unity or uniformity?

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg has announced it’s first diocesan synod. One of the purposes of the synod is to build a “strong sense of diocesan unity”. It’s hard to argue against unity. After all, we are One Body in Christ. Sometimes “unity” becomes a thinly veiled attempt at uniformity, ignoring the reality that we are many and diverse members of One Body.

collegiality and subsidiarity

Promoting diocesan unity challenges us to go beyond a parochial mind-set, interested only in what directly involves us. After all, the root of the term “parochial” is found in the word “parish”. Vatican II has given us the the wonderful concept of “collegiality”. While initially referring to the bishops working together nationally and globally, it also describes the need to set our sights beyond our home base and embrace our baptismal vocation into the universal church.

The partner to collegiality is subsidiarity. Unity does not mean uniformity. Subsidiarity demands that, depending on the situation, decisions should not be imposed from above if they can be made more effectively at the local level. When uniformity is enforced, subsidiarity suffers.

enforced uniformity

An example of enforced uniformity is the New Roman Missal. Despite protests and verbalized frustrations at the clumsy and arcane language, the Vatican pronounced that the Missal was to be mandatory in all English language liturgies. The voices of pastors and the faithful were ignored and the Missal was steam-rollered into existence.

Our archdiocese was already in the midst of a “liturgical renewal” before the new missal appeared. The focus of the renewal was not on spirituality or prayer but on rubrics. Each week a new directive came from the diocesan offices on what to sing, when to sit and stand, when to bow and how to bow. We were even told how to pass the offertory basket! (Apparently the previous method of ushers holding the basket was not “liturgical”.) Watching people strain to pass the basket over several empty pews was comical, but also a good analogy of how out of touch the diocesan liturgists were with local realities. Rubrics and rules will not fill empty pews.

You do not build a church of communion by enforcing uniformity. A spirit of communion is not about superficial appearances but about seeking unity amid diversity; about respecting the unique needs, culture, and worship style of each community.


how are you doing with the new roman missal?

The above picture was posted on Facebook shortly after the New Roman Missal was introduced. It still makes me smile, and elicits a chuckle from all who see it. (I apologize for not giving credit to the original artist.) Hubby and I mimicked the hand-pumping seriousness of this little guy when we remembered the right response. Being a quick study, hubby’s track record was much better than mine. I’m still blurting out the occasional and also with you.

I still can’t wrap my mind and tongue around the Lord, I am not worthy. I’m sorry, but under my roof just sounds strange and clunky. And chalice instead of cup during the consecration prayer is still distracting; images of the holy-grail dance in my head.

The daily Collects (opening prayer) continue to elicit my sympathy for the priests who have to pronounce them. Here is today’s…

We invoke your mercy in humble prayer, O Lord, that you may cause us, your servants, corrected by penance and schooled by good works, to persevere sincerely in your commands and come safely to the paschal festivities. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son…

I’ve read many books on the art of writing. The most valuable rule that I have learned is this. Keep your sentences simple. Do not use five words if you can say the same thing with two. Cut, cut, and cut some more! Sentences like the one above are crying out for an editor’s red marker.

The New Roman Missal has been with us for four months now. I am still not comfortable with it. I doubt that I ever will be. I’m still angered by the way it was imposed on us. The pamphlets and music sheets in the pews remind me of the financial burden it placed on parishes. I miss the well-loved mass arrangements that are suddenly banned. I feel sad about the whole mess. But that is me. And, I do tend to hold grudges.

How are you and your parish doing with the New Roman Missal? Has it become a welcome addition to your liturgy or a source of discomfort? Is the newness slowly dissipating with practice? Do you love it, hate it, or just not think about it? I’d love to hear from you.

new roman missal – one month later

It`s over a month since the new translation of the Roman Missal was introduced into all English-speaking dioceses around the world. Has it made any difference in our liturgical worship? Has it, as promised, sent our prayers mystically soaring on Latin-gilded wings? Have our devotions become more meaningful thanks to the theological richness of phrases from bygone days? These are still the early days, but here are some thoughts from my wee corner of the world…

First of all, I appreciated the low-key approach of my parish to the Missal. There was no hoopla, or long lectures rationalizing the translation. We just did it; with expected stumbles along the way. But then came Christmas, when pews are overflowing with visitors.

The new translation added to the unease felt by some of our sisters and brothers who join us for special feast days and celebrations of life`s passages.  Eager responses to familiar prayers were cut short as mistakes were realized. Folks fumbled through pamphlets. Some gave up and followed the prayers in silence. One young person summed it up this way, “I`m an intelligent person. Coming to Mass made me feel stupid. I don`t know what I`m supposed to say anymore!” This saddened me. We`re supposed to promote a spirit of welcome and hospitality within our worshipping community. Will this new language deepen separations and build walls between those who are “in” and those who are “out”?

And, it’s not only the occasional church goers that are feeling stupid. I attend Mass regularly and I`m still responding with a warm and friendly “And also with you”! The feeling of stupidity is quickly followed by either an embarrassed giggle, or anger and frustration. And then I have to struggle to regain a prayerful mind-set. So much for deepening my sense of devotion!

I use the Canadian Living with Christ missalette for praying the daily scripture readings. The difference in wording of the Collect,(previously known as the Opening Prayer), reflects the style of language in the new translation.  On the page, it stands in sharp contrast to the clean simplicity of our NRSV Lectionary. Here is a sentence from today’s Collect,

O God, who in the blessed child-bearing of the holy Virgin Mary kept the flesh of your Son free from the sentence incurred by the human race, grant, we pray, that we, who have been taken up into this new creation, may be freed from the ancient taint of sin.

Difficult words to read. Even more difficult to speak out loud in a smooth and flowing manner.

I’m trying my hardest to give this Missal a chance. Will I ever get used to hearing “chalice” rather than “cup”? Will I remember to invite Jesus “under my roof”? Can I eventually embrace the renewed focus on our abject sinfulness with the requisite beating of the breast? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear of your experiences with the New Roman Missal one month later…