From The Wanderer:
Anyone involved in catechizing the young in our schools and parishes on the sacraments must always remind themselves that they are not writing upon blank slates — there is a formation already there, and that formation is usually Protestant. The loss of distinctive Catholic signs and symbols has had, over the decades, the cumulative effect of making our children default Protestants…
The author, Dr. Arthur Hippler, is Chairman of the religion department, and teaches religion at Providence Academy Upper School in Plymouth, Minnesota. Although his comments are specifically directed at Catholic youth, I believe that they apply to all contemporary Catholics. The emphases are my own.
The requirement that God meet man in determinate ways and traditional rituals seems unreasonable and unfitting. In fairness, these latter errors are not so much mainline Protestant beliefs but rather the legacy of the liberal Protestantism that developed during the late 1800s…
Catechizing our young people on the sacraments is not then a matter of merely providing information. The Protestantism, whether mainline or liberal, that they have absorbed from the society around them, reduces or eliminates the biblical teaching that God makes Himself known to us through sensible signs.
As St. Thomas teaches, “Since it is natural for man to receive knowledge through his senses, and since it is very difficult to transcend sensible objects, divine provision has been made for man so that a reminder of divine things might be made for him, even in the order of sensible things” (Summa Contra Gentiles, III. 119).
I was a nonbeliever before I became Protestant, I was Protestant before I became Catholic. On my journey, I found that the Church in her teaching was distinctively Catholic, and clearly enunciated her role in the world: to be in, yet apart from; to listen, yet more importantly to explain; to have charity for all, yet to reject, and even condemn, the errors that we all fall prey to. This, then, was the “Catholic identity”: the visible Church, easily seen by the world.
I also quickly found that in practice the Church, at least the contemporary Church, wished to be invisible, to not stand out in the world but to be a part of the world. The distinctively Catholic identity had been suppressed and ridiculed by Catholics – lay and clergy alike - in a rush to appear Protestant, and not too combative, and, well, just “nice”. To my eye this loss of Catholic identity represents both an abdication by those in leadership of their responsibility to guard and transmit the Faith (cf. the first line of the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum found at the beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church) as well as being the primary reason that the Church is floundering in the West.
“I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can such a community be trusted any more about anything else?” (Joseph Ratzinger, via Fr. Z)
The most visible element of the visible Church is the manner in which God is worshiped; in other words, how the Mass, this most visible reminder of divine things, is conducted. Without recovery of the Catholic identity in this most public expression of the Faith, the Church will continue her slow motion collapse in Maine, in these United States, and in the West. This I firmly believe.