Every day on campus we are surrounded by the Catholic faith. We have a church, crucifixes in every room, Cistercian professors and plenty of other reminders of Catholicism. Over time these different explicit and implicit reminders seem so normal that we forget that they are there, and we take them for granted because we are not challenged by many different opinions. We can become slothful, arrogant or even zealously overbearing in how we live out our faith.
What, then, stands in the way of you being whole-heartedly devoted to God?
This was a question posed in the Church of the Incarnation by Dr. David Fagerberg when he gave the 17th Annual Landregan Lecture on the evening of Feb. 20. The lecture was titled “A Daughter of Asceticism: Liturgical Glorification of God,” and he explored the role of the person as a liturgist, properly oriented to the worship of God.
As the lecture began, Fagerberg promptly delivered his thesis. He stated that the purpose of liturgy is twofold; it is for the glorification of God and sanctification of the people. However, the former is greater than the latter and the latter assists the former.
“The end of man and woman is to be a liturgist,” Fagerberg said.
We are creatures made to adore God. This does not mean that we all should go around deciding the songs for Mass or setting up the flower arrangements. While there are people called to those ministries, each human being is meant to worship God and be sanctified through his worship.
It might seem like a stretch to talk about liturgy proper and relate it to the ascetical life, as Fagerberg did. Asceticism is a lifestyle characterized by denying worldly pleasures and withdrawing from the world and all material possessions. Ascetics fast and reflect on spiritual matters.
It’s hard for those of us who aren’t called to religious life to understand and relate to asceticism. It’s even harder to know what it must have been like for those early Christians who left their worldly lives to go into the desert for deep prayer and sacrifice.
Those people suffered. The extreme heat and poor nourishment cannot be understood unless they are experienced. Texas summers on a college grocery budget, though uncomfortable, do not compare at all. The solitary prayer life of the early monks is so disconnected from ours that it takes a stretch of the imagination to see a deeper connection between the two. Nevertheless, Dr. Fagerberg’s talk reminds us that every person is called to live the ascetical life, not just the monks.
When we participate in the liturgy in all its beautiful forms, we are called to imitate those monks in the desert. We are called to suffer and sacrifice like they did. Often, we refocus the purpose of the liturgy so that we, ourselves, become the focal point, and we forget its primary goal: the worship of God. Even though “active participation” is meant to be fostered, that focus can start to make us forget about God. We make the liturgy selfish rather than selfless.
“Dying to self is the way to sanctification,” Fagerberg said.
So, Catholics should stop focusing on themselves and focus on God. Then, our proper worship will eventually benefit us by our sanctification.
So I pose this question to you again:
What stands in the way of you being whole-heartedly devoted to God? How are you going to deny those things and give due worship to God?