Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Beautiful video with Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. reflecting on the solemnity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with the Kyrie Eleison chanted in the background.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been in conversations with my Protestant friends lately, particular one young evangelical I love.  I’ve been trying to get them to read the Bible.  Does that sound funny?  It strikes me as being not a little ironic, for the Catholic mom to be urging young Evangelicals to read the Bible.  They all own one…I’m just not sure how much actual reading goes on.  If you don’t count the apps that send a little out-of-context verses to their phone or the daily Scripture passage widget on their high-tech church websites (because we are evangelizing through the media, you know), I’m not sure they actually ever read the Bible. 

So, here we have Christians who genuinely love Jesus, profess a great faith, who ardently defend sola scriptura, and who do not read the Bible

So what is forming the faith of these youngsters?  What understanding do they have of their beliefs?  of Christianity and their own particular denomination / sect / bible church?  Well, where they are getting their religious beliefs from seem to be mostly two-fold:

  1. Church services which are a lengthy sermon (usually not much theology there) and worship music
  2. Contemporary Christian Music and … uh…more worship music

So the majority of the doctrinal teaching for many Protestant youth (and most Evangelical kids) is — as far as I can tell — worship music.   And today’s worship music either lacks doctrine or (in a surprising number of instances) contains bad doctrine.  There, I said it.  Modern Christian worship music is bad theology.  I used to think it was sort of repetitious and bland, saccharine and, um..repetitious.  Then I began to think more deeply about it and realized that actually, the music oftens conveys a bad theology.  It’s leading our Christian youth and young people down a bad path.  (I know I’ve promised the post about the dangers of the rising popular Christian music industry a gazillion times.  This is still not that post.  Sorry!)

The above tirade is my rambling way of introducing the real subject of this post, which is that our protesting Protestant brethren are still trying to bring Catholic practices into their Protestant lives.  It’s funny really. 

Here are three articles in this month’s Christianity Today:

Practically Theological
How churches are teaching doctrine—and finding eager participants.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey | posted 3/15/2010 09:33AM

The Lost Art Of Catechesis
It’s a tried and true way of teaching, among other things, Christian doctrine.
J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett | posted 3/12/2010 10:31AM

The Mind Under Grace
Why a heady dose of doctrine is crucial to spiritual formation.
Darren C. Marks | posted 3/12/2010 10:30AM

Although I’m being facetitious in my introductory comments, I want to make sure that I make it clear that I am actually very relieved to see that CT is tackling the problem of the lack of doctrinal teaching among Protestant Christians, particularly in the Evangelical movement.  I actually know one Christian young man who does not seem to understand that we believe in a Triune God.  Yes, yes, we need to love God, we need to burn for Him.  But we also need to know God.  Faith AND Reason.  If I hear one more time, “isn’t it really all about loving Jesus?” or “let’s not get hung up on non-salvation issues” or “it’s about Jesus NOT religion“, I’m going to throw my copy of the Catechism at their head.  All that love and fervor, yet no real understanding of the credos of their faith just leads to heresies and Joel Osteen. 

Yeah, I know — Go work on my big post I keep promising.  Meh.

Read Full Post »

January 3

The Epiphany of the LORD

Sixteen hundred years ago, St. Augustine observed how curious it was that the scribes Herod consulted knew from the scriptures where the Messiah was to be born, and yet made no effort to accompany the magi.  They were so close, but chose to be blind. Augustine noted that this blindness opened the door for the rest of us, symbolized by these magi.  The infant Jesus could not speak with his tongue, and the pagans did not have the scriptures, so he spoke through a star.  They saw, came, worshiped, and then returned home.  But not by the same way they had come.  There is a literal explanation for this, tied to Herod’s malice.  But, as usual, Augustine finds also a deeper significance.  They did not use the same road, because they were no longer the same themselves.

An encounter with Christ changes people, the old ways no longer suffice.  The same dynamics of conversion should be continually at work in us.  As we come better to know Christ, we leave behind patterns of life that exclude his presence.

What do I need to leave behind, to welcome with joy the manifestation of God in Jesus?

Fr. James Flint, O.S.B. (from Scripture Reflections, We Celebrate Worship Resource, World Library Publications)  (some editing by LuceMichael)


The talented Canadian Christian band Downhere doing their song, How Many Kings.

Follow the star to a place unexpected / Would you believe after all we’ve projected / A child in a manger / Lowly and small, the weakest of all / Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl / Just a child / Is this who we’ve waited for?


