The Benedicts


Today’s thoughts seem to at first revolve around the Benedict’s, both the first that started western monasticism and the sixteenth that issued that document Summorum Pontificum    which comments  on a relationship between the Church of  before and after Vatican 2 .  These to individuals today are thought of with regard to Church. Interesting that the other readings of the day are about Solomon’s temple. It is the converging of Benedicts feast, a pope’s name, and a daily reading. Saint Benedict founded his monastery and wrote his rule as a means to escape the sin and corruption that was commonplace in that Roman society.

Vatican-II largely was intended to bring the Church into a modern age, and Pope Benedict was active in the council that was V-II and also a witness to how that councils instructions were carried out. His Summorum Pontificum was his means of bringing about the truth of the council, and of correcting its misinterpretations. All are involved in building and rebuilding the Church. I can’t help but think of the monk Benedicts view of church as sanctuaries. Monasteries are sanctuaries that serve to insulate and protect one from the world. In thinking of church and monk Benedict, how difficult is it to think of that monastery influence on Europe’s great cathedrals? Monasteries were a place to retreat to for salvation, a place to reunite with the creator and savior. If the Benedictine monk’s goal was to enter into salvation, is it surprising that their sanctuaries emphasized Gods magnificence, Gods splendor, and Gods salvation. Gloriously beautiful churches mirror a gloriously beautiful God. Of course one might take a more cynical approach and argue those magnificent buildings honor a community’s wealth and power and status.

Perhaps the reason behind much of the simplicity of modern churches is to emphasize the humble? I think of this only because the religious movement that followed those orders of monastics were the mendicant friars. Theirs was both the humble approach, and also an approach that went from the sanctuary to the people. It also was a reform of a church that in the height of its glory had become somewhat corrupt. The friars were the Catholic approach to the protestant reformation. Though these friars operated within the settings of the cathedrals and their riches, their emphasis was on the humbler accoutrements. While the Church was silk and marble and gold, the friars were wool and wood and clay.

 Both groups though were responses to their times, just as Vatican II was a response to its time. Vatican II was to carry a Church into a modern era, an era of declining monarchies, rapid transportation, and rapid communication, industrialization and urbanization. Its goal was to make the gospel message accessible to a global audience. The unfortunate complication though was its timing. Its release marked the beginning of an era of protest, war, social and Cultural Revolution. An era where anything old or traditional equaled bad. Vatican II  under those circumstances began to be seen as a means to confront more the Cultural Revolution than simply its intended globalization and modernization. For a short period perhaps that misapplied council served a good cause. Folk music of the 60’s coffee houses became the folk masses of that (and this) era. Societies thirst for change was quenched by a church that allowed for change. Beatniks were countered with the Jesus Freaks. Rock stars confronted Jesus Christ superstar. Churches went from medieval to modern in every way. Did Vatican II serve the needs of that decade? Perhaps that still is arguable, but the mantra of that day was to make the church meaningful. It was to address the challenges of that era in a positive way. Was every progressive change good, and did those changes meet all of the issues that Vatican II was intended for? I would think not. Many times change was for the sake of change, and many times social and political motives replaced liturgical rites that were based on 2000 years of tradition and theology. Dogma was pushed aside in favor of Let Us Vote. It seems that is the battle of the Church today, and one reason behind Summorum Pontificum. Christ said destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it. Perhaps all of this rebuilding is not such a bad thing, as long as God dwells in the house that is built. It seems that this process has been going on since that first temple. How will the Church emerge in this century? I don’t know any more than the first Benedict would have known about the folk-mass. Will it be a house that God dwells in? How does one interpret Jesus saying of I will destroy this temple and in three days rebuild it.

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