achieve peace.” And then he adds, “If peace is such a desirable dimension of our temporal happiness, how much sweeter is the divine peace that belongs to the eternal happiness of the angels.” We are not angels. But neither are we beasts, forever consigned to the confusions and conflicts of libido dominandi. We are the people ahead of time.

To you, the chaplains of the armed forces—past, present, and future—is owed an immeasurable debt of gratitude. You are the nation’s good servants but God’s first; and you are the nation’s better servants because you are God’s first. In the midst of the clashes of the principalities and powers of the present age, you have been “clothed with power from on high” to bear witness to the One who was and is and is to be.

To those in battle, to those preparing for battle, to those bearing the wounds of battle, and to those who love them, you bear witness. Your only power, our only power, is the power of witness. We should want no other. We need no other. “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Alexandria Link

Steve Berry wrote a best selling novel entitled the Alexandria Link. It depends on two crucial plot points: The ancient library of Alexandria has been preserved by guardians hidden in the desert. Kamal Salibi's theory (or should I write "wild hypothesis"?) that the pre- exilic Israel described in the Hebrew bible actually was in western Arabia and not in the Holy Land. Thus Yahweh's promise of the land to Abraham and Issac and Jacob was not promising that postage stamp of land we call Israel today, but a stretch of western Arabia which includes Islam's most sacred places. This has important geopolitical implications for that land which has been fought over by Jews, Christians, and Muslims these many centuries.

To achieve his plot, Berry needs to argue that the Christians manipulated the biblical text when Jerome translated the bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin and that the Jews had to manipulate the biblical text when it was translated into Greek (the Septuagint) and that nobody knew enough Hebrew to catch these frauds.

Berry also makes up correspondence between Augustine and Jerome in which they conspire to mold (i.e. distort) the translation to further Christian objectives. Although he freely acknowledges these to be fictions he made up for the book, the reader will only know that if he reads the Author's Notes after the novel. None of these letters read like something the actual Augustine or Jerome would have written.

The central scriptural issue is what is the true text of the original Hebrew scriptures and how the place names in the original text map back to modern day geography. Primarily this comes under the heading of textual criticism, the work of those biblical scholars who work back from the manuscripts in the original languages and in the versions (translations into Latin, Greek, Aramaic, etc.) to the original words as first written down. However Salibi's argument appears to be primarily philological: how one vocalizes the original Hebrew words (i.e what vowels one decides to put between the consonants since Hebrew does not have vowels in the original written form.

There are a number of points that Mr. Berry appears to be naive on:

He appears to believe that there are no Old Testament manuscripts in Hebrew ("Old Hebrew" as he calls them) before the tenth century A.D. While that may have been true before the discovery in 1947 of the Dead Sea Scrolls, that marvelous cache of documents includes manuscripts dating between the the third century B.C., and 68 A.D. "All of the books of the Bible are represented in the Dead Sea Scroll collection except Esther."

He seems to think Hebrew was a dead language from fifth or sixth century B.C. on. This seems an extreme position. Certainly Hebrew was at minimum a literary and a liturgical language long after that. We have documents written in Hebrew well after that. Some of the minor prophets were written after the exile. Daniel was probably written in the second century B.C. The Hebrew text of I Maccabees is attested to in a manuscript among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Presumably that dates to the first century B.C. Jubilees is though to be written between 135 and 105 B.C., although our Ethiopian Orthodox brethren consider it to be canonical and written in Moses time. We also have the Manual of Discipline and the Damascus Document. Finally, we know the bible was read in Hebrew in Jesus' time.

Berry represents the Septuagint as a deliberate mistranslation of the ancient Hebrew text. In fact, the Septuagint appears to be a rather literal translation of a Hebrew text. The major discovery of modern textual criticism is that the Hebrew text underlying the the Septuagint differs from the standard (Masoretic) text and in some cases reflects differences in the oral tradition before the original text was written down.

The uninformed reader may not appreciate the issue of textual variants and discrepancies in the the scriptures. There are variants in the handwritten record handed down over the millenia. One manuscript represents a bible verse one way and another manuscript records the verse differently. There are a great many of these textual variants. Many are straight forward copying errors that are obvious to correct. Those remaining are small relative to the huge number of verses in the bible. Remarkably, given how many crucial theological issues hang on particular bible verses and passages, hardly any of these textual variants affect a major theological issue dividing Christians. I would be surprised to find that the geographical text would be so ambiguous.

Berry (and perhaps Salibi) make the blanket claim that archeology has been singularly unable to authenticate any of the historical record of the Old Testament. That is such a preposterous statement that I assume he adopts it purely for the sake of advancing his plot. There is a huge opus of archaeological findings about places mentioned in the Old Testament.

Although Berry correctly portrays the influence of the Vulgate (it produced the literary language of Europe from the fifth century through the sixteenth century), he seems unaware that there were Latin translations before Jerome's Vulgate, principally the Old Latin Version produced about 150 A.D., and an important witness to the text of the New Testament.

