Via Media

Via Media


Last Word from Cologne

posted by awelborn

John Allen reports and has his last Correspondent’s Notebook up

Allen, some of you might remember, is a former high school teacher (who left high school teaching about the same time I did…and now he’s in Rome and I’m in….never mind.), and I particularly appreciated his appreciative analogy of Benedict’s way of speaking with the young to the best kind of teachers:

Despite the fact that professional pedagogues spend a lot of time worrying about whether material is "age-appropriate" or "relevant," somewhere along the line most people have had a teacher who stands out precisely because she or he refused to assume that young people are incapable of adult thought. They acted as if young people ought to be perfectly equipped to read Flaubert, or to do advanced calculus, or to master organic chemistry, and that faith often pushed their students beyond mediocrity.

These may not, by and large, be the teachers upon whom girls develop crushes, or that guys want to hang around with after school. They may not "bring down the house" at pep rallies or talent shows. But they generate respect, and in the end, deep affection, even if it’s a more subdued and thoughtful sort of emotion. Such teachers pay young people the compliment of not patronizing them.

After the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be emerging as that kind of pope.

In a world of rapid-fire, MTV-style cutaways in television programs and movies, driven by the assumption that young people have limited attention spans and thus little capacity for following a line of thought, Pope Benedict made no apologies Sunday morning for veering into a lengthy exegesis of the Greek word proskynesis and the Latin adoratio. (He later tossed in a Hebrew term, beracha, to boot). He used words such as "positivism" and "transmute" without bothering to explain them, as if all one million young people from 197 countries standing in the Marienfeld plain Sunday morning ought to have scored 700 or better on the SAT verbal.

It’s quite likely that some portions of his Sunday morning homily will have sailed over the heads of part of his audience, especially since the majority heard most of it through translation, but that’s not quite the point. Many will come away inspired because this man, whom most of the World Youth Day participants regard as brilliant and holy, didn’t water his thinking down. He didn’t act as if he was saving his best stuff for someone else — he assumed these young people were capable of meaty content.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(37)
post a comment
perry lorenzo

posted August 21, 2005 at 1:20 pm


Ah. And St Thomas Aquinas lectured on Aristotle at 6 in the morning to teenagers too!
Isn’t it swell to live in the new springtime of the Church!



report abuse
 

Sherry Weddell

posted August 21, 2005 at 2:05 pm


That has certainly been our experience – and not just with the young but with the whole spectrum of adults. Catholics are intelligent and can and want to deal with real ideas – especially if they can see how they speak to real life dilemmas that they face or care about.
I remember one amusing moment when we were putting on a major conference involving a Cardinal and a couple archbishops.
It was supposed to be primarily for lay people but the Cardinal and bishops surprised us by giving major, dense, theological addresses that weren’t exactly galvinizing so it began to resemble a hig level theological symposium rather than a lay formation event. When I and my OP colleague did our bit, several people ran up and said “finally, I understood what someone was saying!”
The Cardinal’s address was fascinating but very complex and he kept referring to the “eschatological reserve” of the laity. I thought that I must have blinked when he defined the term so I made the rounds of all the Dominicans present and asked them if they knew what it meant. No one knew.
During the question and answer period, the priest moderater asked the good Cardinal to define “eschatological reserve”. He then spoke for 15 minutes without ever defining the term so we all remained mystified. I had since disciphered the mystery, I think. To put it very crudely, he meant:
“Its Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”
In any case, participants who had worked with us (and so had some background) for some time loved it. Why? Because the bishops weren’t talking down to us but treating us as through we were capable of dealing with substantial theological discourse.



report abuse
 

thomas tucker

posted August 21, 2005 at 2:22 pm


There’s certainly a place for substantial theological discourse. But it’s a good thing Jesus didn’t discourse like that. :)



report abuse
 

Christopher Sarsfield

posted August 21, 2005 at 3:21 pm


I think we would do well to contrast the liturgy itself with the homily. I found the little bit of the liturgy I watched insulting to young people everywhere (I could not stomach much of it). It is as if the Church is saying, yes we have beautiful solemn liturgies in Rome (ie the papal funeral, and the papal inauguration), when we have serious adults in attendance, but you (the young) are incapable of appreciating beauty so you get cheap vestments, and musak that is more appropriate for elevators than the Holy Sacrifice. I hope that the Pope has not bought into the idea that his type of liturgy will attract the youth like a Cold Play concert. (Is there really someone out there who thinks young people would endure this type of music in any other setting.) I seriously doubt he has, I am hoping that the liturgy was so banal because the Pope was told that everything had already been planned – perhaps even before his election as Pope.



