Br. Alois of Taize: "People you did not choose…"

I have just been listening to a Vatican Radio interview of Brother Alois, the Prior of Taize. I was very struck by this comment:

“We don’t want to create a movement of young people around Taize but we always tell them “Go to your local church, to your parishes. Why? Because there all generations are together (still) and there you meet people whom you did not choose.”

Two points of connection. Sitting in Mass this morning in my local parish where I have been going for the last 5 years, I was struck by a) how very little any of the liturgy was to my personal liking, b) how I knew about half of the people – many of whom formed part of the wider community in which I live, and c) how much at home I was. Odd that.

The other point is Jesus’ own saying: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” And I guess being amongst a bunch of people whom I did not choose (and they would reciprocate that they certainly didn’t choose to have ME in their midst – perhaps some of them would even choose NOT to have me if it were up to them!) is a reminder of this.

If you don’t go to your local parish (through the exercise of “choice” – which I think might be at the root of the word “heresy”) you are missing out on something. Not something that you would enjoy, necessarily, but something that God prepared for you and you didn’t turn up to receive.

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0 Responses to Br. Alois of Taize: "People you did not choose…"

  1. Joshua says:

    I disagree.

    I much prefer to come to worship Almighty God in a fitting manner, and find that from that shared objective I have much in common with my fellow worshippers.

    Presumably, this is ideally what should happen in every parish.

    However, too often I have felt a disenfranchised outsider at some shabby show when coming to whatever is supposedly my territorial parish.

    As a young person who has moved a lot around Australia, this is my reaction, especially as I don’t feel in any sense that I have yet settled down in one place, nor am likely to any time soon.

  2. Tony says:

    I’m not sure that David’s point really contradicts yours Joshua. There may be a time when you are ready to settle and I think the point is that it will more than likely not be everything you wish for, but meeting ‘people you do not choose’ is part of the Christian journey.

    A couple of years back I was able to attend most of the available morning masses during Lent. There were always a half dozen or so regulars there (who were there all year round). My early reaction to them was dismissive; they were way too pius for my liking. But their quiet dignity and secret faithfulness won me over. Not by anything they said or did, just by them being their. I (yes, in my pride) was ‘chosen’ for that experience.

    Cyberspace has some lessons here too.

    The old CNDB was, at its best, a melting pot of all views. You could tell that because the extreme ‘liberals’ condemned it as too ‘conservative’ and the extreme ‘conservatives’ condemned it as too ‘liberal’. Yet, again at best, it brought out the best of having to live with people we don’t choose.

    Eventually it descended into unworkable chaos because there was no effective moderation (no ‘PP’ if you will). DBs that have grown out of that original are now mostly made of people ‘we choose’. This blog, in effect, is another example of that even though I’m sure David doesn’t actively exclude people.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The American Christian writer Phillip Yancey in his book “Soul Survivor” included an interview with a female writer ,who had converted to catholicism. She told him that she liked sitting in church at Mass,besides for worship reasons,because she loved the mix of cultures and generations within the Catholic church,the “noise” aroudn that and the joy that all experienced collectively in Worship

  4. Terra says:

    There are some relationships we can choose, some we have to live with – our family, work colleagues etc. Should Church congregation members be one of the things we just have to accept? I don’t see why.

    The territorial parish is an artificial construct that was enforced in the sixteenth century as a way of dealing with protestantism – before that people had lots of choices, in the form of not only their parish church, but also monasteries, guild and confraternity chapels, and if they were rich enough, private chapels.

    Post Trent it worked fine for a while, when the mass was said in a reasonably uniform way, with doctrinal uniformity via assorted catechisms.

    Its break down in the modern age reflects the break down in the Church generally.

    In many cases the only way we get get good liturgy and orthodox sermons is to vote with our feet (and our purses). I would regard it as a positive duty to do so!