As to Salabi's theory, Professor Phillip C. Hammond, comments in his review of Salabi's first book in the International Review of Mid East Studies, "A proper review of this book would unfortunately subject the reader to a volume far larger than the one being reviewed. The sheer enormity, page by page, of "identifications," transmutations [sic!], blantant historical error, misconceptions, and similar problems with the scholarship, preclude considerations within the scope of any "review." It is difficult to understand how such a volume could have been foisted upon an unsuspecting public. Perhaps the scholarly reader will find a certain degree of amusement in appreciated the skill of the author in his attempted linguistic exercises, but the lay reader might, regretably, be misled by the appearance of the "scholarship" presented. To assume that similar, or even identical, place names are proof of "identity" between two places is palpably absurd. To declare that archeology, with its modern chronometric techniques, cannot place occupations correctly is contrary to fact . To ignore the linguistic analyses of biblical Hebrew from the Massoretes to modern scholarship is presumptuous. To dismiss casually all modern scholarship in the field is unscholarly in the extreme. To display ignorance of published archaeological and other data in favor of selected, "favorable" quotations is likewise not the way knowledge is advanced.

"In short, this reviewer can see no reason why this volume was published, either in its original German edition, or in English translation."

From Steve Berry's point of view there was an excellent reason to publish Salabi's book: it gave him a best seller!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Of Bobos, the Spirit, and the Possibility of Liturgy

I am not in the habit of reading homilies on the internet or elsewhere. (If you have a weakness for such things, I strongly recommend Ronal Knox’s homilies.)

Richard Cipolla’s homily on Pentecost is an exception. I do not know why I read it (Did the Spirit move me? Did my guardian angel kick me that one extra time that worked?) I glanced at it a number of times and then I got sucked in.

Two things knocked me over as if I were hit by a two by four:

1) The liturgy is not about me; how I feel; or what I need.

2) Even though there are still strong liturgical traditions among high Anglicans and some Lutherans, the general run of Protestantism in America is so unliturgical and even anti-liturgical that our culture, which reflects that, all but vitiates the possibility of liturgy.

You can find the homily on the web site for The St. Gregory Society of New Haven Connecticut. I found it on The New Liturgical Movement.

You can find it reproduced here in full:

Pentecost 2007 Sermon

Sermon for Pentecost 2007
May 27, 2007
Rev. Richard G. Cipolla

This feast is for all practical purposes the only chance to preach on the Holy Spirit per se. Perhaps the proper thing to do, after hearing the famous and familiar and dramatic reading from the Acts of the Apostles about the pouring forth of the Spirit onto Mary and the apostles, and therefore onto the Church, one should sit down and maintain a respectful and contemplative silence in the face of such an awesome event. For Pentecost is the last in a series of the mighty acts of God: creation hovered over by the Spirit, the creation of man breathed into life by the breath of God, the incarnation of God by the power of the Spirit in the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the resurrection of Jesus by the Spirit of life, and today, the outpouring of the very life and substance and power of God onto the Church, making the sacramental life of the Church possible, making salvation itself a reality, making the presence of the immortal, unfathomable God real in this world. The coming of the Holy Spirit is an end to pie in the sky religion. God has tented among his people and blows where he will and dwells in power wherever there is the Catholic Church.

One of the highlights of the liturgical movement of the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century was the publication of a small book by Romano Guardini called The Spirit of the Liturgy. It is not a book of scholarship nor a history of the liturgy. It deals with the fundamental understanding of the liturgy in terms that have never been surpassed. Its importance was noted by the then Cardinal Ratzinger when he published in 1999 his collection of essays on the liturgy and named the book The Spirit of the Liturgy. In the introduction Cardinal Ratzinger marks the importance of Guardini’s book and honors Guardini with choosing the same title: The Spirit of the Liturgy.

It is interesting that in neither book is there a specific chapter or section dedicated to the role of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy. But this is so because both men understood that Christian worship is nothing other than worship in spirit and truth, that the Christian cannot worship God except in the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth. Now this phrase: worship in spirit, or more specifically, worship in the Holy Spirit, has been associated in recent times, but there are also similar movements in the past, with a specific type of experience that involves such phenomena as speaking in tongues, great emotional experiences, in which the individual is caught up into an ecstatic state. These signs are then offered as proof that whatever is going on is the work of the Holy Spirit and is therefore worship in spirit and truth.

However we judge this phenomenon, one can say that it has nothing to do with worship of God as the Catholic understands it in the liturgy. For the role of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy is not at all to seize individuals with special fervor; it is not to stir up emotions; it is not to instruct or teach at least in the didactic sense. The Spirit provides the unifying presence of God without which worship degenerates into idolatry, either the worship of the community or the worship of the self. It is only that Spirit bestowed in baptism and confirmation that can forge that unity between people that enables them to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that is the essence of worship. This unity can never be achieved by anything we do. It certainly is not the product of speaking the same language. It is certainly is not the product of common tastes, style, upbringing, nationality etc. If this were the basis for this unity we could hardly call ourselves Catholics. The Church at prayer is bound by the Holy Spirit into that body that is the body of Christ, and it is this Spirit that makes possible the overcoming of that individualism that makes worship impossible. That is, the Spirit makes it possible for me as an individual to enter into that place that is the body of Christ, in which I give myself over to this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Catholic worship demands the sacrifice of the individual, demands the giving over of my likes and dislikes, my mood, my wants and needs; worship demands that I renounce whatever excludes the others in the community at the liturgy, that I give myself over to the other, to the others, as we all do the same thing, participate with our mind, body and soul in the sacrifice of the Mass in the power of the Holy Spirit.

