Saturday, March 13, 2004

And your point is...?
I recently overheard a priest from another diocese responding to a layman's comment about his not being in clerical attire. He raised some apparently historical account of the future Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli) who, at the time he was Apostolic Delegate in Turkey, faced government persecution of the Church. Clergy there at that time, so the account goes, were not permitted to wear religious garb. I guess a priest decked out in mufti apologized to the Apostolic Delegate Roncalli for his not being in clerical attire. Roncalli is said to have responded to the effect: certainly you know, Father, the clothing doesn't make the priest. The priest whose comment I heard then went on to report to the layman that Roncalli even ordered priests in Turkey at the time to offer the Holy Mass in the vernacular. Apparently, there were significant numbers of French priests in Turkey at that time and they had been proclaiming the readings and the homily in French.

First, let me comment on the vernacular before going on. You know, Roncalli's command that priests in TURKEY cease using FRENCH at Holy Mass really doesn't strike me as all that amazing. Of course, the invoking of the name of the future pope and blessed, I guess is supposed to convince us that the use of the vernacular is an 11th Commandment! Is Roncalli's order all that surprising? He was giving a pastoral direction for Turkish people who, I guess, didn't know a lick of French. Duh! And, though I haven't checked (because I really don't care), I'm not sure that Roncalli's directive meant that Latin for the ordinary parts of the Holy Mass was totally abandoned. Rather, his directive could have simply put an end to the proclaiming of the readings and homily in a language that was not that of the local people.

So, I guess this priest thought these historical stories demonstrated something for his local situation and the explanation for his own lack of clerical attire. I almost released a ragemonkey on him! I wanted to approach him and say, "And your point is? Certainly, the clothing doesn't make the person, but, uh, the last time I checked, Father, we live in a land of freedom, it is 2004, and we aren't under any overt government persecution! So, please, walk us back through 1930's Turkey, grab our hands, and help us jump with you across the enormous irrational canyon you just crossed, because I fail to see how your example provides ANY compelling explanation for your frequent inability to wear clerical attire!"

I'm not saying a priest must always and everywhere be in clerical attire. But for the most part, I believe his donning of mufti should not be a regular practice. And, don't even get me started on this priest's wacky liturgics and poor theology.

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