When I tackled the ramifications of the new Roman Missal translation, I pondered what it would mean for ex-Catholics or "fallaway Catholics."
Of course, there has been a split amongst Catholics who do attend church about the translations, which were implemented last week after months of preparations. It took a gigantic amount of effort and the kinks are still being worked out. If the people who have been hearing this for a while think it's tough, just imagine those people who are returning will think.
A co-worker of mine said they wouldn't notice a difference because they've been away for so long. I beg to differ. People raised in the church don't forget what it's like. It's embedded in your psyche. I don't have anything to back this up, but I'd imagine many former Catholics who go to other church services notice what's not like their Catholic Mass experience, no matter how many times they attend.
So, when the Catholic Mass is different, what happens next?
Let's talk numbers --- wait, wait, don't click away yet, this will get interesting.
America ranks in the top five countries in terms of number of Catholics. One in three Americans were raised Catholic. According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of people raised in the Catholic Church are no longer part of the faith. When people say Hispanics are the future of the Catholic Church in America, they're not kidding.
Forty-six percent of foreign-born Americans are Catholics. According to a 2008 Pew study, "Latinos, who already account for roughly one-in-three adult Catholics overall, may account for an even larger share of U.S. Catholics in the future. For while Latinos represent roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics age 70 and older (12%), they account for nearly half of all Catholics ages 18-29 (45%)."
Spanish Masses in the U.S. were unaffected by the Roman Missal translation for English speakers.
I'm not breaking new ground here, but the Catholic Church has a lot of work cut out for it in America.
Think about it: The Catholic Church has to stop people from leaving the church, retain what it currently has amidst a big shift in Roman Missal translation, attempt to bring new people to the church while integrating vital Hispanics into parish life. It'll be a challenge to integrate many Hispanics in English-speaking Masses implementing the new translation too.
So, all of this brings me to #occupychurch. The hashtag is gaining steam on Twitter among youth ministers and ministry leaders. Of course, it's a clever play on the Occupy Wall Street crowd, a would-be revolution, and its prevalence on social networks.
Can an #occupychurch movement really start? How does a 2000-year-old institution with unchanging truths convince people its counter-cultural enough to create a faith revolution?
As an observer and reporter, I'm watching this with interest to see if something tangible manifests itself without being ironic. How do you push past the hashtag and into the real world given all the challenges facing the American Catholic Church right now?
Is it possible for American Catholics to #occupychurch once again?
November 30, 2011 03:59
By Matt Palmer
Father Matt Buening looked out on his congregation Nov. 27 as he was concluding Mass at St. Paul's in Ellicott City and offered something he has done throughout his young priesthood.
"The Lord be with you," he said.
What came next probably happened all across the country this weekend.
One half responded "And also with you," while the other said, "And with your spirit."
Father Buening smiled and offered, "Pretty good."
It wasn't the first time the congregation relied on what it had done for decades. Earlier in the Mass, Father Buening offered "The Lord be with you."
The congregation responded with "And also with you."
Father Buening looked at them and said, "One more time."
The parish giggled a bit and said, "And also with your spirit."
Father Buening again asked, "One more time."
Finally, they said, "And with your spirit."
English-speaking parishes all across the country started the new translation (third edition) of the Roman Missal this weekend during Masses. And there were "a few slip-ups" at some parishes as one Catholic Review tweet put it.
People in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who knew all of the previous responses and the Mass spent the weekend looking at pamphlet guides. The Masses lacked the sure-footedness of previous ones, as people read, rather than recited, much of their responses.
More than anything, the biggest changes happened for the priests, who prepared for the consecration in a whole new, and almost unrecognizable, way.
I think one of my biggest adjustments to the new translation will be the wordiness of it all. That's saying something considering I'm a writer. Journalists are often told to "dumb it down" for their audience so the reader will understand the story better. The Catholic English Mass is going in the opposite direction, using wordy prose that is more faithful to the original Latin text that guided the Catholic Church for much of its 2000 years.
As a retired altar boy, I spent a lot of time looking down, rather than up, this weekend. I no longer know the Mass like the back of my hand.
I knew what I said before, I meant it and it was true.
It's not my job to judge the decisions of Catholic leaders who know more theologically than I do. Their goal is to make the worship experience deeper and fuller. For me, there wasn't anything deeper and fuller than the Mass as I knew it.
It might not have been close enough to the Latin for some, but, for me, Mass wasn't about chasing a language. It was about celebrating Christ's sacrifice and his real presence in the Eucharist. It might not have been perfect for some, but it was perfect for me and I suspect for a lot of people.
To be honest, I do worry about the large number of ex-Catholics who might entertain returning to the Holy Church one day. Fall-away Catholics make up one of the most significant portions of faiths in the country. If they return, will they recognize the Mass and will it bring them the comfort they're seeking?
