Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Model Priest

From Crisis:
The Oxford Movement, of which Newman was a leader, sought to return to Anglicanism the many Catholic elements that had been put aside at the Reformation. Front and center in the program was a concern for the Sacred Liturgy. Taking head-on the assertion that Christian worship ought to be “simple” and that splendor in worship is contrary to the will of Our Lord, he declares:
This is what He condemned, the show of great attention to outward things, while inward things, which were more important, were neglected. This, He says Himself, in His denunciation of the Pharisees, “These ought ye to have done,” He says, “and not to leave the other,” the inward, “undone.”
To those who claim to be “spiritual,” he warns that, by praying in their own way, “they end in not praying at all.” Last but by no means least, he issues a warning many of the would-be liturgists of the 1970s would have done well to heed: “Rites which the Church has appointed, and with reason… being long used, cannot be disused without harm to our souls.”
Many observers have also noted the uncanny prophetic quality of Newman’s writings. If he ever showed himself the realist, it was on October 2, 1873, when he was invited to preach on what should have been a joyous occasion: the opening of the first seminary in England since the Reformation. The title of the sermon was “The Infidelity of the Future”; to say that the future cardinal rained on their parade would be an understatement. After tipping his biretta in the direction of the momentous nature of the happy event, Newman spent the rest of his time proffering a series of dizzying predictions of what those seminarians would face in the coming years of their priestly ministry.
He referred to the “perilous times” which he saw on the horizon—“the special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity,” by which he meant living without any sense of a transcendental horizon. One might ask, Wasn’t there always unbelief in one form or another throughout history? Well, not really. As Newman explained, “Christianity has never yet had experience of a world simply irreligious.” Then, addressing the seminarians directly, he warned: “My Brethren, you are coming into a world, if present appearances do not deceive, such as priests never came into before, that is, so far forth as you do go into it, so far as you go beyond your flocks, and so far as those flocks may be in great danger as under the influence of the prevailing epidemic.”
Finally, we read a prognostication of the great churchman that could have been spoken today as he asserts that, although “no large body can be free from scandals from the misconduct of its members,” people of ill will can use even one bad priest against the Church to feed “a malicious curiosity,” so “that we are at the mercy of even one unworthy member or false brother.” I would submit, however, that even the ever-prescient Newman would be astonished at the contemporary social and ecclesial landscape. (Read more.)

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