report abuse
 

Donna

posted August 21, 2005 at 3:33 pm


Because the bishops weren’t talking down to us but treating us as through we were capable of dealing with substantial theological discourse.
Exactly. The educational proponents of “self-esteem” have it backwards – people are inspired by challenges, not by making everything nice and easy for them.
Not entirely OT: Friday’s WSJ “Houses of Worship” column had an interesting, rather unsettling article about a new novel, “Dinner with a Perfect Stranger,” which the publishers hope will sell as many copies as “A Purpose-Driven Life.” Needless to say, the author does not take the Benedict approach to religion. A businessman gets an invitation to dinner from Jesus Christ and accepts. The dinner is in an Italian restaurant and Jesus shows up in a suit, “not Armani, but not Men’s Warehouse either.” (Many upscale readers will certainly be relieved to find out Jesus isn’t a tacky dresser. Can’t have him dressing like a poor person or anything.)
Unlike DVC, the novel doesn’t deny Christ’s divinity, although the Jesus in the novel apparently has a low opinion of churches. Why did He become man? The novel’s answer: to be our friend! He just wants us all to have a relationship with Him!
Now, I’m sure Jesus actually does want that. The reviewer’s concern (and mine too) is that that’s all this suit-wearing Jesus wants. No challenges, no commandments, none of that sin or salvation talk. Just a buddy, that’s it.
Now, the book’s not out yet, but that review put me in mind of C.S. Lewis’ line about “Christianity-and-water” churches (in the case of “My Dinner with Jesus”, it’s “Christianity-and-Evian.”) Our Lord as good-hearted, non-judgmental yuppie.
I’ll take Benedict’s brand of straight-up Catholicism any day. And I’m glad to see that a lot of young people in Cologne will too.



report abuse
 

Anonymous Teacher Person

posted August 21, 2005 at 3:49 pm


So. How does this square with the fact that most of my sophomores flunked the quiz over chapters 1-3 of “Mere Christianity?”
I am going to take the Benedict route and assume it means, “they didn’t think they needed to read it that closely, since this is just religion class,” and not, “they can’t grasp what C.S. Lewis is talking about.”



report abuse
 

Cheeky Lawyer

posted August 21, 2005 at 4:27 pm


Does it seem that with every day Allen becomes more faithful and more the evangelist? I think he is a great gift to the Church and to NCR whose readership might not otherwise be reached by such a voice.



report abuse
 

Dave Hartline

posted August 21, 2005 at 4:49 pm


I think John Allen hit the nail on the head about kids accepting people that are “genuine” and “honest” with them. I just got off the phone with Mark Butler who has been reporting for me (Catholicreport.org) at World Youth Day in Cologne. I will put the interview up later tonight and it will be his last report from Cologne. Here’s his quote responding to my question about whether Pope Benedict is being accepted by the kids or not.
“Dave you know from your years as a Catholic school teacher, coach and principal that kids can smell a phony from a mile away. I have seen this as a Youth Minister at the parish level and now at the dicoesan level. However, they just love this man. They hung on to his every word even if they didn’t quite understand it all. Pope Benedict is like a wise grandfather to them. They want to soak up his knowledge like a sponge. I said in a earlier report that it is hard for the world to imagine these young people cheering for an elderly man, Pope Benedict, like he was a rock star.”
I think Mark makes an interesting point. This is a weird analogy but maybe Pope Benedict is like the early days of rock no roll or the recent swing music revival. The kids seem to get it even if some of the adults or the worldly (secular) watchers are saying huh!



