The People of God

I’m not really into the culture war. I definitely fall on one side of it, but ultimately I find the arguments unproductive. The bickering is even more troubling in Church circles, and even more depressing.

The recent translation changes to the Roman Missal have been the front lines of the Catholic culture wars. Part of me sympathizes with the “anti-Vatican II” gang. There was a definite pendulum swing during the post-conciliar liturgical renewal toward a focus on the community gathered rather than on personal piety. We lost some majesty in those changes, and although I don’t believe that obtuse language is necessary to make us more reverent, I can sympathize with the desire to make the liturgy more elegant and less casual.

So I have tried to bite my tongue about the translation, taking the bad with the good even though my side of the culture war “lost”. But the other day, indulging my habit of perusing liturgical websites, I read a dismissive remark about “the People of God crowd”. Them’s fightin’ words.

Yes, I have a copy of the Roman Missal changes on my fridge. And yes, it is next to a poster of Dorothy Day.

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”. God is found in relationships. Each member of the Body of Christ, tip to toe, is a part of our community of salvation. And it’s harder, for me at least, to remember that fact than it is to foster my individual relationship with God. I wonder, in this day and age, if we need the emphasis on personal piety as much as we need an emphasis on community. We spend enough of our lives saying “I believe” and not enough saying “we believe”.

But Credo is what’s in the Latin, and I can live with that. As I sang my masses yesterday, hearing the way the presiders’ voices change when they’re reading rather than reciting, and laughing along with everyone as we fouled up the responses, a part of me was mourning. When we peel away the things we have written on our hearts, there is some raw flesh there for a while.

I want my devotion to be something easy, I want it to be the words, or the gestures, that will help me to be holy. People are too complicated.

Yesterday we shared something nearly as extraordinary as the sacraments we’ve shared during our lives. We shared a change – a rebirth, even. I don’t know what the chnge I will mean. I don’t know if it is in “the Spirit of Vatican II”. But we’re talking and we’re paying attention. It is inevitable that what we know will someday be taken from us. What holds us together is not the language but the Spirit that still makes us more than the sum of our parts, that makes us the People of God.

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3 Responses to The People of God

  1. Rob Cortegiano says:

    I think you are right, in that there was a renewed sense of the people gathered as a community, learning to talk about and understand the changes together. If anything, what some people said would create a barrier between the priest and the people, seemed to be bringing us together in a spirit of sharing, learning, and humility. I just wish the sharing and learning was not about the meaning of the word “consubstantial”, etc. Part of me was excited to hear some really good, thoughtful preaching about liturgy and the meaning of what we do at mass. At the same time, I found many of the priest’s prayers to be so awkward and difficult to hear, to the point where I felt less prayerful and present to the experience. This may change over time, or there may be a growing sense of frustration among the people in the pews. What if the people ultimately reject this change? What if it raises their consciousness to the point of calling into question the structures of governance that allow such changes to take place, while circumventing (even acting over and against) the sense of the faithful? Part of me hopes this will be the tipping point for active resistance among the people of God and the rumblings of a large scale reform of Roman Catholicism.

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  3. Pingback: Our Shared Experience | Felice mi fa

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