Saturday, October 25, 2008

Church Crawling and hanging out with Roman

Last weekend Roman and I did what my friends call a "church crawl". This is very similar to a pub crawl except there is no drinking (except at the end) and much of the discussion is around liturgy and history and church gossip. Rome is an excellent place for church crawling as when you are tired you can fall into an exquisite restaurant at lunchtime (when all the churches close for siesta) and review the things that you have seen.

The novelist Evelyn Waugh was a great church crawler (or church spotting as the English call it) and his diary in his teen years recounts how he and his school friends went visiting churches. His leanings to catholicism appear this early as he was interested in the Anglo Catholic churches most of all.

We first visited St Johns Cathedral to see how it now looks with the fully extended nave. We also talked about how St Johns actually has a better layout for celebrating the Roman Rite in the Extraordinary Form.

The High Altar is simple and with steps and matches the early mediaeval French style of the cathedral. I know that it is generally used for Ad orientem celebration although there is room to celebrate facing the people.

The Altar shows a good arrangement of the crucifix and two candlesticks supplemented by large candle sticks on both sides. Some of you would say that this is not catholic but it actually follows some pre-tridentine practices. However, it better demonstrates some of the configuration which could be used for a Benedictine Altar arrangement if Mass is celebrated versus populum.

Here is a view from behind the Altar down the nave.

You can see the stone vaulting of the nave - the only place you see genuine stone vaulting on any large scale in Australia. The back of the Altar is very plain pointing to its east facing orientation.

From here we saw the Marian chapel, with a medieval Sarum style arrangement, but without riddels. Roman has some pics of the other chapels with medieval riddels. Eucharistic services are celebrated here during the week.

From there it was down to Brisbane's premier Anglo Catholic Church - All Saints. it has an eastward facing High Altar with six candles and a tabernacle. However, I was very impressed with the side chapel.

Note the Altar cards (which are in English). At All Saints they seem to have two types of liturgies, one to the English Missal (which is basically a reformed blend of the Tridentine Roman Missal, with the book of Common Prayer), and occasionally a more contemporary liturgy with a modern prayer book.

The church organist, Darren, gave us a bit of an explanation of the liturgy and a Mass sheet to takeaway. It showed the simplified Tridentine Missal in English interspersed with the Cranmerian prayers of the general confession at the Offertory (instead of the Confiteor at the start) and the modern Roman lectionary. If anything this shows what a more sensible revision of the Roman Rite in the 1960s may have looked like, if liturgical extremists had not got to it.

We found a table carrying candles and a centrally located crucifix (with corpus) up against a side wall, and asked what it was for. It turned out that this is a table that is occasionally set up in fron of the sanctuary used for versus populum celebrations. However, as the congregation strongly prefer Ad orientem celebration (and remember that this was an aspect that the Tractarian Movement fought for in the 1800's) this is rarely used.

it is intersting the divergent attitudes with liturgy. In the Catholic Church we think that the Liturgy of the Eucharist HAS to be celebrated facing the people, and it is rare to find a parish which celebrates the Ordinary Form Ad orientem. (Note: In Italy this is not so rare probably more because a lot of italians could not be bothered re-ordering their sanctuaries - more about that another time). In the Anglo Catholic Church it seems to be considered someting that is less than ideal and congregations appear to perceive it as a bit of a threat to their beliefs. It would be good if the Catholic church congregations had a lot more of that attitude.

We then went onto the Albert St Uniting Church but there was nothing really of interest there so we moved onto a cafe. St Stephens we did not bother with as we are there all of the time.

A short church crawl you might say but - it is Australia after all.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ukrianian hierarchical liturgy

Last week the Ukrainian Ordinary visited the Local Ukrainian rite Church, for the occasion of it's 50th anniversary of attaining the canonical status of a parish.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Vocations crisis

I find the idea of there being no difference between a cleric and a lay person absurd. If such was true, then a priest would merely be an underpaid and celibate social worker. If a priest were really that, then perhaps I could do his job as a married lay person, enjoying both a higher salary and a wife and kids. This would be the thinking of most Catholic young men, that is the root cause of our vocations problem, no young Catholic, especially teenage boys sees a priest being any different from a lay, single, social worker (Okay, perhaps a few do).

