One of my favorite Saturday pastimes is watching Antiques Roadshow. I love seeing the huge varieties of antiques, whether valuable, or maybe not-so-valuable. I like collecting little antique things myself–especially Catholic items. Nothing huge, just little books and things. Sometimes I rescue them from used bookstores or shops. I want to make sure they find good homes.
Dearest of all, of course, are things handed down in my family–such as the little 1940s Sunday Missal that belonged to my Grand-uncle John (who was also my godfather). I’ve mentioned this missal before (see “Related Posts” below). It’s not anything spectacular or materially valuable; an antiques dealer or collector probably wouldn’t pay me anything for it. But it’s precious because it has been treasured by my family–it was important enough to my godfather to keep it, it was important enough to my father to keep it, and it is important to me to keep it and hopefully be able to pass it to somebody in the next generation. This little book represents my bond with my family, and our shared bond with our Church and our faith.
As dear as material mementos and heirlooms may be, our liturgical traditions are even more so because they are alive. They are suffused with the life of God and with the life of every creature, human and angelic, who participates in them. In them past and present, Heaven and Earth converge.
I can’t understand why any of them were ever abandoned, neglected, or rejected. If our ancestors left us chests of gold and priceless jewels, would we just suddenly one day toss them out, let them be scattered and lost, as if they had become worthless? Would we look at them and say, “Oh, all of this stuff is so old, it has no place in my life today, I’ve moved on to newer, better things, I just don’t care about it any more”? No. We might preserve them, sell them, spend them, admire them, pass them to descendants, or squander them–but all of those acts would be based on the notion that the gold and jewels were still valuable. We may have different ideas about how to best use them, but their value would not be disputed.
The value of our religious and liturgical traditions have been disputed and denied, and yet, in reality, they are far more valuable than inanimate objects like gold and jewels. Gold and jewels can be preserved or spent, admired or squandered. But our liturgical traditions can be lived, experienced, acted, and participated in! They can be used this way every day, or even every moment, in every part of the world, without ever being spent–indeed they can grow and spread and become even more valuable the more they are used!
Fortunately, as we are seeing now, even if one or more generations ceases to regard them as valuable, later generations can revive and rediscover them and restore them to their proper dignity and worth–and restore them to even greater life than they knew before! I am so very happy and grateful to see this happening in the Church today, with the Tridentine Mass, and with the Dominican Rite also. And I am so grateful for the efforts of our Holy Father Pope Benedict and all of the priests and laypeople who have seen our liturgical traditions for the infinitely valuable things they are.