Friday, 21 May 2010

Enjoying the liturgical year

As we come up to one of the biggest feasts of the year, Pentecost, it is worth reflecting on one of the greatest  - but neglected - gifts we have, that of holy time. 

The temporale and the sanctorale

The cycle of times of the year (the 'temporale') starting with Advent, of the major feasts that remind us of core doctrines, and constantly remind us of central events of the Gospel.  The cycle of saints feasts (sanctorale) reminds us that the Church on earth is only a small part of the wider Church, and that we are joined to the Church triumphant in heaven, and the Church suffering in purgatory.  It provides us with examples to emulate.  And it reminds us that we are part of a Church that has existed continuously since Pentecost, reminding us of critical events in Church history.

A good case can be made that the last five decades or so have seen a severe attack on the importance of the sanctification of time: the removal of many octaves in the 1962 calendar; the purging of many un-PC saints from the ordinary form calendar; and most of all the phenomemon of Holy Days moved to Sundays.

And as a result of all of this, fewer and fewer, even (perhaps especially) in traditionalist communities, seem to attend daily mass, let alone pay much attention to the cycle of 'propers' (variable texts set for each Sunday, including the Introit etc, and the readings) of the Mass.  That's a shame, because they are a rich source of spiritual  material.

Creating your own cycle

But there are some ways to incorporate this important source into our spiritual life.  So here's my suggestion.  Focus each week on the Sunday texts, plus those of any major feasts occurring that week, prepare them before Mass, and choose one to meditate on each day.  How much you want to do will obviously depend on time - if you don't have much, perhaps just focus on the collect of the week, or the Gospel.  And add to that basic cycle a cycle of the feasts that mean something in particular to you - the anniversary of your baptism, first communion, confirmation, marriage, and so forth.

Want to be a blogger?

There are some fantastic resources on the web to help you get the most out of the day.  One I've recently discovered is In the Sight of the Angels, which provides material on the cycle of the year, and is looking for someone to help out on the blog - contact the authors if you are interested.

Another great site is the Monastery of Norcia, Italy, which provides recordings of its daily sung Mass and Vespers (unfortunately for Australians, effectively a day late, but better late then never!).

The are plenty of others too.  One of the best aids for those interested in learning (or just listening to) the chants is Renegoupil , which now comes complete with videos.

So make the most of the resources of the internet, and enrich your spiritual life with the traditions of the Church!


darryn said...

I'm not so sure you should be encouraging people to become a blogger - surely better to encourage people to make serious committments to their religious communities (that will always far supercede the usefulness of blogs). So if anyone is considering starting up a blog, perhaps think again about using the time you might spend on that, to contributing in some other tangible and meaningful way to your local parish or apostolate. They all need more assistance and if you have time for only one choice here - please choose that rather than making a hobby of blogging.

Terra said...

That's an interesting perspective Darryn, but not one I share.

First, I wasn't primarily pushing blogging in general, but rather trying to garner support to keep one very useful blog going.

And it is certainly true that not every one is suited to be a blogger. You have to have some knowledge, something to say and the ability to write.

But if you do have those skills, a blog can reach a lot more people, and have a lot more effect, than anything you might do in your local community. Moreover, the Pope himself has on several occasions encouraged the use of the internet as a tool of the 'new evangelization'.

Importantly, it is something that can be done from home without requiring a regular specific time commitment, whereas many people have to travel some distance to thier chosen parish or community in the desperate search for decent liturgy.

It is true that most communities do need people to do things to make them happen, and I'm certainly not suggesting that blogging is a better alternative to doing your share of polishing the brass, cleaning the church, singing in the choir or whatever.

But while I long for the days when parish communities were real things, where the people there actually cared about each other and supported each other, that is not generally the case today, and no amount of effort on my part is going to change that.

darryn said...

Terra -to be honest, I think you greatly exaggerate the benefits of blogging. Bloggers tend to be very defensive creatures (especially in the EF communities around the world) and will not take kindly to these comments - I stand by them, because it is impossible to put a quantitative measure on the presumed benefits of any particular blog (other than anecdotal evidence), but it is quite trivial to do it when undertaking essential parish activities.

There is enormous difference in doing something optional and unnecessary i.e. blogging, and (as you might say) "in contradistinction" doing something essential and mandatory e.g. cleaning church, helping in day-to-day parish tasks. One requires true committment, and the other does not.

The Pope's comment that you refer to was not referring to blogs in particular, but the internet in general - it certainly does not refer to Catholics documenting the minutiae of their lives to everyone else (and I realize you don't do that) as if somehow they believe they must have vitally interesting things to say.

With communities and parishes struggling to make ends meet, all I am trying to say is one is a more honorable alternative than the other, and will surely work wonders for your "spiritual life". The superficial freedoms the blogger experiences in being able to do everything on his/her own terms, in his/her own time pale in comparison to the freedom one gains from helping in a genuine, practical and dedicated way with their local parish community. If the time and energy wasted on creating the vast bulk of blogs (many listed in your links section) could only be channelled into our parish communities, they might be signficantly better off.

The virtue of discreteness seemed to disappear well before the internet became popular, but the internet and blogs have surely hastened its demise.

Terra said...

Darryn - I'm still not sure just what the basis for your assertion about the superiority (or for that matter the compulsory nature) of doing things for your local parish community over blogging are.

In terms of the Pope's comments, an injunction to use the tools of the new media sounds awfully like blogging to most people - if it doesn't include blogging, what does it mean?

Secondly, while I'm not personally keen on sharing the details of my life online and agree that documenting the minutiae of one's life is to be avoided, in some cases sharing somethings can help others, if it shows up aspects of catholic life to be imitated - about learning to feast and fast, to pray for each other, go to mass on feasts, go on pilgrimages, etc, etc (one excellent blog of this type, though it also does a lot more, is Mulier Fortis, under UK blogs in my sidebar). Many people have lost the sense of what it means to be a catholic in practical terms, and some of these blogs help on this.

But in any case, most blogs provide material to enhance your understanding of the texts of the mass, like In the light of the angels; to pray the Office (my saints will arise blog); to know what is happening in the wider church and the wider world, and how to contribute to that.

On the internet, one can reach out and find likeminded people and build and find genuine communities in a way no longer possible at the parish level due to the break down of geographical boundaries, collapse of attendance at mass; the eccentricity (to put it kindly) of many traddie community members; and widespread liturgical abuse/heretical sermons.

In terms of our formal obligations, canon law requires us to :
.provide for the needs of the Church, especially works of charity, plus apostolate (which could include blogging) and support of ministers. But I don't think it says you have to specifically do a particular tasks in your parish;
. permeate the secular sphere with our activities; and
.'strive to make known the divine message of salvation...throughout the world' (for which blogging is extremely suited).

And by the way, if blogging is so bad, why are you reading this one?

Is it your mission to persuade me (and perhaps others) to stop blogging?

If so, what in particular is it about this blog that you find problematic?