Wednesday, 13 June 2012

LMS conference

After six months away from the big smoke, Mrs Ches, Cheslette and I ventured down to London on Saturday for fun and frolics. My destination was the LMS conference being held on Oxford Street near to Oxford Circus. Fun and frolics, you ask! Mais oui!

It's not the kind of function that I'm normally seen at. Over the last few years it has become apparent that I'm neither a 'joiner' nor an 'attender' of events. This is for much the same reason that I am in no way 'clubable', for in those words of Groucho Marx that I never tire of repeating, 'I wouldn't be a member of any club that would have me!' Still on this occasion I attended, and a very interesting day it was too.

I had missed the first half of the first speaker's talk (Dr John Rao) but was well in time for the address of Stuart McCullough of the Good Counsel Network. He began with some captatio benevolentiae along the lines of 'Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking' but he was fooling nobody! He held us on the edge of our seats for forty-five minutes with tales of counselling pregnant ladies, children who have survived the contemporary holocaust, women who have the most serious of regrets, and how the hand of Providence constantly and consistently intervenes. The take home message was 'Give us prayers and money'. And, dear reader, you must!

After a lunch break in which I was able to catch up with the indefatigable Prof Tom Pink (whose work on religious liberty is changing the ground on which the question has been thus far fought out) and met Mulier Fortis for what proved to be the briefest of exchanges, we had a bloggers' fest of magnificent proportions in the afternoon: Fr Z, Fr Tim Finigan and Rev John Hunwicke.

Fr Z's message was, as always, Save the liturgy, save the world. It was one of those talks where one could put down the pen and just enjoy the argument (while pitying the brave reverend talking through a nasty head cold). He raised in particular the problem of actual participation, noting that Pope Pius XII had seen it being summed up in the devout act of communion. Next came Fr Finigan who spoke about how he had gradually introduced the extraordinary form into his parish life in Blackfen, Kent. He recounted the trouble which The Tablet had tried to cause for him some years ago, and noted that the extraordinary form has most certainly had an impact on the way he celebrated the ordinary form. I'm not sure I agreed with his implications that the influence could not be reciprocal. Many people would concede that an enriched lectionary and Sanctorum, not to mention a wider range of Prefaces, would be welcome in the Tridentine Rite. Of course, for that we must await developments elsewhere.

And finally we had the delightful Rev John Hunwicke, a newly ordained deacon for the Ordinariate. I met him at Magdalen College, Oxford in November when he attended a talk I gave there, and I confess I think he served me better as a speaker than I served him! Framing his argument through the story of Nathaniel Woodard, the founder of Lancing College, he spoke of what the Anglican patrimony, as articulated by the Ordinariate, could do for the mainstream. Let's start with basic reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to our Lady! The points were made humbly but quite justifiably.

My one frowning moment of the day was the talk of Dr John Rao. Rao is an important figure who has done much to continue the post-conciliar resistance work of Dietrich Von Hildebrand in the Roman Forum. Perhaps my negative impresson was because I missed the first half of the talk. His basic thesis was interesting: that history can be plotted along axes that reflect either (1) human endeavours to struggle towards the light or else (2) the efforts of 'word merchants' to keep us all back in the shadow of Plato's cave. Now, even if these axes can serve as a rough guide to history, it is the kind of analysis I am suspicious of, simply because arguments like it are always the preamble of what becomes a kind of tribal divisiveness. More seriously, he clearly intimated - I'm not sure if the Q&A at the end of the day clarified this - that the old liturgy could be seen as driving us towards the light, while the new liturgy draws us back into the cave. There are a number of problems with this - theological and ecclesiological for a start - and not least the historical question of just how formative the old liturgy was when its participants followed it through devotions that were paraliturgical. There are also outstanding examples of holy and religious lives that are nourrished exclusively by the new liturgy. I am not denying the terrible scars of the post-conciliar reform landscape. I am, however, cautioning against reductive analyses.