Read Full Post »

To sum up:  Indian bishop is teaching his priests to be Catholic, and not Evangelical. 

Archdiocese of Mumbai ‘strongly discourages’ sermons that are more than 20 mins and wants them to be relevant

The Catholic church in a recent circular has instructed the clergy to keep their sermons short.

The archdiocese of Mumbai, Bishop Bosco Penha, stated that priests who preach for more than 20 minutes during mass should be “strongly discouraged”.

“The homily is an important part of the liturgy and is always given by an ordained minister.

It should be well-prepared and to the point,” said the missive that contained a host of other instructions for priests on how to enrich the service to draw more Catholics back to the church.

The memo was printed in the recent edition of the Catholic newsletter, The Examiner.

“People would complain matter, which is read out, is forgotten,” said newsletter editor and diocese spokesperson Fr Anthony Charanghat.

The instructions also discourage the use of PowerPoint presentations and skits to liven up the homily.

“The homily is meant to be a one-on-one between the priest and his parish. A PowerPoint presentation can supplement the sermon, but not replace it.

The Pope has strongly encouraged us to use technology to reach out to the masses, but it cannot be the end of all our interaction with the faithful,” said Charanghat.

Not surprisingly, the parishioners we spoke to unanimously thought that this was a good idea.

See full article:  Church gives priests the short shrift.

Read Full Post »

Church hopping, church shopping, steeple chasing–what are they calling it these days?  Have you done it?  I think it is relatively rare in our Catholic community, unless we move–like I did–and start over with a new community.  But among Protestants, church hopping is not only accepted, it sometimes seems to be expected.  ;-)    In my entire life, I’ve only ever had one Catholic suggest to me that I should attend their church instead of mine, but I hear Protestant friends suggest it all the time.  “Oh, you go to that Baptist Church?  uh-huh…you should come to mine!  Our [insert noun such as ‘preacher’ ‘choir’ ‘worship team’ ‘worship team leader’ ‘children’s service’ ‘small group’] is awesome!  Come to my church!”

I think we’ve all been guilty of some church shopping.  I know when I moved to Michigan, I looked at a few different Catholic parishes before settling on the one which turned out to be my true local parish.  It was the last one because I hadn’t realized it was there.  Before I found it though, I had a “church shopping moment”, I know, when I absolutely refused to return to one of the parishes I visited.  It was Holy Week and I was visiting from down south and the Good Friday service had a lot of goofy, non-liturgical additions.  The centerpiece of Good Friday was not, as you might expect, the Veneration of the Cross.  Nope, it consisted of the priest hammering nails into a piece of wood (no, it wasn’t a cross) whenever the deacon (or reader or whoever that was) read off a “sin” that we as a people have committed.  Now, this is way off the liturgy for Good Friday but I was willing to go along because heck, I thought it might make an impact on us.  But I balked at the “sins” they announced.  This part of the service was so off the rails into modernism and seeking relevance that it was farcical.  Not a single “every time I lied…cheated…failed to help…passed a stranger without encouragement…forgot to pray…didn’t thank God for my blessings…gossiped…used vulgar language….watched pornography…ignored my kids…”  I mean, there’s a lot of personal sins that could have been mentioned and which would have struck a chord of recognition in the parishioners hearts.  But nope.  Here are the ways we crucified Jesus, according to this particular church:

  • failed to recycle
  • polluted the rivers
  • elected politicians who lead us to war
  • misunderstood our Muslim brothers
  • our government didn’t help the poor (I forget where in the Bible Jesus says for governments to help the poor)
  • our intolerance

There were more but by this time, I was praying so hard for God to make me focused on Him, not on what was going on in the service, that I couldn’t listen anymore.  :-P

So…back to my point.  Church shopping is in itself, a form of worship for some Christians.  Here is a hilarious quiz from Stuff Christians Like for church shoppers:

The Church Hopping Score Card

1. If you leave without even getting out of your car because you can’t find a good parking spot = +1 point

2. While visiting a new church you park in the pastor’s assigned parking space = +1 point  (more…)

Read Full Post »

This is an excellent article from Jeffrey Tucker on The New Liturgical Movement blog.   The comments are also challenging.

