Me again

I realize two posts in as many days is rather more of a fire hose than a straw; but rest assured that I won’t be able to maintain this blistering pace.

I had several thoughts for my next post (i.e., this one); but I was not able to jot them down when they came to me, and are likely now gone forever.  That said, a post I just read got me going in another direction: Simcha Fisher’s “Six Sermons I could do without” (I read this in “The Catholic Weekly,” thanks to a link from NewAdvent.com; but she also blogs at simchafisher.com).  Like her, I have spent a few years sitting in the pew, enthralled by some homilies, barely enduring others.  And while her opening paragraph is a story about a priest who can’t avoid complaints, and her post is critical, it is not all negative.

First, I want to go on record as saying in my 62 years, I have never gone w/o access to a priest.  Not that I always took advantage of the opportunity to attend Mass (sadly); but in my world travels, and time in the military, when I went looking for a priest, there always was one.  Until moving a year ago, I was a member of a small group (less than a dozen adults) that met on Friday evenings to pray the Stations of the Cross for Priests.  It was only then that I came to fully appreciate what priests have meant in my life.  I shudder to think what kind of person I would be like today if (a) my mother didn’t make me go to Mass as a kid, and (b) there weren’t priests available.

So, I would be among the last to criticize the guy in the pulpit.

That said, I would like to use Simcha’s post as a springboard (read her post if you want her words).  The bullet points are hers, the comments are mine.

  1. The Catechetical Dump

A recent online poll by Church Militant dot com asked what was the biggest problem facing the Church today.  Of all of the issues that came to mind, I voted for catechesis – altho that one certainly doesn’t get front page in the secular (“news”) media.  Following this train of thought, a priest is confronted by a congregation that spends in the neighborhood of one hour a week actually thinking about religion.  Maybe.  Furthermore, the congregation is an amalgam (hodgepodge, more like it) of wildly differing educations, etc. (that list is really too long to enumerate) – how do you address that mess?

As I alluded to earlier, I am a “cradle” Catholic.  I never attended any religious school, attending “CCD” classes once-a-week while growing up (Baltimore Catechism).  And I think those classes ended in elementary school.  I was very active in the Catholic youth group “CYO” in high school, and then I fell off the deep end, or journeyed out into the wilderness, or something.  W/o getting bogged down in the story of my return to the Church (here, anyway), I would just like to say that, in the past five years, I have learned – entirely on my own (unfortunately) – more about the Church than I ever learned in the previous half-century (am I that old, really?).

But, how about my fellow pew-sitters?  Judging from what I see at Mass, I’d have to say I am among those who don’t NEED the “entire Faith” in 10 minutes – I spend about an hour a day on my own (lots of prayer, lots of reading, and hopefully lots more writing).  I wish I had the time to spend hours every day.  But, how does the priest say something to interest me, when sitting next to me is someone who is texting?

  1. Yelling at the Choir

I go to Mass for an almost heretical reason: not to socialize, but to be closer to GOD.  It astounds me that supposed “adults” can walk into the Sanctuary and talk about who the Seahawks are playing as if everyone in the place wants to hear their opinion.  Or, come in late and leave early.  I show up for Mass, almost always in plenty of time to pray a Rosary (which takes me at least half an hour).  To get my head in the game, as it were.  But, as my mother has often said, at least they come.  Yeah, well there is that (as I mutter under my breath, “Why did they come?”).

Lent is a good time for me to go to Mass because I feel that Mass is penance.  Yes, I am well aware of Church teaching as to why I should go to Mass; but it takes great effort on my part to put up with the “Turn to your neighbor and say ‘hi’”; and that peace thing.  I see absolutely no point in holding hands during the Our Father.  Don’t get me started on the faux orans (see Dr Edward Peters).  And receiving the Eucharist in the hands?  Oi vey.

I wear a St Benedict’s Crucifix on a chain around my neck.  I always wear it – outside my clothing, not hidden away.  I was once mistaken for a religious (of some sort).  I’m sure most people wonder if I hide it away the moment I walk out of the church after Mass; I don’t.  It’s fully visible at work, in stores, etc.  I am proclaiming, “I am Catholic – this is who I am.”  I am also reminding myself that I am Catholic (it – the Crucifix – is heavy; it’s a wonder I haven’t knocked out a tooth).

