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Saturday, December 11, 2010



One of the pitfalls a convert from some simplistic forms of Christianity in the Protestant world can fall into, is trying to absorb and live everything that is in the broad spectrum of Catholic faith.

It is perhaps easy, and I speak for myself, to blur the lines between essentials and the wide buffet of customs, practices, sacramentals, spiritualities and devotions, all of which are on the table before us, and have church approval at one level or another. That doesn't even mention the many idiosyncrasies of local parishes and communities that on first inspection seem to have very little to do with the faith.

Perhaps that is part of the reason many converts hover in the area of apologetics, because that represents the essentials, the theological hurdles that had to be leaped in order to become Catholic. And, quite naturally, they find themselves in a good position to help others with those hurdles.

But it was some time before I was able to allow myself to say that there are some cultural styles of Catholic life and practice and worship and particularly architecture that I do not like at the personal level. Their cultural identity is so far from my own that I have difficulty receiving spiritual benefit from them. It is not that they are wrong in any way, they simply leave me cold.

I can say without hesitation that much of the Italian style does little to aid me spiritually, particularly the decorative determination to cover every last square inch of a church's interior with something.

Simplisticity I actually find spiritually uplifting, not as an end in itself but as a directional aid toward Christ in the Holy Eucharist, not only in the design and appointments of the Church itself, but in the liturgy and the music. The great liturgies of the great composers lose me in their flights of intricacy for the most part, whereas Gregorian chant in Latin originals or English hymns, or some of the Russian Orthodox minor keyed liturgies, especially a Capella, without even the benefit of pipe organ, can move my soul in worship far more.

So I have found that along Longenecker's theme, I have had to relax some of my own reflex prejudice against where I began in life and recognize that within the Catholic Church there is, and has always been much room for simplicity, and it is not necessarily a Protestant "thing" per se. One can be uplifted through simplicity without being simplistic.

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