Saturday, 2 March 2019

Synod 2020. Liverpool. Number 6

I attended one of the Listening and Discernment sessions for the Diocesan Synod this morning. They are designed to teach some skills and tools to help the Synod members engage with and listen to people in our parishes and beyond.

In what might come as a surprise to many of you, I thought the main content was quite good and useful. Ways of allowing people to speak and for us not to get into arguments - I suppose that part comes later!

In what won't come as a surprise, not all of what I experienced put me at my ease. To be honest, it was mainly the presentation, the way in which the sessions were projected. To many of a certain age and experience in the Church, the cloth and the candle with flowers and stones arranged around it, the meditation type techniques, those slides of the "key" phrases so oft heard... these are all stock in trade. But to many of us - and I venture to say, to many of the parishioners here at St Catherine's (certainly the three with me this morning) - to present things in this way smacks of a rather outdated new-age (ie, circa 1973) model that is definitely not cool, man. As we were bidden to leave our tables and gather in the sharing circle of the holy space, we trembled with fear that soon we would be asked to hold hands and join in a circle dance to Pachobel's Canon arranged for guitar (thankfully we were spared such). I speak from bitter experience, having endured this many years ago.

We breathed and meditated, centered ourselves and made ourselves comfortable but never made the sign of the cross all morning and no priest collected our prayers together of gave us a blessing.

We were also asked to pray by reading out from the overhead projector, various prayers composed by Jesuits unknown to me, which I found a bit creepy. It made us sound like cult members reciting the leader's credo. It reminded me of the Monty Python "Life of Brian" film: All repeat together, "We're all individuals"... "I'm not" says a lone voice... 

As I say, the practical content was okay but I feel I will need to baptise it into the Christian Faith. Thus, when we come to reproduce this in the parish here, the "talking stone" each is to hold when speaking in the small groups will be transformed into a miraculous medal or some other recognizably Catholic object. We might centre ourselves by making the sign of the cross and making people feel comfortable by joining in praying together a recognised prayer... perhaps one Jesus taught us.

You ay feel these are unimportant matters in relation to the wider purpose of the Synod, to (hopefully) allow the Holy Spirit to breath fresh life into us and our grace-starved world. But it points to a pattern that is much repeated and that I fear, represents those whose hands are guiding the Synod process: that all of our Tradition is to be expelled, as though the Church has been getting it wrong for about 2,000 years and now some bright sparks have finally found the remedy, if only we would listen to them. 

We are being asked to listen but we must be discerning about who and what we listen to. After all, it was Adam and Eve listening to some spectacularly bad advice from a certain dubious source that first got us into this mess!


Anonymous said...

It's well and good to listen, but how is all that data going to be processed? Those who guide the synod process must have some kind of underlying theological framework. The People of God ought to know what that framework is. As it stands, it feels, as you say, Father, that the organizers are seemingly trapped in the 1970s (there was even mention of the Upholland Northern Institute in one of the talks). It doesn't sound all that different from the rhetoric of 'Leaving Safe Harbours', and we now know that process was the brainchild of theologians of a particularly narrow outlook. The cynic in me feels that the synod is just an excuse to bind the Church in Liverpool for years to come to the tired and obsolete ideas of the 1970s. I really hope to be proved wrong. By way of comparison, the Abbot of Ampleforth has some astute comments about how the refusal to move on from the 1970s has caused serious problems within his community

Someone mentioned in one of your previous posts the so-called (cultural Marxist) problem of 'clericalism'. Catholics I know, who like me were born after Vatican II, do not put clergy on a pedestal, period. It's not only who he is, but also what he says, and what the priest does which earns our respect (I don't mean to give offence). I just do not understand this obsession about so-called 'clericalism'. It smacks of class warfare between priests and people.

One only has to read the famous line from one of St Augustine's sermons ('for you, I am a bishop, with you, I am a Christian') to understand the proper relationship between the priest as an ordained cleric and simultaneously as a member of the mystical body. There is no confusion of roles. This refusal to engage with the living tradition of the Church (St Augustine's sermon is still in the current Office of Readings) seems to lie at the heart of the desire to impose 'creative' lay-led liturgies that you describe, over and against the prayer of the Church. I have been to other diocesan gatherings at LACE before and it's been the same. The last council simplified the daily office, in part (as I understand) so more people could participate in the official prayer of the Church. In reciting the psalms we are praying psalms which Jesus himself used. How many churches in Liverpool publicly celebrate the liturgy of the hours? In our schools we praise Muslims for their piety in praying five times a day, but how many Catholics know that the Church enjoins her clerics to do the same, and invites the laity to participate too, in whatever way they can?

This false and emotive opposition between ritual/spontaneous prayer, ordained/common priesthood, fortress church/openness to the world seems so outdated and irrelevant to the reality of today's Church. Maybe the organisers, lay and clerical, are trapped in their own 'neo-clericalist' bubble?

Simon Plat said...

Talking stone? Really? Have they no shame? Have they no faith? Perhaps not, if there was no prayer, no blessing.

Incidentally, I owe you some money. For CDs. For Chavagnes. I keep forgetting. And remembering. And forgetting again. At the moment, I have remembered. I will pop round one day soon.

Fr said...

Reminds me of the nonsense some dioceses have recently had in the name of clergy in-service education / programming, delivered by some self-opinionated professor chappie claiming to be a priest and a liturgist, spouting the outdated and much discredited '70's liturgy agenda - dear old trad that he doesn't realise he is!
If there is to be the hearing of Holy Mass as part of the Synod process/event, what are the odds that Hayes and Finch will have been commissioned to apply that synod logo to some polyester masquerading as sacred vestments?