Friday, February 09, 2007

On Pastoral Letters

I was reading Fr Sean's blog, Valle Adurni, he reproduces some extracts from our Bishop's recent pastoral letters, I was discussing it with another priest who is staying with me, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a rather erudite Indian liturgist in Rome, then a Monsignor, who now is now, well ...., let's say he has had preferrment but is still involved with liturgy.

We talked about homilies and then ended up talking about pastoral letters. There was an American priest with us as well, he said that his Bishop sent out a DVD as his Pastoral letter, at first it was him simply sitting at a desk talking to a camera but people complained that they were a bit boring, so now they are little TV programmes with music and clips of diocesan events, churches and so forth and maybe an interview.
The priest went on to explain that the cost had risen so much to produce them that they had to be sponsored by local businesses, with a side bar featuring the logos of those who contribute to the production cost. He then told us that wealthy parishes had over head projectors and screens that drop from the ceiling, poorer parishes had to put up with someone wheeling in a television monitor or even one being placed on the altar. I had a vision of Ronald Mcdonald "This pastoral message is brought to you courtesy of the Mcdonald's hamburger chain".
Monsignor grew angrier and angrier spluttering his fizzy water, almost choking, wel he did it ina rather urbane way. Then he spoke about the priest or the deacon being the voice of the Bishop in the local Church, suggesting that if the voice of a priest or deacon was good enough for the Gospel and to annunciate the sacred words of Liturgy then it should be good enough to satisfy the vanity of any Bishop. He then, still urbanely choking on his Agua Pellegrino, went on to talk about the Liturgy being a spoken (or sung) and a human thing, that it couldn't to be mediated by such electronic means, putting the the TV on during Mass was an interruption to the sacred liturgy, a typical sign of American consumerism and decadence, an act unworthy of the sacredness of the Liturgy, something that was in sense a denial of the Incarnation, and the human mediation of the liturgy. It showed either ignorance or contempt for the sacred character of those who were by ordination his logothetes ....... and so forth and so forth and so forth, including that Peter and Paul's letters were actually originally [interesting idea] Pastoral Letters.
"What do you do in your parish?" the America priest asked me.
To calm down the Monsignor I said, "Oh we still use the wind-up gramophone. I always say if it was good enough in Benedict XV's reign, it is good enough for John Paul II's". It didn't cause Mgr to calm down, he just glared, in truth, I think he was playing up to us a bit, so I had to confess our tape player had be broken since I arrived in the parish and I had not then yet replaced it.
I am afraid it is still not replaced, so people just have to sit and listen to me trying to declaim what the Bishop has designed to be heard in a chatty converstional style. It seems a dreadful waste and not living simply to buy a decent machine just to be used for less than an hour a year, which would be the total of Bishop's letter-time. We don't use recorded music in Church.
I didn't ask about the JPII video messages to World Youth Day, but maybe they are used outside of the Mass.
Thoughts anyone?


Anonymous said...

LOL - Wind-up gramophone, in the liturgy!

Anonymous said...

still LOL - Brompton Oratory - imagine the size of the horn -
the rubrics: subdeacon winds instrument, deacon places needle on record.

A Priest said...

I just wish our bishop bothered to read the Scripture and liturgical texts for the day and actually had something to say, rather than riding his hobby horse through the liturgy.

Veronica said...

Please dont get the tape machine mended, Father. We very much like the way you bring us the Bishop's letters and, although it has nothing to do with the subject under discussion, it might be useful to point out that mending the machine might increase the danger of a visiting priest making us listen to Charlotte Church again. Keep the wind up gramophone.

Mac McLernon said...

Better idea... Bishop's Pastoral letter, photocopied, put out at back of church. Give it a one-line plug during a (doubtless) far more interesting sermon from the Parish Priest!!

joe said...

Father, I agree, our Bishop's letters sound like old fashioned notices, Live Simply, get involved in this or that Lenten Group.
You can see the pp is embarassed and would much prefer that he had bothered to write something with guts that addressed issues, like the sacraments, family life, Iraq war, gay adoption etc.

Ttony said...

I think there's a qualitative difference between a video message from the Pope to a special event, and a pastoral letter. In the latter the Head of the local Church wants all of his faithful to hear the same message at the same time. Of course it should be the priest who reads it: if he's allowed to read God's words in the Gospel, he can be entrusted with the Bishop's. (Though the Bishop of Clifton made a poscast of his last one!)

Anonymous said...

Of course, it helps if the bishops are able to write good, readable English.

Alas, I know of one who can't...