Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Catholic Identity...

One of the great misfortunes of the Post Vatican II church is the slow loss of our Catholic identity. How many Catholics out there know that even with the relaxation of the rules on eating meat on Friday, you are still supposed to withhold something on Fridays, be it meat or something else.

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can.  1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

However with the relaxation of Friday abstinence most American Catholics especially do not observe the Friday penance or fast. In the UK beginning next month the Bishops Conference has restored the ancient Tradition.  That was enough of a jolt for Archbishop Dolan, the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to blog about it. He issued a think piece questioning the idea of returning to meatless Fridays in the US. 

I say, go ahead Your Excellency. And while your at it, how about ending the US inclusion in the Papal Indult allowing Communion in the hand. On a personal note, my goal is for my own family to begin honoring the ages old tradition of meatless Fridays. With the wife's blessing no less (I was worried about her opinion since she isn't Catholic) and since I will be the one cooking on Friday's at least the family meal will be meatless. She can eat meat if she chooses for lunch. 

It seems that Catholics are losing their identity at a quickening pace. How much can we do to restore some of those old traditions that set us apart. When was the last time you heard Latin at your local parish, not counting the Kyrie.

Catholics used to be identifiable by marks like this, now it seems like we have given way to comfort or ease.  As Archbishop Dolan points out:
"Scholars of religion–all religions, not just Catholic–tell us that an essential of a vibrant, sustained, attractive, meaningful life of faith in a given creed is external markers.
The essence of faith, of course, is the interior, the inside life of the soul.  Jesus, for instance, always reminds us that it’s what’s inside that counts.
However, genuine interior religion then gives rise to external traits, especially acts of charity and virtue.
Among these exterior characteristics are these markers that the scholars talk about.
For some religions, it might be dress; others are noted for feastdays, seasons, calendars, music, ritual, customs, special devotions, and binding moral obligations....
What about us Catholics?  For God’s sake, I trust we are recognized for our faith, worship, charity, and lives of virtue.
But, what are the external markers that make us stand out?
Lord knows, there used to be tons of them:  Friday abstinence from meat was one of them, but we recall so many others:  seriousness about Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; fasting on the Ember Days; saints names for children; confession at least annually; loyal membership in the local parish; fasting for three hours before Holy Communion, just to name a few.
But, almost all of these external markers are now gone."

Indeed they are Your Excellency. Who is in a better position than yourself to help us to reclaim some of those markers. Obviously some of them may never come back. But if we can start somewhere, even slowly, even something small, we might just begin to make inroads. And if we do that, we might just reclaim some of those souls who have fallen away in part because we stopped taking our faith seriously.

As Fr. Z says, brick by brick, friends. Also seen lately on the wonderful clerics homepage stories concerning the decision in Phoenix to restrict service at the altar to males. And a story about the growing number of parishioners in the Diocese of Madison, Wisc. who attend churches which offer the Tridentine Liturgy, the Extraordinary Form, of the Mass.

I have written in this space previously about my desire to attend a Latin Mass. I know of a parish in Couer D'Alene that is affiliated with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. They celebrate the older form, someday I will have to journey that way and investigate. I'm quite certain I would feel lost, but the idea of attending Mass celebrated in that centuries old liturgy is exciting.

One of my new tasks for myself is to learn a few of our more cherished prayers in Latin...I found a great website that has the words of the prayers in Latin along with an audio file so you can hear it said. Which I need seeing as I have been deprived of Holy Mother Church's mother tongue all my life.

My goal is to get the Hail Mary, Our Father, Creed and prayer before meals down. It may take me awhile but I want to know at least those few prayers then work on the others.

So my Catholic readers, what if anything do you miss of our Catholic identity?

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