Tuesday, November 13, 2007

St. Louis Magazine on the Tridentine-rite ordinations

Published in St. Louis Magazine is an excellent reflection by Jeannete Cooperman on the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest's June 15 Tridentine-rite ordination of two Americans in the St. Louis Cathedral. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, formerly La Crosse's bishop conducted the four-hour ceremony. One of the two men, Father Avis (read more about him below), is originally from the La Crosse diocese; additionally, a current member of the Institute's community near La Crosse at St. Mary's Ridge was quoted in the article.

After contemplating at length on the aesthetics of the extraordinary form of the Mass, Cooperman focuses on the division she feels the rite is causing -- both within the Church and with the Jewish community. I would call her concern overwrought, except for the fact that so many Jews and Catholics are reacting negatively to the reintroduction of the extraordinary rite.

A negative Catholic reaction from the article:
“It’s a power thing,” snaps a devout Catholic with a graduate degree in theology and strong feminist sensibilities. “Only the boys who know the language know what’s going on. They’re saying the words; if you can’t answer, so what? They’re battening down the hatches.” She takes a deep breath. “Yes, the mystique of Latin takes people to another world. But it’s a world that doesn’t exist.”

And a negative Jewish reaction (in regard to the Triduum prayer asking that the veil from the eyes of the Jews):
“The other thing that’s going on here is a dynamic that is very dangerous,” (Rabbi) Shook continues. “In the old days, pre–Vatican II, there was a sense that Christians needed to help their Jewish brothers and sisters see the truth—and the reason they did not see the truth was because they had not been instructed in the truth—so it was the Catholics’ job to instruct them. Now, what happens when Jews say, ‘I’m not interested’? Then they are being willful in their denial of the truth. And the next step is anti-Judaism. The minute you assign a defect to a community—i.e., that the community is not in a proper relationship with Christ—your relationship from that point on is one of superior to inferior.

Within these two quotes are too many issues to address with the attention they deserve. I think the Jewish reaction to this prayer is a fault of current interreligious dialogue -- our current mode of interreligious dialogue doesn't seem to include the Church's hope that all humanity embrace Jesus Christ. Why can't we pray that the Jews come to know Christ? I wish the current (ordinary) good Friday prayer were more explicit in this regard. This isn't a liturgical problem -- it's an ecclesiological problem.

As for the negative reaction from within the Church, I think a lot of it comes from ecclesiological misunderstanding ("It's a power thing") as well as liturgical misunderstanding. Someone needs to address what it means to "participate" in the liturgy. If all participation means is dialoguing with a priest celebrant, there's not much going on. But if participation means uniting one's heart, mind and senses to the mystery being re-presented, then perhaps being "taken to another world" is exactly what we want. Does that world exist? I don't know what the "devout Catholic with a graduate degree" is hopeing for, but my faith tells me this world exists!

As for Father Avis, one of the two men ordained in that ceremony, I wrote about his faith journey for the Catholic Times at the end of June:

Former Prairie du Chien resident ordained for Institute of Christ the King
By Franz Klein
Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Catholic Times) – A former resident of Prairie du Chien, Wis., Father William Avis, was one of two men ordained to the priesthood June 16 by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The newly ordained are religious of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society of apostolic life.
Countless priests, including Monsignor Gilles Wach, founder and general superior of the Institute, participated in the three-hour Tridentine ordination Mass – the first to be celebrated in a U.S. cathedral in over 40 years. Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., and auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago sat in choir.
The son of Walter Avis and Roberta Cunningham, 28-year-old Father Avis said he always felt drawn to the religious life, and to the priesthood. But, raised Lutheran, he first had to become Catholic.
“It was almost like an intuition that it (Catholicism) was the true faith,” he said, explaining that the beautiful prayers he encountered in an old missal captivated his imagination as a child. “The first time I tried to become Catholic, I was in eighth grade. But, because my mother was against it, I couldn’t be received into the Church.”
Father Avis said his mother eventually came to terms with his desire to convert, and he went through the RCIA program at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Prairie du Chien.
It was during his first year at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse that Father Avis discovered the Institute of Christ the King. “I was very drawn to the charism of the Institute, especially in that it had the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales,” he explained. “I had just finished reading “An Introduction to the Devout Life, and I was captivated by Salesian spirituality.”
Father Avis said Salesian spirituality consists in “not doing the big things, but doing everything for the love of God.”
While at UW-La Crosse, Father Avis attended the Tridentine Mass celebrated by priests of the Institute at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, St. Mary’s Ridge. He then spent a year working with the Institute at their St. Mary’s Oratory in Rockford, Ill. This experience of community life, of living and praying in common, convinced Father Avis he was called to join the Institute.
After a year spent learning French – the common language for the Institute, which was founded in France in 1990 – Father Avis was accepted to the order’s international seminary in Gricigliano, Italy.
During his years in Gricigliano, Father Avis studied Salesian spirituality, and attended philosophy and theology lectures based on St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. “Most of our professors were Benedictine monks who were living a contemplative life, and that was linked with the theology,” he said.
Father Avis said his ordination to the subdiaconate was a decisive moment. “There, the candidate for the priesthood takes a vow of celibacy and also the duty of saying the Divine Office every day,” he explained. “It’s there where you really throw yourself in the arms of God and give yourself completely. Always before I would have some hesitation. But, seeing how my life had progressed so far, I could see this is what God was calling me to do.”
Together with three other men, Father Avis was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Luciano Giovannetti, of the local Fiesole diocese, earlier this year.
And on June 16, in St. Louis, he completed a long journey by being ordained to the priesthood.
Father Avis said the fact that he was a priest first sank in as he concelebrated with Archbishop Burke later on during his ordination Mass. “I knew already that I was a priest, but when I said the words of consecration, I really felt this is what a priest does,” he said.
Father Avis has been assigned to St. Francis Oratory in St. Louis, which celebrates the Tridentine Mass for Catholics in south St. Louis. He served at that parish during his time as a deacon as well.
He said much of his time will be occupied in hearing confessions. “We’re one of the few churches in the city of St. Louis that have confessions each day, so a lot of people come specifically for that reason,” Father Avis explained.
“I’m looking forward to giving spiritual direction,” he said. “The charism of our Institute is to spread Salesian spirituality, and that’s usually done with retreats or spiritual direction.”
“Pray for me,” Father Avis added. “One of the things that strikes me about the priesthood is that God, in His providence, decides to use the instruments that we would think He would be the least likely to use.”

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