16 January 2007

What Participation Means.

From the new Crisis, Russell Shaw reflects on what we might call the "Martha mentality" in approaching the liturgy and sacraments:

A friend of mine tells this story: Not long ago he took some students and parents from the public high school where he teaches on a trip to Italy. There were twelve or 15 of them, and they shared the tour bus with others. The trip was a success. Everyone had a lovely time visiting some of the most beautiful places in a beautiful country.

But after a while my friend realized that something strange was going on.

Whenever they pulled into a town square and parked in front of the local cathedral, everyone piled off the bus and immediately started shooting photos of the church. “They began taking pictures before they even looked at it,” my friend said. “What mattered was shooting those photos. They could see the cathedral later, if there was time.”

My friend thought that was odd. But I couldn’t help thinking that this behavior isn’t so different from what happens at a Sunday liturgy today. The two things may even be related. The emphasis at such a liturgy is on doing things, keeping busy, allowing little opportunity for reflective quiet. Seeing things—not just with the physical eyes, but with the eyes of the spirit—gets short shrift. In liturgical celebrations like this, the ideal of full, conscious, active participation that the Second Vatican Council spoke of has been externalized. This is liturgy for people more interested in taking pictures of the cathedral than in seeing it.



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