Illusions…

I draw your attention to these very thoughtful postings:

I notice our friend at Rad Trad is also suffering from some degree of burn-out. There is precious little to discuss. The best posts are those that get few or no comments!

I appreciate this realistic outlook, and if anything good happens, it is with our own priest and parish. I have said it before. Most people find the institution irrelevant and / or depressing, but if they like their priest, this is what motivates them to continue.

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17 Responses to Illusions…

  1. Xryztofer says:

    “Most people find the institution irrelevant and / or depressing, but if they like their priest, this is what motivates them to continue.”

    Unfortunately, even that too is vitiated by the institution, at least within the RC Church. With their six-year term limits in a parish, any good that a single priest does toward establishing a vibrant parish can be undone by whoever takes his place (Blackfen is a case in point). I’m considering a priestly vocation myself right now, and this is one of the big issues I’m having to confront. I can envisage all sorts of ways in which a parish’s liturgical and spiritual life can be revitalized, but what’s the use if things are established only to be torn down in a few years? You’re in a rather enviable position in this respect.

    • You’re in a rather enviable position in this respect. It is easy enough to find Bishop Mead’s coordinates. On the other hand, I don’t want to presume anything of you, and I write tongue in cheek.

      Have you thought of monastic or religious life? There are the Canons Regular of the Mother of God in France, loads of Benedictine abbeys and small monasteries all over the place, and some small and very cohesive communities in France. That would give you stability. There is also the Oratory if you don’t find those fellows too stuffy in the ecclesiastical equivalent of Blades Club for crusty old lawyers, senior civil servants and army officers.

      You would find leaving the RC Church very hard with the formatting you have received. If that is what you decide to do, and the ACC interests you, I’m sure our Bishop would make you most welcome, but I have to say we are very marginal and attract very few people – and we are cash-strapped.

      May God guide you in your discernment…

      • Xryztofer says:

        “Have you thought of monastic or religious life?”
        I have, in fact I’ll be visiting the Trappists soon as a vocational retreatant. They’re not perfect by any means, but then again nothing is in today’s Church. (Being in the USA, the communities you mentioned are just too far away from my family to be realistic options for me.) But however good monastic life would be for my sanity, I can’t help feeling that it’s to abandon the fight. There’s a crying need for parish priests with traditional liturgical sensibilities, despite the crushing institutional obstacles they face. Why couldn’t I have been born in the 12th century?

      • I can’t help feeling that you are in your early twenties, and if you told a diocesan vocations director some of the things you have said on this blog, you would find it difficult to get anywhere near a seminary.

        You have two options in life. Stay in your area and get some job training and a job, meet a girl and get married. Buy a nice house and a nice car and enjoy what you can afford. Don’t bother with university studies, because you will never be able to pay off the student loan. If you apply to seminary now, you have to hold the party line and not even talk about the liturgy or the 12th century, anything like that. Don’t even show too much interest in church history, because that would make you doubt the “new orthodoxy”. The second option is travel and get out of America. Discover that there is a world out there, and there is always a way to earn your way.

        Monastic life is not “good for sanity”, quite the reverse. You have to be extraordinarily resilient to withstand the denials of human affirmation, renouncing of beauty and all that is yours. Especially with the Trappists – even though they can talk a little nowadays and not use sign language.

        Think about things carefully. I may sound cynical, but you will think and say the same things when you too get into your 50’s.

      • ed pacht says:

        “Why couldn’t I have been born in the 12th century?”

        You would have found other things to be disturbed about. People are still people, thus fallen, and whatever strengths a given place or time may have, they will be outweighed by the deficiencies. That’s why there was/is a cross. Discerning Christians will always find themselves in this kind of bind, and will need to seek God’s help as to how to play the hand they are dealt.

      • I agree. The nasty things tend to get forgotten. Perhaps our friend expressed that idea tongue in cheek. I suppose England and much of Europe was something like the Middle East today. In those days, those who were at the forefront of medical and scientific progress were the Muslims. At least life was short – you died at the ripe old age of 45 unless you got run through by some over-zealous knight.

        I think some people could find their spiritual references again by living away from the cities, perhaps even from the western world.

      • Xryztofer says:

        The 12th century comment was definitely not serious. I’m happy to live in a time when we have toilet paper instead of straw.
        As for my age, I seemed to have fooled you there. I’m actually nearing two score years. I actually dipped my toes into it some years ago but decided I still had a lot of growing up to do, so I re-entered the world and got myself a career. But the Hound of Heaven just keeps following me.

