Monday, 5 March 2012

A Year and a Half of Grace?!

I've noted previously that it has been pretty hard to glean what the upcoming Year of Grace is really about. 

Well no longer, the Year of Grace website has now been 'officially launched', which appears to mean it now has some actual content on it. 

One of its more curious features is that is now to be the Year and a Half of Grace (sounds a bit like that TV unfortunate show,whose previous lead publicly imploded not so long ago...), extended so as to end it in November 2013, at the same time as the Vatican-declared Year of Faith.

As one might expect, the local affair looks to be something of a mixed bag.

A call to conversion

The aim is apparently a call to prayer, with our bishops proposing that:

"Our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love". (NMI 33)"

The spiel on what it is supposed to be about is signed by an interesting selection of bishops: +Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn;  +David Walker, Bishop of Broken Bay; +Michael Putney, Bishop of Townsville; and +Timothy Costelloe sdb, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne [now Archbishop-designate of Perth]. 
Well, some of those dioceses do particularly need prayer!
But is there substance behind all of this?
  Let's take a look at what the bishops envisage to deepen our prayer life:
"We will seek to do this in a variety of ways, including but not limited to the following:

inviting clergy and people to celebrate the Church's Liturgy ever more prayerfully, seeking that "full, conscious, active" participation proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council; [I guess this is the politically expedient thing to mention first, but honestly, has this really not been realized yet, is it really the top priority??  And to the extent that it hasn't been, I'd suggest the real priority should be clarifying clarifying what it really means in the context of resacralizing liturgy, as the new missal attempts to do]

•We will direct our greatest attention to the way we celebrate the Eucharist, in our cathedral and parish celebrations of the Lord's Day, in our weekday celebrations, and in our occasional Masses such as for funerals and weddings. [Good]

•We will encourage our people to make greater use of the Prayer of the Church, as part of parish life, and at meetings and gatherings.

•We see the importance of prayer in the home, and will develop ideas for family prayer, 'tabletop liturgies', etc. [Gah.  Prayer in the home, good; but liturgy surely properly refers to the public worship of the Church.  Surely table-top 'liturgies' should be discouraged not encouraged!]

Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction is a way that we can deepen and extend our sense of communion with Jesus present to us in the Church, in the Word of God and in the Eucharist. [Excellent]

•Our clergy and religious, and many of our other fellow Catholics, have had fruitful experiences of taking "time out" to make a retreat. We will invite them to join us in offering such retreat experiences – of several days, or a weekend, or just some hours in a single day.

•Many of our parishes already have regular prayer groups of different format or traditions – meditation groups, charismatic prayer, Taizé-style prayer, circulation of a Rosary Statue, looking at the Readings of the coming Sunday, and so on. We will encourage these groups to let others know, through parish bulletins and diocesan publications, about their activities and their meeting times, inviting others to "come and see" (John 1:39).

preparing resources such as prayer cards for use privately or at parish meetings

Scripture reading

There is also to be a strong focus on 'knowing Jesus, not just knowing about Jesus' through reading Scripture.

Some of the proposals to encourage this include:
•encouraging Bishops, Priests and Deacons to delve more deeply as they break open the Word of God in their homilies
•encouraging the practice of lectio divina (see NMI 39)[Let's hope they mean real lectio divina, not the fakery that widely passes for it!  But I'm not holding my breath...]
•as mentioned above, prayerful reflection on the Readings of the coming Sunday
short Scripture texts to be made available, perhaps in printed prayer cards, but also daily by email, facebook, twitter etc. These texts would be centred on Jesus – either sentences about him (e.g. "With the power of the Spirit in him, Jesus returned to Galilee. He taught in their synagogue and everyone praised him"), or the words of Jesus himself (e.g. "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest".)

Repentance Liturgy (!)

They also plan to hold a ceremony based on Pope John Paul II's 'Purification of Memory' event, to be called 'Liturgy Bringing our Wounds to Jesus – A Celebration of Repentance' on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (17 March) 2013.

It frankly sounds like dangerous, politically correct twaddle. 

