It is astonishing how we fight over how we pray


By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Marks at UBC

It is astonishing how we fight over how we pray. The altar wars, the conflicts around liturgical translations, the underlining theological and ecclesiological arguments and propositions that sustain our reserve if not hostility when dealing with those of diverse views, rent the garment that is the church. And that is not good.

In a matter of just 13 months Pope Francis has written two apostolic letters—Traditionis Custodes (2021) and Desiderio Desideravi (2022)—that address issues around liturgical celebrations. Francis is often portrayed by his critics as a lightweight by comparison with Pope Benedict XVI on matters of liturgy and that is a gross misrepresentation of a subtle mind, practised in pastoral necessity, open to enculturation, rooted in tradition.

I have been to scores of liturgies that are rarefied exercises in theatre. And I have been to numberless liturgies where the traditional and the contemporary mix comfortably, each enriching the other. What matters—more than aesthetics, nostalgia, and central casting—is a prayerful environment imbued with reverence and familiarity, an environment in which we meet the Lord in others.

Time to get beyond the squabblings, historical revisionism, and sometimes sheer venom that infect our liturgies: they are not battlegrounds of engagement but graced moments of encounter. They are places where peace and solidarity should reign, not platforms of discontent and resistance.

“Go in peace” should be preceded by “Come in peace.”

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