Phoenix, Jan. 4, 2008 (CWNews.com) – Church leaders in Phoenix, Arizona, are discouraging Catholics from attending non-denominational services conducted by a suspended priest, the Arizona Republic reports.
Msgr. Dale Fushek, who has been suspended from public ministry by the Phoenix diocese, continues to lead services at the Mesa Convention Center, drawing several hundred participants, the newspaper reports. The flamboyant priest, who gained national prominence as the founder of the LifeTeen program, risks further disciplinary action by defying the terms of his suspension to preach at “Praise and Worship” services.
Well LifeTeen was never an organization much for obedience considering illicit practices such as gathering around the altar, so this is not exactly a surprise.
Now I understand you can certainly separate a group from its leader, but I have never been a fan of LifeTeen in the first place. The parish I went to with my mother as a young atheist was pretty much a perfect match for what LifeTeen would become when it was established in 1985. This parish had lots of rock music and I sang with a small ensemble in the sanctuary. Looking back I realize now that I sang more religious hymns in my public high school choir than I did at this parish. This entertainment focused parish with two cool priests who could relate to youth did nothing to make me take Catholicism seriously. I just loved to sing and would put up with going with my mother to Mass after she converted to Catholicism because the music was quite secular and there was nothing to bother my atheistic faith. I guess it was the same in some ways for the two priests since they both left the priesthood and got married. This parish also had lots of events, but none of them seemed to be ordered to Catholicism and the year and a half I sang with the parish and participated in some events I knew just as little about the Catholic Church as I did at the start. I have no doubt my mother’s R.C.I.A. was quite low on doctrine since she saw no problem with me as a proudly atheist proclaiming son receiving Communion even though the extent of my religious experience was being baptized in a Methodist church as an infant. To this day I regret all of those Communions I received unworthily.
I think there is a fundamental problem with the concept of LifeTeen in the first place. Customizing the liturgy for an age group is mostly a mistake. Now the Church does have valid Children’s Masses where parts of the liturgy are shortened, but it does not specify that Barney be used in the hymnal. If you are going to have LifeTeen, why not LifeFogey, LifeMiddleAge, etc. A case can be made as Saint Paul said that sometimes milk has to be given before solid food. But surely teenagers are quite open to truth and beauty and you don’t have to musically pander to them. If teens only go to the Mass because of the music are they going to keep going to Mass when the Mass no longer has the music they came for? If you want to train teens to appreciate the Mass, shouldn’t it be for the same Mass they will go to as they get older? When it comes to the liturgy they deserve to be treated as adults.
Now I have no problems with youth groups using secular or for example Christian rock outside of the liturgy with concerts, youth conferences, etc. I just don’t thinks power chords and Calvary are a match. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass needs reverence and we need music that promotes beauty and reverence and not just an emotional response. I don’t want to be tapping my foot as I enter the eternal sacrifice.