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Sparking the Catholic Imagination 7

Learning Praise

As 2021 moves on, we at ConSpirita Consulting Network find ourselves, like many of you we expect, both weary of pandemic life and hopeful for what can be as vaccinations become more widespread.  And yet, there’s still so much uncertainty that calls for us to discern the signs of the times, to get into the flow of the Holy Spirit and so to walk these days of hope with resilience.  Renewing Catholic imagination can help with this and that’s what these final two blogs will complete. The next two blogs will focus on learning to praise.  If you missed the other blogs or just want to re-read them, click here.

John Cardinal Henry Newman, whose work inspired these blogs, said the fourth activity that can help renew Catholic imagination is learning to praise.  From his choice of the verb “learning”, I surmise he believes we Catholics may not know how to praise.  So in this first of the final two blogs, I thought I’d examine synonyms for praise, with the intention of determining if I know how to do that as a faith practice…and if you will permit me, I’ll use myself as the bellwether.  If I don’t know how to do these things within the Catholic context, I am going to presume at least some others do not as well.

Synonyms for praise:  acclaim, applaud, cheer, cry, devote/devotion, glorify/glory, and ovation.[i]  A quick read of the synonyms shows that in the Catholic lexicon, devotion and glory/glorify are common words.  The others, less commonly used, but still embedded in our culture.  And each synonym provides a nuanced element of what can constitute praise.

Here’s what is occurring to me as I ponder each of these elements:

  • We have acclamations throughout our Catholic liturgical tradition.  In every Mass we speak Gospel acclamations:  “We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.” “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again.”  “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection you have set us free.”  But here’s what I am aware of right now…when I am speaking this ritual language, I am not sure that my heart is lifted in praise…that I am genuinely acclaiming the amazing gift of the Lord…that this is praise and not just ritual language.
  • Applause and cheer. Our liturgies sometimes have us engaging in applause, usually after a wedding or a baptism.  Up until this very moment, I confess I found that weird/ awkward and maybe even irreverent.  But if applause/cheer is part of praise then there’s a place for it in both our liturgical life and our larger communal life…hopefully springing from an awareness of God at work in our midst and our joy in being part of God-with-us!
  • It seems a bit odd to me to associate “cry” with praise.  But our Scriptures are full of descriptions of God’s people “crying out” to God.  This helps me to understand that in crying out or crying within or with the Lord, we are giving praise.
  • This one is less difficult to embrace because we Catholics have so many devotions.  But I wonder how often those devotions become about what we are doing rather than focused on placing ourselves before God to give praise?  I think this is a real learning place.
  • Glory or glorify. We use this language a lot.  But what does it mean to give glory?  What’s the mindset, the activity, and the disposition of heart/spirit that supports giving glory to God, proclaiming God’s glory?
  • To stand up in respect and reverence.  We do it before the Gospel.  We do it when the presider enters.  But do we do it with the intention of praise?  I’ve actually never considered the rising for the entrance procession or for the proclamation of the Gospel as praise.  More to learn how to do with full intention.

The next blog will focus on “how” to do some of these in such a way that we are praising…of learning what can help carry out these elements of praise in such a way that our liturgical and private prayer lives may truly be characterized by praise.  Why?  Praise keeps us in a right relationship with God.  But in terms of renewing Catholic imagination, learning to praise will unlock many insights, activities and possibilities for a richer and more fruitful Christian journey.

Maybe Newman is right…that we need to learn praise.  We need to teach praise and as we do, we will become ever more creative, imaginative and open to the many ways human beings can interact with God.  There’s a lovely Lenten journey!  So come back next week and join us as we “learn” praise.

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[i]www.Thesaurus.com Accessed 2/22/21

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