Msgr. Marini on the liturgy

 I read a very interesting lecture today. It was held yesterday by Msgr. Guido Marini at the Collegio Teutonico del Campo Santo in Vatican City. Msgr. Marini is the Pontifical Master of Ceremonies and spoke about the liturgy before and after Vatican II. He manages to take the outward beauty of the liturgy and peel away layer after layer to reveal the function and value of the main elements of the liturgy of the Eucharist. He makes good points about the continuity of the Church and her liturgy.

The talk was one in a series, and part of the Clergy Conference 2010 in Rome, as organised by the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy of the United States and Australia, although priests from other countries are attending as well. One of them is Father Tim, who blogs about it here, here, here and here.

The people at New Liturgical Movement have managed to get their hands on the text of the lecture. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide a Dutch translation tomorrow, albeit with the caveat that I’m no liturgist or professional translator. But perhaps one or two people would appreciate it nonetheless.

New feature

I have added a new feature to the tabs at the top of this page: a page dedicated to semi-regular posts about the saints and feast days of the Church. I say semi-regular because I try to post daily, but there’s no guarantee of that. So every now and then there may be a day missing. Still, the Internet is not without resources about saints such as the SQPN Saints page. In fact, it’s where I get a lot of information from.

A challenging and difficult theologian

On the last day of 2009, theologian Edward Schillebeeckx was buried in Nijmegen. The funeral of the controversial Dominican was attended by a fair number of fewllo theologians and representatives of the Church. This despite the often difficult relations between Schillebeeckx and the authorities. On behalf of the Dutch bishops, Msgr. Gerard de Korte attended the funeral, and he writes about it in his column at rkk.nl.

On the death of Father Schillebeeckx
Just before Christmas the Dominican Edward Schillebeeckx died at a very high age. On new Year’s Eve he was buried in Nijmegen. I, representing the Dutch bishops, also gave my last regards to this influential theologian. Memorial articles appeared in the media, very soon after his death. As during his life he remains a controversial theologian after his death.

Discussed
An orthodox protestant theologian called him a ‘liberal whistle-blower’. Conservative Catholic websites speak of an ‘heretic’. Through their chairman, Bishop van Luyn, the Dutch bishops utter careful words. They recall with appreciation the major role of Father Schillebeeckx during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). He remained, in the words of Bishop van Luyn, an influential theologian in the years following, both within the Netherlands and without.

Difficult theologian
I would call Schillebeeckx a challenging and especially difficult theologian. In the first place difficult to read. Incorrect interpretations were easily made, not just because of the erudition of the books but sometimes also because of the long and convoluted sentences. Schillebeeckx also became increasingly difficult for Church authorities, in Rome and in the Netherlands. Looking back I can only consider it tragic that bishops and theologians of Father Schillebeeckx’ stature ended up fruitlessly opposite one another.

The early Schillebeeckx
As far as I can recall, Christ, the sacrament of the encounter with God was the first of Schillebeeckx’ works that I read. It is a work by the early Schillebeeckx from the 1950s. I read it as a history student and was gripped by its piety. The relational approach struck me. Our faith is ultimately about the personal relation of God who came to us in Christ. Schillebeeckx calls Christ the primordial sacrament. The encounter with God is deeply connected with our encounter with Christ, prime access to the Father. In the Church, and especially in the sacraments of the Church, Christ approaches us visibly and tangibly.

Critical about tradition
After my graduation as a historian I became a seminarian and read, among others, his famed book Jesus: an experiment in Christology. Schillebeeckx had become a systematic theologian who wanted to do justice to the results of the study of the Bible. In his own words, he wanted to be an orthodox theologian who was critical about tradition. He emphasised the importance of hermeneutics. A repetition without context of the dogmatic formulae of the past is not fruitful for a living faith. A good explanation and presentation are exceedingly important. What did the early Church say about the mystery of God and the person of Jesus Christ? How can the old faith be put in such words that it is relevant for modern Christians? In this light theology had a deeply pastoral motive for Schillebeeckx: how can I help modern people to achieve the faith in Jesus that the Church wants to express in her christological dogma?

