Great expectations

A few days after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, a dozen men friendly to the new pontiff met for dinner in Rome. Judging from the expectations among some of those present, the “reform of the reform” of the liturgy was not simply going to accelerate; to borrow from Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, it was going to hit Warp Factor 9. A wiser head, temporarily absent its red hat, suggested that everyone calm down: the new pope wasn’t going to rush into anything, as some were suggesting.

I think His Eminence was right. Joseph Ratzinger’s Catholic spirit and Catholic imagination were formed by the classic liturgy — and by the mid-century liturgical movement in Germany. Ratzinger didn’t object to the reform of the liturgy as mandated by the Council. What he objected to was the artificial, bureaucratic way this was done, with different rites for the Mass being given dry runs in the papal apartment: the pope watching; Annibale Bugnini, impresario of the new liturgy, holding a stop-watch to the proceedings; other observers taking notes and later offering “critiques.” (If you think Ratzinger was imagining things, or that I’m doing the same, please consult Bugnini’s memoir, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975.) Authentic liturgical development, Ratzinger often argued, had to be organic, not contrived — and certainly not contrived by intellectuals. You don’t change the liturgy by turning on a dime.

And you don’t reform the reform by turning on a dime, either.

So what might be realistically expected from Pope Benedict XVI, in terms of “reforming the reform”?

I might suggest starting with something simple, like the liturgical calendar. As I write, we’re about to be subjected, once again, to Ascension Thursday Sunday – a biblical absurdity and a drastic concession to the rhythms of contemporary society and culture. The liturgy is supposed to instill in us a sense that the “real world” is the world of the angels and saints, the heavenly liturgy in which each Mass on earth participates. Lifting us out of the quotidian rhythms of what we mistakenly think is the “real world” — the workaday world — on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter is no bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. So is celebrating Epiphany on January 6, where it belongs. Pope Benedict would do well to give us back Epiphany and Ascension.

Then there is the contentious matter of translations. I think we can reasonably expect an accelerated process for getting improved English translations into parish life — translations that reflect the sacral vocabulary of the liturgy and that eschew that horrible “see Spot; see Spot run” diction that has, for almost forty years, been fingernails-down-the-blackboard for anyone attuned to the majesty of which English is capable. Reformed translations should also return us to the proper Collect form in the Opening Prayer of the Mass: forty years of telling God what God already knows, followed by a petition for some form of niceness or other, are enough.

As for Mass ad orientem — Mass celebrated with both priest and people facing the same direction, toward the Holy City and the East, from which the Lord will return — a general permission for reintroducing this ancient style of Eucharistic liturgy is overdue. But that permission should be accompanied by a caution: experiments in re-introducing ad orientem worship must be combined with serious liturgical catechesis, so that the conventional description of what’s going on — “the priest is turning his back on the people” — is understood as the caricature and canard it is. In fact, if Benedict XVI energizes the kind of liturgical catechesis that never took place in many parishes in 1965-69, and insists on a proper liturgical formation of seminarians before their ordination, then a lot of the reform of the reform will take care of itself.

Finally, the new pope could, and likely will, encourage a renewal of liturgical music, with the Church reclaiming both the tradition of Gregorian chant and the tradition of polyphony. A trend in this direction is already underway. Benedict could accelerate it, gently, by insisting on serious music at the papal liturgies he celebrates, particularly outside Rome.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.