But, to look at the resident sister at the parish of which I am a member, you would never know she was a religious.  Never in a thousand years.  For shame.  (She has her hair “done,” she always wears clothes that any other (older) woman would, she never has any sort of religious token visible, she never covers her head during Mass.)

  1. Sit, Stand, Kneel, Bow and Beyond

I don’t go to Mass to be entertained.  Father, please don’t even try.  I don’t care if Gonzaga got to the Final Four – and I certainly don’t want to launch into my Mass experience that way.  But, my gripe with Father Feel Good is his insistence on editing the Nicene Creed.

I first ran into this in Rome at Santa Susanna, which is administered by the Paulists.  Both priests assigned there never vocalized “men” while leading the congregation in the Creed.  Now, I have to put up with the same s**t from the priest that helps out (technically, he is not assigned to the parish I attend).  I understand the desire to be inclusive – I do.  But, to my knowledge no “mere” diocesan priest has been given dispensation to choose what words to say during Mass.  If you want to sit down over coffee and donuts and talk about it, fine, great.

That said, it is ironic that the book of Sunday Mass readings and hymns now has an insert inside the front cover with the Nicene Creed (I guess because it is too difficult to find the Creed in the Order of the Mass on page 9).

When I genuflect (facing the Tabernacle that is hidden away in a small chapel off the Sanctuary – really?), I touch my knee to the floor.  I’ve stopped looking for anyone else who goes to such extremes.  I haven’t figured out if it’s better to fake a genuflection or a bow.  I’ll get back to you on that.

  1. Miracle debunkers

I am blessed that I have seldom been subjected to wannabe Biblical scholars or would be theologians.  No doubt any priest who delivers a homily has more formal education in these areas than I do.  But, I do know enough to know when someone is trying to dumb-down the Bible.

  1. Political rallies

From my reading, I know that this past year (including the recently concluded race for the White House) has been full to overflowing with politics disguised as Church teaching.  If “politics is local,” then Faith is the exact opposite.

Altho I can state the exact date that I decided to come back to the Church, it was no Damascus Road.  It was 2005 and my awareness of the priest sex scandal was growing.  The more I learned (and have learned since; the movie “Spotlight” ought to be required viewing for all Catholics), the less sure I was that I wanted to return.  I was overseas at the time, but when I returned to the States, I found Tabernacles hidden away in what amounted to a closet, the priest facing the congregation instead of the Tabernacle and Crucifix, and just last year, a Crucifix that frankly was abhorrent (to say it was Andy Warhol’s idea of a Crucifix does him no credit).  What happened to my Church while I was gone (in a distant country / desert)?

Fortunately, Joseph Ratzinger was the Successor to Peter at the time, and his scholarship only encouraged me.  I have been most formed by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St John Paul II (my only son is named after him).

Now, I am as confused by Pope Francis as I was strengthened by his two predecessors.  I am quite sure Pope Francis is part of GOD’s plan; but it only serves to remind me that I have no idea at all what His Plan is.

Politics have always been part of the Church.  Only now it is blatantly obviously in opposition to the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors.

  1. Baby shaming

Actually, the pastor at the parish of which I am a member has been very encouraging of bringing my kids to Mass.  At one Mass, my 15 month old daughter got away from me, and I didn’t catch up with her until she had passed the first row pews.  Father incorporated her eagerness to “come to Jesus” into his homily (pretty slick, huh?).  So, why was she able to make a break for it?  Well, I thought I was watching her twin brother, and my wife thought ….

However, we have received suggestions from others in the pews that maybe the little ones were too distracting (something like that).

Too be fair, while the Twins do need to get into the routine of going to Mass, I need to do a better job of entertaining them during Mass (or corralling them).  It is not fair to those who really do want to have a worshipful experience.  On the other hand, several older congregants have been absolutely delighted in meeting “young persons.”

Finally, let me echo Simcha’s last line: “Thank you for your service to us and to GOD.”

 

Dr Edward Peters, “Another Look at the Orans Issue,” www.canonlaw.info; also The Catholic Exchange, June 2005

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