report abuse
 

michigancatholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 4:55 pm


Anonymous teacher person, you are right on it. I used to teach high school too–chemistry and physics. Young people often assume that adults don’t trust them or expect them to understand things like an adult. In many cases. they’re right–adults don’t. But give them a chance and you’ll see that a group of them understands about as well as any group of adults. Some kids have a very impressive reading schedule; some adults haven’t read anything–not even the funnies–in years. Adults aren’t any smarter than teens–they have a bell curve too….heh.
In a crowd like that, you have an assortment of people–never forget that. There are also myriad spiritual, psychological and emotional effects of the mass out in the crowd–don’t overlook that either. God can work in a lot of ways–unlimited, really. God will have used each of those ways to touch each of those kids somehow. And the ones who needed to hear the intelligent literate route got it. They’re usually the ones that get shafted in modern liturgies anyway, to tell the truth.
So, don’t worry about it. It’s all good.



report abuse
 

michigancatholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 5:00 pm


Because of our ultimate destiny, the actions of the laity in their daily affairs must be informed by a sense of detachment: an awareness that life’s purposes will be completed only in the heavenly city. In other words, by “an eschatological reserve.” The theological virtue of hope is connected with this: lay people proclaim Christ by word and by their lives when they inform their secular judgments and actions with a hope in the glory that is to come.
When you come across a term you don’t recognize, look it up. =)
Maybe lay people ought to read more, no?



report abuse
 

John W.

posted August 21, 2005 at 5:04 pm


There’s certainly a place for substantial theological discourse. But it’s a good thing Jesus didn’t discourse like that. :)
Mark 4:10-12
And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables.
11 He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables,
12 so that ‘they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.'”
I guess Jesus didn’t always speak in plain language :)



report abuse
 

michigancatholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 5:07 pm


You’re right, John. And in addition, he was always quoting scripture, even from the cross. The apostles and the onlookers always seemed to be a bit off-guard, even if they eventually “got it.”



report abuse
 

michigancatholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 5:09 pm


Read the “I am the vine” sections in the Chapter of John and tell me that “what you see is what you get.” And I’ll tell you that you must not have understood any of it…..
Wanna talk about the Song of Songs?



report abuse
 

Kevin Miller

posted August 21, 2005 at 5:12 pm


It seems to me that Benedict explained what he meant by “eschatological reserve” immediately before using the term:
“Because of our ultimate destiny, the actions of the laity in their daily affairs must be informed by a sense of detachment: an awareness that life’s purposes will be completed only in the heavenly city. In other words, by ‘an eschatological reserve.'”



report abuse
 

Sherry Weddell

posted August 21, 2005 at 6:03 pm


Yes, but the Cardinal in question wasn’t Ratzinger and he seemed strangely unable to define the term at the time.
We now use “eschatological reserve” as code for “that’s on a need to know basis – and you don’t need to know”.



report abuse
 

Kevin Miller

posted August 21, 2005 at 6:25 pm


Sherry – I understand your point – I wasn’t talking about your experience, though, but rather about the suggestions that Benedict’s homily this morning would have gone over people’s heads. It seems to me that he was explaining himself carefully as he went along (e.g., on the “eschatological reserve” point).



report abuse
 

Kevin Miller

posted August 21, 2005 at 6:26 pm


(Of course, one still has to attend to and absorb the explanation, and I understand that not all people will necessarily make the effort to do that when necessary.)



report abuse
 

Jason

posted August 21, 2005 at 6:27 pm


“Eschatological reserve” isn’t that bad. Anyone’s who’s watched EWTN has probably seen a show or two about “escatology”.
Now, if he started talking about “Apokotastatical pre-millenial homo-ousios”, you might have a case…



report abuse
 

Caroline

posted August 21, 2005 at 6:44 pm


I hope all his remarks will be made available in print for the WYDers to reflect on later in life.
As a retired teacher I too appreciated the words about the respected teacher. It’s funny how whenever we have some outrage or uproar or incident or accident involving a teacher, the press always refers to a “popular teacher.” Apparently only “popular teachers” ever get killed in school violence.



