A Small Word For the Brewing “Liturgy Wars” – There’s People To Love On the “Other Side”
I haven’t put much of my viewpoint visible out there on social media or my site during the two revving ups last year (July 16’s Motu Proprio and last month’s Responsa Ad Dubia) of the liturgical controversies that were no doubt already present in the Church beforehand. Though, if you look close enough to the things I have contributed to here and there in small ways on mine and others platforms, you will catch a glimpse of it.
But, yes, I have my views (and, boy, do I have them, I think to myself). I have had a number of offline discussions with a small number of Catholic people in my life. However, my specific views are beside the point for this particular post and what I want to say.
While thinking about how I might write another small piece on a totally different topic than this one, something drew me to remanence on some of my past seminarian experiences at parish assignments I have had so far. Both my very first summer assignment back in 2019 (which I posted about back then) and my most recent one of which I spend small parts of last summer and this winter break at came to mind. Memories of both came to mind after all the latest and ongoing liturgical controversies in the Church had come to mind right before. I thought about the distinct “sides” there are. I thought about the one I fall on for the most part.
But then I thought about the people at the parishes I have met.
I have met people at the parishes I have served at so far that probably feel a lot different than I do about liturgy and the way to do it in the post-conciliar era, especially at one of those parishes I was at. Matter of fact, I know it’s the opposite among some of them based on some of the views I heard on occasion and some of the parish activities I took part in while I was there. Then the generalizations one can make about different generations came to mind. If the person is older, he or she probably feels “this way”, and if younger, then “that way.” Maybe this was true for the people I met, though I really could not know their thoughts until I actually talked with them or at least heard them speak. Then I thought:
But, man, I love them!
I’m a young 20-something year-old dude, and the so-called “gray hairs” and “boomers” probably felt totally different than the way I feel about liturgy. I could probably pick that up from the way the Mass was done and the music that was sung. Other than that, we never got that far into talking about liturgy while I was greeting them before and after Mass, attending their Legion of Mary meetings, being at parish-wide gatherings, over their houses for dinner alongside at least one of the pastors, and just spending time with them getting to know them.
I remember their faces and smiles and handshakes. I remember their laughs and welcoming of me. I remember (some of) their names from memory; for the rest, Facebook has my back. I remember their appreciation of my being there as a seminarian studying for the priesthood, and I remember their gratefulness for the priests in their lives, past and present. This was still true even in the summer of 2019, the summer one year after the infamous Summer of Shame for the Catholic Church that was the summer of 2018 right before I entered seminary. I remember visiting them in the nursing home and at home. I remember them.
Yeah, they probably felt different about liturgy than I did as they saw me walk around the parish in my cassock.
Maybe some of them felt a little closer to me on things. I don’t know. Doesn’t mean I don’t care, though. We were all brothers and sisters in Christ in the Roman Rite of His Catholic Church when I met and spent time with them. I care about what they think. And this liturgy stuff matters!
But, regardless, I still got love for them, though! I feel it in my heart. They are the People of God! They are people to be loved. I felt this as I remember them because I met them. This wasn’t the first time I have felt this, either. God grant that I may always feel this and that it may grow. This is a grace from Him.
On the Internet, this gets lost. On both (and more) sides. There’s people on the other side to be loved. Computer screens and social media interfaces can grant us a certain separation from the “other”, from “them”. We can lob bombs and stir pots and make unfair generalization and hide. Some of the people I met are online, too, but I met them as people first. I met their real life faces first and their families. We can’t meet everybody online in real life, but we should remember each of them is a real person made in God’s image to love even if we disagree with them.
We can have our big, fat, Catholic liturgy discussion, if we want. Maybe not call it a “war”, but we can have it. There is a right answer. One side is probably more right than another. Time will tell. We probably need it to iron things out in our Church like with the ancient Christological controversies of the past. Like I said before, liturgy matters. But so do the people on the other side. Loving them is always right and part of the solution to our big liturgy talk together.
Loving God and our neighbor should be the foundation upon which we set the table and hash out our differences. What if we (what if I writing this) thought right before we responded to the person on the Internet or in real life talking about the liturgy, or wrote something out for all our followers to see, “I love you who are made in His image” and said a Hail Mary for their salvation? What if we did it after, if we didn’t do it before?
Arguments about liturgy we can critique. People who take part in the liturgy are to be loved. See you on the “battlefield”.