So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vatican: New Seminary Guidelines


The Congregation for the Clergy has published guidelines for seminary formation of priests.

Read below a few tidbits that have been extracted from the document for examination.

1. "'Spiritual worldliness': obsession with personal appearances, a presumed theological or disciplinary certainty, narcissism and authoritarianism, the attempt to dominate others, a merely external and ostentatious preoccupation with the liturgy, vainglory, individualism, the inability to listen to others, and every form of careerism."

The Gift of The Priestly Vocation/Congregation for Clergy

God forbid that seminarians should achieve "theological or disciplinary certainty" in a day and age when people, especially the unchurched, need a compass that points to true North.

We've heard the mythical "liturgical simplicity" card played (and trumped!) before (cf. Tribe/2013). Other than common sense proscriptions against vainglory, narcissism and authoritarianism, attempts to re-condition seminarian thinking regarding the manner in which the liturgy must be celebrated, i.e., to honour God and to lead people to the True God, will fall on ears tuned to Papa Benedict's nuanced aesthetic. The teaching of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI is entrenched deeply enough in the minds of younger priests, and even some older ones, who embrace the Reform-of-the-Reform. The true, good and beautiful celebration of the Mass cannot be marginalized by objecting to that ethos as "a merely external and ostentatious preoccupation with the (L)iturgy", a criticism, unfortunately, likely to find a place on the lips of 1970s relics who have nothing better to do than to misshape the Liturgy in their own wrinkled images. Attempts to dumb down the Liturgy will go unheeded among the forthcoming generation of priests who, like the current crop of faithful stewards, appreciate the transcendentals and are not conned by relativistic liturgical theory.

2. Liturgical minimalism? "Seminarians should grasp the essential and unchangeable nucleus of the liturgy, as well as that which belongs instead to particular historical settings and is thus amenable to revision, nevertheless observing diligently relevant liturgical and canonical legislation."

Will seminarians be forced to learn the tired and bland minimalist method of celebrating the Mass? This passage seems to imply an ahistorical approach to liturgics, which would be highly unfortunate. Is there here an attempt to dislodge a hermeneutic of continuity from the minds of the next generation of priests? Thankfully, Bishop Serratelli, Chairman of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and member of the Vatican’s Vox Clara Commission, published his comments [Click HERE] on Ad Orientem worship in a timely fashion.

3. Ars celebrandi. "It will be appropriate, in particular, to study the ars celebrandi, to teach seminarians how to participate fruitfully in the sacred mysteries, and how to celebrate the liturgy practically, with respect for, and fidelity to, the liturgical books."

Those liturgical books hinted at above, as well as the better part of the history of the Roman Rite, testify to an ars celebrandi which is joyfully and robustly grounded in the true, good, reverent, nuanced and beautiful celebration of the Holy Mass.

4. Sacred art. A brief and therefore inadequate nod is given to priestly formation in a Latin-Rite Catholic philosophy of aesthetics. Ordinary Form priests are still woefully underprepared to sing the music of the Mass, and are yet to receive adequate formation in distinguishing authentic sacred music from sound-craft that is unfit to be presented in the Sacred Liturgy.

Of course, there are an abundance of authoritative testimonies to the Church's vast artistic treasury (visit at this blog, e.g., the Oasis of Sacred Music and Liturgy) which should form the hearts and minds of priests. Apparently, the producers of the ninety-one page The Gift of The Priestly Vocation: Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacredotis, did not see fit to include beyond one citation an essential bibliography of sources to which seminary rectors could refer to better align their thinking with the received heritage of the Church.

A liturgy-minded Catholic might think that a single footnote would be wholly inadequate to improving the formation of priests who are entrusted with the awe inspiring task of being faithful "stewards of the Mysteries of God". Let's hope the priests yet-to-be formed under the umbrella of these new guidelines will engage their sense of curiosity and explore for themselves the vast patrimony of Catholic art, music and architecture and the relevant Church documents which laud the True, the Good and the Beautiful in art.

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