Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reading at Pluscarden

I would like to share with you some of what I have read and heard read while on retreat at that most beautiful of Abbeys.

In the refectory two books were being read, at lunch we heard from the autobiography of Nelson Mandela and at supper we heard from George Weigel's biography of Pope John Paul II. On Sundays the monks here extracts from the Catholic press.

Last Sunday Fr Prior chose a column from the Scottish Catholic Observer that I thought was wonderful. It was the first of a monthly column by Delia prizeman entitled A Catholic Conversation and this month she says it is Time for the Church to face the music. She says the last 40 years have seen a number of changes in the Church and all that was once so familiar 'seems to change overnight'. She gives the example of church music. She says that the liturgy has 'disappeared into a 'singalong'. Reverence [has] taken a hard knock.' The publication of Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum has introduced a division in the Church regarding music, 'those in favour of the return of Latin, the re-awakening of Plainsong being 'right-wing' while those against are 'left-wing'.' To those who are responsible for this division she offers the sage advice 'It is time to remember that we as Catholics are not members of a political party ... We are the Catholic Church and part of that includes acceptance of Papal authority.'

She goes on to complain about political correctness in modern hymn books of classic hymns and the patronising language in children's hymns. Then there is the modern phenomenon of 'church karaoke' what our Director of Music calls 'plugging with gravy' whereby a perfect place for silenece in the liturgy is disturbed with an announcement from the choir loft, 'The next hymn is number x'.

She ends by saying there is a lot of work to do but with the skills and resources we have in the modern world 'plainsong need not be a problem'.

As for my own private reading I normally go through the guesthouse library and find a good orthodox book to read through the week. This year I found a copy of of the Abbot of Worth's book Finding Sanctuary. I have wanted to read this since it was published but did not want to buy myself a copy for fear that it would be as bad as I expect it to be so I took this opportunity to read it. With advice to join a Yoga club at work, constant comparison between Christian Monasticism and Buddhist monasticism, and the offering of Thomas Merton as a model of obedience it is as I feared; however the many stories of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and references to the Rule of St Benedict made for interesting reading.

I also read the current edition of Faith Magazine and loved William Oddie's Comment on the Comments. Entitled Taking leave of obligation he comments on the reactions to the Bishops of England and Wales' decision to move the Feasts of Our Lord that are Holy Days of Obligation to the nearest Sunday. He begins with the reflections of Pastor Juventus in The Catholic Herald who says, 'The celebration of the Feast of the Ascension falling on a Sunday felt odd and out of kilter ... Ironically, it is the fact that [it] has been transferred to a Sunday, which means that no extra effort is required to celebrate it and therefore no special sense attaches to it.'

He then moves to the thoughts of a layman, Charles Moore, who wrote in his column in The Spectator, 'The faithful will now not have to attend Mass on those days, but only on the nearest Sunday (which is always obligatory anyway).'

Finally he turns to the blogs. Fr Finigan responding to the argument, 'That is how they do it in Italy' by saying, 'Technically, there is uniformity in that in Italythe Holydays are transferred to the Sunday but in the Vatican territory, they are observed on the traditional days.' And Damian Thompson who commented in his Daily Telegraph blog that the Bishops suddenly became interested in the wider use of the Usus Antiquior when the discovered priests were using it to say Mass on the Holy Day itself rather than the nearest Sunday.

I found this all very interesting and wanted to share it with you!

No comments: