Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There's a new blog in town; And it should be worth reading, carefully

Welcome to “Pray Tell”!

“For some time the phrase ‘liturgical movement’ has been entering with increasing frequency into current speech. … It is for the furtherance of a [liturgical] awakening that we, the editors of Orate Fratres, are herewith launching a liturgical review…”

That’s how Orate Fratres (now Worship) was launched in 1926. Today PrayTell is launched from the same Benedictine institution, Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville. More precisely, this blog is a joint venture of Liturgical Press and Saint John’s School of Theology•Seminary. (And while we trust in the prayerful support of the good monks, we hasten to add that “any opinions expressed here are not necessarily…” – you know the rest.)

“Our general aim is develop a better understanding of the spiritual import of the liturgy. … [We hope] that many persons may find in the liturgy the first answer to the intimate need of their souls for a closer contact and union with the spiritual and the divine.”

This hope remains as valid in 2010 as it was in 1926. But how the times have changed! Communication is faster, and our attention spans are shorter. Newspapers and print journals are struggling. Churches face declining membership and church attendance. For young Catholics, Vatican II is “back there” somewhere with the Civil War and the Council of Trent, and young Catholics who are interested in religion often enough go for the really central things like indulgences and cappa magnas (to use the American plural). Plenty of people today meet their souls’ “intimate need…for a closer contact…with the spiritual” not in public worship, but in support groups or recovery programs or New Age esoterica. This blog aims to respond to all these realities…with hope, good will, wisdom, and humor.

“Many and varied interests meet in the liturgy. … There are the literary, musical, artistic, even ethnological and archeological aspects, all of which are worth fostering… [But these are] always in subordination to the more fundamental aspect, that of the spiritual import, which is its true essential nature. Should any of the secondary aspects and interests break away from their proper relation to the real nature of the liturgy,… we should have to confess to the keenest disappointment of our hopes…”

Some people speak today of “liturgy wars.” (Maybe we should be grateful for such evidence of high interest in liturgy!?) Some talk of a “Reform of the Reform,” which apparently wants to undo the “damage” of the past 45 years. Some zealots on the Right have an unmistakable focus on the musical and archeological and ceremonial externals: east not west, propers not hymns, kneeling not standing, and so forth. [Full disclosure: I personally rather like Latin propers, and kneeling, and the eastward orientation of the Eastern churches.] This blog arose from our sense that the conversation needs to broadened, deepened, redirected. Moderate and progressive voices need to be in dialogue with zealous traditional voices. The “spiritual import” which is the “real nature of the liturgy” needs to be reemphasized. The fundamental pastoral intent of the Second Vatican Council, and of the larger ecumenical liturgical movement of that era, needs to be restated, refined, defended.

Some will ask, Is this to be a liberal blog? Well, what else would you expect from Collegeville?! But more needs to be said than that. If liberal means open-minded, self-questioning, ecumenical, attentive to contemporary culture, and avoidant of romantic nostalgia, then we surely hope to be liberal. But if liberal means yesterday’s progressivism, yesterday’s ideals as if the culture and the churches haven’t changed dramatically since the 1970s or 1980s, then we hope to be not at all liberal. Those in the “old guard,” if there be such, can expect to be challenged and engaged.

“Our hopes are not based on any exaggerated appraisal of our own powers or endeavors. … A liturgical awakening is necessarily a collective event, and therefore needs the cooperation of many. One of our hopes is to furnish a common medium of exchange… To this end we extend a cordial invitation to all who feel sufficiently interested, to join us in the expression of their beliefs and hopes, to offer their suggestions, or to ask for the experience of others.”

Only time will tell how much interest this blog will arouse. The primary scholarly periodical from Collegeville is and remains Worship magazine. This blog is meant to compliment the more traditional media, and to offer new modes of communication and dialogue. We welcome unsolicited contributions, all of which will be seriously considered for posting. Our policy on readers’ comments is here.

“All human effort is fruitless unless is it blessed by Him who alone gives the increase.”

Amen! Pray Tell

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