The youth movement in Christianity is close to my heart.  I have observed it in Evangelical circles and bemoaned its near-absence within Catholic circles.  Yet, as Mr. Tucker observes, the Big Worship Event is not all that its cracked up to be and as at least one commentator remarks, it is not bearing fruit within the Evangelical churches, who are also losing their youth at a surprising rate.

What I will say about this topic, which I admit I contemplate daily as I discern God’s call for my own ministry work, is that there seems to be required a balance of the two extremes:  yes, youth respond to the loud, exciting and sometimes hormonally driven Big Worship Events.  But as Catholics, we absolutely must feed our children as we feed ourselves:  with quiet and intense and personal prayer and contemplation, and a clear emphasis on the sacraments.  My major beef with American Catholicism is that (with the exception of parishes here and there) our Catholic youth are COMPLETELY IGNORED:  they aren’t being fed at all.  If you think that dragging your teen to mass every Sunday is feeding his or her soul adequately, you need to seriously step back and look again.  Anyway, read this article.    Oh, and read about Catholic HEART Workcamps again.  ;-) 


Friday, November 20, 2009

Some thirty years ago, evangelical Christianity threw itself heavily into the business of marketing itself with a series of hip slogans such as “I Found It” (a stranger is supposed to ask what this means, thereby opening an opportunity to share the Gospel). Along the same lines, there was the Good News Bible with a newspaper-theme cover. More recently there has been the WWJD campaign. Dozens of other kitschy campaigns have come and gone.

Part this new sensibility, even a core part, was the cultivation of a specific youth sector within the church. The idea is born of the baby boom: there is some kind of generation gap that makes it difficult for young people to comprehend things in the same way that older people do. Thus must we concoct special sales pitches to show the youth that Christianity is for them. Of course we need youth ministers too (an aging guy who wears jeans) and a host of programs to show off that Christianity is not just for stodgy fuddy-duddies.

This effort almost always means adapting the shape and form of existing secular youth culture — which itself is a modern invention — and baptizing it with Christian themes and messages. The rationale is that if we do not create a Christianized copy of the prevailing youth culture, we risk losing the youth entirely.

If the kids are going to attend rock concerts, better that they be Christian rock concerts. If they are going to go to rallies and parties and scream their heads off about crazy stuff, better that they be Christian rallies, parties, and scream fests. Better to get high on Jesus than methamphetamines. That’s the rationale.

The “youth retreat” was born at some point in this process, and by “retreat,” I don’t mean a time of quiet contemplation, spiritual reflection, and careful discernment. The retreat almost always involves the display of a series of would-be teen idols who sing and speak and tell jokes, and eventually get around to presenting an emotional story of their own conversion. These eventually morphed into huge national conventions with massive commercial sectors within them, with teens encouraged by parents to travel hundreds of miles to experience the spiritual high that comes with huge religious gatherings.

The heady mixture of presence of Christian rock-stars, encountered in the context of a thorough mixing of boys and girls on out-of-town trips, can lead to strikingly emotional experiences. Kids return telling of their new-found commitment to religion and also of the intense new friendships they have developed with others on the trip. Parents feel a sense of relief that at least these kids are hanging around with other Christian kids and not fraternizing with the seedy sectors of life.

Catholics were late to this approach to “selling” their faith to the youth but with Mass attendance dramatically down from decades ago, more and more people are getting in on the act. In the digital age, this involves heavy use of film and video shorts that promote bacchanalian scenes of fun, laughter, loud music, and inspiration of some sort or another.
And it does all make difference. The kids return home with a new countenance, and a new love of God and a new love of their neighbor, though the young can be rather confused about how to sort it all out.

They report on their changed lives. And this effect lasts for about six months on average, at least that’s my strong impression. In its wake follows some degree of disillusionment, failed romances, and the status quo ante.

In the worst case, the effects of an event like this can actually backfire. By comparison to the massive youth rallies, the home parish seems rather staid and dull. Where are the rock bands, the great speakers, the beautiful boys and girls aching for new relationships, the inspiration that the rally dump on us by the buckets? Clearly there is nothing in my hometown parish that can compare to that.

The eye begins to wander to other sects that can provide or at least attempt to provide that unrelenting stimulation that comes with youth rallies. They do a much better job of it than Catholics. It may not last there either and it might be just as superficial but at least they make a go of it. On this front, the Catholics can’t compete. And if the basis of your spirituality is the longing for media stimulation and artificially inflated spiritual highs, Catholicism is going to be marginalized at some point in their quest.

