My friend, Cardinal William Baum, who loves visiting Rockville Centre, is not the kind of person who gets excited by the latest new technology. In fact we tease him that he is the last living expert in the use of a quill pen. While most of us have become accustomed to life with computers, Blackberries and many new forms of communication, this doesn’t mean we cannot appreciate much of the past including books not on Kindle and art that we see in museums.
This past week I made my annual retreat with the Benedictine monks at St. Paul’s Outside the Wall, one of Rome’s four major basilicas. There the tradition of “Prayer and Work” which St. Benedict set forth in his rule 1500 years ago is maintained. We rise at 4:30 to begin the office of prayer and continue through the day, with Mass and the other “hours” until Compline or Night Prayer completes our daily cycle. Central to this is Gregorian chant. The beauty of this ancient form of singing psalms and prayers remains at the heart of the Church’s liturgy. It has enriched Catholic liturgical life for centuries and is one of the treasures of the Church’s life of prayer and richness of culture.
Gregorian chant is not and should not be the only music we have in our liturgy. Without in any way diminishing its beauty and importance, the Church, through the centuries, has developed many beautiful forms of music to enhance our celebration of Mass and the sacraments. While we had a period of searching and trial and error regarding popular music in the liturgy these past 40 years, there is no reason for us to doubt that, over time, Church musicians and liturgists will help us develop new musical settings for the new translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. This music will take its place in the great repertoire of Church music that we all should be grateful to God has been a noble means for us to worship the Triune God.
Speaking of the new English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, I have been hearing generally favorable reports about how it is being implemented in the parishes. I am especially pleased to hear that the spirit of our people has been very open to the adjustments in the words and in the invitation to let the new translation deepen our experience of the encounter we have with the Lord in the Eucharist. My pastoral letter of last year, Belong More Deeply, was aimed at just that: a call from me to all of our good people to take advantage of this new moment and let ourselves be more deeply formed by the new translation that we enter into the liturgy and are led by it into a deeper and deeper encounter with Christ as members of his Body, the Church.
It will still take some time and we need to be patient with one another. The language is more formal. But we do not use the same kind of language in every conversation. Talking to a friend or talking to the president of the United States are two different realities, each with its own meaning and form. We talk to our children differently from how we might talk at a ball game. Scientists also have language that belongs to their area of expertise. The Church has language that reflects our tradition and often is important as a way to catechize us and make sure we maintain and are faithful to God’s revelation that must be passed on by us from generation to generation.
One example of that is the word in the Creed, CONSUBSTANTIAL. Yes, this is a technical term and one we would not use outside of the Creed ordinarily. But it is essential to our faith. It is the proper English translation of the Greek word, homoousion, that St. Athanasius coined at the Council of Nicea in 324 to express our faith that Jesus is true God, one with the Father in a unique and unrepeatable relationship that only God the Father and God the Son have. Many were trying to say that Jesus was the most like God anyone ever had been or would be. And that was wrong. That left Jesus just a “perfect man.” That meant he could not save us because only God can save humankind. Only the word Athanasius coined was of such precision that it exactly expressed what the Church’s faith truly is. We continue to use this word and the Church will always use this word for which we should be grateful to St. Athanasius and the Fathers of the Council of Nicea of 324.
Preserving the faith is essential in every generation. So is passing on the faith to the next generation. In our day that demands we use all the modern means of communication at our disposal. With great admiration for Cardinal Baum (who is an exceptional preacher), a quill pen won’t do today. The Church tries to use all the modern means of communication to proclaim the greatest truth humankind can know and the only truth that saves us and makes us free: Jesus is Lord! We are blessed in our diocese to have The Long Island Catholic. To that over time we have added our diocesan website and there are means to interact on that website and use Facebook and other instruments of communication.
Of them all we can be especially grateful to Bishop John McGann and Mr. Charles Dolan for Telecare. Our television station is truly “the best in Catholic television.” It has widespread popular support and reaches now into the rest of New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey. There are plans for further expansion and even more development. But this means we need to appeal to the public to help support Telecare.
This weekend Telecare will hold its annual telethon on Saturday, Jan. 14 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday Jan.15, from noon to 10 p.m. Please tune in. There will be great entertainment. Please help if you can by making a donation to help us keep and expand Telecare in the year ahead. The Church is proud of her traditions. She conserves all that is given to us by God and rejoices in all the forms of beauty that enhance our lives in Church. But we have to tell the world. And we need all of us to support this great means of proclaiming the Gospel and bringing Christ’s message of love and life to all. Thanks for your support! Thanks for being the holy people you are!