Photo by Fr. Pat Foley, taken at the chapel of the mother house of the Nashville Dominican Sisters, who know how to do religious life right!
I just returned from the Thomistic Institute's conference for priests in Nashville. The theme was "Priest as Teacher of the Faith."
I will summarize a few of the points. Fr. Paul Scaliawhose father is: spoke of speaking the truth in and out of season. Many of the participants wanted to know how to teach what the Church teaches about marriage and sexuality given the fact that the Supreme Court has opened wide the door to same sex marriage throughout the land. How do we as Catholics teach the truth of marriage and sexuality without coming across as bigots or being painted as bigots for political purposes.
Father Scalia along with Fr. Michael Sherwin helped us with moral issues on a pastoral way.
We simply teach the truths of sexuality as it applies to people, whoever they are and whatever their sexual orientation. We don't single out any group, but speak of chastity within marriage and outside of marriage. We teach that marriage is linked to fecundity and the begetting of children and we shore that up with Natural Law in addition to Scripture and Tradition. We make clear that for us Catholics, we rely on the three legs of Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law to uphold the truths of God revealed to us by God through these three sources. It really is quite simple.
We are also grateful to God that he has used the HHS mandate to let the government bring up artificial birth control in our culture at large to enable us as Catholic priests to make clear our teachings are in terms of natural law and the use of artificial contraception. We have to begin with heterosexual relationships even in marriage that have become as sterile as homosexual sex by rendering it infertile by mechanical means and thus has opened the door to the acceptance of homosexual sodomy as well as the heterosexual type as well and placed it on an even par with fertile love in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
The Liturgies we celebrated at the conference were in the Ordinary Form and facing the nave. However, the music was classic chant in English and Latin. The official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons were chanted in English, the other parts in Latin.
This was a mature celebration of the OF Mass, dignified and solemn. It was contemplative and imbued with internal and external participation. It did not rely upon hyped up secular melodies with sacred words that are paraphrases of Scripture or worse yet, ideological hymns that make a political or religious point.
Given the abysmal style of active participation we have today that relies on hymns that produce a narcotic effect upon its participants, we have a long way to go in helping our Catholics to discover the true nature of Catholic spirituality to be found in Chant and the forsaking of hymns in order to sing the proper chants of the Mass.
A hymn was sung at the recession. That's the best place for it. And certainly at parish Masses motets and other good quality hymns could be chosen in addition to the Offertory and Communion chants as filler. But the hymns chosen should be of the same quality and style as the chants in English or Latin that evolve from Gregorian Chant an polyphony.
Finally, it must be noted that when the congregation relies on the glories of the congregation and communal prayer as the substance of the Liturgy and the other Sacraments we go astray with the truly superficial.
Fr. Romanus Cessario, OP reminded us that we must rediscover the medicinal aspects of the Liturgy and other sacraments to heal the sin sick soul. Our passions are disordered and the Sacraments, especially the Mass, are meant to order our disordered lives. If we emphasize the communal in the liturgy and other sacramental celebrations and turn them into purely horizontal, feel good celebrations filled with hype and no substance, we reduce the fecundity of these celebrations and render them secular and sterile.
Ultimately, our liturgical and sacramental celebrations should heal us for eternal life in heaven which the Mass is a foretaste. We must emphasize the vertical and what God gives us in terms of our ability to worship Him and be healed by Him. We must be open to God ordering our disordered passions that lead us into spiritual disease and everlasting damnation. Ordering the disordered passions of our lives leads to healing and wholeness, holiness and eternal life in heaven.
Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB helped us to understand the parts of the Mass and that we should allow God's grace to open our minds and hearts to all God desires for us as we enter into and contemplate the Sacred Mysteries. The new richness of the reformed translation lifts us to a elevated communication with God and we shouldn't ad lib during the Mass with a folksy way of speaking.
It was a very good conference.