When Vatican announced the election of Pope Francis, the world was expecting a religious leader who would probably be a far cry from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. From the looks of it, the answered turned out to be yes and no.
While viewed to be progressive, Jorge Bergoglio is also seen as the leader who will put the Catholic faithful back to the right perspective, to “bring back the Church to the poor”. And with the scandals and dwindling church attendance that’s been plaguing the Church in recent years, there is a need to bring it back to us devotees—the poor in spirit.
In a survey released by the Social Weather System (http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2013/04/12/dwindling-church-attendance-statistics-and-grief/), only 37% of Filipino Catholics go to church. That’s 1 in every 11 Filipino Catholic leave the church for some reason or another, citing various reasons for doing so. What is even more disappointing is that, from this 37%, not a lot of us take to heart what is being said in Mass. That includes even ME!
Alienation from the Rites of the Church
During a church sermon at St. Joseph Parish in Palanan, Makati this morning, the priest took time before the start of the Mass to explain the parts of the mass. This is truly a welcome change and effort on the part of the faithful who have become clueless to the value of the mass.
In fact, part of Vatican II recognized the need to make the Mass more relevant to the Faithful. A result of that realization was translating the Mass from Latin to the vernacular. While the intentions may have been good, the translations have given way to so much changes that the meanings have become lost to people. And to be left out from the meaning of the Mass is to give way to confusion and boredom. That’s when people start to entertain different ideas and question the tenets of the Faith.
Old Songs, Same Church
Going back to sermon this morning, the priest requested the choir to sing the traditional church songs that the attendees were more accustomed to and the faithful to join the choir in singing these hymns. The priest explained that the songs were meant for the faithful and not for the choir. In so doing, everybody participated in the singing as we sang the old “Ama Namin” (“The Lord’s Prayer”) and “Kordero ng Diyos” (“Lamb of God”).
I know, the composers meant well in changing the tunes of these hymns in favor of livelier ones. But changing the lyrics every so often before the devotees can even catch up can be just too much and too frustrating sometimes. So some would rather not sing at all; worse, others would feign off attending altogether. And that’s the danger there.
If one sang the same old tunes, then more can participate in singing the hymns. The effect would be a much livelier mass. But does that mean we’re antiquated? Not at all. Will singing old songs make the mass boring? Maybe, but that does not make the mass any less effective. By singing the same old songs, doing the same old practices, we want to say: “Jesus Christ has not and shall never change, and neither should the Church”.
A Church for the Poor
Like the ascetic St. Francis of Assisi who lived during the time when the church was in shambles, Pope Francis is now in the period wherein the Catholic Church is not far from that possibility. His leadership is what the Faithful needs, and like St. Francis, he will rebuild the Church again.