09 May 2013

Not New, Not Improved

A reader was kind enough to forward an excellent article by David Warren, "The Hold Up", concerning his conversion to Catholicism ten years ago, what led to it, and what made it take so long.

From the full article at The Catholic Thing:

It took me fifty years to find my way home (to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church)...My question for today: What takes people so long?
... I recall many occasions when the idea of being received into the Catholic Church occurred to me. Several of these were somewhat dramatic...

To start, as a sudden Christian convert, in England back in 1976, I actually first went looking for a Catholic priest, for it seemed to me then that the Church of Rome must offer Christianity, par excellence. Without invidiously naming names or places, I was sharply turned off, however. I was given a “Dutch catechism” to read, and other hints that the Church, then and in England, had gone New Age Marxist. Perhaps papism was dead.

... I soon found myself soused in High Anglicanism. The liturgy was impressive, the people seemed to take their faith seriously, and they called themselves “catholic."... 

...in my experience, whether or not it is acknowledged, the beauty of language, music, gesture, architecture, and art play an important, often-crucial role in drawing people to the Church. Such things testify to the Gloria. They tell us God is large, not small; that the argument of the soul is not with something shallow, mean, and strident.

But even at the level of “mere reason,” the argument for the authority of the Catholic Church was unanswerable. It wasnt a syllogism, or other formula. It was too obvious for that.

For in the view over twenty centuries of Christian history, how could “Rome” not be Christs Church? The question had only to be asked to see the answer. Of course, she was in every generation flawed, as every institution involving humans. But on this scale of history, the agitprop of a Luther or a Calvin became a farce. These were obsessions from some narrow place and time.

One may see this, and yet not act. For years I avoided reading Newman – for instance – because I knew he would rub my nose in this reality. I knew I couldnt stand up to him. Ditto with so many other saints and scholars of the Church. They would endanger my comfortable Protestant affiliation. Yet I did not consider myself Protestant; and was consistently well disposed towards the Roman fold.

Heres the thing. I cannot explain to myself, today, why it took me so long to become a Catholic. ... Naturally attracted to the Catholic Church myself, I was discouraged by attempts to present something “new” in it, by many of its (arguably) well-meaning representatives.

For two generations now, it has seemed to me, the attempt to repackage the faith in a more attractive way to a contemporary audience has been, quite obviously, self-defeating. For me, at least, the very attraction of the Church, and the best argument against the competition, was that it remained the opposite of “new.” People like me – admittedly, a reactionary – are drawn to the Church not by the scent of fashion, but instead by the promise of “Eternity.”

They are sick, sick at heart, with the spirit of innovation. It is the very thing they are trying to escape, as they approach the divine. The secular environments from which they are escaping are rancid with the “new and improved.” They have tired of salesmanship. More than tired: they are repelled by the slick and shiny. Christ, to them, is the opposite of that.

Though mostly free of liturgical learning and sophistication, I have noticed that the younger Catholics attending the Latin Mass, high or low, are riveted by its solemnity. I have seen this in many subtle but unmistakable facts. For instance, small children their parents had not tried very hard to control at Novus Ordo Masses, are now carefully controlled; and the children themselves seem to attune to the atmosphere of reverence.


1 comment:

c.rook said...

Excellent. Thank you for sharing.