How difficult this is for contemporary Western, affluent man, who assumes that all things are for his own personal benefit. How difficult this is for Catholics brought up to believe that the liturgy must be tailored to their wants and needs and taste and sensibilities. How difficult it is for Catholics who have never heard that humility is the prerequisite of active participation in the Mass, humility by renunciation, humility by the abdication of self-rule and self-sufficiency. And humility, in the words of Romano Guardini, by positive action: “by the acceptance of the spiritual principles which the liturgy offers and which far transcend the little world of individual spiritual existence.”

David Brooks, the author of the now classic Bobos in Paradise which described so well a whole generation of affluent Americans unmoored from tradition and yet longing for something else, had an editorial in the New York Times on Friday about the rise of quasi-Catholics in this country and their contribution to the economic boom: the title is “Bad for Church, good for country. What is a quasi-Catholic? He is someone who remains a Catholic in the sense that he attends Mass often, not always, but often, appreciates family values, is not afraid of hard work, but in the end lives his life as he sees fit, that is, with a healthy American skepticism towards dogma and the official teaching of the Church. He is someone who has followed the quasi-Protestant into a world of lite religion, a world in which religious faith exists in some sort of twilight zone where American enterprise and pride and financial success becomes undistinguishable from religion, a world in which worship as sacrifice is unintelligible. That this has happened comes as no surprise to many of us who understand the ancient dictum: lex orandi, lex credendi, how people worship determines what people believe. The collapse of liturgy in Protestantism almost at its very inception, the denial of liturgical worship and sacraments, the reduction of worship to didactism or pietism, the emphasis on emotion and feeling: all guaranteed the triumph of quasi-Protestantism as the steamroller of secularism flattened most Christian traces of Luther, Calvin and Wesley into a vague ethical program with no foundation in Scripture and Tradition and with no weapons to fight against relativism and individualism.

So too is the situation of quasi-Catholics, and their existence is known to all of us here, their existence is known to priests and bishops even if they wish to deny it. We see them in countless photographs, smiling, as they attend posh dinners for worthy causes, as they smile as they hand over large checks to church leaders for Catholic charities, smiling as their children receive confirmation, smiling not only with pride for their children, but also smiling as they ponder what all of this really means in the end and what it has to do with their lives. The appearance of quasi-Catholics was inevitable in this country as Catholics assimilated to the Protestant way of looking at life and faith as something merely personal. But the past forty years have indeed seen the real rise of this phenomenon, and this has come about because of the fertilizing action of a quasi-liturgy that has set us adrift from the Tradition in which liturgical worship alone can exist: the Tradition whose roots are in the blood of the Cross, whose roots are in the sacrifice of the Cross, whose roots are fed by the Truth himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and whose power and presence in the world is made manifest by the working of the Holy Spirit.

Alexander Schmemann, the Russian Orthodox theologian, said that at the very time that the world was growing tired of modernism the Catholic Church in the 1960’s decided to embrace it. Indeed, when one looks back, it is remarkable that at that very time in American Catholic history in which Catholics began to really enjoy the fruit of American capitalism, when they began to become educated, when they were let in to the best clubs, that they were given a liturgy that was fabricated, and that is the Pope’s word, not mine, fabricated especially for them, in which creativity and novelty were encouraged, personal liturgies for different groups, in which the priest faced the people as if he were talking to them instead of God, in which active participation became synonymous with getting as many laypeople in the sanctuary to do something that everyone could see like at a high school assembly, a liturgy fabricated for the people of a specific time, whose purpose was to make things clear and people happy. Quasi-liturgy for quasi-Catholics. That is the situation.

Now there are those Catholics, and you may know some of them, who are not satisfied with the present situation and believe that what is at stake here is the Catholic faith itself. There are those who believe that if we continue down this path we will all be sucked up by the quasi-religion of most Americans, which has little to do with what happened at Pentecost. If this is true, what is to be done? Is it possible to go back to the real thing once you have become addicted to aspartame? Is it possible to return to worship that has at its very heart sacrifice, both in the objective sense as the sacrifice of Christ re-presented, and in the subjective sense as the self-sacrifice of the worshipper to enter into the holy of holies with the community formed by the Holy Spirit? That is the question to ask on this Pentecost. And that is what to pray about on this Pentecost in our prayer to the Holy Spirit. O Holy Spirit, who brooded over creation, who gave breath and life to man, whose power shot through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, whose presence in the Church is real and constant, give us the courage and the humility and the willingness to sacrifice ourselves to bring about the renewal of the liturgy of your Church. Deliver us from cynicism and from despondency. Fill us with hope and let us see that with God all things are possible. Amen.