......stuck behind the back seat of a sedan while I was reading the Anthony Esolen article The Work of Human Hands: When Catholicism Becomes a Hobby in the latest issue of crisis magazine. I agreed so much that you would have though my head was on a little hanger, I was nodding so often. As I have mentioned before, I am also reading PBXVI's The Spirit of the Liturgy, which Esolen has obviously taken much to heart in writing the article.
The article is not available, as yet, on the crisis website. I suspect it will be next month (after the next issue comes out). Remind yourself to go there and read it then, if you've not got a subscription to the magazine.
Here's a little sample:
For we are assured by plenty of Catholic theologians--whose god is rather a puffy version of their haute-couture Western selves--that we are the Church, just as Americans are America and Italians are Italy. I doubt that such a belief bodes well for America or Italy; for the Church it means destruction. It means that we may amend what the Church teaches, updating it for our current desires. That nowadays those desires are most often of the sexually indulgent variety is hardly to the point; another age might indulge human bondage, or the view that men ought to be manufactured as machines for the greater good of the whole. The point, says Benedict, is that to treat the Church as a polity is to treat it as a human work. Those who do so, he concludes, preach a salvation by works. With a stunning nod to the deep truth that Luther saw, he notes that such a salvation by works is expressly denied by the New Testament.
And then again:
...The clergy and laymen who cause the most harm in our Church right now are not those few who think of the Church as a powerful job. They are those, and their name is Legion, who think of the Church as a delightful and self-fulfilling hobby. We all risk falling for that lie.
You know whereof I speak. Sashaying choristers with frilly robes, in full view of the congregation, drawing pleasant attention to themselves rather than leading the faithful in a self-forgetting worship of God. Soloists, under a tingly spotlight, crooning into the microphone and writhing for emphasis, wailing the Sunday blues at Saint Cecilia's piano bar; one might fancy they'd turn their hats upside down to collect tips from the communicants, except that nobody wears a hat to church, and the crooner often displays other parts of her body in more urgent need of cover. Rows and rows of the finest virtuosos, of lectors and lectresses, the Everyday Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, the Liturgical Commissars, Commissars of Religious Education, the Financial Commissar, the Grand Imperial Mystic Wizards of the Parish Council, and thank God for one person who actually does work that is humble, unnoticed, and quite necessary, the janitor.
Let me be clear that I mean no disrespect to those lectors, EMEs, teachers, bookkeepers, and others, even singers, who relieve our overburdened priests and who do their work unobtrusively and humbly, aware that they are not worthy of doing it, and praying that they will perform it in such a way as to help lead some soul to God, or at least not get in that soul's way......
I think he's on to something, and I speak from experience. I sit on the Parish Council of my parish, because I am the treasurer of the Parish. It is always, always a temptation to see oneself as overly important in the grand scheme of things. Of forgetting that it is Christ who is the head of St. Mary's, not those of us who worry and decide and futz on about the budget. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are "humble laborers in the vineyard of the Lord", to quote a certain someone who is much smarter (and more humble) than I am!
It is hard to smacked up the side of the head with an article so on point as this one. Thank you, Mr. Esolen. I needed that.