Friday, 29 August 2008

What does the ideal traditional (quasi) parish community look like?

There was a discussion going on over in the NLM facebook group a while ago on how to classify 'reform of the reform' parishes. It ended up in a proposal to provide a listing of parishes on the basis of things like altar arrangements, use of Latin, music, ceremonial, and so forth. And it occurred to me that it might be useful to be able to do something similar for TLMs.

Towards a more comprehensive TLM community listing

Now NLM was really only interested in the liturgy, and fair enough, you have to start with that. But of course most of what constitutes 'reform of the reform' according to the NLM criteria is stock standard stuff for the TLM (ad orientem, Latin, male altar servers, etc).

Now in a way it seems greedy to think about anything more than just expanding the availability of the Mass, and so up until now most of the TLM listings have just focused on the frequency with which it is offered.

Still, most of the Australian TLM communities, and many overseas as well, have been going quite a while now in some form or other, and it probably is appropriate for us to start thinking more systematically about how much of a sense of community we have, and how to build on that.
A strong community that is able to muster lots of outward solemnity in its celebrations for example, or offer strong catechesis, will help attract newcomers in. It provides a stronger support for us as we engage in the daily spiritual battle.

The trouble is, most TLM communities are non-geographical, and many people travel long distances to get to Mass. Each community generally only has one, at most two priests. There are typically (in Australia at any rate) no religious to help out. And that makes it hard to run many activities beyond the Mass.

So I think we need to think about what the most important things are, so we can think about how to build them.

Some possible categories?

Let me propose a few different categories of possibilities - Mass, Divine Office, catechesis, devotions, community activities including confraternities, guilds, etc, charitable activities, evangelization activities - to aid our thinking. But if you can suggest others, go ahead!

Now I suspect you could have a lot of debate about the relative importance of each of these categories (and by all means do so!), let alone the relative merits of the things one might put under each of these headings. But I'd also be particularly interested in adding to the list the things people already have in their particular community, or would really like to see, that I've missed.

So imagine you are thinking of moving towns, and are trying to decide where ideally you'd like to live. The only factor you are taking into account is what the TLM community in possible new locales has to offer. You look up a guide to TLM communities in order to make your choice. What information do you need? I'll start the ball-rolling with a few suggestions, but do jump in....

So I thought I'd start today just on the Mass, and then over the next day or two put up sme other categories (***apologies to the dozen or so sleepless in Sydney and a few other places who saw an earlier version of this piece with the whole big list!***).

Mass lising - what do we want to know?

  • Frequency: occasionally, monthly, weekly, daily, multiple times daily
  • Convenience of mass times: (a hard one to capture I know, but I'm thinking about those 2.30pm Masses on a Sunday, whether there is a mix of week day masses for workers and non-workers, etc)
  • Location: one fixed location or multiple, centrality/accessibility (that geographical issue); own church or shared
  • Type of Mass: dialogue mass; low mass with server responses; sung mass on Sunday/Holy Days; Solemn Mass on Sundays/Holy Days, daily sung mass (well I can dream can't I!)
  • Choir sings: mass with hymns; chant; chant and polyphony; regular orchestral mass (now if Christchurch Cathedral swapped their current novus ordo orchestral mass for a TLM one I'd even consider moving to New Zild...)
  • Vestments: Roman or Gothic ( I know, I know, but some people do apparently care!)

So what do you think? Suggestions and comments welcomed.

Next steps

What I'm mostly interested in is discussion of what a TLM community should look like. And of course there is room for variety! Personally, if I had a sung Mass every day I probably wouldn't care about anything else much, well apart from the Office of course (yep I'm praying for that Benedictine monastery!) but I suspect I might be in the minority on that...

It really shouldn't be a competition for who has the mostest - one well attended devotion is probably better than several sparsely attended ones for example, and no listing can capture that.

So I'd love to get suggestions and comments on my proposed categories, and particularly on what I've suggested around the Mass.

And then if people think it is worthwhile, maybe it might be worthwhile progressively accumulating the relevant information for Australian TLM communities (and encouraging others to do the same for other countries). What do you think?

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