Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about centering prayer and how popular it is becoming among Christians today. (I'm not a fan, if you're interested.)
     I was not thrilled today, therefore, when a new priest in our parish began talking about prayer and said, in a nutshell, that how we pray is unimportant - whether as a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian, etc. - but only that we pray.
     He said the catholicity of the "Our Father" teaches us that we're all God's children and that God just wants us to pray - however we please. (If you feel like praying to Kali, pray to Kali?) What's important is that it comes from the heart.
     And then, after the homily, we rose and said together, "I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins."
     (We pray "Our Father" because we have been united to Christ, because we are His body and therefore may pray with Him, "Our Father.")
     And then the priest caps it off by saying, "Accept it or not, but that is Catholic teaching."
     I am frustrated.
     It is difficult to hang on to peace and participate in the Mass - to receive Christ in the Eucharist - after a homily that is so ... incoherent.
     I covet your prayers and suggestions.
     Lex orandi, lex credendi - How we pray is how we believe. That's the teaching of the Church. How we pray matters. Prayer is theology.
     Section 1124 of the Catechism says: "The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it."

12 comments:

Deep Furrows said...

I don't know that this will help, but sometimes I've resorted to praying a mantra (sorry, couldn't resist) while listening to the homily: This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.

I've prayed this firstly for myself, so that I can listen to Christ without being totally distracted by the opinions of the priest of myself. Secondly, I offer it for the priest in his mission to preach the Gospel to the people.

I have two great priests at my parish now, but a few weeks ago I heard a homily that saddened me because the priest sounded weary and defeated. What can we do but pray for Christ's priests?
~Fred

Deep Furrows said...

to clarify, the homily that saddened me was a priest I don't know at another parish near me.

paul said...

Scott,

Couldn't you make an appt to meet with the priest and discuss the homily - sharing with him what you understood him to say & giving him a chance to clarify or restate things?

He might appreciate the opportunity for dialogue.

truevyne said...

Scott,
I understand your hesitantcy to give yourself to the rest of the liturgy after a homily like that. I do the same when I'm hearing the "It's all good" theology- I hold some of myself back to stay true to Christ. I don't know any other way.
As for centering prayer. I am a fan as long as it centers on listening to Jesus. If you are not a fan, I'd like to hear the other ways you listen for guidance.

Scott Lyons said...

"I think you misunderstood me" was the response I received, Paul. And while I would like more of a dialogue about it myself, it is a sufficient response for me. I will pray for him in his ministry at our parish and I hope that he will pray for me.

Scott Lyons said...

Fred, thank you for the advice. I can do that - besides, with five kids it makes it difficult to hear most of the homilies anyway.

Scott Lyons said...

True, I have a lot banging around in my head about centering prayer.

I'll say this now and perhaps post on it later. It is not true that centering prayer has its roots in the ancient practices of the Church. St Teresa of Avila was a contemplative. St John of the Cross as well. Contemplative prayer is a different animal entirely from centering prayer (from my understanding of centering prayer). And to try to reach the contemplative life - this gift of God - through a kind of attempt at sanctified Transcendental Meditation (TM) I find dangerous at best. Perhaps people who practice centering prayer would reject the comparison to TM, but it seems to me that the prayer's roots are there rather than anywhere else.

I'd love to hear the other side of this, True. I'm really quite ignorant about the How and Why of centering prayer. I just don't like what I've heard. Perhaps I am hearing the wrong things.

truevyne said...

I am not into TM either. Perhaps I'm using centering prayer synonomyously with contemplative prayer wrongly?. Here a book I'd recommend highly on The Christian Practice of Contemplation, _Into the Silent Land_ by Martin Laird. It's so lovely...

paul said...

Praying for him in his ministry at your parish is always an appropriate and helpful response (something I don't do enough of).

And, if his response is sufficient for you, so be it.

Yet, since he thinks you misunderstood him, do you not wish to clearly understand what he had intended to communicate to you in his homily? (not just be left to wonder - not that mystery is a bad thing, mind you, but clarity is good too)

Nothing more than a-son-to-his-father wanting to absorb what he's trying to teach you.

Scott Lyons said...

Paul, I was left with the distinct impression that he didn't wish to convey that meaning, whatever it was, to me. And while I would certainly like to know what he meant, I am not about to make a complete nuisance out of myself just yet.

Personally, since my wife heard the same thing I heard, it's highly probable that he understands that I understood him all too clearly. I don't think he wants to get into it with me. I'm one of those Catholics who, like, actually agrees with the teaching of the Church. And that isn't cool in some circles.

It's a different and strange world over here in Catholicland. I love it, of course, but we can be some strange birds. Imagine if all the Protestant denominations came together and you found yourself sitting in the same pew as snake handlers, Jesus Seminar types, extreme fundamentalists, sincere believers, etc. That's an excessive example, but it's a little like that sometimes.

Scott Lyons said...

True, I'll see if I can get my hands on your book suggestion. I am uncomfortable condemning something I know so little about, and I certainly don't want to condemn a spiritual good. I know that there are those in Catholicism that embrace it and those in Catholicism that condemn it - but I'm not sure how the Church has addressed centering prayer specifically. She certainly condemns TM and Eastern meditation and other New Age practices that have found headway within her boundaries.

What I've heard certainly makes me uncomfortable with the practice - with the little I know of TM there seems to be similarities. But I am no authority on the subject and would love to be proven wrong.

paul said...

Scott,

Well it must have been pretty disappointing for your shepherd (or one of your shepherds) to not want to go there with you. Yet, who knows what will happen as time passes?

Your Catholicland illustration made me smile...our congregation can sure seem like that at times, too, with the Dutch/Calvinist contingent, a significant social justice population comprised largely of social workers/teachers/professors, vans full of guys from Mel Trotter Mission & the mostly black or hispanic folks coming by from the nearby neighborhood who may have come from Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal or no church backgrounds whatsoever. Then, of course, there's Alison & me. We all make quite a menagerie. But hey, it makes things interesting, sometimes challenging, usually enriching and never dull.