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Friday, 16 October 2009

Excellent pastoral from Sioux City


A correspondent sent me a link to a pastoral letter of the Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City: Ecclesia Semper Reformanda. It is excellent.

The letter is over 8,800 words (excluding the 46 footnotes), so all I can do here is give an outline and a few quotations that almost jumped onto the clipboard. I see that Fr Z has already picked this up and is also very enthusiastic about it.

The letter begins with a lucid explanation of the "hermeneutic of continuity" as applied to the Second Vatican Council, including the following passage:
My brothers and sisters, let me say this clearly: The “hermeneutic of discontinuity” is a false interpretation and implementation of the Council and the Catholic Faith. It emphasizes the “engagement with the world” to the exclusion of the deposit of faith. This has wreaked havoc on the Church, systematically dismantling the Catholic Faith to please the world, watering down what is distinctively Catholic, and ironically becoming completely irrelevant and impotent for the mission of the Church in the world. The Church that seeks simply what works or is “useful” in the end becomes useless.
Bishop Nickless then goes on to identify "Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of Sioux City." Priority number 1:
1. We must renew our reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, within and outside of Mass. A renewal of Eucharistic Spirituality necessarily entails an ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy as authoritatively taught by the Church’s Magisterium, the promotion of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass, regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Eucharist and our Mother.
Speaking of the purpose of the Liturgy, he hits the nail on the head:
The primary purpose of all liturgy, and especially of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the worship of God. We sometimes forget this. We go to Mass to worship God, simply because He deserves to be worshiped, and we, his creatures, ought to worship him. Too often we forget that God is transcendent and ineffable, incomprehensibly greater than we can imagine.
Another quote from this section:
In this vale of tears, the liturgy should be a lodestar, a transcending place of wonder and comfort in the midst of our day-to-day lives, a place of light and high beauty beyond the reach of worldly shadows.[13]
As Fr Z picked up, footnote 13 is a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". The page reference is to an American edition so I leave it to our local Tolkien specialist Singulare Ingenium to find the passage he is referring to.

Bishop Nickless also speaks of the much misunderstood concept of "active participation":
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.
Sometimes, people argue about whether liturgy of catechetics is the first priority - rather a "chicken and egg" debate in my view. In any case, Bishop Nickless has catechesis as his next priority for the Diocese:
We need a solid, systematic, and comprehensive catechesis, not eschewing “what” and “how,” but also answering also “why,” faithful to the entire Deposit of Faith and the Church’s Magisterium, forming both head and heart.
Well, you have liturgy and catechesis as the top two. What would be third? It's the family, stupid!
We must give concrete help against the corrosive effects of pre-marital promiscuity, cohabitation, contraception and abortion, pornography industry, easily executed divorce, and infidelity.

[...]

A renewal of family life is a sure recipe for the renewal of the Church and our society, and it must receive our creative attention and pastoral concern.
Priority 4 is to foster a culture of vocation, and 5 relates to the missionary character of the faith. They are also very good sections as is Bishop Nickless' conclusion.
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