SASKATOON — Liturgy offers an answer to the relativism, skepticism and cynicism that plague society, said Rev. Geoffrey Young at a recent Rebuilding Catholic Culture event in Saskatoon.
“From the liturgy we receive healing, we receive strength, and we receive, ultimately, an ordering to things that last,” said Young.
Organizer Celine Sidloski welcomed the crowd that gathered for the talk Aug. 17 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Saskatoon.
“We need every resource at our disposal to see the truth, to know the truth and to love the truth, and in doing so, to love God,” she said, before introducing Young, a Saskatoon priest who is currently studying at the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at Sant-Anselmo in Rome.
An authentic Catholic culture should lead us to be holy, to have joy, humour, and confidence in God’s providence, said Young. Liturgy may be solemn at times, but it “leads to joy in our life and in the city square.”
During his talk, Young referenced themes from The Spirit of the Liturgy, a book written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in 1999, and the writings of Catholic intellectual Romano Guardini (1885-1968), including his 1918 book, also entitled the Spirit of the Liturgy.
“Ratzinger turned to Guardini in almost every one of his writings, because he considered that Guardini’s voice is still relevant today,” Young said, describing Guardini’s importance as a leader in the liturgical renewal in the years before the Second Vatican Council.
At different times in history there have been different assaults and evils directed against Christ, the Gospel and the church, noted Young.
“Some generations will be more subject to persecution, as we know, to adversity and even martyrdom. Whether today’s evils are greater, or whether today’s culture is more in crisis (than other eras), I cannot say for certain,” he said, but he cautioned against taking either an egocentric or a nostalgic view of history.
Young identified three main evils that are causing sorrow and disorder in society: relativism, skepticism, and cynicism.
Relativism seeks to undermine belief in truth itself, he said. “From a spiritual side it threatens to destroy the theological virtue of faith. Relativism makes a mockery of Our Lord’s profession that he is the Truth.”
As for skepticism, “the good it seeks to undermine is our belief in trust itself. From the spiritual side, it threatens to destroy the theological virtue of hope. Skepticism makes a mockery of Our Lord’s profession that he is the Way.”
Cynicism, finally, seeks to undermine “belief in identity itself. From the spiritual side, it threatens to destroy the theological virtue of love. Cynicism makes a mockery of Our Lord’s profession that he is the Life.”
Young stressed that these are three perennial evils that have been manifested in different ways throughout history, can be seen at work in the story of the Fall in Genesis, and have prompted or emboldened a range of different heresies.
He noted that human beings of every era have asked three questions: What is truth? Where am I going? Who am I? In an era dominated by relativism, skepticism, and cynicism, the answers that are offered to those basic questions lead to despair.
“When modern man or woman asks ‘What is truth?’ the answer is ‘Nothing’; or ‘Where am I going?’ the answer is ‘Nowhere’; and when I ask ‘Who am I?’ the answer is ‘No one.’ ”
Exploring the idea of relativism and the reality of truth, Young quoted Pope Benedict: “No one will dispute that one must be cautious or careful in claiming the truth, but simply to dismiss it as unattainable is really destructive. A large portion of contemporary philosophies subsist as saying that man is not even capable of truth . . . the humility to recognize the truth and accept it as a standard has to be relearned and practiced again and again. The truth comes to rule, not through violence but rather through its own power.”
As to how liturgy can answer the lie of relativism, Young turned to a definition from Guardini and Pope Benedict: “Liturgy is where truth and prayer embrace.” Liturgy is where we are met with truth incarnate, “made sacramentally visible through the passion, the cross and resurrection.”
Liturgy also answers the question, “Where am I going?” by telling us first of all where we come from, how we are made and how we are ordered.
As for the third great human question, “Who am I?” throughout the liturgy we discover our true identity. “We hear confirmed our very identity as beloved sons and daughters. In Christ we see the fullness of our humanity made visible and our ultimate end confirmed. “
Young reflected on the meaning of the Vatican II call for “full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy,” stressing that this does not mean everyone must have an “activity” at mass, but rather that the baptized fully and prayerfully engage in the celebration with receptivity and humility, so the mysteries can penetrate into a person’s soul and lead to holiness.
The goal is not “to make the sanctuary more like the world, but to extend the sanctuary into our lives. Your dinner table is your altar,” Young said.
The distrust of tradition and authority undermines much of what has allowed culture and life to flourish, he pointed out. “When tradition is undermined and those who pass on tradition are held in suspicion, the culture suffers,” Young said.
“To have a rich culture we must grow and mature on the vine of tradition, we must have humility to receive the wisdom handed down to us, we must be like the good scribes who bring out of their treasure chests that which is old and that which is new. In a world of relativism, which questions truth itself, we are called to say yes to the faith of Christ who is the Truth. In a world of skepticism, which questions authority itself, of what has come before and what might lie ahead, we are called to say yes to the hope of Christ who is the Way. And in a world of cynicism and self doubt, which questions identity itself, we are called to say yes to the love of Christ who is the Life.”