The page in the Missal has been turned. It's my job as a Catholic newspaper reporter to turn with it. I can't educate people in the paper if I don't go deeper in my own Catholicism and explore what's being said at Mass all over again. The reality is, this is going to be the Mass of my children. They won't know anything different until it's possibly changed down the road… and then they'll be the ones talking about how they feel like a stranger in a familiar pew.
One of the unfortunate side effects of this change has been the online battle between those who dispute the change and those who embrace it. I've seen some resort to calling those faithful to the former translation "protestants." A love of the Mass is a love of the Mass. It's not protestant to think the Mass, as it was, was beautiful and true. A person has the right to miss that translation as much as some miss the Latin Mass proper.
We all have the same goal in the Catholic faith. As English-speakers, we're just saying it differently now and that's no small thing.
November 27, 2011 03:25
By Matt Palmer
It's hard to imagine that today's middle schoolers were barely alive when the Columbine incident happened in Colorado. It was such a big cultural moment. But, St. Margaret's Catholic School in Bel Air is incorporating lessons learned 12 years ago about bullying to today's classrooms. Check out my story in The Catholic Review to learn more.
Take a listen to an interview I did with students Katie Sullivan and Julia Haigley below. Occasionally, guidance counselor Martha Sullivan chimes in with her thoughts as well. It's amazing how insightful and idealistic young people are. If only us grown ups were the same way.
November 07, 2011 03:08
By Matt Palmer
A week ago, I profiled Church of the Nativity's missions work, thanks to a conversation with director Brian Crook. Brian, at 26, is a young Catholic making a big difference in Timonium and way beyond. The parish has partnerships with Nigeria and Haiti and he's been to both with pastor Father Michael White. He's also enabling parish volunteers to make their own big difference, inspired by Christian values. The people there are doing it with passion.
Brian was kind enough to allow me to record that conversation and there's a large part of that interview embedded below. Enjoy, be inspired and do good work.
October 04, 2011 01:36
By Matt Palmer
Archbishop O'Brien concelebrates Mass in Madrid.
Keep logged on to Catholicreview.org
today for all the news on Archbishop O'Brien's new appointment today. He's leaving the Archdiocese of Baltimore for a huge position and The Review
has all the scoops. Fellow bloggers Chris Gunty
and George Matysek
have the latest information. Follow their tweets on http://twitter.com/catholicreview
and like Catholic Review on Facebook
as well. You won't miss anything on this very important news.
August 29, 2011 10:59
By Matt Palmer
Jo-Anne Rowney is young, but plays an important role in the Catholic Church in England. As communication director of the Diocese of Westminster, she helped reach people all over the world when Pope Benedict XVI visited last year. Social media made her a major player in the trip and people could follow the pope's moves. It was a powerful moment. In the audio below, she explains how she did it and what role social media can play in the church going forward. This was captured by me, for Baltimore's The Catholic Review, during Rowney's presentation at a World Youth Day social media panel.
August 29, 2011 10:37
By Matt Palmer
Archbishop Timothy Dolan addresses English-speaking young people at World Youth Day in Madrid (photo by Matt Palmer/The Catholic Review)
MADRID- Earlier on Aug. 17, Archbishop Dolan led a catechesis session with English-speaking attendees of World Youth Day at St. Ricardo parish. Afterward, he answered a series of questions, including about the recent legalization of gay marriage in New York, where Archbishop Dolan is currently heading the Archdiocese of New York. Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, recently announced that he too would push for gay marriage in his state.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore's contingent of young people was in attendance at Archbishop Dolan's presentation and question and answer session, which was followed by a Mass. Lots of future Maryland voters were in attendance.
Take a listen to Archbishop Dolan's Q&A with the young people.
August 17, 2011 07:36
By Matt Palmer
A couple of weeks ago my three-year-old niece, Molly, told my mother and me that she had a bad dream. She wouldn't elaborate, simply because she told me I was in the nightmare.
Once she got through the sheepishness, she shared that she figured out who was responsible giving her those night terrors.
She raised her index finger with conviction, as she does so often, and said, "God definitely did it."
Suddenly, she had turned into Nancy Drew and was getting to the bottom of life’s mysteries.
Quick, kid, tell me the meaning of life.
My mother and I shared a quick glance at one another and tried, quite unsuccessfully, to stifle laughter. How could you not chuckle at something so blunt?
My mother and I reassured Molly that God loved her too much and he wouldn't do that to her. God, we said, didn’t want to scare her.
"No, uncle Matt," Molly insisted with a stern finger, "God did it."
My sister and brother-in-law have done a tremendous job teaching Molly about God and introducing her to the Catholic Church. She leads the family in the Sign of the Cross before meals.
