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Going Backwards En Route to God

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Imagine for a moment that there is a tried and true route that you’ve always driven.  It gets you to your destination without fail.  It has for as long as you can remember.

Now imagine that someone recommends a new road.  It’s sold as being quicker and more scenic.  The only problem?  People keep getting lost.  The signs aren’t as clear.  Far from being a better way, it would seem to be the wrong way.

Common sense tells you to go back to the old route, the one that is clearly marked, the one that always brought you to your destination without fail.  Could we call this going backwards?  Absolutely. Is that bad?  Of course not.

Here’s something else to consider: your child’s education. 

For decades you’ve seen public schools fail to properly educate kids. Memorization, secular indoctrination, and what to think replaced a classical education curriculum that taught young boys and girls how to think.  Wanting what’s best for your children you either seek out a private school, or choose homeschooling, as a means of giving them a traditional education that has stood the test of time.

Could we also call this going backwards. Sure. Is it wrong?  No, of course it isn’t.

And yet, transfer this same analogous discussion to the ongoing restoration of the sacred in the liturgy, and what you too often hear is the same tired refrain: “We can’t go backwards.”

We hear this when liturgical orientation is discussed.  Let’s return to the traditional practice of the priest and faithful all facing the same direction at Mass. 

“We can’t go backwards.”

We hear this when it is suggested that greater reverence and devotion is shown for the Holy Eucharist when the traditional practice of receiving communion on the tongue while kneeling is restored.

“We can’t go backwards.”

We hear this when someone has the audacity to advocate for a greater use of the liturgical language of Latin in the Mass.

“We can’t go backwards.” 

Those who know better and who continue to labor for a return of the sacred, the transcendent, and the traditional to the Roman Rite have to oppose this intellectually bankrupt assertion.

Instead, we should ask if our liturgical practices lead us toward God or away from Him. It’s as simple as that, and it doesn’t matter how many baby boomers complain that we are going back to those “terrible” pre-Vatican II days. Please understand that if you are part of the generation that made “ex-Catholic” the second largest denomination in the United States, your argument lacks credibility.

In the liturgy, the wrong way will never be the right way to encounter God.  It isn’t simply a question of what is valid or licit, but also what is best. 

Going back to the road analogy from the beginning:  if the signs aren’t as visible on the new route, and people continue to get lost, it’s time to stop settling for what we have and instead turn toward what is best.  After all, when our destination at the end of the road is heaven, getting lost means an eternity in hell.

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