report abuse
 

Bellarmino

posted August 21, 2005 at 8:21 pm


I love it. About time. These kids might not get it at first, but they’ll get it. This is what every high school teacher of Catholicism has ever taught, in some way: they’re CAPABLE PEOPLE. We’re not a gnostic church, we’re not a church of the saved, we’re a universal Church. The truth is out there for EVERYONE! In the world of St. Blogs, we need to sell that message to the purveyors of “orthodoxy,” who make this church for the few and the proud. It’s a Church for all. Not for those who insist a mantilla is necessary before bread becomes God. God bless this Pope!



report abuse
 

Sherry Weddell

posted August 21, 2005 at 8:40 pm


Kevin:
No argument from me on the “meaty content” issue – I’m all for it. We routinely drown our participants in content.
But you can’t just drop it on people. It does require skilled teaching/facilitating to make it work. But to see their eyes light up and they go “aha” – now that’s exciting!
Honestly, I didn’t realize that the Pope had used the term “escatological reserve” in his homily today – which I haven’t read yet.
Guess its just another case of two great minds with but a single thought . . .:-}



report abuse
 

Sherry Weddell

posted August 21, 2005 at 8:46 pm


Guess its just another case of two great minds with but a single thought . . .:-}
Of course, his mind is crystal clear and lucid and mine is confused but we did have the same thought . . .



report abuse
 

Marion (Mael Muire)

posted August 21, 2005 at 9:07 pm


This reminds me of an experience I’ll never forget. It was in my public elementary school 5th or 6th grade. A group of us were making styrofoam models of the solar system for science class and stayed late after school. One of the custodians making his usual rounds came along and started talking to us about the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I don’t why a school custodian was interested in that topic, or why he thought 6th graders would be interested in it, but we were. We were transfixed hearing him tell us about how time moved more slowly or even stood still as an object accelerated closer and closer to the speed of light. We loved it! We asked our teacher to tell us all about it the next day, and she said she didn’t know anything about that, and to make sure the paint was dry on our models before we put them up on the shelves for Parent’s Night. What a let-down!
Luckily, my father was a physicist and explained it to me, but, of course, he soon began to talk over my head, and I became bored. But that custodian got it exactly right!



report abuse
 

Boniface McInnes

posted August 21, 2005 at 9:16 pm


“It’s a Church for all. Not [just] for those who insist a mantilla is necessary before bread becomes God.”
And also for those who make slanderous and simplistic claims about the beliefs of other people. Yes, even the slimiest are welcome, which is my good fortune.



report abuse
 

Jen P

posted August 21, 2005 at 10:25 pm


Boniface and Bellarmino,
I may be unwittingly stumbling in to a longstanding argument but I think that Bellarmino has a good point! I find that one of the risks of associating with “orthodox” Catholics is the disillusionment that comes from unfortunate experiences that demonstrate they ways in which they expect — and, dare I say it, even seem to hope — that the “smaller, more faithful” Church of the new millenium will come about by kicking people out, not by proudly proclaiming the truth, even when it offends.



report abuse
 

Fr. Odon de Castro

posted August 22, 2005 at 12:00 am


Understanding Catholic truths is an act of grace; it does not depend on the speaker or on the I. Q. of the listener. The youth could not understand J.P. II in his slur nor Benedict XVI in his German. But this is all grace. When they go home, they will slowly understand. They will find truths in their minds that came from nowhere. It’s all grace.



report abuse
 

David Kubiak

posted August 22, 2005 at 12:02 am


I listened tonight to the replay of the closing Mass, and while I guess I understand the reasoning, I was absolutely appalled at the grotesque vulgarity of the music. Appalled and fascinated at the same time, since the musical style was exactly what I get when I am stuck at the Purdue Newman Center. It is as if there were a standard junk jazz combo liturgical vernacular that extends world-wide the way the chant used to. But what is fascinating to me is that it is not really the popular musical vernacular of young people today at all. (The band came closest in style to the now hopelessly unhip SNL group, especially in the saxophone riffs.)
At the very least in the future the Pope should celebrate separately for those young people who
love the inherited traditions of the Church as he himself does — it must have taken every ounce of virtue he possesses to endure it. The good fathers at EWTN can go on ad infinitum about how these events are not “Catholic Woodstocks”, but that is exactly the effect this Mass made.
I am thinking back on the “Responsorial Psalm”, and can hardly summon up the words to describe how dreadful it was. And directly contradictory to everything both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul wrote and said about the dignity of liturgical action and the necessity of keeping the profane out of it.
I think the Holy Father is going to make a mockery of his own teachings if he does not find a kind and pastorally sensitive way to put a stop to this scandalous rock concert atmosphere. Poor “Juventutem”.



