Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Secret to Seminarians

How many of you attend a regular, Novus Ordo parish? How many of you cannot remember the last time your parish produced a seminarian, let alone one who went all the way through to ordination? I come from a pretty good parish, but it has only become decent in the last three years or so. I have asked around from many people who have been here for a decade or more, and none of them can remember the last time a seminarian came from our parish (I am happy to say that I know of at least three young boys here now who feel a call to the priesthood but are still too young to enter seminary). I even asked one woman who has been here for thirty years, and neither could she tell me the last time a seminarian had come from our parish.

And yet down the road but three or four miles, there is another parish which has eleven seminarians studying for the priesthood just this year. Eleven out of thirty-seven total in the diocese. Out of ninety parishes in our diocese, one parish alone supplies almost one third of all seminarians. Furthermore, this is not new. In the eight years I have been paying attention, this particular parish always churns out seminarians the way Central Asia churns out barbarian hordes. Year after year, more and more seminarians come from this parish, causing their pastor to humbly boast that his parish has produced the most seminarians east of the Mississippi. By the way, this parish happens to be the one parish in our diocese dedicated to the Charismatic Renewal. And let me point out, I do not just mean they use guitar in their Masses (that would be an oversimplification of what it means to be charismatic), but this entire parish was founded as an extra-territorial parish dedicated to serving the needs of an already existing cluster of charismatic Catholic families.

Now, is it the Charismatic Renewal alone which brings these vocations? I don't think so. We Traditionalists also are aware of other parishes and dioceses which spring way ahead in vocations. They are parishes where Tradition is maintained, where Latin is used, where the Traditional Mass is offered, where Gregorian Chant is the norm and where orthodoxy and Catholic culture are the heart of parish life. Traditional oriented institutions, like the FSSP, the Diocese of Lincoln and the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have had no lack in vocations -- some have so many they are turning people away. So, on one end, we have a great number of vocations from the Charismatic Renewal parish, and on the other, a great deal from Traditionalist bodies as well.

This brings us around to the oft speculated connection between charismatic Catholics and Traditionalists. Though there are many threads of connection there, I think the reason these two types of parishes seem to spit out vocations at high velocities is because they both have a very fundamental issue in common: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

We know that the Charismatic Renewal emphasizes a personal relationship with Christ -- almost in ways and means that have earned them the approbation of Traditionalists and the label of crypto-Protestants. Perhaps this is the case at times. But we ought to think why we are reacting: is anybody really against having a personal relationship with Christ? Of course not. If you are, you don't know what it means to be Catholic. Yet, this is what Traditionalists share in common with Charismatics: a deep reverence and devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ. We might not use the Protestant phraseology "personal relationship with Jesus," but is that not what we are cultivating when we spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament, piously meditate on the Gospels or pray the Rosary? What else are we striving to develop? Pious feelings? The mere appearance of sanctity? No, of course not. It is all geared towards better knowing and loving the One True God and His Only Begotten Son, with Whom we hope to spend eternity.

When there exists true devotion to Christ, people are enraptured by love of Him and willing to lay down their lives for Him, and there (and only there) will young men realize the joy or giving their lives over to Him in the priesthood. This is also why dissenters, heretics, progressives are the way they are: they lack devotion to Christ.

"Boniface, that is being way too broad. Are you saying that if anybody disagrees with you then they don't have a relationship with Christ?"

Well, not on account of somebody not "agreeing" with me. But, yes, to the degree that a person professes heresy, embraces progressivism or dissents, then yes, they lack a relationship with Christ. Because if they did know and love Jesus as a real and active Person, a presence in their lives, they would never be able to say and do the things they do, because they would realize how offensive these things are to God and would understand that Christ commands rigorous adherence to the truths He came to teach us and the life He empowers us to live. No person who had a true relationship with Jesus and understood why He suffered and died could possibly equivocate on the question of abortion or any other moral issue.

In my opinion, it is Traditional Catholicism which best promotes devotion to the Person of Christ, for the whole liturgy and devotional life of Traditional Catholicism is oriented towards honoring God (instead of affirming the people). If you read the writings of some of the great saints, especially St. Therese of Lisieux, you will see how their whole lives were permeated by a very personal love for Jesus Christ, which was fed by the Church culture they operated and lived in. The Charismatic Renewal, while serving a valuable function, is a symptom of the lack of reverence for Christ in our Church. It is only because the mainstream Church since Vatican II has failed in its duty to promote proper devotion to Christ that so many Catholics turn to the Charismatic Movement for that sense of personal, unrestricted devotion to God. And I am glad they do. "He who is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50). But if the Church had been faithful to its tradition, then we might never have needed a Charismatic "Renewal" to renew us, and the only pity about the Charismatic Renewal is that so many Catholics feel obliged to look for their spirituality and their source of renewal outside of the Traditions of the Church.

