It is well known that when Catholics abandon part of their faith, its practice or their heritage, the secular world takes it up and transforms it according to its own ideology. We all know of the example of Gregorian Chant: as the hippy Masses unleashed folk, rock and sentimental pop on the liturgy, burning the old hymnals, the secular world and record companies took to Chant and made a fortune out of the few monastic communities who battled on singing the ancient music of the faith. When priests and religious dropped black habits and clerical clothes for Hawaiian shirts and collars and ties, young Goths took to black and made it a statement for their lifestyle and beliefs.
Two interesting stories in the news today remind me of two more Christian practices which many have abandoned but the secular world has embraced. Fr Ray Burke has a brief post reminding the faithful in England and Wales that the rule of abstinence has returned: from today, by decree of the bishops Catholics in England and Wales are to abstain from meat (and yes, chicken is meat). This may come as a shock to some. When abstinence was abandoned, vegetarianism suddenly became a fashion. When fasting was dropped, we suddenly heard of all these diet and de-tox practices which were good for the body and mirrored the old way of fasting in the Church - bread and water, or in the case of the de-tox - water and fruit. I wonder if the Irish bishops would consider following their English and Welsh brothers? After all, Pope Benedict in his Letter to the Irish asked that we offer our Friday penances in reparation for child abuse - reinstating the law of abstinence would be an excellent gesture. Of course the leaders of the ACP would have stokes if that happened.
George Weigel in his weekly column is urging the Russian Orthodox Church not to pussyfoot on the issue of removing Lenin's body from public display and burying it. I am reminded of the horror stories I was told of relics and bodies of the saints being buried or even discarded by many following Vatican II. Skips, rubbish tips and dumps were filled with the bones, clothing and belongings of the canonised and beatified as the liberal theologians told the faithful, in particular the religious, that these things were not no longer needed - the Church needed grow up and discard such superstitions as the veneration of relics. As the years passed, though, many of these same people ended up in as practitioners of the New Age worshiping the elements and feeling the power that is in crystals (aka bits of glass or shiny stones).
In Russia the bodies of the "saints" of the Soviet Union, the mass murderers Lenin and Stalin, were embalmed and put on the display for the "veneration" of the "party faithful" (aka everyone in Russia, whether they liked it or not): a practice learned from us Christians who preserve the sacred remains of our holy ones. Stalin has been quietly removed and buried - Lenin's body still lies in state, but many want him out and interred. It seems the Orthodox Church in Russia is hesitant to support this despite the fact that Lenin was responsible for the martyrdom of many Orthodox Christians.
Thankfully respect for relics is growing again, although the secular world, primarily through eBay, is trying to cash in on this. It is disgraceful that relics should be sold on the open market, but is is even more disgraceful that relics should fall into the wrong hands. Relics are sacred and must be cared for - we do not own relics, we are merely custodians and part of that role is making provision for those relics in our care to ensure they are returned to Orders and congregations, or are passed into safe hands. As for Lenin, well, I think we can bury him.