Recently, an article in the National Catholic Reporter (notable for being a platform for non-Catholic and anti-Catholic views), stirred up some controversy. A young priest has responded to some of the remarks made in that article which struck him as offensive.
To be clear, I think his response seems like a bit of an overreaction, given the contents of the article and the likelihood of NCR editors intentional skewing it more favorably to their point of view. That said, he made a point that needs to be heard.
“Have you seen us on our knees at night before the tabernacle weeping because we just buried a child earlier that day?
Have you seen us celebrate four Masses on a weekend, hear hours of confessions, and still show up to Sunday evening Youth Ministry?
Have you seen us wear the same pair of socks two days in a row because we simply ran out of time to do laundry?
Have you seen us muster a smile even when we’re exhausted, or miss Christmas with our families because we’re assigned 300 miles away, or forget to eat dinner because there’s another meeting to go to?
The answer is no. What you see are the cassocks and birettas and fiddleback chasubles and accuse us of being “out of touch.” Well the reality is, you are guilty of the very thing you accuse us of. You ignore our humanity, our struggle, our sincerity, and you fixate on external things to make your judgments.”
This is indeed a serious problem for those of us who try to be obedient to the Church. We are often viewed as being overly attentive to the minutiae of the liturgy that really don’t matter instead of being focused on serving the poor and serving the Church. I’m very far from being a Traditionalist, but nonetheless tend to have some of those same judgments made about me because I bring up the wild idea that maybe we should actually implement the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.
There was a comment from another priest in the comments on his response to the original article. He noted that liturgical vestments are not a hill to die on, that they really aren’t that important in the scheme of things. And I completely agree.
Which is why it baffles me that so many priests who were around in the 60s and 70s seem so very attached to the hippie-dippy liturgical vestments introduced in that era. That’s why it baffles me that they seem so very attached to using guitars at Mass and having “liturgical dance” performed for certain occasions. If those external things aren’t a big deal, why go to so much trouble to shoehorn them into the liturgy?
If those things are not the hill to die on, why are they so often going to their graves insisting that those external forms be allowed to remain as traditions of the Church? If those things are not the hill to die on, then why do so many of them fight tooth and nail to make sure that we don’t abandon their liturgical preferences?
Those young priests who wear cassocks may sometimes see liturgical vestments as a hill to die on. But that’s mostly because the previous generation got up on that hill and fortified it so that it looks really important, being brilliantly arrayed in colors and accompanied by guitars playing for dance numbers.
If priests from the 60s and 70s want to help younger priests stop fighting on that hill, they would be well served to ask their brother priests to come down with them. Those young priests are on that hill because of them, not in spite of them.