A caller to a Catholic apologetics show recently asked for some advice on how to evangelise his dear old mother who had somewhat of a checkered attitude to religion, particularly Catholicism. 

The apologists reply came back swiftly and without reservation. “Why not get her watching Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series?”   

The apologist had no vested personal or financial interest in Barron’s production but his follow up explained exactly why he would employ such tact. Bishop Barron has divided opinion at times but most Catholics would agree that his ground-breaking programme has done fruitful work for a Church often found wanting when it comes to inventive methods of evangelisation. 

The presentation of this programme does nothing new either in its approach, but rather it unearths the hidden gems of our Church in its art, sacred music, literature, and traditions; by dusting them down and allowing them to glisten once again for all to see. 

We can spend hours debating the value and necessity of such hidden gems but clearly the success of Bishop Barron’s series is proof that the Church contains a cultural content and context which has the power to inspire and to direct mankind toward the transcendent.

It is a much underused and underappreciated tool. We know that much of this cultural treasure chest was packed up and boxed away like dearly departed grannies old ornaments after the Second Vatican Council. 

The ever growing movement of Traditionalists continue to unbox such wonders despite being accused of being nothing more than an ecclesial antiques roadshow in some quarters. Yet, figures show that Traditionalists continue to attract  more young families then ‘modern’ parishes have been able to do. 

Christmas itself is a time top heavy on tradition on both a personal and ecclesial level. Even the most aggressive progressive would harbor a few die hard habits that are rolled out at the end of each year.

Midnight Mass would certainly make the top ten lists as one of those traditions which has stood the test of time in at least some parishes and households. Shadows falling by candle light on a dark winter night and the rising fog of incense gives us some passage into what it may have been like in Bethlehem all those centuries ago. 

The sudden crash of the Gloria with bells in tow has the ability to startle the congregation probably as much as it scared the daylights out the unsuspecting shepherds on that majestic night. This is what most of us who keep the vigil have come to expect and appreciate. 

Sadly this was not the case for anyone who had the misfortune to tune into the annual broadcast of Midnight Mass on RTÉ this year. Led by the Primate of all Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, one would be expecting big things. What we got was a liturgy which was bizarre at best and downright disturbing at worst. 

The small Church in Grange, County Louth, was so flooded with artificial light it may well have a similar electricity bill to a cannabis grow-house come next month. 

The musical arrangements sounded as though they had come straight out of Les Misérables, and the fact that the good Archbishop sung every word straight down the camera lens induced the same awkwardness of an early 80s MTV pop video.  

Yet, even these entrees couldn’t have prepared the viewer for the horrors that were to come, and they did, in the nightmarish form of the infamous ‘liturgical dancers’. 

Children dressed like an array of Cadburys chocolate roses waved candy colored hankies and tip toed about a crib scene so big it had swallowed up any sign of the sacred altar on which the holy sacrifice was to later take place. Some of them even shimmied behind the altar as the poppy piano and happy hip harp delivered an elevator style ensemble setting of the Gloria

At the offertory we were again treated to some more paganesque worship all to the accompaniment of that well known Church Hymn ‘ Molly McAlpine’! 

Throw in a couple of solo operatic performances as a crescendo and this mass was now a performance that could take to the road playing theatres nationwide.

Of course no modern liturgical setting is complete without the strum of a secular acoustic guitar, and just when you thought old stringy had stayed away, up he pops to see us off with silent night! At this stage one could only pray that most of the potential viewership had gone to their beds or switched over to the shopping channel at least. 

Every mass is an opportunity to evangelize, but a televised mass has a particular reach and weight. Like Barron has pointed out, the beauty that has been handed down from generation to generation doesn’t stop being beautiful all of a sudden. 

Much of French playwright Jean Marie Anouilh’s work dealt with maintaining integrity in a society full of moral compromises. Anouilh said that things are beautiful because you love them. How much more effective would it be if only we loved the things that have always been beautiful. Can any liturgist, cleric, parishioner, or dare I say Bishop, honestly say that what we witnessed on this holiest of nights was Beautiful?

Posted by Paul Peters

5 Comments

  1. Question, Think 27/12/2021 at 10:21 pm

    From the article – proof that the Church contains a cultural content and context which has the power to inspire and to direct mankind toward the transcendent.
    __________________________________________________________________

    I see the church and christianity in a different light, it has never inspired me in any way whatsoever, even the most celebrated christian tradition “Christmas” is just another name for the “midwinter festivals” that were enjoyed in pre-christian europe, that marked an important date for when the evenings started to get more sunshine after the shortest day in the year. How convenient the church placed their deity to be worshipped in midwinter over the pre-christian festivals. An example of such a festival would be “Irish Newgrange”. Anyone who claims that there was “no established highly advanced culture” in Ireland prior to the “christianisation process” is highly ignorant of irish history. The worship of “trees” around this time of the year is also entirely pre-christian. The “Evergreen species of trees” were a sacred tree to Goidelic Druids. Modern “christmas trees” were also re-popularized among europeans by Christian reformer Martin Luther, who popularized decorating trees in the 16th century. Funny how all the catholics around europe that hate on the protestant reformation are the first to decorate their trees in december, even the papacy themselves haha. As a german, luther was just rekindling his germanic ancestry by becoming enthralled with the magnificent yule tree. Thanks to him christmas is somewhat more interesting.

    In my opinion, there is very little originality in “christianity”, it is like a cover song that gets copied from an original song.

    As for Ireland, even the name “Ireland” derives from a pre-christian goddess called “Ériu”. To say that Irish history only started through christianity is pure ignorance.

    Irish history goes way deeper than christianity. Even if one calls themselves an irish nationalist, they should remember where the name “Ireland” comes from, and how the goddess Ireland/Ériu is a very mystical island, a goddess that has a deep history.

    Pre-christian irish kings married the land, which was seen as a goddess. Her beauty has been eroded over time, because she is not worshipped anymore, instead the men worship rome and their latin mass. Even look at the picture of this article, the old roman temple in the background.

    I would bow my head to an irish mountain rather than a roman palace.

    Reply

    1. This is what we believe and celebrate.

      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      2 The same was in the beginning with God.

      3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

      4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

      5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

      6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

      7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

      8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

      9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

      10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

      11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

      12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

      13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

      14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

      It’s certainly nowhere near as dumb as worshipping a tree. Go ahead and believe that ancient Irish history is so unique and advanced and realize that these people had no major civilization since they couldn’t write down their own history. The monks did that. You know the monks who could translate Latin and Greek, Greek being the language of philosophy and logic? That’s what the church brought to the world. The Logos and the salvation of Christ the Logos incarnate. The church surpassed the Greeks in their logic. The pagan barbarians were way behind and the only pagans worth remembering were the Greeks because they had philosophy. So go ahead and worship your tree and celebrate the change in season . It’s hillarious that you think you know anything about these ancient people’s beliefs in new grange apart from the “seasons are changing let’s celebrate’ thats deep? Pathetic.

      Reply

  2. The paradox of “evangelization” is that it works best when you’re not doing it. If you’re living your own philosophy to its fullest, people outside should want to be a part of it.

    Reply

  3. Mary Stasia Concannon 29/12/2021 at 9:54 pm

    Do you get EWTN in Ireland? That’s wbere I would have sent him.

    Reply

  4. “Children dressed like an array of Cadburys chocolate roses waved candy colored hankies and tip toed about a crib scene so big it had swallowed up any sign of the sacred altar…”

    They even had ?&#$@x! masks on.

    Masonic pantomime.

    Reply

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