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Is all of this liturgy stuff just nattering and a waste of valuable time? The accusation is snidely hurled once in a while, and there is much to say in defense of liturgy conversations, but all I’ll say for now is that there are no blog posts that I do that get as many comments in as short a time as liturgy posts. People care. It impacts them. The Mass is the place where Catholics interact with the Church on every level – institutionally, spiritually, and so on. For most Catholics, that’s it, from Sunday to Sunday, which is it matters. One of many reasons.

Fr. Martin Fox, pastor of two parishes in Ohio, is a long-time blogger, a man who came to the priesthood after working for a time in the secular world, including in politics. We have never met, but he strikes me as a very practical, hard-working priest. A busy, busy man, dedicated to the concerns of the two parishes he pastors. I think his perspective on this is quite valuable, for he is not speaking about these issues isolated from the very ordinary life of everyday Catholics. You know – John and Mary. And here they are: His thoughts, that is – before his departure for the CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium.

So…back to the question more practical folks may ask: "who cares?"

This is what is going on in the life of our Church. It may not be the task of most parishioners to wrestle with these things, but it is the task of our pope, our bishops, and to some degree, our pastors. In a word–we have to get these things right! I mean, maybe we should never have had the Council, okay, that’s an argument (not mine, by the way). But we did! Now, we have to think about what the Council said, what the fact of it happening, meant, and try to get it right. And we’re going to have several "drafts" of that. You and I are working on, perhaps, the "second draft" of "implementing Vatican II. Sorry, you don’t do that very quickly.

So, this is happening, and it’s going to keep happening for our lifetimes. And many may not know a hermeneutic from a Herman Munster, but they do want to know what’s going on with the Mass. They do want to know why their pastor thinks its important to use Latin, to do more than the minimum.

Does it matter?

Honestly, the answer could be, No, it doesn’t. That is a possible answer. Because, after all, it may be just what a brother priest said to me–I am not making this up–that it "doesn’t matter" to Jesus whether we use bread and wine, why not something else? Maybe it really doesn’t matter if we have the Eucharist, if we have Mass–at all? Why should pouring water and saying words…matter? Why should muttering words in the ears of a priest, and his words back, matter? A smear of oil on the forehead? Who cares?

I really don’t know what you believe about such things. But as Christians, and moreso, as Catholics, we believe God became a human being, according to his plan and providence. He chose to make certain things matter. He chose the elements and essential form of the sacraments, and he chose the form of the the Church. And he is the Lord of providence; the Holy Spirit, despite all other commentary, is the pilot of the Church’s navigation of the perilous seas of history, and without being able to express just why, it remains intensely intuitive that how that actually happened, in the vast bulk of our history, cannot and must not be simply…set aside! I mean THE LITURGY.

Our seminarians, staying with us this summer, recently cleaned up the church basement. The easy thing would be simply, "throw it all out." But I said, no, we have to figure out carefully what to keep, what to throw away. Humility says, "I may see no reason to keep this, but time may eventually show me what I couldn’t see." This is how church basements get to be such messes; yet St. Mary’s did need attention. The same is even more true with the liturgy, which is, after all, miraculously bound up with the Divine in a way that church basements almost never are.

As a pastor, it really would be easier to ignore it all. That is what a lot of pastors are doing. And I don’t blame them, there is so much else we can fruitfully do, it’s not as though they are inactive. It would be easier to wait until "higher ups" insisted on this or that, so that when folks grumble, as they will, over "more change," the pastor can point somewhere else. Again, no blame–because you can only fight so many battles at a time, so maybe other pastors have chosen better than I, in postponing grappling with these liturgical issues.

My approach is, right or wrong, to raise the question, and to invite parishioners to join the discussion–but not in terms of liking or not liking this or that, although that’s very understandable. But would it shock you if I said there are things I don’t like about the liturgy, as it is? As I’m expected to celebrate it? Shall I act on what I like, rather than what I believe the Church expects, and in some cases, mandates? So why do I ask the same of parishioners? Welcome to the priesthood of all believers, a la Vatican II!

We’re going to have a series of talks beginning July 23 on the holy father’s recent exhortation on the Eucharist; and it will include reference to Vatican II materials, the current norms, and the pope’s other writings on the liturgy. There will be discussion most welcome, but the focus is what the Church calls for, and what the successor to Peter teaches.

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