The concept of God is mind-blowing on any level, but particularly for a young child. Think about the fact that there's an omnipotent being that has created every single thing in the universe and provides for all of us via unfathomable power.
God can do anything.
The tremendous thing about children is that they believe with unshakable conviction. When mommy says it, it’s true times two.
I didn’t have an answer for my niece to change her mind. My mom, too, struggled to find the right words. She had three children of her own but couldn’t provide an answer that made Molly reconsider. I felt like a kid.
“Mom, figure this out!”
Since that day, I laugh when I think of Molly’s explanation. She’s so determined and well-spoken that it feels like I’m talking with a philosophy major.
How do you tell a child that God isn’t responsible for everything that happens in the world? Who or what do you shift the blame to?
I think about the day when I’ll have my own children and I’m faced with that question. Then, I thank God it’s my sister’s challenge for the time being.
April 21, 2011 01:23
By Matt Palmer
Well, that took almost as long as a real pregnancy.
Back on July 19, 2010, I sent a missive via email to the editorial staff of The Catholic Review. Think Jerry McGuire's Mission Statement without the goldfish.
The subject was nebulous, but grand. "Millennials Multi-Story Idea."
It sounded like I was either going to write about flowers or time travel in a DeLorean.
In it, I explained how I wanted to chronicle the generation of teens and 20-somethings from the Archdiocese of Baltimore that were going to board flights and head to Madrid with their Iphones and Ipads (were Ipads even around then?) in August of 2011 and hang with a million other young Catholics and Pope Benedict XVI for World Youth Day. Basically, it would be a prep course for our readers and a mirror for young people, who admittedly don't read The Catholic Review in droves. They're the generation elusive to most newspapers. I wanted to capture them in a snapshot series and bring them into the Catholic discussion, even if some were coming kicking and screaming.
Who are they? What do they do? What do they they believe in? What is their cause? How connected are they? What paradoxes exist and can you really just lump a whole generation of people together just based on studies? Not only that, but someone born in 1982 is not going to have too much in common with someone born in 1992.
They're as different as He-Man and the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
Everything would be peeled back over a span of months, leading up World Youth Day. I would talk to young people and experts to make it happen. I'd film interviews and have audio interviews in mp3 format.
We met about the idea a day after the email opus. Everyone was excited. If there were Jerry McGuire fish around, I'm sure they would have been coming with me.
The first trimester passed and outside of some conversations, there was little sign of life.
Then, the story started kicking. I did some groundwork, attending a workshop with U.S. Catholic Bishops back in November and visited Mount St. Mary's campus in Emmitsburg in early December. I talked with four young people and Father Brian Nolan, chaplain there. Before we started, Father Brian prayed for me and my work. Hey, at least God's now in the loop, I thought.
The students blew me away. They were smart, aware and so insightful it was almost shocking.
In mid-January, I sat down with a Loyola University Maryland official and three students. Again, I was inspired to write and amazed how comfortable they were in front of cameras and how aware they were of the world's issues.
Our target date for publication was Feb. 10, 2011, but we hit some snags along the way in scheduling. It felt like the home stretch would never come.
Finally, I settled in and cranked out the story two weeks ago, along with a timeline sidebar that would feature events that dot the landscape of a Millennial's life. After some rounds of editing with the staff here at The Review, it was finally released this past Thursday. It was surreal seeing it finally in print. I couldn't have done it without the support and hard work of co-workers April Hornbeck and Jenn Williams, who pushed and supported me
A Millennial page is being set up here at CatholicReview.org to stockpile the stories and multimedia featuring the young people interviewed for this series.
I've got to get to work on the next installment in the series. The journey has only begun. Who's coming with me?
March 27, 2011 02:58
By Matt Palmer
Is Aslan really meant to be Christ?
Actor Liam Neeson
, voice of "Aslan
in the Chronicles of Narnia
" film series, believes the magical lion represents more than Christ.
Neeson, who was raised Catholic in Ireland, believes Aslan is all great spiritual leaders rolled into one figure. He said this at a press conference to promote latest Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“Yes, Aslan symbolizes a Christ-like figure, but he also symbolizes for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries,” he said.
A key figure in C.S. Lewis' camp was quick to debate the point in the Catholic News Service story linked above.
Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis’s former secretary and a trustee of his estate, disagreed with Neeson’s assessment.
“Lewis would have simply denied that,” said Hooper, an American Catholic who lives in Oxford, England.
“He (Lewis) wrote that the ‘whole Narnian story is about Christ,’” he told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 2 telephone interview. “It is nothing whatever to do with Islam. Lewis could not have been clearer.
What say you literary and movie fans? Comment on Neeson's reservations when it comes to Jesus. Is he just trying to be politically correct? Does he have a point?
December 06, 2010 03:28
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By Matt Palmer