Creative Clergy and an Appeal

(Above, sunset in Broome, June 2014)

Something a little different for a moment… (the appeal—not for money but for creativity—is at the end).

One thing I noted at Sacra Liturgia was the number of younger clergy and seminarians. At least one progressive commentator labelled them (us all, at the conference that is) as “neo-Tridentinists,” a label revealing a startling ignorance on the part of those doing the labelling (on a surface level, as many of us have never offered the old Mass; on a profounder level, because most of us were not looking back to Trent but to Vatican II as it revealed itself). Int revealed also a sense of chagrin or befuddled anger, as if quietly agog that the system had failed, or refused, to weed out the neo-trads as it used to in the halcyon post-conciliar days of the 70s through 90s.

Most young clergy and seminarians who do not fit any label certain progressive reactionaries would like to apply to them on first sight. Two in particular come to mind, though they were not at the conference. They are in Western Australia. One is my nephew, who is assistant priest based at the village of Beagle Bay, in the vast and remote parish of the Dampier Peninsula in the Diocese of Broome, a parish of little over 1000 people, of whom 61% are Catholic, and mostly aboriginal. He is 220km from the cathedral city of Broome, and the road there is only partly sealed. When I visited two years ago, after his ordination but before he knew this would be his first parish, I was not driven but flown in the small plane the bishop regularly uses to get around his enormous and sparsely populated diocese. Beagle Bay has a most extraordinary high altar of mother-of-pearl.

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So Fr Chris, recently entering into his 30s, is not one to mope. He is busy with things. He has erected light displays in his churches for Easter and Christmas. He is visiting places not often visited and reminding them of the Faith that saves, and getting backsides on pews in places where the practice of faith had declined to nearly nothing. In such mission territories, things will be what you make of them. To relax and maintain his sanity, he has recourse to music. But recently he has embarked on a church-building project (he will probably kill me for this). In fact, he is building a cathedral, with his own hands.

OK, it is a model cathedral, out of matchsticks and balsa (I think!). He began around Easter time and is now well advanced. It is inspired by Notre Dame in Paris, and to be honest I am more than a little in awe of its progress and his skill. I suspect it is an emblem of his aspirations for this remote outpost of mother Church. It will be a great teaching tool for the youth of the parish, for whom a gothic cathedral will be a thing beyond their experience, and stretching their imaginations.

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On my first visit in 2014 to St Charles’ Seminary in Perth, where my nephew finished his formation so happily, there was a first-year seminarian, Nicholas Diedler, who with his companion in seminary freshness, Dominic, welcomed me at Perth Airport. Nicholas had mentioned to me that he had plans to build a boat. Such details tend to gain an admiring “oh wow” and then are filed away in a quiet corner of the grey matter. Well Nicholas is now a third-year seminarian, and his boat is built and he has kindly sent me pictures (he’ll probably kill me now, too). So the grey matter has had to unearth the archived memory, capitalising and adding an exclamation mark to the original admiration: “Oh Wow!” As with Chris, I cannot help but think that this boat is an emblem of how Nicholas will pursue his ministry in the Church: traditional materials soundly assembled, attractive and functional and secure, ready for new journeys, a thing of pleasure.

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Neither my nephew nor Nicholas are neo-Tridentinist such as I am accused of being (though it is a badge of honour I should have thought!). Yet neither are they attracted to nor convinced by the absurder vacuities of post-conciliar excess that were so often served up to youth under the banner of relevance. They seek authentic liturgy and doctrinal clarity, and have horizons greater than the orbit of their personal experience. These are the sort of chaps, here and at Sacra Liturgia, who will be shepherding the Church none too soon. Their feet are on the ground, and they want more for God’s people than Catholicism-lite. St Charles’ Seminary has more of them, as do seminaries around the world. This fact, I suspect, fills many a progressive with fear: that these young men are so healthy and well-adjusted… and rather good with their hands.


Now for the appeal. We had a goodly number of young children at Mass today, despite absence of guitars, puppets and hand-clapping! A couple of them are physically challenged, and both find iPads soothing. So talking with one of the mothers, it struck us that would it not be good of there was an app for children that allowed them to follow the Mass, with stories, pictures, prayers and explanations pitched at their various levels, that would divert them and instruct them. There are so many apps for adults and youth, but none for young kids (at least that I could find).

So if you know of such an app, please share it with us.

If there isn’t one, then—Catholic computer geeks to the batmobile! There will be a market. We need someone to supply it.


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