The visit of the Holy Father has been such a blessing, and such an undeserved blessing at that!.
Let us not now forget Blessed John Henry Newman’s desire for an educated Catholic laity that should engage with society at all levels with grace and civility. That is you and me folks, we have work to do.
In many ways we are stronger than the Bishops, because we get the Holy Father’s message more clearly than the Bishops, because we have found it easier to cast off the baggage of liberal, modernist theology, something that defines them but does not define us. The Bishops must be puzzled at how much support the Holy Father has from ordinary Catholics, how much they want to listen to him, how much genuine warmth there is for him. They have had the rug pulled from under their feet, pray they have the grace to respond as shepherds of their flock.
As the priest whose sermon I heard on Sunday said, when John Paul II came, we blew it, we never capitalized on the euphoria of the event. This time round we have no excuse, we have the Catechism, we can easily access the answers to questions of Faith and morals that the curious will throw at us. We have access to the internet and if used wisely it means, I suspect, more of us are saying the office, more of us are picking up the teachings of the Church Fathers, we are able to experience more of the beauty of the liturgy and the beauty of our heritage.
I do not want the rest of this piece to sound like a criticism of the Cofton part liturgy, however I do think we could have had better. These are just the opines of someone forced to watch it in TV due to illness. Lots of it suggested a somewhat patronizing attitude on the part of the liturgists towards the congregation. Did the laity really need a cleric to tell them to be quiet and pray at certain points in the liturgy? A bit of an insult to their intelligence, I thought. Why was the Creed turned into a cantor, response thing? (It ruined the point of the Creed for the sake of making it more “tuneful”, like we can’t cope with that much Latin). After the “non sum dignus” a server should not move onto an altar till after the priest has received from the Chalice. When the priest is the Pope, and being watched by millions, fussing servers at this point was very poor. Finally, are we too stupid to have the Te Deum as part of the liturgy? Haydn’s magnificent Te Deum was reduced to the status of some noodly organ music after the recessional hymn. It was being beautifully sung too, but it was just there as background music; no way to treat such an ancient and powerful prayer. Then there were the deliberate, confrontational symbols, girls for holding the Papal cross and mitre, girls in cassocks and cottas at that! Then there was the dreadful rendition of the Papal coat of arms on the back of Benedict’s chair, the Negro with crown in the coat of arms symbolizes the treating of slaves as kings. On the back of the chair, the Negro had become decidedly Caucasian. Political correctness, surely not?
None of this stops it being a moving, beautiful and historic occasion. It just suggests that much of the hardest and smartest work of the laity will have to be done inside the Church.