June 4, 2011

Retrieval and Respect

I came across this over on Celledoor Miscellany.

A priest-friend of Paul VI, as quoted in Life magazine, March 20, 1970:

"After the turmoil following the Vatican Council, it will take two or three generations to reconstruct Catholicism."

Well, here we are folks, and we have a lot of work to do. In the context of religious life, I would prefer a different term than reconstruction. Retrieval, maybe.

Nevertheless, the more I converse with folks who seem to regard themselves as part of this project or retrieval, and I include myself, the more I think we need to be careful about our spiritual attitude toward those who have preceded us.

Our spiritual mothers and fathers in religious life are the ones who stayed when many others left. They stayed because they believed in our vocation, and found in their liberation from former oppressive structures a spirituality that sustained them. This can be hard to appreciate for us who converted or reverted the faith in flight from the vertigo of the relativism and aimlessness of the world; our spiritual parents were liberated from structure and thick notions of absolute truth, while we were liberated to these things.

But this does not, and should not prevent us from appreciating the spiritual energy that must have been felt by what is now the older generation, and from acknowledging that Holy Spirit was in it for them. Yes, they dismantled a religious culture perhaps without realizing how destabilizing it would be to put nothing in particular in its place, but we too one day will leave our own particular shortsightedness as a thorn in the side of our spiritual children and the work of our historical moment incomplete in some way.

A while back a youngish traddy was telling me about how he had approached and made fun of an older religious sister who was protesting for some liberal cause or other, as if he wanted me to approve of such a thing. I should have scolded him.

Yes, we have a lot to recover, a lot to retrieve, even a culture to rebuild. But the rightness of our historical task does not invalidate that of our parents, the fruits of whose liberation even the most ardent traddies enjoy in many ways.

For example, anyone who has gone to his pastor or even his bishop, trying to enforce his right to the Extraordinary Form as declared in Summorum pontificum, has the 'Spirit of Vatican II' to thank that he can even imagine doing such a thing.


pennyante said...

Thank you for this post. I am of the older generation who suffered under the church of the 1940s-50s and felt liberated and hopeful after Vatican II. I recognize some things went wrong in the effort to renew the Church... but I also see that the younger generations of today will have their own mistakes to deal with when they become my age.

That's something to remember...

Anonymous said...

Retrieval is a good choice of words. I wonder how long the list of "items"(not a good word)lost during reconstruction would be? I wonder which were tossed out with a vengeance,and which simply got lost in the shuffle. During that time I can not count how many times I heard said that the old churches no longer served "our" needs, and the newer ones built better served this contemporary new Vatican 2 function.Yet,I never heard a Pope say St. Peters was unsuitable for this new liturgy.Vatican 2 did bring about many positive and meaningful changes to the Church.Many things(again a bad word) which were discarded should not have been, and they do deserve to be retrieved.

Lee Gilbert said...

Generally I am very much in favor of the Benedictine reform of the liturgy, a recovery of Latin Mass, and much of the Catholic culture of our forbears that we jettisoned.

However, I also am old enough to remember cheerily setting off for daily Mass on many a bright summer morning, and having the emotional rug pulled out from under me day after day by the priest appearing in black vestments for yet another celebration of a missa pro defunctis while from an organ loft high in the back of the church a woman who had outlived her voice by ten years intoned the Dies Irae. To that I do not wish to return. No thank you!

Yes, while we are trying to recover the tradition, we have to respect much of the work of so many who worked to reform the liturgy in a reform that was badly, badly needed.