That's what it is, it's an image problem, there's nothing to draw young men in. Young men theses days are attracted by bling, fast cars and scantly clad women. I'm surprised some bishops haven't decided to use those things to attract more vocations.... perhaps it's better then didn't. But what did they do? Well they decided to lumber up hills in shorts, paint, go for a jog and other hobbies, stick it on a poster and hope for the best. Fair enough, but seeing relatively dated men do these things, is not going to attract me to the priesthood.

To most high school students, a priest is merely cranky old men (probably because he hasn’t been laid, as they say), who comes into their school a few times a year, talks at them for 10minutes, wears a bathrobe and plays around with girls crockery, as well as giving them a snack and a bit of alcohol. Yep that gets the guys coming in by the truck load.

The youth are not attracted by wishy washy wanna , gonna bes. They want something radical, something out there, something different, something that’s going to rock their world. I know what that is, a matrix robe wearing young gun with a pair of black shades. A youthful priest, who is aware of the dignity of his priesthood, who’ll come on in an engage the youth are where they are at, not jamming a judgmental and sentimental watered down religion at them. A priest who will not give them a religious wanna be rock, rap or pop song, but who will give them a transcendent experience, something appealing to the soul (yes young people do have them) and not just merely to their animalistic urges.

If young men are informed about the faith, the real faith, supported by millennium of tradition and then given a different and dynamic priest, then you will have an inbox full of inquires, not only about the priesthood, but also about the faith.

A priest is supposed to be a person in the world, but not of it, a living icon of Christ. He needs to be counter cultural. He needs to be priestly, to administer the sacraments and to preach the Gospels (with out bits missing). If we present a spent pensioner who plays around with crockery in his bathrobe, then of coarse the youth will think that a priest is just a guy who couldn’t get a girlfriend in High school. Perhaps if we try a different approach, then we might be on to something…….

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pagan Gods

In a recent remake of the Ten Commandments and Egyptian Priest tells Moses, better it is for there to be as many gods as there are men, rather then just one God. I find that statement to shed light and a profound insight into human thought and the Ego.

One God truly was a breakthrough in human development, One God, One who exists before and outside everything, a contrast to the chaotic Pantheon of Greek gods. For the pagans, different gods were different beings, embodying different concepts, elements and aspects, i.e. there was god of war, god of thunder etc. This allowed people to have a supermarket mentality with their religion and beliefs. Take for example a soldier; naturally he would worship the god of war and tend to neglect the other gods. The gods then were not the be all and end all, because there were always more of them. Being able to choose, or to have more then one way of belief is itself not a bad concept, perhaps this was a foreshadowing of the BVM or the saints. This would be a similar concept, but diverging on the point that our saints and the BVM are merely a means to an end, that is Worship of God

If one God wasn’t to your liking, you would simply pick another; similar to the way we change fashions or products today. The Pagan Pantheon then stopped being a separate and objective reality; it just degraded into an extension of the human ego. In such away the gods were made to service humanity. Today in some peoples we see a similar, but drastically eviler thought occurring, that God, is something personal, something that we can determine, change, define and ultimately lord over. The pagans were manufacturing idols, whilst today some peoples are attempting to turn God himself into an idol.

The profound insight into humanity is this; we want to be the top Dog. Everything revolves around us, as long as were happy, that’s the prime Goal. The Pagans developed gods that serviced them, Modern people are trying to either forget about God or turn him into their own happy toy. It’s interesting to see, what effect the existence of a God does on people, it makes them see, that they are not the be all and end all, rather it allows humanity to advance towards something, rather then enclose itself into a circle, ultimately consuming itself.

“I must decrease and he must increase” John 3:30

ACCC Conference Toowong