Thursday, March 22, 2007


Mom would cringe when she walked into a house and saw an old fashioned iron or a washboard sitting out on display as an antique or conversation piece. “We hated those things,” she would say, “they were a drudgery to use. We were so thankful to be done with them and move on to modern conveniences.”

But to the younger generation they took on new meaning. They became a connection to a heritage and to people. (Can you imagine? Grandma used this at one time.) They became a link to something greater. (I am part of a family.) And, quite honestly, more artistic quality was put into many things from past times so they are more interesting and pleasing objects at which to look.

The situation is not much different in the Church. Young religious and priests come on the scene and start dragging out items that those directly before us have been busily packing away. The new generation goes to the basement or attic and hauls things out much to the chagrin of those who were happy to be done with them and who are often hostile toward those who have a new appreciation for them. Why is this?

As much as I hate to admit it, sattvicarrior does have at least this point; symbols only have the meaning that we assign to them. To those who came before us, these items can be symbols of oppression, associated with leadership against whom they were defining themselves, a mark of who stood with the past and who is moving on with the future. Seminarians and those discerning religious orders who had an affinity for such things were (are) looked upon with suspicion and even outright hostility. “Do they intend to bring back the worse of what these things symbolize?”

Yet, for the “New Faithful”, be they religious, clergy, or lay, the meanings of the symbols have changed. These things mark an allegiance with all that the Church hopes for the future while maintaining a healthy respect for our heritage and history. They have become that by which new generations of Catholics take a stand against worldliness and thereby find in them not oppression, but freedom. In these symbols hope is seen, the promise of a strong tomorrow built on a solid history. They have become again visible indictors of our unity.

The world is full of strong symbols beckoning people away from faith. If we intend to win people to Christ and the Church, we need to use what we have at our disposal. One of our assets is our strong symbol system and we need to use it. So while it behooves us to get over fading hang-ups and embrace them, those who employ them anew need to do so with respect and care; for they are powerful.


Odysseus said...

I have realized, recently, that there is a danger of turning this resurgence into a 'generation' thing. "Don't trust anyone over thirty!" That kind of thing. A simple reversal of the sixties, with the youth now being resolutely conservative rather than liberal.

I think, in all my wisdom, that the best remedy for this is to not be conservative, but rather, orthodox. By this, I mean being a Catholic rather than a member of a certain wing of a certain political party. Being a Catholic first means you may agree with any number of parties on any number of issues, but you are first and foremost in agreement with Christ and his Church on ALL issues.

Unfortunately, I see many Catholics simply considering membership in the republican party to be sufficient for salvation, rather than hearing mass on Sundays. Many of them don't remember what the inside of a confessional looks like but profess to be good Catholics.

Nothing against Republicans. As I continue my lifelong journey from empty-headed liberal socialist to crabby, conservative curmudgeon, I realize I may be a republican soon (Right now I am not in any party).

So, I agree that we must make sure that these symbols are not empty, only serving as banners at the head of a march to oblivion. You mentioned St. Francis. He had it right. He rebelled against the World, not against institutions. He channeled all that youthful restiveness into devotion to God, not devotion to a Golden Age of the Church that never was.

Anonymous said...

I know I’m late, but I wanted to comment on pastor term limits from a few posts ago. The linked article gave several reasons to NOT have term limits:

1) The undesirability of breaking up a personal relationship with the people

It seems to me that detachment would be a virtue. Personal relationships can distract you from doing what the Church wants if it is unpopular your friends. A personal relationship with an entire parish seems an impossible and unnecessary goal. Also, some pastors can create a cult of personality that goes unchecked if he stays in one place.

2) The undesirability of interrupting catechetical instruction:

The catechism isn’t different for different priests, so I don’t see the problem. At worst, you feel like the substitute teacher until you're settled. If your pastor pushes fluff and psychobabble instead of the catechism, at least you have the hope of a faithful pastor in a few years.

3) Bride/groom relationship to a parish

Two parishes can look completely different based on the pastor it is “married” to. Parishes having a different “flavor” based on the pastor can create an us/them tribal relationship between parishes when we should be a universal church.

4) Discouraging social ambition

I don’t know what social climbing and ambition is involved if you have just as much possibility of going from a prestigious to unprestigious position. It seems like a good thing to be moved from large to small to large diocese for the sake of humility. On the other hand, I would hate to see a good pastor being transferred to silence his faithfulness.

5) Accumulation of power

I feel the opposite about the power issue…judges appointed for life make renegade decisions without accountability and get, I my opinion, power mad, and change the social fabric of our country with impunity. A pastor can “revise” a parish to suit renegade ideology and tell you to go to shove off if you don’t like it, or make you suffer the remaining Sunday’s of your life.

Having said all this, Pope Benedict seems to disagree with me, so I assume I am 100% wrong! Oh well.

Jeffrey Smith said...

I just can't get over it. Thirty years ago, I was considered hopelessly old-fashioned for bucking the general trend toward what people thought was a brave new world for the Church. Now, I find young people agreeing with me all over the place and the ones who thought me old-fashioned have been hoist on their own petard. Ain't it a hoot?

Fr. V said...

Rob - Good point. Just want you to know that I want to respond to it - just busy right now.

Sparky - It is not too late. As it turns out, this is going to be a lot longer process than we originally thought it was oing to be. Thanks for commenting.

Jeffery - It's called being cutting edge. Woohoo!