For Catholics, this is a very serious matter. To be Catholic in today’s world requires a great deal of social sacrifice. It nearly always has in the modern age. We don’t have the right friends in the right circles. Our parishes don’t have commercial venders selling lattes and we don’t have health clubs. What’s more, the Roman Rite doesn’t lend itself to the unleashing of loud guitars and would-be rock star improvisations. There are no personality cults in the Roman Rite. The entire structure actually does the opposite. It buries the personality and directs attention toward eternity.

From a marketing angle, (more…)

Read Full Post »

The longtime columnist for Christianity Today, Philip Yancey, is taking a break.  He has been writing the Back Page column since the inception of CT.  He needs a break, it seems and has written a “farewell for now” column.  And oh boy, it’s a doozy.  It hits some of my most favorite-est themes:  Protestant disunity, Evangelical navel-gazing, the scourge of worship music, the prevalence of multi-media extravanganzas within Sunday services, the need for a return to liturgy based worship, and a realization that Catholicism is underappreciated by the Evangelical group (although he mostly praises Eastern Orthodoxy-except for some music and monasticism, same thing).   Here then is his article:

This will be my final column for Christianity Today—for a while, at least. After writing Back Page columns since 1983, I have decided to take a break. Since this magazine describes itself as one “of evangelical conviction,” it seems appropriate to use this last column to make a few overall observations on the movement.

Evangelicalism has become a global phenomenon. In the past year I have visited the Middle East, India, Africa, Latin America, and Europe as the guest of churches and ministries. In each place, evangelicals exude life and energy. While staid churches change slowly, evangelicals tend to be light on their feet, adapting quickly to cultural trends.

The Jesus movement, the house-church movement, seeker-friendly churches, emergent churches—evangelicals have spawned all of these. In their wake, worship bands have replaced organs and choirs, PowerPoint slides and movie clips now enliven sermons, and espresso bars keep congregants awake. If a technique doesn’t work, find one that does.

Although I admire the innovation, I would caution that mimicking cultural trends has a downside. At a recent youth workers conference I attended, worship meant a DJ playing techno music at jet-engine volume while a sweaty audience crowded the stage, jumping up and down while shouting spiritual one-liners. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I couldn’t help questioning the depth of worship. Seminaries now recommend 15-minute sermons in light of shorter attention spans. Publishers want slimmer books, with simpler words and concepts. Will we soon have a 140-character Twitter gospel?

Perhaps we should present an alternative to the prevailing culture rather than simply adopt it. What would a church look like that created space for quietness, that bucked the celebrity trend and unplugged from surrounding media, that actively resisted consumerist culture? What would worship look like if it were directed more toward God than toward our entertainment preferences? [er..it’d look like a Roman Catholic church.  Sorry, couldn’t resist! — Luce]

We have much to learn from other Christian traditions. For all their prominence, evangelicals still make up a small slice of the world. Slightly less than a third of the world identifies as Christian. Of these, almost two-thirds are Catholic, Orthodox, or near-Catholic. Of the remaining Christians, barely 10 percent of the world’s population, many would resist the evangelical label.

While writing a book about prayer, I learned more from Catholics than from any other group. They have, after all, devoted entire orders to the practice. I learn mystery and reverence from the Eastern Orthodox. In music, in worship, in theology, they teach me of the mysterium tremendum involved when we puny human beings approach the God of the universe.

As I survey evangelicalism I see much good, but also much room for improvement. Our history includes disunity—how many different denominations do this magazine’s readers represent?—and a past that includes lapses in ethics and judgment. We have brought energy to faith, but also division. We celebrate the transformation of individuals, but often fall short in our larger goal of transforming society.

To continue reading…

Gosh, I’m going to miss him terribly.  If SDG weren’t reviewing for CT, I might stop reading it altogether.

Read Full Post »

St. Stephens Cathedral in Metz.

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Metz.

I came across this picture tonight.  It is an interior photo of the very tall nave in the Metz Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz).  The nave it shows is over 40 meters high!   That’s impressive, but that fact is not why I am posting this photo. 

