13 June 2016

Practicing True Mercy, Mercy 1.0

Crisis Magazine, one of the neo-Catholic opinion leaders for many years, has published an article quite favorable to the work of theInstitute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, focusing on their work in Chicago in the wake of the fire at the Shrine of Christ the King.  To have the good work of the Institute noted by Crisis is what I consider to be a very healthy development for us all-- even more importantly, the article by Michael Tamara contains a very good lesson on just what Mercy is, and what it is not.

I so often hear complaints in the comboxes on some liturgical posts that assume that no traditional expression of Catholicism could possibly include charity towards the poor, loving help to sinners, etc. Knowing that it isn't true doesn't lower the annoyance factor. One of my recent favorites involved a person saying they would start listening to my point of view when they saw traditionalist going into Africa and meeting the people where they were or some such.  I was happy to post links to-- the Institute, of course-- and their missions there, where the traditional expressions have found a happy home.  I would add that the other "traditional" Societies of Apostolic Life also have a strong missionary presence.

So, thanks to Crisis.  Here are some excerpts from the full article:

After referring to the Year of Mercy] ...As wonderful opportunities for extra graces continue to abound, confusion and debate over the true nature of mercy appear to be in no short supply, either. Alongside what Holy Mother Church has always understood the mercy of God to be, what we might call an unofficial “mercy 2.0” seems to have emerged in parallel. What is the difference, and how does this tie to Benedict XVI’s observations?

In brief, mercy seeks to lift and convert all souls to Christ in order to be perfected and saved in him; whereas mercy 2.0 seeks the precise inverse: to level and conform Christ to manmade ideas in order to produce affirmation, with or without conversion. Mercy challenges, builds, and draws upward; mercy 2.0 concedes, flattens, and tranquilizes.

Thanks to mercy 2.0, it is easy to get the impression that orthodoxy is an enemy of mercy, or at least a major obstacle toward it. One may get the sense that the two are mutually exclusive, or that pastoral sensitivity requires our churches and liturgies to be anything but traditional, deep, beautiful, or otherworldly.

“Humility” has come to imply shunning vestments, sacred vessels, and liturgical appointments of the highest quality and detail. “Approachability” and “relevance” have dictated the discarding or maiming of anything reminiscent of the way the Church “used to be,” including beautiful church interiors, the universal tongue, incense, Gregorian chant, and ultimately, transcendence itself. “Mercy,” depending on who is using the term, may now mean circumventing those definitive truths of the faith that are the most challenging for pluralistic societies, like the one discussed by the Holy Father Emeritus.

But why must it be this way? Mercy and evangelization—whether through words, gestures, music, or art and the built environment—certainly do begin with meeting people wherever they may be. However, is not the real and ultimate objective then for us to be called to something higher; to something eternal; to someone named Truth through his Holy Bride, the Church, in order that we may achieve salvation in Christ?


[After relating the fire at the Shrine and the decision of the Institute to rebuild] ...The entire neighborhood—including the nearby University of Chicago and the adjacent Presbyterian community, which generously volunteered space of their own to serve as a temporary home for the Shrine while the rebuilding takes place—seems profoundly grateful for the archbishop’s final decision. This is because what they see emanating from the Shrine is true vitality and true mercy, and it has been a saving grace for the community.

“We really need to offer people today solid food through their senses,” says Canon Talarico. “The Catholic faith is incarnational, so we have to be very present and accessible to the people through tangible things, like prayer processions in the streets, for example.” He says it’s about meeting people where they are, but in order to lift them up to Christ. “The Institute is trying to accompany people, but ultimately be the instrument of their sanctification.”

The Shrine is more than just a place where Catholics spend an hour on Sunday. It serves as a forum where people from the neighborhood can come together, network, and partake of cultural opportunities. For example, free classical concerts are regularly offered, where families and kids can meet and converse with the musicians afterward. The goal is to uplift and help people begin to find God through beauty. “We have people in the neighborhood who have left the Church previously, but are becoming reengaged socially, and that’s sometimes the first step in coming back to the sacraments,” remarks Canon Talarico.

What really draws people, however, is the anchor of the community: the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. “People are looking for reverence,” says the Canon. “People sense that there’s much more here than utilitarianism, and that our life is primarily about adoration of God. We come from him and realize we’re going back to him in heaven.”


But could the Shrine of Christ the King and other cases like it demonstrate a viable alternative to the conventional thinking of the past fifty years? Despite the fire, the congregation is growing, not shrinking, and one will find no sign of the two-sided crisis here; no trace of mercy 2.0. Nor will one find a contrived divorce of pastoral practice from immutable doctrine. A rich tenderness and charity are present, and they are effective precisely because the ICKSP has not removed or reinterpreted its reason for existence, but confidently asserted it like a beacon on a hill.

What we see here are simple stewards, not innovators or apologizers. They are being blessed by God with vibrancy and life against all worldly odds, and it’s happening without projection screens, laser shows, pop tunes, or patronizing gimmicks. Instead, it is the simple appeal of lasting mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ—channeled via the transcendent beauty of two millennia of Catholic tradition—that they are allowing to pour forth in all its radiance, unfiltered and unedited, so that many may come to believe.


Konstantin said...

They need more of that in Chicago. Especially more priests that tell people who shoot at others that they will be going to Hell if they don't repent.

Fr. Andrew said...

Re: Traditional Mass and mission to Africa and developing world.

I was fascinated to learn that Archbishop Lefebvre was a missionary with the Holy Ghost Fathers and a missionary bishop. A wonderful example of charity united with attention to liturgical details. Interestingly, it is the Holy Ghost Fathers who evangelized and inspired Robert Cardinal Sarah (current head of the Congregation of Divine Worship).

thetimman said...

Fr. Andrew,

I always get a kick out of liberals who, supposedly in their greater love and respect for local cultures, treat them like absolute idiots incapable of rational thought or appreciation for truth and beauty. The TLM is fine for rich white people but Africans simply can't handle it? Bosh.

Seems like the same program for poor people in the states-- rich liberals in gated compounds send poor people to atrocious public schools for indoctrination and ignorance, while keeping them dependent on handouts. Meanwhile, Whole Foods and private schools for themselves.

Fr. Andrew said...

Yes. Bosh is right.

I try to tell people that Catholic social teaching isn't about bread and gruel for all but rather a banquet for all and a Cathedral to call their home.