Thursday, June 26, 2003

On one of our trips to Chicago, I sat in the car, waiting for Michael to finish paying for gas. We were in a northern suburb, on our way down from Waukegan to Rosemont. In the five minutes I sat there, I probably saw members of five different ethnicities. Caucasian European heritage, an African-American (or maybe Afri-Carribean or Brazilian..didn't hear him speak), a Middle-Eastern man, a carful of teen boys who looked to be Filipino, and a young woman, waiting to cross the street, who was Southeast Asian.

It got me thinking about "diversity" and the constant struggle of the Church, in this country of immigrants, at least, to minister effectively to recent immigrants.

And it struck me, in a way, that the post-Conciliar Church (not really the Council, but the implemenation), was really short-sighted in its vision, and was, in the quick embrace of inculturation and localism, particularly blind to what was really going on the world.

Think of it this way: the emphasis on the importance of the liturgy somehow reflecting local concerns and customs and needs is rooted in a vision of a world made up of static, unchanging communities, a world in which ethnic groups would remain segregated.

Which is not the way the world is anymore, especially in the "First World," and was even the direction in which the world was moving in the early 1960's. The world shrinks, people move, not just from neighborhood to neighborhood, but from country to country, mixing, integrating, dissolving old boundaries, which is happening on a broad social level, as well as on a personal level, as anyone with a life outside their home can see, and as Rod Dreher points out in this Corner post.

So in that context, it might be possible to see the post-conciliar move to "make" liturgy more particular to the local as anything but prophetic. It was not a move that took to heart the realities of modern life, could see that with rapid travel and communication, that the decrease in bigotry and mutual suspicion between ethnicities, that the expansion in human rights would lead to a human family that was becoming, indeed, more like a family. They did not see this, and so worked to create liturgical forms that worked against the reality of the growing unity of humanity rather than along with it.

I am not a Tridentine liturgy devotee at all, but I am an advocate of greater use of Latin in the liturgy. I, like you, have participated in too many multi-lingual liturgies and seen too many church bulletins with long lists of liturgies in various languages not to wonder, "Wouldn't it be easier if we just did (most of it) in Latin in these kinds of communities?"

Certainly, recent immigrant groups will always want - and deserve - their own parish-based communities that can serve their particular needs and give expression to the unique aspects of their religious life that do exist. . The existence of the Latin Mass in the 19th and 20th centuries did not prevent enormous and continual tensions between members of immigrant groups and bishops in regard to their desires for their own ethnic parishes.

But as our society, particularly in the West, becomes far more multicultural and diverse - and in a way that is not segregated, as it was in the past, but is increasingly mixed, it seems to me that it might be time to revisit the issue of liturgy in a way that takes this new situation into account and helps all of us focus on our unity in Christ, a focus we sorely need.

This isn't offered as a practical suggestion, because it's not practical in the least. But it's simply a reflection on the rarely-contradicted truth that even sincere efforts to meet legitimate needs (the greater participation of congregations in the liturgy) can produce unintended consequences (a diminished ability of the Church to present itself as a unifying force in diverse populations.)

Later: Fine. Squabble about whether or not Latin *should* be in the liturgy as is...that wasn't my point. I'm more interested in the deeper issue - was the act of the near total abandonment of Latin (which was not the Council's intention - more of a balance, as was being done in scattered spots throughout the West from the 1920's on) a move that helped or harmed the Church's ability to be a powerful sign of universality and unity? Does language have nothing to do with it?