“Only a starved spiritual beggar truly awaits the holy Mass; only a beggar desires to participate in the Banquet during which he knows he will be fed.”
Why don’t we liberate these United States
We’re the ones who need it the worst
Let the rest of the world help us for a change
And let’s rebuild America first
Our highways and bridges are falling apart
Who’s blessed and who has been cursed
There’s things to be done all over the world
But let’s rebuild America first
The attention (very little) that the song received initially was all on this line:
Let’s get out of Iraq
and get back on the track
And let’s rebuild America first…
From his questions and answers with priests, from Sandro Magister:
I, too, lived through Vatican Council II, coming to Saint Peter’s Basilica with great enthusiasm and seeing how new doors were opening. It really seemed to be the new Pentecost, in which the Church would once again be able to convince humanity. After the Church’s withdrawal from the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it seemed that the Church and the world were coming together again, and that there was a rebirth of a Christian world and of a Church of the world and truly open to the world.
We had such great hopes, but in reality things proved to be more difficult. Nonetheless, it is still true that the great legacy of the Council, which opened a new road, is a “magna carta” of the Church’s path, very essential and fundamental.
But why did this happen? I would like to begin with an historical observation. The periods following a council are almost always very difficult. After the great Council of Nicaea – which is, for us, truly the foundation of our faith, in fact we confess the faith as formulated at Nicaea – there was not the birth of a situation of reconciliation and unity, as hoped by Constantine, the promoter of the great Council, but a genuinely chaotic situation of a battle of all against all.
In his book on the Holy Spirit, saint Basil compares the Church’s situation after the Council of Nicaea to a nighttime naval battle, in which no one recognizes another, but everyone is pitted against everyone else. It really was a situation of total chaos: this is how saint Basil paints in vivid colors the drama of the period following the Council of Nicaea.
50 years later, for the first Council of Constantinople, the emperor invited saint Gregory Nazianzen to participate in the council, and saint Gregory responded: No, I will not come, because I understand these things, I know that all of the Councils give rise to nothing but confusion and fighting, so I will not come. And he didn’t go.
So it is not now, in retrospect, such a great surprise how difficult it was at first for all of us to digest the Council, this great message. To imbue this into the life of the Church, to receive it, such that it becomes the Church’s life, to assimilate it into the various realities of the Church is a form of suffering, and it is only in suffering that growth is realized. To grow is always to suffer as well, because it means leaving one condition and passing to another.
And we must note that there were two great historic upheavals in the concrete context of the postconciliar period. The first is the convulsion of 1968, the beginning – or explosion, I dare say – of the great cultural crisis of the West. The postwar generation had ended, a generation that, after seeing all the destruction and horror of war, of combat, and witnessing the drama of the great ideologies that had actually led people toward the precipice of war, had discovered the Christian roots of Europe and had begun to rebuild Europe with these great inspirations. But with the end of this generation there were also seen all of the failures, the gaps in this reconstruction, the great misery in the world, and so began the explosion of the crisis of Western culture, what I would call a cultural revolution that wants to change everything radically. It says: In two thousand years of Christianity, we have not created a better world; we must begin again from nothing, in an absolutely new way. Marxism seems to be the scientific formula for creating, at last, the new world.
In this – let us say – serious, great clash between the new, healthy modernity desired by the Council and the crisis of modernity, everything becomes difficult, like after the first Council of Nicaea.
One side was of the opinion that this cultural revolution was what the Council had wanted. It identified this new Marxist cultural revolution with the will of the Council. It said: This is the Council; in the letter the texts are still a bit antiquated, but behind the written words is this “spirit,” this is the will of the Council, this is what we must do. And on the other side, naturally, was the reaction: you are destroying the Church. The – let us say – absolute reaction against the Council, anticonciliarity, and – let us say – the timid, humble search to realize the true spirit of the Council. And as a proverb says: “If a tree falls it makes a lot of noise, but if a forest grows no one hears a thing,” during these great noises of mistaken progressivism and absolute anticonciliarism, there grew very quietly, with much suffering and with many losses in its construction, a new cultural passageway, the way of the Church.
And then came the second upheaval in 1989, the fall of the communist regimes. But the response was not a return to the faith, as one perhaps might have expected; it was not the rediscovery that the Church, with the authentic Council, had provided the response. The response was, instead, total skepticism, so-called post-modernity. Nothing is true; everyone must decide on his own how to live. There was the affirmation of materialism, of a blind pseudo-rationalistic skepticism that ends in drugs, that ends in all these problems that we know, and the pathways to faith are again closed, because the faith is so simple, so evident: no, nothing is true; truth is intolerant, we cannot take that road.
