Catholicism and learning By Heart
One of the infinite stupid ways in which the post V-II world became stupid is the decision to abandon most learning by rote. I am surprised children still know the Hail Mary by heart, seen that even the simplest formulaic devotion seems to have been identified with some form of either oppression or lack of spontaneity; which must very bad, because the “new man” celebrated by Vatican II is far too free to have to accept authority and learn obedience, and far too smart to have any need of being told how to pray or – Heaven forbid! – how to think.
And so it came to pass that the modern V-II man has altogether forgotten basic Christianity and – probably – hasn’t even noticed.
Take the ways of being accessory to another’s sin. No doubt, in past times countless children had to learn the list – together with many other lists – by rote without any possibility of even “questioning” the wisdom of what was taught to them. They might have been simple people of the working class, possibly child workers or young field labourers or scullery maids, but they knew much more of Christianity – and had much better chances of escaping hell – than the oh so refined, twice divorced, champagne-sipping wannabe intellectuals of today.
Our progenitors knew more mainly because they learned by heart. This provided them with a set of tenets of the faith that would be always with them and would, whatever their degree of education, protect them from the biggest mistakes and from the snares of their own fantasies and outright silliness.
If the several millions of people who here in Blighty call themselves “Catholics” had had in past days to learn the ways of being accessory to another sin’s by heart, they would not only refrain from senselessly repeating “do not judge” at every occasion like drunken parrots, but they would actually even be in a position to stop and correct those Anglicans, assorted Proddies and atheists who go around saying the same things.
You see, when the learning by rote went the entire edifice of everyday Christianity went with it, it being in time unavoidable that concepts once slowly and naturally absorbed in this way would now fade away from conscience and be substituted for soppy sentimentalism and a-christian feel-goodism.
Nor was there ever a chance that the deficit in mechanical learning could be mitigated by a renewed effort in sensible catechesis. Learning by rote was abandoned precisely because the clergy was ashamed of the very catechesis they were supposed to transmit, and it would be pure illusion to think the wolves would suddenly start to teach how to protect the lambs. The learning by rote had to go so that the knowledge could be conveniently forgotten, allowing the priest to substitute Christianity for the sugary potion we are now served every day, slowly ruining our spiritual health whilst pleasing our – erm… theirs – sense of taste.
The same we have seen with prayers. An attentive exam of most prayers shows a hidden treasure of instruction hidden within. If we pray the “Hail, Holy Queen” (Salve Regina) every day, the daily reminder of the “vale of tears” will be enough to put us in guard against any new age tendency. At the same time, we will be reminded that she is our “mother of mercy”; that we are banished; that we are children of Eve; that our life is supposed to have its fair share of sighs, mourning and weeping, & Co.
Truly, this is already more than many Catholics could correctly say if asked about the way they see this sojourn on earth; whereas most would today, if asked the same question, probably blabber some nonsense about some sugary concept of peace, love, tolerance, environmentalism, “save the Greek pets” (I kid you not: “proper” charity, seen at Waterloo Station!) and “do not judge”.
Sow the whirlwind of shallowness and cowardice in front of the harsh realities of the Faith, reap the whirlwind of lack of faith, lack of conviction, and lack of instruction.
It would be good if more and more priests would start to demand again from those entrusted to them – from the young boys and girls undergoing Catholic instruction to those adults desirous to convert – that they learn by heart, and repeat regularly, a series of fundamental tenets and prayers of the Church. They will learn a lot from the exercise, and will be equipped with a series of ready-to-use instruments which will come handy in the difficult phases of life, or even only when the friend or neighbour starts with the “do not judge” mantra.
It will also be useful in order to remember that it is a work of mercy to, erm, bury the dead instead of scattering some ashes in some strange sort of pagan celebration…
By the by, the ways of being accessory to another’s sin are listed below.
I won’t go to sleep without having mastered them; then if one waits for the right time, there will never be time….
I. By counsel
II. By command
III. By consent
IV. By provocation
V. By praise or flattery
VI. By concealment
VII. By partaking
VIII. By silence
IX. By defense of the ill done