On November 18 His Holiness Pope Francis gave a homily over the book of Maccabees. Pope Francis talked about the danger of secular progressivism and globalized uniformity. His Holiness stated “God save us from the hegemonic uniformity of the “line of thought” “fruit of the spirit of the world that negotiates everything”, even the faith”.1
The pope emphasized the necessity of keeping the Catholic identity and not negotiating our relationship and fidelity towards God. The pope gave a passage from the book of Maccabees which says, “The king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and everyone abandon their customs.”(1 Maccabees 1:41)
“A globalized conformity of all nations is not beautiful, the hegemonic uniformity of globalization, the single line of thought. And this single line of though is the result of worldliness”.2
This is something that has been going on in the modern world. A big example is in developed first world countries such as Europe and the United States, where many Catholics have fallen away from their faith in order to embrace progressivism and what the Pope has called secular uniformity. They have become one people with no identity of the One True Faith, one in which people have abandoned their customs. They have traded the truth of God and have sold themselves for a phony wisdom and knowledge that we find in a Godless and worldly society. So what happened? How did we end up selling ourselves out of the True Faith and have lost our identity as Catholics? Most of it has to do with not embracing the Church’s Tradition. This includes its tradition in its entirety, from its intellectual, musical, apostolic, and even ecclesial and Liturgical Tradition. Doing this has made it hard to differentiate the world from the Catholic.
About two months ago on September 3, 2013 Professor Thomas E Woods JR, gave a great speech to Catholic students in Benedictine College. The talk lasted about twenty-five minutes. He spent the first 15 minutes discussing the contributions that the Catholic Church had made to Western Civilization.
He went on to describe the development and start of the University System in the Middle Ages, the contributions to modern science and economics, by the late scholastics, and the many more contributions made by the Church to Western Civilization. Some of these contributions which you can read in my article The Not So Dark Ages or in Professor Wood’s own book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.
The most relevant contribution for this article however has to be the artistic and architectural contributions that the Church had made which professor Woods talked about in his speech. This includes the many medieval cathedrals, or Michelangelo’s work, and the great artistic masterpieces such as The Madonna.
This is in contrast with the trash of today’s so called “art”. This includes Duchamp’s The Fountain which is a sculpture of a man’s urinal. Marcel Duchamp inspired Dada, an anti-rational, anti-art cultural movement. This modern sense of art is what professor Woods has called “a fetish for moral and esthetic ugliness”.3
Woods talked about what it meant to “live according to nature” both in the ancient world and in the modern worldly sense. Woods stated that “To the Stoics of the ancient world this meant pursuing virtue as the best way to conform oneself to the Divine Plan. To the Aristotelian similarly living according to nature meant discovering the unique characteristic of human beings “which is our rational nature” and living our lives by exercising that reason in our moral conduct and in our intellectual pursuits.4
However today living according to nature means doing whatever comes naturally. As Woods accurately stated “To the modern man this means that man is a beast and is to be quite content in his beastly state. 5
Because of this modern intellectual and artistic stagnation, professor Woods stated that in order to bring back cultural renewal in all areas of life, it has to start with ourselves as Catholics.
“We (Catholics) need to examine ourselves, how well have we devoted ourselves to the Church’s intellectual tradition? How devoted are we to our studies? Have we used the media that is available to us for free? How much have we studied the Church’s contributions to Western Civilization?”6
This brings us to the Mass and how it is celebrated. This will perhaps be the focal point in my article. The Mass as Professor Woods states is one of the determining factors that gives Catholics their identity and means of differentiating between the world and a Catholic. It is the difference between the World and Heaven.
“How can we bring cultural renewal if Mass is celebrated badly? How can we expect the average person to know anything about the Church’s beautiful musical patrimony when in our own parishes we prefer emasculating music from the 1970s?”7
The Vatican II documents state that Gregorian chant should be given pride of place in the Liturgy. It also states that we should not forsake sacred polyphony.
“ If we think we are going to save young people from this culture by mimicking MTV with rock music milquetoast preaching and casual familiarity in the presence of the sacred we are diluted. “ Mass should be a lesson on its piety, wonder, respect, order, and even manners. “It is to be a sign of contradiction”.8