  5. matthias says:

    Interesting point Terra,voting with ones feet ,there is the danger of becomming a nomad church wise,but as you said where orthodoxy is practised ie the Gospel preached,the liturgy is celebrated with a joyfulness unto the Lord ,then people tend to stay.In my opinion ,although I am a Protestant, besides the pentecostal churches,it is the catholic churches which meet this criteria,more than so called evangelical churches.

  6. Schütz says:

    I expected some of these reactions.

    First, I am not speaking in support of territorial boundaries, but of the “local” and the “given”. Part of my hope for a “future church” is the day when no Christian will have to drive past another Christian church to go to Holy Mass on Sunday.

    Second, consider, those who “vote with their feet” the fact that you are in fact depriving your local assembly of your “vote”. Your “vote” is worth nothing in the context where everyone agrees with you!

    And finally, regarding this blog – I didn’t choose ANY of you blighters! You all chose ME! .

    You must all be weird…

  7. Louise says:

    Should Church congregation members be one of the things we just have to accept? I don’t see why.

    I don’t see why not. If you choose to go to Mass with your guild or at the monastery, you still have to put up with the other people! And we have to love one another too apparently.

    Let’s face it, wherever we go, we’re bound to meet lots of people who get up our nose. (and vice versa).

    Yes, David, we are weird.

    Well, I am.

  8. Peregrinus says:

    Part of being in communion is that we are in communion with people we don’t necessarily like, or agree with. A certain class of conservative is very ready to invite Catholics whom they consider to be in dissent to “go off and start your own church” which is, of course, a fundamentally un-Catholic thing to do. But isn’t “parish-shopping” essentially the same thing? A quest to find the people/community that you like, that conforms to your desires and expectations, and to make them your primary Eucharistic community? Sure, you’re in communion in an abstract sense with those terrible people who [insert grounds for objection here] but you’ve arranged matters so that you don’t have to actually sit next to them in the pews. What kind of communion is that?

    But, confession time: I don’t go to my territorial parish. I go to the next one along.

    There’s a not very interesting story which I won’t clutter up the combox with as to how this happened. I’m now very active in the parish that I do go to, and have no intention of leaving it. But, relevant to this discussion, I have talked about this with the parish priest of the parish that I go to, and he tells me that well over half of the enrolled parishioners and, he reckons, well over half of the regular attenders – a larger group – do not live in the territorial parish. Basically, the parish covers an area which used to contain a good deal more residential property than it now does; there has been a migration to other suburbs. But many people continue to attend their old parish, and this pattern persists into the second generation, so we now have families who have never lived in this parish, but who have always attended it. There is an ethnic factor contributing to this, too.

    The fact is that territorially-based communities are no longer our natural communities, now that we all have cars and work or study ten or twenty kilometres, or further, from where we live. Most of us will recognise that our network of friends is not hugely dependent on where we live, in the way that it used to be a generation or more ago. The territorial parish used to be the “natural” Eucharistic community; it no longer is, at least to the same extent. More and more, people will choose which community to participate in, and this is particularly true, as Joshua has pointed out, of young adults, who are perhaps less connected to place that at any time before or after in their lives.

    So, as far as I’m concerned, the issue is not whether some people will select their own worshipping community, but on what basis they ought to do so. The danger is a “consumerist” approach; I’ll go to X church or parish because I like the music, or I like the liturgical style (whether that be Trent or Taize) or because, in some way, it gives me what I want. The point is, we are not consumers of a product called religion, or worship, or eucharist. Communion is a two-way relationship. People should be looking for a Eucharistic community to which they can contribute, and a community which challenges and enriches them, which is not the same thing as a Eucharistic community which gives them what they want.

  9. Tony says:

    And finally, regarding this blog – I didn’t choose ANY of you blighters! You all chose ME!

    True and I wasn’t suggesting anything sinister or undesirable. I was just pointing to a kind of continuum from completely open, like the old CNDB, to private web spaces where members are invited.