So: in these contexts of two cultural ruptures, the first being the cultural revolution of 1968 and the second the fall into nihilism after 1989, the Church sets out with humility upon its path, between the passions of the world and the glory of the Lord.
Along this road, we must grow with patience and we must now, in a new way, learn what it means to renounce triumphalism.
The Council had said that triumphalism must be renounced – thinking of the Baroque, of all these great cultures of the Church. It was said: Let’s begin in a new, modern way. But another triumphalism had grown, that of thinking: We will do things now, we have found the way, and on it we find the new world.
But the humility of the Cross, of the Crucified One, excludes precisely this triumphalism as well. We must renounce the triumphalism according to which the great Church of the future is truly being born now. The Church of Christ is always humble, and for this very reason it is great and joyful.
It seems very important to me that we can now see with open eyes how much that was positive also grew following the Council: in the renewal of the liturgy, in the synods – Roman synods, universal synods, diocesan synods – in the parish structures, in collaboration, in the new responsibility of laypeople, in intercultural and intercontinental shared responsibility, in a new experience of the Church’s catholicity, of the unanimity that grows in humility, and nonetheless is the true hope of the world.
And thus it seems to me that we must rediscover the great heritage of the Council, which is not a “spirit” reconstructed behind the texts, but the great conciliar texts themselves, reread today with the experiences that we have had and that have born fruit in so many movements, in so many new religious communities. I arrived in Brazil knowing how the sects are expanding, and how the Catholic Church seems a bit sclerotic; but once I arrived, I saw that almost every day in Brazil a new religious community is born, a new movement is born, and it is not only the sects that are growing. The Church is growing with new realities full of vitality, which do not show up in the statistics – this is a false hope; statistics are not our divinity – but they grow within souls and create the joy of faith, they create the presence of the Gospel, and thus also create true development in the world and society.
Thus it seems to me that we must learn the great humility of the Crucified One, of a Church that is always humble and always opposed by the great economic powers, military powers, etc. But we must also learn, together with this humility, the true triumphalism of the Catholicism that grows in all ages. There also grows today the presence of the Crucified One raised from the dead, who has and preserves his wounds. He is wounded, but it is in just in this way that he renews the world, giving his breath which also renews the Church in spite of all of our poverty. In this combination of the humility of the Cross and the joy of the risen Lord, who in the Council has given us a great road marker, we can go forward joyously and full of hope.
As I mentioned below we were in Maine over the past week. The journey to Maine involved some business (Catholic Marketing Network in Cleveland), some pleasure–a night in Niagara Falls, Ontario, then a slow ride through New York (upstate) with a very short visit to Holy Trinity Monastery literally in the middle of nowhere–with some of the last remaining winding, narrow roads in the country.
I had been to Jordanville once before, at the time on my way to Cooperstown to the Baseball Hall of Fame, at the completion of a thirty day retreat at Auriesville, NY in 1991. An old Russian monk had entertained my friend and I on that day with a number of humorous stories. This time with the family in tow, under threatening skies–the visit lived up to Michael’s name for such places “monascary.” No one was particularly friendly and it seemed a rather slow day with nothing much going on. The bookstore was filled with Russian tomes and I couldn’t find any images similar to the one that I had purchased those many years ago–that still graces my room here.
Next we stopped at Mercato Pizza Restaurant in Canajoharie, NY for a nice lunch. Canajoharie was the home of Beech-Nut gum and other products.
A short drive down the road and another short visit to the Shrine of the North American Jesuit Martyrs (where I lived for one month: April of 1991). It is very sad that this has fallen into such disrepair, unlike its sister shrine in Canada. Who to blame? The diocese of Albany? The Jesuits? Us?
UPDATE: The Director of the Shrine takes issue with my apraisal (based on my visit on July 27th 2007–in contrast to time spent there at the retreat house in 1991), but Father sheds some good news that is in the comments, but should also be place here:
I am sad that you spread bad words about the Shrine of the Martyrs at Auriesville. It is true that the old Retreat house is owned by other people now (Buddhists mainly; they are NOT new age and would be very surprised to hear that term used!)The present repairs and renovations being done at and On the Shrine are amazing. A new Votary is being built. The newly expanded gift shop has been given many accolades; and we have many events at the Shrine now, many more than before. I don’t know where you got your info! The Jesuits of the NY Province are very much concerned about the Shrine and we don’t intend to let it “fall into disrepair etc.” Not at all!!
Fr. P. Murray, S.J. -Director.
The Jesuit retreat house where I spent a month is now largely boarded up and home apparently to some New Age group (this was based on a sign posted at the area, which Amy tried to get a photograph of but it was raining pretty hard while we were parked in front of it, (perhaps she can comment on what she remembers the sign’s contents).
More to come…