      • ed pacht says:

        Sounds like an interesting, if uncomfortable pilgrimage. Mine has been similar in many ways. I’m now 73 and it hasn’t ended, and I don’t think it will on this side of the final barrier. Life has been thoroughly unsatisfactory and deeply rewarding. The Hound of Heaven (my favorite poem!) does not leave me alone, but neither does He give me clear guidance as to the path. Now as in a tarnished mirror; then face to face. I think it so that it is a very rare thing for someone to find and identify his true vocation in this earthly life – perhaps that vocation is precisely to wander as a stranger, unsatisfied, yet somehow managing to show the presence of God.

    • The Rad Trad says:

      Fr. Chadwick’s advice about Oratories and monasteries is good, but there are also a few liturgically adept dioceses scattered throughout the world. If you speak, or would be willing to learn, Italian then looked into the diocese of Albenga-Imperia, a suffragan of Genoa.

    • Joseph says:

      There was a solid group of about twenty of us who seriously considered it when I was an undergrad. In the end, only about two went all the way; one became a diocesian priest, the other a Dominican. The rest tried to varying degrees. The ability to contently accept the current liturgical situation does determine how far one can go (among other things). As Fr. Chadwick alluded, talk of early centuries will quickly mark you as suspect if it is anything other than academic; even in Traditionalist circles, the dicussion rarely moves outside of Missal in 1962. Yes, there is pressure to tow “the party line,” but more importantly, you’re going to have to anchor your life on the accepted liturgical parameters. Lex orandi, lex credenti, lex vivendi – the ability to which you would avoid the burnout and depression often associated with the diocesian priesthood will to some degree be determined by how much the law of prayer in the Roman Church is a source of both solace and strength. Again, other factors being dutifully considered.

      Religious orders (depending upon the order) or monasteries would offer a liturgical life of more susbstance. However, you will be called to work within the parameters of contemporary liturgics. Even the reformed liturgy of the Carthusians accepts much of theory underlying contemporary Western liturgics, although it applies the theory in a better manner than the majority of the West, in my estimation. Although, there is a benefit of a more solid community and custom. And, in the Roman Church, you may well find yourself in a community that is at the forefront of sorting out the post modern liturgical puzzle. In fact, I would say if there is an ability to accept contemporary Western liturgy and the will to stay within its parameters, you may find some monastic communities that could be a possibility. Not a perfect fit, mind you, but there is an intentionality behind monastic liturgy that seems impossible to cultivate at the diocesian level. There is less of a concern to meet pastoral needs and more of a motivation to sure up the community’s understanding of itself and its purpose. This, at least, has been my observation. I am sure others can offer the flipside of the coin.

      There is some freedom to remaining in the lay state or forming something of an unofficial prayer community of likeminded people. No, it will probably not impact parish life, but it will provide you with an outlet that is otherwise not there. Of course, then there is pressure to grow and maintain it. There are avenues as well, however, I am mainly familiar with the “Roman road,” so to speak.

      Ultimately, it comes down to a question of how you can live – afterall, it is not just a vocation, it is your whole life at play here.

      • This is an amazingly lucid comment? I went to Gricigliano but didn’t find my way by that avenue. I continue as a priest because that is what I have become. I am non-stipendiary, so I am free in my life. If I had my life to live again, I would have worked harder at my music and gone more in the way of composition. There is little point in speculation about what I would have done as a career, since that depends on family background, money, opportunities, etc. Going sailing keeps me sane! For those who don’t share my enthusiasm for boats, I can recommend mountaineering, hiking, cycling, getting out and about and close to nature.

        I can’t speak for others considering a vocation to the priesthood, especially in the RC Church. I am too biased by my own experience, but I do know it works by conformity to a party line. Forget creativity and personality. Human beings are as expendable in the Church as in the army. The only difference is that the army exists to kill the enemy and the Church preaches the dignity of man and the sanctity of human life and freedom.

        Whatever someone who is thinking about the priesthood does, he should have solid secular qualifications to enable him to resume life if it all goes wrong in the ecclesiastical system. I had great difficulties in getting started as a translator, and it is still difficult to get a constant flow of work and income. We have to think of the bread and butter… Just don’t throw your life away!

