Friday, April 20, 2007

Great Article by John Michael Talbot

I happened to notice this article today on John Michael Talbot's Reflections page, MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO: Catholic Worship: Endured or Inspired? I've always preferred Talbot as a writer than as a singer and musician. I thought I'd post some excerpts from it that I liked. It's mostly about liturgical renewal, but with a broader theme about living out a commitment and a witness.

Left, Right, or Radical?

Today in the Catholic Church there is a liberal left experiment that has lost its momentum. This has mainly to do with sex and gender issues. Will simply opening up the flood gates of modern morality set us free? Sociology and psychology used to think so, but nowadays would say not.

There is also a far right reaction that is nearly obsessed with orthodoxy, whereby they think that the reestablishment of Latin masses, strong clericalism, devotionalism, and the like will solve all of the Church's ills. Some? Maybe. All? Not likely. People need fundamentals, but fundamentalism seldom works, even when it comes in Catholic clothing.

But there is also a huge middle ground made up of average folks who love God, the Church and the world in which we live, and are just trying to get by in the rat race of modern American living without too many casualties. They constitute a huge Catholic "silent majority" that form the authentic "sense fidelis," or sense of the faithful that is one important contingent in the teaching authority of the Church. This is where the Faith really lives, where our spiritual "rubber meets the road," and it is here that we can find our greatest hope. The problem with the latter is that we are often the very status quo that needs to be changed. In order for this group to be effective we must be radical, but not fanatical. We avoid becoming obsessed with the fanatical fringe, but are completely radical, or rooted deeply in the core of the gospel of Jesus and the balanced teaching of the Church.

Integrated Monasteries

While the Catholic "silent majority" constitutes the theological balance between the right and left extremes, it can also be the biggest part of the "lifestyle heresy" that so plagues western civilization. I am referring to the heresy of individualism, and all that goes out from it: consumerism, materialism, hedonism, and the like. The evidence of the failure of this heresy is all around us. Global warming from environmental abuse threatens the delicate balance of the earth's current eco system. War across the planet is due to the many who have the little rising up against the few who have the much. Sexual immorality and the breakdown of the nuclear family threaten the very social fabric of civilization as we know it. The so called "high-tech high-touch" computer revolution has created an entire generation of people who have access to great knowledge, but attain little wisdom. Able to access and communicate with thousands and millions at a time, many cannot carry on authentic human relationships with much success. It has not made us more human. It has made us more machine-like in the long run. Are computers bad? No. I write this on a laptop, and send it out via the internet. But we are not yet using them successfully.

How many of you reading this right now are willing to flee this sinking ship of modern society? Traditionally this call has gone forth from monks, and hundreds of thousands have responded without computers or mass media. Will you respond today? How many will give up possessions and control to find the greatest wealth known on earth or in heaven? How many who are single will embrace only Christ as your spouse in celibate chastity, and so bring salvation to the entire world? How many will give up superficial freedom to embrace the deeper freedom from your false self through obedience to a Rule and a spiritual father or mother in Christ? How many will venture into the solitude to find your true spiritual home, silence to find your true voice, and self-renunciation to find your true self in Christ? How many will give up all to gain everything?

Awaken the Sleeping Giant

Should this mediocrity and lukewarmness be tolerated? Certainly not! This is true especially within oneself, but also within one's church home, be it parish or monastery. Why can't we have great music ministries, great preaching, and creative use of the talents within our clergy and parishioners? We can if we will but act. Most desire it. A few are willing to sacrifice and risk in order to achieve it. Does it take courage? You bet it does. Will we be rejected by some? Almost certainly so. But that is no excuse to just fall back into our personal safety zones and just float through our spiritual life in a malaise of mediocrity or lethargic lukewarmness.

So I say to the Church-- I shout it from the housetop of my hermitage: Awaken! Popes, bishops, clergy, religious, and lay people: Awaken! Dare to dream again. Dare to change, to be renewed and reformed personally within your own life. Only then can we bring authentic renewal and reform to the Church or to the world. Dare to really rise up and follow Christ as His disciple. The majority of Catholics make up a giant unified population in our nation, and upon the earth. We are a sleeping giant. Will we allow the sleeping giant to awaken? As scripture says, "Awake, O sleeper! Today is the day of salvation…if today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts." It is time to awaken the sleeping giant. It is time to rise. It is time to believe again.


Winnipeg Catholic said...

And this touches upon why I both love and fear Opus Dei. I love that they call people to a holy life without demanding celibacy; I fear some aspects of their leader Josemaria and ultramontane orthodoxy. That and that they also seem to get a bit creepy when it comes to recruiting celibates! I was right with this guy on an "Amen Brother!" level until he made the 'bring me your singles' call. We are not hobbits producing the occasional celbiate Gandolph for the church to harvest. We're humans that can be called to saintly life as humans with a full family life and all that that entails, as well as a commitment to religion. sorry about the rant! -B

Jeff said...


I think I understand what you are saying, even with the apparent dichotomy within it. My wife and I try to be careful about who our kids associate with. We happen to know some people within the home-school networks, and they tend to be within the ultra-conservative ranks, some within Opus Dei. It's sad to me that in order to have children we feel comfortable having our kids associate with, they seem to need to come from ultra-traditionalist Catholic families or far-right Republican evangelical families. Outside of that, no one seems to care what their children are up to at all? How did we get to this point?

In my parish, there happens to be a woman named Susan Troy, who was written about a bit in the book Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church. She's had some "fame" in Catholic circles, both good and bad, depending upon which part of the divide one comes down on. I can tell you that she and her husband have raised some of the finest kids I've ever known in their progressive Catholic household. I think progressives need to do a much better job of making it known that they are just as capable of raising holy, moral, chaste, socially concerned, and faithful children just as much as Opus Dei lays claim to.

I'd like to cut Opus Dei as much slack as I used to, but my increasing alarm at the apparent direction the Church is heading in precludes me from doing that. As lay movements go, as far as I can see, the The Community of Sant'Egidio is more impressive than Opus Dei, Regnum Christi, Focolare, and Communion & Liberation put together.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the tip. I'll check out the Community of Sant'Egidio.

All the Best, -B

Don said...

That is a great read and something we were just talking about today at our Secular Franciscan fraternity meeting. The diocesan churches around us are melting away due to a shortage of clergy and we are left with one parish and one priest doing the work of three. Also in the midst of this is a "status quo" which is driving some to see out the monastic community that Talbot speaks of. I'm glad to be a part of such a community for without it I'd be lost. Thanks for sharing this lovely article.

Steve Bogner said...

I like Talbot's views there; I think the silent majority of Catholics is more or less waiting for someone to lead them through this renewal he speaks of. On their own they don't really know how or where to start that renewal (generally speaking, of course).frm

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Whatever one thinks of opus dei, you have to respect their success. One wonders if the Franciscans could start a supernumerary non-celibate lay order with spiritual directors and a code of intense practice and formation that would be particularly popular. Perhaps that is why I was a little grumbly that he immediately calls for more celibates.

Jeff said...

Hi Don, Steve, and B,

As for a new source of renewal, I'm hoping some day to see the diaconate even further widened, and perhaps even the ordination of some of them.