The later Schillebeeckx
In Schillebeeckx later works current events became important, next to tradition. He said God’s salvation far beyond the boundaries of the Church. People are the words with which God write His story. This support of the broad working of God’s Spirit leads to both agreement and questions. Is God’s unique salvation through Jesus Christ still done enough justice?

Discussion about holy orders
Recently there has been some tension between the bishops and the Dutch Dominicans about a brochure about holy orders. Especially the notion that a local community could let someone who was not a priest celebrate the Eucharist was a bridge too far for the bishops. The word schismatic was unavoidable in this context. One could wonder in how far Father Schillebeeckx, with his critical publications about holy orders, stimulated this vision.

Critical evaluation
In his response, Bishop van Luyn, as chair of the bishops’ conference, rightly says that Professor Schillebeeckx’ new way of practicing theology led to discussion. Future research will have to clarify the definitive role of Father Schillebeeckx. Personally, I see important questions for a theological evaluation. Does his later theology do enough justice to early Christian declarations about the triune God and Jesus Christ? And the many questions that his theology of holy orders has caused remains interesting.

At the grave
Standing at Father Schillebeeckx’ grave, however, I did not bid farewell to a difficult theologian but first of all a brother in Christ. Theological concepts and disagreements are exceedingly relative. I had to think about an experience that Saint Thomas Aquinas related. After an intense experience of the Eucharist the great medieval theologian is said to have called his imposing work nothing more than straw. All our knowing is temporal. On the other side of death we will fully know as we are known now. Edward Schillebeeckx need no longer look into a mirror darkly, but can now see face to face (1 Cor. 13,12). He died with great faith. On the day of his death he felt that God was calling him. Some hours before his passing he said, “I see a door, half open, and much light”.
His death announcement mentions a looking forward to the encounter with God as the Living and the Merciful of all people. We prayed that Father Schillebeeckx is secure with God, who came so very close to us in Christ. May he rest in peace.

Msgr. Dr. G.J.N. De Korte

An uncomfortable situation

Following the Ariënskonvikt affair, which spawned legitimate debate, there is now another discussion in a number of Catholic blogs that makes me deeply uncomfortable. Ms. Nelly Stienstra, chair of the orthodox Contact Rooms Katholieken group, translator of official Vatican documents and volunteer in the cathedral parish in Utrecht, has been told by Archbishop Eijk to step down from her duties in the parish. This after publically questioning his integrity and displaying her disregard of him during services, as a letter from the archbishop says.

I don’t know what is and is not true here, but it is not my place to know, let alone debate, either. The major problem is that someone saw fit to make public the private correspondence between two people by sending it to a blogger. It was subsequently picked up by other blogs, as these things go. Ms. Stienstra then responded through a press release voicing her disagreement with the decision.

Here we have a private matter made public to make others look bad – in this case the archbishop and the staff of the archdiocese. To me that seems very unethical. The archbishop has been criticised for not publically explaining his reasoning: he shouldn’t, since this is not something that concerns anyone but himself and Ms. Stienstra.

I have been doubting whether to write about this. Ideally I wouldn’t have for the exact reasons I mention above. But I decided in favour of it to share a different opinion about it all. A decision may be agreed with or disagreed with, and it may also be discussed. But a private matter between two people should remain so, and not be made a topic of public discussion.

Considered discussion

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster commented yesterday on the debate between secularists and believers. He said that the former are “just as dogmatic as the worst religious believer and sometimes more stridently so”.

“Public life is not a neutral place. Everybody comes with their set of values and religion has just as much right to be there as anybody else.

“A secularist is just as dogmatic as the worst religious believer and sometime they are more stridently so.”

The archbishop emphasised the importance of constructive dialogue.

“That means getting away from the sound-bites and getting away from the discussion that is always centered around oppositional conflict.”

Words that seem very logical, but too rarely put into practice. Mudslinging is always easier, of course, because constructive dialogue requires well-thought out arguments and the possibility of having to reconsider one’s ideas. And there are some situations where the parties and the points of view are so opposed to one another that common ground is very hard to find indeed, thus limiting the possibility for dialogue.