report abuse
 

Kevin Miller

posted August 22, 2005 at 12:24 am


Oh, wait. Sherry – michigancatholic’s quotation about “eschatological reserve” wasn’t from Benedict – it was from Stafford. Whoops. So, never mind my attempt to use that as an example of Benedict’s explaining himself as he went. (However, when I look at his actual homily, I would still say that he did – e.g., regarding the meaning of “Eucharist” and the further implications of that meaning.)



report abuse
 

JonathanR.

posted August 22, 2005 at 1:01 am


“that the “smaller, more faithful” Church of the new millenium will come about by kicking people out, not by proudly proclaiming the truth, even when it offends.”
Seems to be the same thing to me. Those who are offended will always claim that they were de facto kicked out.



report abuse
 

Veronica

posted August 22, 2005 at 1:18 am


“I am thinking back on the “Responsorial Psalm”, and can hardly summon up the words to describe how dreadful it was. And directly contradictory to everything both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul wrote and said about the dignity of liturgical action and the necessity of keeping the profane out of it.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I seriously doubt Benedict had anything to do with how the mass was organized, or who was going to play during it. This mass had been planned from before he was selected pope, so I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for it. We’ll see how the closing mass at Sydney 2008 plays out… I suspect it will be a lot better than this one, though probably not the Tridentine, Gregorian Chant mass many expect.



report abuse
 

Veronica

posted August 22, 2005 at 1:20 am


Umm… that last statement should have read: “though probably not the Tridentine, Gregorian Chant mass many people in the Blogosphere expect.”



report abuse
 

ellen

posted August 22, 2005 at 6:26 am


I seem to remember that when I was at school I was taught that, strictly speaking, it is incorrect to say that “bread becomes God”. I think we were taught that bread becomes the Body of Christ which includes Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity because of the doctrine of “concomitance”. Of course, this was prior to Vatican II so I may have misremembered. ellen



report abuse
 

Liam

posted August 22, 2005 at 8:59 am


OK, now I have a handy dandy theological term for what I have heretofore called the spirituality of Abraham and Sarah (as expounded upon in the Letter to the Hebrews): eschatological reserve.



report abuse
 

KH

posted August 22, 2005 at 9:02 am


Did you catch the Hendrix-ish guitar solo during the opening “Jesus Christ, you are my life…” Absolutely foul. As was the Happy Hands Club.
(But to be fair, I agree that B16 probably had little to do with the musical selections and if I had to bet money on it, he didn’t think it was beautiful, either.)



report abuse
 

Maureen

posted August 22, 2005 at 9:04 am


Okay, so bread becomes true God and true man. Good point.
Just remember that there really isn’t any adequate way to describe what happens — not using human language, anyway.



report abuse
 

michigancatholic

posted August 22, 2005 at 10:32 pm


It’s called Transubstantiation–its correct name. The bread and wine are substantially changed to the Body and Blood of Christ. What you see are only the accidents, the appearances, of bread and wine; there is no longer bread and wine present, but rather the Body and Blood of Christ, right there in front of you!



report abuse
 

michigancatholic

posted August 22, 2005 at 10:35 pm


Actually, I sort of liked some of it as it was much better than the bland stuff I’ve usually heard, both here at home and in the televised masses at St. Peter’s. Some of it was attrocious though–the quality seemed to vary widely.
The Psalm was just plain odious, I agree. The entry hymn was awful too. The oompa-pa was funny, I thought. That must’ve been the German part of the Mass, eh???
But the Lamb of God was very pretty, I thought.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as on

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But here's the thing.Whether or not Yates' original novel in

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, right?Well, here's a worthy recipient for your hard-

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No?Okay...how about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling Episcopalians, all the better.To tell the truth, you can bl

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every minute of labor, describing the intensity of discomfor

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.