Whatever type of parish we attend, promote personal devotion to Jesus Christ, and everything else will fall in to place. Conversely, if we lack personal devotion to Jesus, nothing else that we do in our parishes will really matter.


Anonymous said...

It is my experience also that the two Catholic "cultures" that produce vocations nowadays are charismatics and traditionalists. The only parishes I know of with multiple young active priests and seminarians are either charismatic or traditionalist. I've also often found that the Protestants I get along best with are Pentecostals.

I think it is because charismatic Catholics, traditionalist Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants all expect supernatural stuff to happen. We expect healings, visions, signs, miracles and wonders. We have a very physical faith. We expect God to be communicating with us in some way, which is why vocations flourish.

I would be very happy to see charismatics and traditionalists start to merge into a new, very powerful stream of Catholicism. That may very well be the future. We do need each other. Charismatics pull traditionalists into the present moment, and traditionalists keep charismatics grounded in orthodoxy and history.

Boniface said...

Excellent point, Clavem. I, too, hope these two strands "merge" in some way that does not destroy the unique contributions of either. I think one problem is we have too restrictive definitions of the word CHARISMATIC. We tend to think of it only in liturgical terms: guitars, clapping, Protestant music. I think that can go along with it, but I think of charismatic more along the lines of spirituality, expecting the supernatural, lively faith and devotion to the Person of Jesus.

I think there is a lot of baggage in the Charismatic movement, but I know some fine charismatic families who also love the TLM, educate their kids in Latin and the Traditions of the Church and attend our parish. This issue needs more discussion and prayer because I think there is power in it.

Anonymous said...

I have found that the two groups share a great devotion to the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration. The parish I was familiar with in Ottawa had a 24 hour adoration chapel, and they actually preached on it and exhorted people to commit to coming to Adoration. They have a lively devotion to the Blessed Mother, honouring her often in homilies and special events. They are very faithful to the Holy Father, mentioning his teachings, desires, writings, etc... in many homilies.

I would be interested in a discussion of the baggage and sources of division and disagreement, and what a compromise might look like.

Kate said...

A compromise might look like my husband.

He grew up in the aforementioned parish, with a deep,very Catholic, yet very charismatic spirituality (which, like so many other well-catechised and faithful Charismatic Catholics, looks more and more Carmelite as the years pass).

Yet, my husband loves latin, enjoys traditional liturgy (even if not always enjoying the parishes these liturgies are found in or some of the traddie trappings), and in his personal prayer can sometimes be found seamlessly switching back and forth between tongues and latin. :-)

I think this kind of merging of spiritualities was fostered in him by the encouragement he and his fellows received from their pastor and other figures to immerse themselves totally and completely in all the gifts God has to offer through His Church.There's an openness and a joyfulness to that sort of attitude that easily accepts whatever is true, whatever is good, whatever is lovely. Where the previous generation (like my mother in law) may reflexively dislike latin in liturgy because it reminds them of experiences where they felt isolated, dry, and locked out of the liturgy, this new generation has no such baggage to overcome and so encounters the historical and traditional heritage of the Church with enthusiasm.

(These folks are also often equally as enthusiastic about Eastern rite traditions, iconology, Eastern saints, etc. Also a good thing, I think!)

Do young traditionalists have an equal joy and openness with which to meet their co-religionists?

Boniface said...


I think many young Trads have already been through the charismatic thing and are familiar with it, able to acknowledge its strengths (as you do in your response) and affirm them. However, we must distinguish between a true charismatic parish (like CTK) and a crappy, liberal parish that just chooses to use guitars, drums and Prot. praise n' worship. As a young Trad, I want nothing to do with the latter, while I am more than willing the praise the virtues of the former (as I do in this post).

I think charismatic stuff is fine, though my personal preference would be that it not be done in the Mass. This is where Trads will disagree with charismatics I think, for Trads are huge sticklers about the liturgy (and rightly so, usually). While I can see the value in charismatic worship (which can be extraliturgical), I have a harder time affirming a charismatic Eucharistic liturgy itself. I personally feel that Traditional Catholicism is the norm while charistmatic elements are a useful and tolerable subgroup within the norm. But I can't say agree with soem charismatics that the charismatic renewal is THE way to renew/restore the Church. It is a way, but I think the restoration of the older forms is the most solid way.

So, in answer to your question, I think I don't know to what extent trads would embrace charismatic worship. I know many would not at all. But it would be interesting to see, and I think we will see it happen as Trads and Charismatics find themselves standing together as the only bastions of orthodoxy in the Church.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Boniface that the dividing line is the liturgy. Solemnity, austerity, sobreity, dignity, tranquility and rubrical exactitude are essentials of the Latin Rite, New or Traditional, and they cannot be set aside as aesthetic options.

I think many charismatics would not agree with that and would not like to see the Spirit escorted out of Mass like a crying toddler.