    Each has their place in cyberspace as they do in the real world.

  10. Christine says:

    Two points of connection. Sitting in Mass this morning in my local parish where I have been going for the last 5 years, I was struck by a) how very little any of the liturgy was to my personal liking, b) how I knew about half of the people – many of whom formed part of the wider community in which I live, and c) how much at home I was. Odd that.


    I’ve recently been attending at another parish. I can’t find any “fault” as far as orthodox teaching, etc. at the parish where I had been going, but ….

    The parish I have been visiting is proving irresistable. The music director employs the best of the “catholic” tradition, including Bach. The people actually SING, which I attribute to the lack of endless droning from Oregon Catholic Press, which drives me nuts. The Gloria and Agnus Dei are sung in both Latin and English (and the choir, which is wonderful, sings antiphons in Latin), the church building is very beautifully and tastefully appointed. The pastor, who is on the younger side, peppers his homilies with Scripture and is on fire to encourage a living relationship with Christ. The reverence with which people receive Holy Communion is inspiring.

    I totally agree with this:

    Post Trent it worked fine for a while, when the mass was said in a reasonably uniform way, with doctrinal uniformity via assorted catechisms.

    That is no longer the case.

  11. eulogos says:

    I confess that I no longer attend my territorial parish. It wasn’t about the people but about the liturgy and the theology conveyed by the way they did liturgy. I think I must have written here about the All Saints mass where they put everyone who had died in the parish in the last day into the litany of saints…you know “Joe Smith…pray for us” etc. This implies that we know Joe Smith is in heaven. Apparently everyone who dies in this parish immediately joins the saints. No purgatory for us and certainly no one we knew could have been damned. What happens if the local slumlord or wife beater dies no one would address with me. I tried speaking to a priest about this and got a truly shocked response to my mention that most exparishioneers would be in Purgatory and that some might even be damned; we really don’t know.

    This is just a small part of the whole thing. There is never prolife teaching there. The words of Scripture and the mass are changed to be gender neutral. Mostly “horizontally” as in “brothers and sisters” instead of “brethren” but there was a little of “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to God’s people on earth” type stuff. I always felt I had to say “HIS” very loudly so as not to be going along with such stuff. But then one is not worshipping but being an objector. And the silly songs we had to sing with the lyrics either vague and vapid or silly or even sometimes downright heretical… Aargh!

    I now attend a Byzantine Catholic parish. The people are mostly old. The singing in one church served by the priest is good, in the other one cantor is heavenly and the other, older one, very creaky. But what they sing is the liturgy. Yes, they have a few nonliturgical hymns which aren’t wonderful, but they are unobjectionable, mostly sacharine hymns to Our Lady, sung at the beginning or as folks go up for communion. And yes, the Ruthenians did just do an awful retranslation of their liturgy, where they surrendered to the gender neutral stuff and substituted “for He is good and loves us all” for “for He is gracious and loves mankind.” Which is terrible, and the priest had difficulty conquering having an expression of distaste on his face when he sang it. I appreciate both the distaste and the obedience though. And on the whole, we still have a reverent ancient liturgy of the church.
    I know it can be done better, as a few times a year I visit an Orthodox parish (where my son was an Orthodox catechumen) where it is done much better. But it is done sufficiently, carefully, as an offering to God in which we all take part, not as a show or jolly gathering.
    This is an old inner city parish where the people are mostly old, and I know it cannot be there forever. But right now, it is a place where I can, simply, worship. The people are friendly enough. I am not really a part of the community, which is close and ethnic. I suppose if I could meet with the ladies at 3 pm and learn to make ethnic foods I could become a part of it, but I am at work then. Or if I could join the choir…but I am usually at my husband’s church during the time when they sing. So this is just where I go to worship. And I am so happy to have a place where I can do that, for now.

    While things are the way they are, I can’t handle going back to the territorial parish. Please don’t say I have to.
    Susan Peterson

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