From Fr. Longnecker:
Back in April I began a series on What’s Killing American Catholicism. The first post was on Cultural Catholicism and I argued that this was countered by Comprehensive Catholicism–a Catholic faith that is truly universal and transcends all cultures and ethnicities. The second installment was on Complacent Catholicism which is countered by Compassionate Catholicism. The third post focused on Cafeteria Catholicism versus Complete Catholicism while the fourth installment was on Cut Off Catholicism which is countered by Continuous Catholicism. This was followed by a post on Coca Cola Catholicism: or sentimentalism which is countered by Contemplative Catholicism. I encourage you to use the links to read the whole series and share it.
The next “C” word is Casual Catholicism. By casual Catholicism I am not simply criticizing people who arrive late to Mass and leave early. I’m not simply having a grumble about people who come to Mass in short, flip flops and halter tops. I’m not only having a moan n groan about people chewing gum in church and allowing their kids to play games on their iPad during the homily.
These problems are the symptom of something else. We are casual in our approach to the liturgy and being Catholic because we have forgotten what the whole thing is about. We have forgotten that the liturgy is worship and that worship is work. Remember “liturgy” means “work of the laity”. We have forgotten that the liturgy is about the worship and sacrifice to Almighty God and we’re unsure exactly what it is. As modernists quietly downplayed the supernatural element of our religion and replaced it with banal platitudes about “gathering together” to “make a difference in the world” we have forgotten what the point of coming to church is at all. If being a Catholic is about no more than belonging to a friendly group of like minded people who want to make the world a better place and think it would be nice to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, then why go to church?
I guess it is to hear a pep talk about making the world a better place and to sing some songs that cheer us up and inspire us to make the world a better place and be nice. If therefore, Mass is not much more than a pep rally then why not behave and dress as if you’re going to a pep rally? Look around at the typical Am-Church: it’s a big empty space like a gym, and the music is blaring as at a pep rally, the coach gets up to give a rousing speech and everybody is glad to see one another as they prepare for the big game. Yay!
What is the antidote? Not just grumbling about shorts and flips flops and chewing gum, but an embrace of what might be called Classic Catholicism. Forget the externals. I’m not simply saying ladies should wear calf length skirts and mantillas and that the men and boys must all wear sport coats, ties and comb their hair. I’m suggesting that Classic Catholicism begins with an understanding and embrace of what the faith is all about–right at the foundational level.
Classic Catholicism teaches the old, old, apostolic story of the tragic fall of mankind into sin and a loving Father’s response to restore, renew and redeem them. It is the classic tale of Christ the Son descending to this world, born of a Virgin, living and dying out of a heart of love for his brothers and sister to win their souls and open the gates of glory. It is about the weekly, daily commemoration of these events through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass–the place where each soul on the path to salvation meets his master daily–the place where a supernatural transaction takes place between the Holy Spirit and my unholy Spirit. It is here in trembling awe that I approach the throne of grace, and it is here that I meet the one who loves me beyond the power of heaven and earth, life and death and all things that may trouble and assault me.
Everything else flows from this magnificent story, yet how often do we hear it? How often are we reminded that all of it flows from this one great event of redemption? From this flowers all the art, architecture, music and words of worship. From this flowers all the works of mercy, all the prayers and all the activism of the people of God. This classic Catholicism doesn’t have to worry about the externals so much because what will flow from an immersion into Classic Catholicism is a new understanding of the depth of God’s love and new experience of the power and glory of the Catholic faith.
Once that is experienced people will automatically start behaving better. Behaving well comes from Believing well. If we embrace and proclaim Classic Catholicism, Casual Catholicism will fade away.
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