HE FIRST lecture given on Wednesday came from Archbishop Cordileone, who spoke on “Liturgical Leadership in a Secular Society: A Bishop’s Perspective.” As the Ordinary of San Francisco, the archbishop’s reflections have particular significance.
One of the core points made by Archbishop Cordileone concerned the manner in which one should read Sacrosanctum Concilium. This document, he said, must not be read in isolation. It should, rather, be read in the light of the liturgical movement that preceded it and the liturgical documents that followed it. In this way, we are able truly to embrace the “hermeneutic of continuity” advocated by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.
Another very interesting facet of the archbishop’s presentation was a brief reflection on the significance of veiling in Catholic tradition. “In Christian liturgy,” he observed, “the sacred is veiled.” We see this even in the activities of ordinary human life, wherein we veil birthday gifts, our bodies, etc. In addition to this natural sort of veiling, Catholics also veil things such as chalices and tabernacles. Traditionally, women have often veiled their heads during worship, in token of their special role as bearers of life. Archbishop Cordileone noted that, in former times, a screen would sometimes be hung between two pillars of the baldacchino to form a sort of “tent” around the holy of holies. He challenged us to recover an appreciation for the mysterious significance of veiling.
I was intrigued by a historical observation that Archbishop Cordileone shared with conference attendees. He acknowledged that the modern world largely did away with faith—a reality that is fairly easy to observe. He then suggested that our post-modern world, in which we now live, is doing away with reason. This is something that I think warrants further thought and discussion.
Another interesting presentation was given by Mr. Matthew Menendez, whose talk was entitled “Youth and the Liturgy.” A young man himself, Matt is the founder of Juventutem Boston and a graduate of Harvard University.
He explained how several priests had a significant role in his faith formation as a child. In particular, he recalls having been invited to special tasks, as part of a select group of servers whom the priests trained—rather, formed—in the liturgy. Matt encouraged us priests to learn from this model and to implement it in our pastoral ministry. By offering such special liturgical formation, we engage young people deeply and challenge them to become missionaries who share their formation with others. This model, Menendez noted, is the one Jesus chose for His public ministry.
Some attention was given during this lecture to the phenomenon of “youth Masses” attracting congregations largely composed of baby boomers. Menendez recommended that we not accept unquestioningly the “youth culture imposed by the elderly.” These are wise words. They reminded me of those two remarkable chapters from Jeffrey Tucker’s book, Sing Like A Catholic, “A Letter to Praise and Worship Musicians” and “The New Youth Mass.”
This lecture also spoke to the experience of the American Catholic millennial. In particular, Matt highlighted a contradiction that many millennials feel—a detrimental contradiction that needs to be addressed. On the one hand, we millennials look around and see how much the liturgy has changed since the Second Vatican Council; on the other hand, we are told that Church teaching on many controversial social issues cannot be changed. While I am personally able to reconcile this, many of my fellow millennials have (perhaps a bit subconsciously) left the Church on account of precisely this apparent contradiction. Indeed, the unchanging nature of church doctrine might be easier to accept if our liturgy had been subjected to less radical change in the post-conciliar period.
One day of Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 remains. I look forward to sharing a few more thoughts about the experience with you tomorrow.