As I was admiring the beauty of the cathedral, I noted that it has chairs instead of pews.  My very first thought was about how hard it would be to set out all of those chairs.  My next thought was, boy, I sure bet it’s difficult to keep all them straightly aligned, they must be knocked about pretty constantly….My next thought (stick with me, my thought process is rather tangential) was remembering that all the great churches of Europe lacked pews and chairs, and I immediately went into my next thought about how many thousands millions of Catholics through the centuries got down on their knees on the cold stone floor to pray and worship our Lord.   Not for timed “one hour masses.”  No, these were full on liturgical, Gregorian chanted, only the ordained priests touched the sacrament, loooong affairs.  Several times a dayEveryday.  When it was time to kneel, our predecessors got down on the stone…or tile…or bare floor.  On. Their. Knees.  And NOW we come to the reason why I posted the picture of the beautiful Metz Cathedral.  Seeing this picture reminded me….  

I remembered something my mom told me when I was a little girl.  It was a moment that will stay with me all of my life.  We were getting ready to go to church for Good Friday.  My mom told me that when she herself was a girl, she was moved to see, every Good Friday, all the faithful Polish men of her parish approaching the Wood of the Cross on their knees, and weeping profusely.  She told me, “Crying, they were crying.  Gruff men, men like Grandpa!”  And she repeated, shaking her head in awe, “They went the whole way on their knees!  on the hard floor!”  Though decades had passed, I could still hear the awe and emotion in my mom’s voice.

I remark this kind of faith and adoration, to approach our Lord in humility, in suffering, in sacrifice, in total gratitude.   Would that today we see such faith! 

I don’t know when I became aware that Protestants don’t kneel.  I do not know when I noticed a lack of kneelers in their churches.  But Catholics kneel.  I have always thought of our kneeling-ness.  And that reminds me of another family story.   Whenever we would see my mom’s extended family, my dad would tell the story of attending Mass early in my parents’ marriage with my mom’s cousin, the nun.   She stood next to my dad (then a Lutheran) and throughout the Mass “barked orders under her breath like a drill sergeant –‘Sit!Kneel!Stand!’”  I still think of that story at odd times and hear in my head, “Sit! Kneel! Stand!”  It makes me smile.  I love the kneeling.  I love the Church for kneeling.  It makes us special because it makes us submissive.   But over the decades, I have noticed a sad trend away from kneeling during Mass, even before and after Eucharist.   

Because of that story my mom told me when I was a kid, my attitude about kneeling during the Mass is completely different than most modern Catholics.  For instance, at my parish we have a few pew sections where there are no kneelers.  So,  I make sure that my family is the one which gets one of the ‘no kneeler pews’.  We are kneelers in my family, and I would just as soon that it be my kids and me on our knees on the uncomfortable floor, than another family which most likely would then feel permitted to sit all through the Mass.  I tell my kids, “With all Christ suffered for us, we can kneel on the carpet for 15 minutes.”  When our knees hurt, we know to think, “Thank you, Lord, for letting us share in your suffering.”  (When we first started doing this, the kids weren’t too happy but now they never complain.)    I have found that our example sometimes seems to affect others in ‘no kneeler pews’, although that is not why we are doing it.  We do it because we can choose to do it, we do it as a love offering to our fellow parishioners so that they don’t have to, and even more importantly, we do it so that they will not be tempted to ‘sit out’ the worship.  We are helping them avoid this near occasion of …ingratitude and complacency

In our modern society, we might think it is undignified to kneel.  We might feel like it is uncomfortable and unnecessary.  But kneeling has never been comfortable or dignified.  The whole point, in fact the very reason why kneeling is NECESSARY, is because it demonstrates physically that we honor God, and submit to His Will.  When we worship God, a necessary part of the worship is to acknowledge that He is great, and we are…not.  If we cannot prostrate ourselves before our Lord, I fear our faith is shallow and our self-importance deep. 

We are not doing God a favor by being in church on Sunday.  We are not working our way into God’s good graces.  We are allowed, through God’s infinite mercy, to be filled with all the blessings that the Mass imparts, to witness a miracle every Eucharist, to join in Christ’s divinity through it.  We are honored and we are humbled and we say, “For you alone are the Holy One!  You alone are the Lord!  You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ!” 

The LORD’S fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench.  Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”  — 1 Kings 18:39

Prayer:   Jesus, You graciously and mercifully bore our sins upon Your back, suffering not only torture and death, but humiliation and scorn.  Thank you!  Lord, I beg You to work in me a miracle–convert my heart to love You with a fullness that drives out selfish thoughts for myself.  Do not permit that my pride keep me from worshipping You in true love, as You deserve.  Lord, You bring all sinners who seek You to forgiveness and grace.  Fill me with grace now, I humbly ask.  Amen.

Read Full Post »