Personally, I would think that this may be one such instance, at least when the parties – secular and religious – are both rigid in their points. But I also think that a sensible approach to this can be found in the Catholic Church, which approaches, for example, science and faith – another much-discussed topic – from the angles dedicated by their respective fields of expertise. But that does not mean that within the Church dialogue is abundant and fruitful. On the contrary: Catholics are people too and may often find mudslinging easier and more attractive than considered dialogue. And I can’t exclude myself from that group.

But I hope to be able to remedy that with my blog’s new focus, and walk the fine line between criticism and negativity, with a firm eye set on a hopeful future.

A plea for beer

From a friend on Facebook I get the request to write about beer.

Not a problem, of course. The beer in question is called ‘La Trappe Isid’or’ and is brewed by the trappist monks at Koningshoeven Abbey on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the abbey’s brewery.

Abbot Bernardus writes about the beer and its purpose in his blog, and I translate.

In his rule, St. Benedict emphasises that the abbot should always listen to the advice of his brothers. “Do everything in good counsel, and you will not regret it later” is the good advice that he gives the abbot. Via this weblog I would like to extend the circle of brothers and invite you to give me good counsel.

For our community, 2009 was the year of the establishment of a new monastery in Uganda and the 125th anniversary of beer brewery ‘De Koningshoeven’. Especially and exclusively for this anniversary we brewed ‘La Trappe Isid’or’, named for our first brewer, Brother Isidoor Laaber. It was decided that the revenue of the beer would be spent on the building of the monastery of our daughter community in Uganda. Ethnic struggles forced the brothers out of their abbey in Kenya and they are now still temporarily housed in Uganda. The profits of Isid’or was a nice 100,000 euros! At the moment, the last bottles are taken out of our warehouse. The end of the jubilee year is the end of the jubilee beer.
But the market now calls for keeping the Isid’or in our assortment. The brewery’s directors have asked me to seriously consider this. The decision is difficult, because we already have a fair number of beers (Blond, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel, Witte Trappist and Bockbier). Another reason not to do it is that we have said that this beer would only be available during the jubilee year. What to do now? In the meantime I have listened to my brothers and they sent me back to the market. How great is the demand from the market to keep Isid’or?
And that’s the reason of this question to you, the readers of this weblog. Should Isid’or stay on the market? Yes, No, Yes, but replacing another beer. You have two weeks to responds via the links below, with a motivation if possible. I will act according to Chapter 3 of the Rule: “While listening to the brothers’ advice, he considers the case himself and does what he considers most useful.”

Via the link to the abbot’s weblog above you’ll find the option to vote for a good beer with a good purpose

An introduction of sorts

A new blog? No, rather an old one in a new place. I’ve been blogging for a number of years now and did it all that time at Livejournal. And with much enjoyment, I might add. But over the course of time, especially in the last months, my blogging habits have been changing; where originally I treated my blog as a diary documenting the things that happened in my life, lately I have been moving more towards a more informative blog, not dissimilar to the efforts of such noted blogging priests as Father Z and Father Tim. Not that I pretend to be as knowledgeable or eloquent as either of them (nor as ordained), their topics of choice are an example to me.

Added to that is the growing desire on my part to contribute in a meaningful way to the development of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. It is a small Church, not very visible in society, and with its problems, but not without signs of hope – orthodox priests, congregations eager to grow in their faith, young people searching for a direction in their lives and finding it in the Church. But the parishes, especially in my diocese, are islands. They function on their own and the connection to the neighbouring parishes, the diocese and the world Church is not always alive among the faithful.

What can one lay person do, let alone one who hasn’t been Catholic for more than three years? Well, I can write and translate. Media coverage of Church issues, letters from the Dutch bishops, good homilies, but also events and documents from the world Church – all these are food for my blog, with the ultimate twofold goal of spreading the word, so to speak, of the Dutch Church among the many who don’t read Dutch, and putting the good and important elements of our beautiful faith – liturgy, prayer, theology – in the spotlight.

Here, I hope, I can present a blog that looks professional (at least in its layout) and which I can fully use as a basis for some other online activities. What those may be is something the future will learn, though.

PS: I have imported the blog entries from the past year into this new account. As a result, links in old posts may not always work and images may not be displayed completely (because they were sized to fit the layout of my Livejournal). Some posts are also protected with a password. These are posts that I don’t wish to be publicly accessible. You may always request the password from me in a comment or message.