Monday, April 30, 2007

The Non-Pursuit of Happiness

Mitchell here.

Last week, following Msgr. Schuler's funeral, Ray mentioned in private correspondence a site in particular, which shall go nameless, in which a Mass attendee catalogued a series of objections (some might call them nitpicks) suggesting that the funeral Mass wasn't orthodox enough, and a general concern (bordering on despair) for the future of the Mass, and the Church.

Now, goodness knows there are things to complain about (or perhaps to look upon as challenges) at St. Agnes, as there are at every parish. That includes the liturgy. It is rare, however, to hear someone conclude that the Mass wasn't orthodox enough. The rubrics of the Novus Ordo at St. Agnes are celebrated about as closely to the Tridentine Rite as possible (even enough to suggest that in some cases it isn't a good fit); the only difference being that the Mass itself isn't Tridentine.

Michael Lawrence, at the brilliant The New Liturgical Movement weighs in on this kind of "nothing is good enough" mentality in this excellent piece. Excerpt:

This leads me to wonder: Do such Trads want to be an integral part of the Church, or do they want to have their own little special club in which they can pat themselves on the back for being better than all those lowly Novus Ordo Catholics? Do they want to help build up the Body of Christ or their own egos? How do they expect traditional ideas to gain acceptance in general if they, the ones with the knowlege and skill, refuse to share their talent? How could they possibly see their attitude toward the new Mass, disrespectful in the extreme, to be much different from the attitudes of those who presume to abuse the liturgy at will with their various innovations?

What will happen if the motu proprio is released? I suspect that, no matter what it says, it will not be enough for many. What would happen if the Traditional Mass were untouched but parts of the New Mass were revised to bring it in line with Tradition? Would the "fly-in-amber" traditionalists be happy? Would they at least acknowledge the progress? Would they then "deign" to attend a Novus Ordo Mass?

We are all familiar with the phrase, "Some people aren't happy unless they're complaining." It is only natural to have complaints in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. But how much complaining is useful? Unfortunately, I fear that some Trads will always find a reason to complain and to find excuses to stay on the fringes of the Church's life rather than immerse themselves in the heart of it. (I take well the point that many have been forced to the fringes--including me, but as circumstances change, please God, this is going to be much less of an issue.)

The kind of carping that Michael is referring to is not only tiresome, it's tiring. (I want to make clear, by the way, that Michael is not writing about Msgr. Schuler's funeral; read the entire pice to find the genesis of his observation). One is tempted to suggest that these kind of people won't truly be happy unless everyone is as unhappy as they are. The most troublesome aspect of such analysis is that it distracts from real problems: it's like the boy who cried wolf; after a time you become immune to this constant complaining, and wind up ignoring something that is of real import. Even The Wanderer is not immune to this kind of pessimism, which is one of the reasons we dropped our subscription a couple of years ago.

Readers know that I don't like namecalling or constant snarkiness in the blogosphere, so I'll offer this in the spirit of fraternal suggestion. To those who seem never to be happy about things, you've got two choices - you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Divorcing yourself from the life of the Church, constantly holding it up to your - human - expectations, insisting on a litmus test for everything and everyone - ask yourself if that helps the Chuch solve the problem.
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