I’m teaching CCD at my parish this year. It’s exciting and a little nerve-wracking, because I have the second graders – First Confession AND First Communion! We’re using the Ignatius Press Faith and Life series, which looks like a great text.
Last night, I did my mandatory Virtus training. The moderator was very good – she’s the principal of our local Catholic School, but the videos themselves were pretty terrible.
The information was superficial and out of date, especially with respect to technology. Even the discussion of ‘warning signs’ was nothing new or unexpected- after a year and a half of following the Legion saga, I’m apparently pretty well-informed about child abuse and the tricks molesters use to groom children. (Hey, maybe the bishops should make an updated video, featuring Father Maciel!)
One thing really jumped out at me. Periodically, the video showed scenes of parts of the Liturgy to emphasize the idea that we as a Church must “Protect God’s Children.” The baptism scenes were fine, but every other scene showcased an example of Bad Liturgical Practice.
We saw: A girl taking a glass chalice filled with the Precious Blood from a lay minister, drinking it herself, and then passing it back to the lay minister.
A bishop filmed in front of a bookcase holding clay chalices.
An apparent Mass which involved children processing in holding multi-colored burlap banners.
A really bad folk choir.
Children being sent out of Mass for a ‘Children’s Liturgy of the Word.’
As I watched, I wondered what message the Bishops were trying to send by including bad liturgy in the Virtus video.
1. Was it supposed to evoke warm fuzzy feelings? “Why, that parish is just like MY parish!” It didn’t, because those liturgical abuses wouldn’t fly around here.
2. Was it supposed to show us what the Bishops think a parish SHOULD look like? If so, I weep for our Church.
3. Or was it something more subtle? Was it supposed to help us make the connection between Liturgical abuse and sexual abuse? After all, if we can’t treat the body of our Lord and Saviour with respect, why would we treat the bodies of our neighbors with respect? Is there a short, slippery slope that runs between sloppiness at Mass and sin?
I have a feeling that the makers of the video were aiming for 1 and 2. But I think our pope would probably point to number 3. When we take Mass and the Eucharist seriously and let all our relationships flow forth from that first, essential relationship as Christ, we cannot use other people as objects. When the Mass goes, everything else starts to go too.
Of course, abuse can happen in ‘Good Liturgy’ settings too – because good liturgy can not be our goal. Our goal is to love and adore Christ. I think that a reverent liturgy flows naturally from a love of Christ in the Eucharist and a realization that we’re in the presence of God. (For instance, I noticed my 6-year-old’s behavior at Mass has improved DRAMATICALLY since we started attending Children’s adoration once a month.) If you have a nice-looking Liturgy, but no love, it’s just an empty pageant.
On the other hand, most awful liturgies are also empty pageants, focused on the congregation instead of the Divine.
In the end, I did learn something at Virtus training. Father Z is right. “Save the Liturgy, Save the World.” It’s not a coincidence that the pope who is focused on cleaning up the filth of abuse in the Church is also focused on cleaning up the Liturgy. If we can’t respect God, we won’t respect each other.