Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stepping over the Catholic Line

At one point, I assigned customs and people to points on a "Catholic line" between conservative and (eek) liberal. Guitars in the sanctuary used to make my skin crawl; I used to wince at Novus Ordo Masses in English; religious sisters in suits made me angry. My distraction would be so consuming that I would be unable to focus on the good.

Source: New Liturgical Movement
But the more I listened to homilies at these Masses, spoke with these sisters, prayed for humility, read the lives of the saints, and calmed down as the guitars played, the more I realized I was wrong. I was being prideful.

(To the very conservative Catholics reading this: do not be afraid. The need for reverence will never disappear, the radical nature of priestly and religious life is not altered, and the objectively greater beauty of the old Mass is uncontested.)

I find this concept of a line in most Catholics' minds, but let me make it clear for anyone still confused:

On one side of the Catholic line, there are Masses said in the Extraordinary Form. There are religious in full habit (including priests in cassocks, nuns with wimples, and barefoot Franciscans), contemplatives behind grilles, and Latin chant without accompaniment. There's Lectio Divina and much liturgical reverence. There are old words (like "Matins") and a growing number of young people. There is intense devotion to God's will.

Source: Apostles of the Interior Life
On the other side of the Catholic line, there are Masses in megachurches and spontaneous colloquy with God. There are youth ministers, Eucharistic ministers, and parish bible studies. There are lay apostolates, new orders in street clothes, and old orders in suits. There are guitars, lots of Adoration, lots of Theology of the Body, and lots of culture-engaging. There are old words (like "love") and a growing number of young people. There is intense devotion to God's will.

And the truth is: the line is a distraction. There are different customs, but one Church who strives to love her Spouse by every possible means. Striving authentically for this love and supported by our Lord's fidelity, how can She err? What about guitars can harm a Lord unconquered by death?

It's undeniable that there excesses called "liberal" and "conservative," and certainly so many examples come to your mind that I don't need to cite examples. (Canonically illicit lay clothing for religious, liturgical abuse, sedevacantism.... Oops, I just cited examples.) These are all true failures in devotion to Christ. But why should these make us allergic to legitimate devotion?

I am stepping over this line. I am not conservative or liberal. I am Catholic, charged with traditional and commanded to be open. I will boldly pursue this divine Bridegroom wherever He goes, unafraid of a few guitars.


  1. This is really, really, really good. I've come to see the same thing over the years. I'm going to pass this on to New Advent and the BigPulpit in the hopes that one of them will post the link.

    1. Thanks, Daria. I hope it can help whoever reads it. Happy feast of St. Monica!

  2. I agree with you, I also was going through something similar to you about these two distinct catholic groups. They are different in their approach but of the same spirit.