Into Silence with Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah has been getting some attention lately because of statements he has made regarding the proper celebration of the Mass (I think the controversy is silly and Cardinal Sarah is clearly more wise than his detractors). The cardinal has also just written a book called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, which I am reading as part of a book group. His first book, God or Nothing, our group read earlier, and both book s are excellent, though very different.

There are so many great quotes from The Power of Silence, but for now I just want to highlight this one:

How can we come to master our own interior silence? The only answer lies in asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility. If man does not mortify himself, if he stays as he is, he remains outside of God. (51)

I am also reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, which I am enjoying (I don’t really get most of the criticisms of this book). But I find the strategies and tactics suggested by Dreher to, basically, sit on top on Cardinal Sarah’s deeper insights, as indicated in the short quote above (but evidenced throughout his book). The cardinal’s quote points to a fundamental and, I believe, profound problem with our world today, and especially with Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant — we are addicted to noise, which is damaging us, and we no longer understand the importance of asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility in fighting that noise. The cardinal’s insights also point to the fact that we think we know what noise is, but we don’t — not at the spiritual level.

In fact, I believe if Christians followed the cardinal’s words seriously, then the kind of place, role, and actions of the Church in the world could take any number of forms, not only Dreher’s form(s), because it’s not really about carving out an alternative society so much as it’s changing one’s heart, will, passions, etc. — the rest will follow, and do so in countless ways.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015. Print.

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel, 2017. Print.

Beauty and Reverence and Discipleship

fishermen Recently I wondered about what might a parish do to grow its numbers of active members and to increase monetary giving. We tend to gravitate towards what we find valuable. That wondering was prompted by a previous post on Beauty and the Mass. In both posts I suggested that a re-focusing on beauty and reverence at the Mass, particularly in light of the fact of the Real Presence (Christ, who as our King and Lord and Savior, is really there, present, with us) and all that means, or should mean, to us. But I want to take a step back. Though I thoroughly believe what I wrote, I am realizing more and more that what I am suggesting, though good, may be also be too much about the surface of things. At least I don’t want to convey it’s about external actions and the “prettiness” of things. This is not to say “let’s not have beauty or reverence until we deal with deeper things,” but I do want to call out that we must also (let’s say firstly) deal with the deeper things, namely our personal relationship with Christ. In order to truly (and properly) love the Mass, we must first love Christ. We must be His disciples. [Note: It is arguable that Beauty is not a lesser thing, in that it is one of the transcendentals, and thus an aspect of God. And reverence does seem to go hand-in-hand with a right understand of God.] Perhaps we should see beauty and reverence as flowing naturally from authentic discipleship, and then those things will be powerful calls to discipleship in others. Seek discipleship first, then beauty will beckon beauty, and reverence will beckon reverence, and both will beckon more disciples. I suppose it’s all of a piece. This was brought home to me via this talk given by Sherry Weddell at one of the recent Steubenville Conferences. (What the video below and the image at the top will make more sense.) Weddell is the author of the excellent book “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus”. She does not talk about beauty and reverence, but her thoughts on discipleship made me realize that a parish without enthusiastic discipleship in its DNA will shrivel and perhaps die. And yet, and yet… the presence of beauty and reverence just may first call forth seekers to become disciples – those seekers who have ears to hear and eyes to see if only there is beauty and reverence before them. Thus, seek fervently to be true disciples, but do not wait for beauty and reverence.