Consider for example the planned preceeding Lenten program (i.e. for Lent, 2013), in which Catholics in their own parish groups will be asked to reflect on the following questions:

•How did the coming of the Catholic Church to our area affect the Indigenous peoples of the Land on which we live?[Do they mean by bringing the chance to hear the Gospel message of salvation?  I suspect not!]
Has our Church been an agent of reconciliation between peoples in the past, and is it so today?[I did not come to bring peace, but a sword....]
•Has there been a story in our area of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, and other Church personnel?
•If so, in addition to the harm it has done to victims and survivors (which they alone can know), what harm has it done to our whole Church?
In the more sectarian climate of the past, what harm or damage did we do to fellow Catholics and to those who were not Catholics? Do we continue any such practices or attitudes today?[Do they mean by false ecumenism which denies access to the fullness of truth to protestants?  Again, I think not!]
•How have we responded, individually and as a body of Christians, to the Gospel challenges of feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison?
•How have we protected and defended the weak and vulnerable among us, the children, the mentally ill, the poor?
Do our liturgies, our institutions, our buildings, our way of life proclaim the Good News about Jesus?

On the sexual abuse issue the material states that:

"We wish to state that we do not envisage this planned Liturgy as being focused solely, or principally, on the issue of sexual abuse. However, we wish to insist equally that the issue be named and admitted, as being among the worst examples of where members of our Catholic Church have sinned, and where as a Church we need to continue to seek forgiveness."[Personally, I'd just like to see a bit more action.  Like those who covered it up apologising and resigning if they continue to hold positions of responsibility.  Some stronger assurance that complaints are now being dealt with sensitively and expeditiously.  Assurance that priests falsely accused will be quickly restored to ministry, while those guilty will be swiftly laicized. And genuine outreach to bring those adversely affected by abuse back into the Church.] 

A celebration of holiness (!)

Equally worrying in my view, sound the plans for a concluding 'Celebration of Holiness' on All Saints Day 2013 (on the plus side maybe this is an opportunity to restore that feast to a Holy Day of Obligation).

It is to be called, apparently, Face of Jesus, Faces we Know – A Celebration of Holiness.

As Australia has but one canonised saint, and only a few official contenders to be next on the rank, we are apparently going to be invited to identify the 'local saints', those 'who have given testimony to the faith in their area' - and share their stories!  The website says:

"In the Liturgy which Pope John Paul II led in the Colosseum during the Jubilee Year (NMI 7), each presentation consisted of a brief biographical outline of the person, and then a testimony to that person’s faith, written either by the person himself or herself, or by someone who knew the person’s story well enough to be able to testify to it. We would encourage local groups to use the same approach."

Now out of the context of the liturgy, this could be a useful exercise.  But in it?   I have my doubts...there are, after all, reasons why we have canonization processes!

And there's more....

On liturgy the website warns:

"We have not yet begun work on the other Liturgies mentioned above (celebration of young people, celebration of families, celebration of children, celebration of Religious Life, ecumenical celebration, etc.), but will do so in the coming months."


A Canberra Observer said...

re 'local saints' - perhaps they could start with the priests described in John O'Brien's 'The men of '38' (that's 1838). Though I expect those troopers would shrink from such silliness.

So the Catholic Church in Australia is obviously overrun by secular managemetn gurus and 'saints' are simply those we choose to single out, disconnected from the tradition of the Church.

GOR said...

Words…words…words – and yet more words! While not confined to Australia, this seems to be the approach of so many in the hierarchy for some time. Let’s put out a statement and all will be well. Job done – we can all go home. Bishops complain about the flood of words emanating from Vatican sources. Parish Priests complain about the rivers of documents proceeding from diocesan chanceries and episcopal conference committees. And the laity complains about “all the talk…”

Our Lord warned against a Pharisaical detachment between what is said and what is done. Our mothers admonished us to “suit action to words” when we merely talked about doing what was right. While Jesus used a lot of words – of which as St. John told us the Gospels are merely a précis – He backed up His words with example.

Of course we also need to be speaking the right words and then back them up with example. Otherwise, as the Bard noted: “Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath bring…”