Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian
This summer I have had a great deal of exposure to a vast range of cultural traditions, especially with regard to the way in which a large diversity of cultures worship God within His One Church. I have met many people of great joy and devotion to our Lord, people whose differences are good to experience. Yet they are also people whose differences are not as great as their similarities, for we all share one human nature and, on an even deeper and more profound level, are adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. How amazing that, as baptized Christians, we can call God our Father, Abba (loosely translated: dad), through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us. In the words of St. John the Beloved and Evangelist, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Truly, we are all one in Christ.
This summer has been a fruitful one. I hope that my testimony of vocation has been beneficial for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that the experiences I have shared with them have been fruitful for me. One profound way in which this was so is that their various cultural traditions have made me reflect upon my own and grow in my love for it. I am an English-speaking Roman Rite Catholic, and what a blessing to be one! I love the English language, the Roman Rite Mass, and the unique spirituality and spiritualities of Western Catholicism. God has indeed set my heart aflame for the beauty, goodness, and truth of Himself, the Catholic faith, and the Roman tradition.
One amazing part of our liturgical tradition is our amazing sacred music. Our vast array of sung music ranges all the way from Latin chant to English hymnody. One piece of music in particular caught my attention this summer: If Ye Love Me, by Thomas Tallis, a 16th century English composer. I invite you to find the best speakers you can, follow the link, sit back, and listen to this amazing piece of music, reading along with the lyrics:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may ‘bide with you forever, e’en the spirit of truth.” (John 14:15–17)
During my third time listening to this in the office, Kelvin gave me a look and said, “Is that you [playing the music]?” I replied, “Yeah.” He added, “Oh, I thought the angels were coming to get me.”
That’s it right there. This piece of music and so many more draw the heart, mind, and soul to their Creator. Their beauty is apparent, but is not their own. Borrowing several words of St. Augustine, “Their beauty is their confession of God.” They are expressive and formative, giving voice and elegance to our prayer to God as well as teaching us about God. After all, the words in Tallis’ piece are from scripture; they are the words of Christ Himself.
We also see this beauty in our sacred art and architecture. Seminarians of the Pontifical College Josephinum, the first time they walked into the newly completed St. Turibius chapel, said that it was as if they “had stumbled into paradise.” I was blessed to complete my four years at the Josephinum by seeing the restoration, renovation, and re-dedication of that chapel. It did indeed seem like a sort of paradise, and all of the art intentionally drew the connection between the sacred space, the Mass, and Heaven. It is upon the altars of the Church that we are united to the Pascal mystery and sacrifice of Christ. It is upon the altars of the Church that Heaven and Earth kiss.
There is much more to my cultural tradition than its music, art, and architecture. I feel at home in the structure, prayers, smells, dress, and actions of our liturgy. I experience the words of Scott Hahn, who named one of his books, Rome Sweet Home. Hopefully we may each begin to plumb the depths of the rich faith that has been handed down to us, each through our own cultural traditions.
Thank you to the Office of Multicultural Ministries and all who welcomed me into their communities this summer.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.