        A consideration about monastic life. I have been a working guest with the Benedictines. Don’t underestimate the suffering caused by solitude and the lack of human intimacy. St Aelred’s theory on friendship doesn’t apply in present-day monasteries. Being alone is something that can drive you mad, as in the case of some who go to sea alone for a long time, and haven’t the character for it. See Temptation on the High Seas. I remember a reflection I had, that of suffering from suffering from the liturgy. Matins goes on for so long on those dark and bleak January mornings! I will never forget it. Once depression sets in… No one should have any illusion about monastic life.

      • Dale says:

        Joseph, this is a very astute comment, and very, very true.

        I remember many, many years ago as a new Candidatus graduate and still in my early twenties being sent by the seminary to an ecumenical gathering outside of London; I was, silly me, quite excited. I had recently passed my orals and had received a standing ovation at the public defense of my dissertation. At the conference, which included Catholics, Anglicans and Byzantine Orthodox I enjoyed what I thought were private conversations with several would be presenters, expressing my love and admiration for the older, Tridentine form of the Roman Mass and expressing theological reservations on the novus ordo and the Anglican apeist versions.. On the last day of the conference one of the presenters, a nun, stood at the table with two other nuns and they began with a gibberish singsong, nasal intonation accompanied by banging on a small drum with a comical reference to my name, then the nun dumped the drum into a waste-bucket and declared that the male, patriarchal, scholastic western tradition had been consigned to the dust-bin of history where it belonged. The audience broke into laud cheers, laughter and hand clapping; she then proceeded to do her lecture on the need for a Marxist Leninist approach to theology and liturgy and that modern liturgy must reflect the reality of an industrial age and must divorce itself from bourgeois sense of beauty etc. etc. This was greeted, also by the Orthodox, with a thunderous applause.

        The next presentation was by an Orthodox who reiterated that the whole of the traditional western tradition indeed needed to be consigned to the dust-bin of history where it belonged, and that the modern liturgies promulgated by Vatican II were indeed closer to Orthodoxy than the traditional western liturgies; he quoted, quite extensively Alexander Schmemann (A product of a very modernist Jesuit education) in support of this contention. (It is interesting to note that Abouna Hallam of England also agrees that any western rite in Orthodoxy should use the novus ordo as well, and John Beeler in his own web page has posted links to Greek Orthodox in Greece now celebrating versus populum).

        Needless to say, I was not then nor am I today willing to consign our tradition to the dust-bin, it has, how shall one say, had a very negative effect on my once, perhaps, promising ecclesial career; but I am in the end happy that I did not simply surrender. One of my heroes has always been Fr Doellinger; he fought the good fight and he remained firm. I would rather follow Doellinger than Newman, who did not in the end have the strength of his own convictions.

        Could perhaps mention that my dissertation was refused publication because of what were referred to as some embarrassing liturgical issues.

        As for the nun, she eventually became an Episcopalian priestess, continuing the fight against patriarchy, but this time with a roman collar.

  2. The Rad Trad says:

    “The best posts are those that get few or no comments!”

    That same phrase has crossed my mind countless times. Something thoughtful can be perused and then clicked past while a little piece of an obscure liturgical item will garner 15+ comments.

    I am feeling a little burnout, but more because of some time constraints and personal drama. Will get to original material again soon enough!

    • Dale says:

      I think that this is perhaps true for a reason, and good reason by the way, often very good posts, and I think particularly of some of the excellent ones of Fr Anthony’s, are almost perfect in themselves and need no further elucidation. No comments are not necessarily a bad thing.

  3. Jim of Olym says:

    Dale, this is the first time I’ve heard a reference to Fr. Schmemann having a ‘Jesuit education’! Can you elucidate or expand on what that Orthodox guy from many years ago said? I thought he was at St. Sergius in Paris, not some cold clammy Jebbie venue!

    • Dale says:

      Hi Jim, he was educated by the Jesuits at their St George’s school for Russian boys. The thought at the time was that they would not convert the boys to Russian rite Roman Catholicism, but that they would be the leaven for greater conversions later. Much of his theology was very much influenced by this background.

      • Dale says:

        Oh, this is the school, it closed long ago and there seems to be nothing about it on the Internet, but if one was educated in Paris, forty years ago, their alumni were still very evident in the Russian Church: St. George’s College for Russian boys at Namur (Belgium).

        One of our professors at the seminary was a former Jesuit of the Russicum, and when he first met Fr. Schmemann has only response was to say that he was simply a married Jesuit, he had all of their attributes and his early formation was evident, as was his manner of celebrating. as well as his liturgical ideas.

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