Thursday, July 24, 2014

Charisma vs. Canon

Talking with a priest friend, who has given of himself without counting the cost to reform his parish's liturgy and feed his people, I found myself once again before a challenge which cannot be. According to my friend, reforming the liturgy, while a determined effort, is to be likened to a "win-you-over" game of able and gentle persuasion. Especially when it comes to church music, old favorites can't be banned simply for being bad favorites and bad theology, or for having abusively supplanted prescribed texts. A "maladroit" appeal to authority is unacceptable and brother priests easily dismiss the accomplishments of a "trad" or an overly zealous "neocon". You could say that it is an even more worrisome case of "post-Benedict panic" written small. Instead of "one sows and another reaps", it sounds like "one reforms and another wrecks" might be a description of a change of pastors, all of it perceived as capricious by the puzzled flock.

 Charisma seems to be the sine qua non for shepherding these days. It cannot be. Ultimately, I guess you have to ask, "Who was the Cure of Ars?" Isn't great holiness on the part of the priest sufficient to renew a parish? Shouldn't most things play out according to the book? The other day, a family member expressed shock at the newsworthiness of a bishop putting an end to the 30+ years of the abuse of lay preaching he had found in that diocese. Rules are rules, as any child will tell you. Why indeed can't I "play by the book"!

Since we are writing things small, I will limit myself to an appeal to episcopal authority. To do what? Simply to enforce the rules, I guess. First and foremost, to put an end to liturgical abuse, to laud priests with regular confession times that permit people to confess before Communion, to encourage truly sacred music and help priests make it possible even in tiny parishes. A lot of Vianney "stuff", if you will. If we do not hold to the sacred canons, well, then we're in Limbo, and that cannot be.

I laud the bravado of pastors with charisma, who do the right thing, but shepherding Christ's flock should not be comparable to some sort of athletic ninja challenge.

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