Still, I will listen again to Dr Rao since the LMS Chairman has had the felicitous idea of posting all the conference talks on his blog. Lastly, I was delighted to see some of my old friends from the Sons of the Holy Redeemer whose time in the canonical wilderness I pray will soon be over. Blessed are ye when men curse and revile ye! Let us pray Bishop Hugh Gilbert gets his skates on and sorts out their situation soon.


The Guild Master said...

By 'an enriched lectionary' I take it you mean more readings? And on a three year cycle? Fr Aidan Nichols has given his considered view on the plethora of readings in the Novus Ordo and was not impressed. More is not necessarily better. Based on my own experience of many years' attendance at the NO, I have to say I'm with the good Dominican on this one.

Jackie Parkes said...

"I'm not sure I agreed with his implications that the influence could not be reciprocal."

Love that!

Ches said...

I said 'enriched', Guild Master, which is not the same as 'mindlessly expanded'. But when you get, as you can do in the 1962 missal, a week full of 3rd class feasts for virgin martyrs or confessors with the same proper almost every day, there is clearly room for some adjustment. While the OF lectionary is way too big, the EF lectionary seems a little too narrow. I'm talking about a via media here.

The Guild Master said...

Well, if you're saying preserve the two readings at the EF (not expanding to three) and sticking with the very effective one-year cycle and merely introducing a few new propers to avoid repitition during weekday Masses, it's hard to see how you could call that an enrichment drawn from the OF. That's closer to an organic development from within the EF tradition. Also, I'm not terribly won over by the example you give. Frankly, it's not something I've heard anyone clamouring for! Most of the faithful's experience of the lectionary of whatever form is on Sundays and HDOs. As a rule, I'd say leave well alone and stop tinkering with the liturgy for the next few years. We've had enough of 'that sort of thing'.

Ches said...

"it's hard to see how you could call that an enrichment drawn from the OF. That's closer to an organic development from within the EF tradition."

So an enrichment is not organic development?

"As a rule, I'd say leave well alone and stop tinkering with the liturgy for the next few years. We've had enough of 'that sort of thing'."

That's begging my initial question. Given a choice between organic change and no change, I would agree AT THIS TIME to say no change.

Nevertheless, as a general rule, organic change is better than no change. And if you want proof of that, look at the EF!

The Guild Master said...

I've been away. Ches, you've subtly shifted the ground here. My first point was not about the difference between enrichment and organic development (or any such semantic dispute) but whether you attribute it to the OF or the EF. My thrust was that if it's an organic development from, or of, the EF, then there has been no enrichment from the OF (the whole point, after all, of *mutual* enrichment).

Secondly, to present no change and organic change as alternatives is to offer a false dichotomy. The story of the EF has been of occasional change interspersed with long periods of no change. There is no tension between the two.

Ches said...

I haven't shifted anything. If you take it as an a priori that organic development means 'no influence from the outside', then the idea of mutural enrichment is nonsense, regardless of whether it's EF on OF or OF on EF.

As for dichotomies, of course there are periods of change and periods of no change. But just as it is wrong to say there should always be change, it is wrong to say there should never be change. And that is why I said that organic change was better than no change, as indeed organic change is better than change for change's sake.

Organic change is not a synonym of perpetual change. Wherever did you get that idea?

The Guild Master said...

Ches, I haven't said organic development means no influence from outside, although the integrity of the traditional Roman Rite should always be respected in any change; I've said that I don't see that outside influence coming from the NO lectionary, which you yourself described as 'mindlessly expanded'. I agree, which is why I can't see the OF offering any particularly useful enrichment of a Form characterised by simplicity and sparseness.

'Organic change is not a synonym for perpetual change. Wherever did you get that idea?'
I never said it was. As far as I'm concerned there are three broad approaches: no change, perpetual change and organic change and the last can conflict with either of the other two. I don't see that we actually disagree on that point. What I would say, is that change always has to prove its case. I don't believe the OF has proved its case as a source for change within the EF.