Today Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a message to a virtual gathering concerning climate change, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement. In this statement he acknowledged the present time as one of great social and cultural challenge.
In response, he recommended the development of a “culture of care” for ourselves, each other, and the environment. This model includes three essential concepts:
- Awareness (the centrality of research and scientific knowledge),
- Wisdom (an “evaluative lens shaped by broad and constructive ethical insights”), and
- Will (developing the political will to accomplish whatever is necessary).
His brief but trenchant suggestions led me to reflect on the question of how we develop a “culture of care” in liturgy. I came up with this: Through liturgical research and scholarship (awareness), pastoral leadership and vision (wisdom), and grassroots support for needed initiatives (will). Using this lens as a diagnostic tool, it’s easy to see how good plans and hopes founder. When any one of these areas is weak, things will go awry.
So what are we to do? Not everybody can contribute equally in each of these three areas, and we must accept our interdependence. The researcher needs the grassroots organizer. The pastor needs the scholar. The visionary needs the historian. And so on. Responding to the challenges of Covid 19 or climate change — or liturgy — requires people with different gifts to work together. In the midst of our present challenges, which are many and serious, it is important that we identify our gift and take responsibility for using it.
Can we foster a “culture of care” in liturgy? I believe so. But it helps to be conscious of what we are doing. Sadly, we see a functional “culture of competition” at times in the church (turf battles, zero-sum games, egotism, posturing, etc.), which thwarts a culture of care. Perhaps the trio of elements identified by Cardinal Parolin do not even naturally spring to mind when we hear the term “care” (which can sound sentimental), but I think this subject is well worth thinking about.