Monday, 21 July 2008

WYD wrap up Part II - liturgy and devotions

The Pope has now left sadly....

so the challenge is to see what we have learnt.

I'd have to say the paradigm on the liturgy for me was the Saturday Mass dedicating the new altar at St Mary's.

It was an absolutely beautiful Mass - nice chant (and I particularly liked the Ensemble Organum style - try the Kyrie extract on this site - drone on the chant), lovely polyphony, beautiful vestments, nicely performed ritual. We heard the Roman Canon, complete with all of the saints names! In short there was nothing in it a traddie could really be allergic to (save for the sign of peace - pity they didn't remember that it is optional and just omit it - and concelebration).

But on the other hand it was the dedication of a freestanding altar which obstructs the use of the traditional high altar.... Symbolising I think the fact that we are moving forward - but on a two steps forward, one step back basis!

Remember that Opening Day Mass - I thought we were in for a shocker of a week. But my fears proved largely unfounded. Things really did improve as they went along, albeit with a few hiccups, and we enjoyed a truly beautiful display of tradition in the novus ordo liturgy (along with the veritable festival of the Extraordinary Form courtesy of Juventutem).

I hope the fact that all the bishops were exposed to this beautiful liturgy will prove a learning moment - brownie points to the one bishop who (rather tentatively - although I'll admit to giggling at his reaction when he realised that no one else was doing so) attempted to genuflect at the proper moment of the Creed. Hopefully, however, his confreres were watching and learning for next time from the religious opposite who at least bowed their heads.

Many brownie points to Cardinal Pell and those responsible for the liturgy at this mass for letting the choir and others do this as traditionally as possible. And I thought the idea of linking the consecration of an altar to a Mass for religious and seminarians was nicely apposite.

The imaginative use of devotions throughout was also a highlight of World Youth Day (Week). The Stations of the Cross proved a powerful statement (even if I do wish they'd had just one non-Scriptural one to make a point!).

And the beautiful silence at Adoration was a stunning achievement and something to be learnt from. I have to admit I actually went to one of the Adoration vigils held in the lead up to WYD in my diocese - and quickly left in the face of the constant singing of appalling praise songs.

One of the other important achievements of the WYD was a renewed focus on the sacrament of penance. Apparently a thousand priests were on duty around the city, for six hours a day - and, encouraged strongly in the catechesis sessions, people actually did go to confession!

I know that this was a special occasion, but I've always thought that ready availability of confession would make a big difference to its popularity - half an hour on Saturday, confessions during Mass, or for fifteen minutes before mass (as is all too common even in traddie communities) provides insufficient flexibility to respond to the needs of the moment!

We need to get back to the example of saints like St Philip Neri and St John Vianney who sat in the confessional all day and waited for people to come! In the meantime, maybe bishops should try co-ordinating the availability of penance in their dioceses so that there is some time within reasonable reach of most people in cities at least each day...

The final Papal Mass too managed to surprise us with its beauty and reverence - we learnt for example that Australians are actually capable of kneeling and receiving on the tongue! So I expect those new guidelines on bowing and standing before communion are going to be revisited forthwith...!

And the new ICEL texts really are a dramatic improvement on the current versions - pity the US bishops don't seem able to agree to them, but given that the Australian bishops (amazingly) have, the sooner these new texts are implemented the better!

All up it wasn't quite Novus Ordo Mk II yet (a la the Creative Minority Report's guidelines below). CMR forgot to put 'liturgical dancing - 0%' on the label; and there were some Extraordinary Ministers (why couldn't a few fewer priests have concelebrated and thus avoided this??). Still, if everyone goes back to their parishes and tries to insist on even a little of what they saw, we could see some vast improvements ahead in novus ordo land...and that would make WYD truly worth it.

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