Saturday, January 26, 2013

Picking Nits?

As Fr. Z said: The New Evangelization also requires a sweeping of the floors.

A friend recently suggest to me that I should not be concerned so much with the overuse of EMHCs. He asked how it affected my "walk with Jesus".

My view is that of the many dozens of changes made in the wake of Vatican II, most of them, taken individually, are of little import. However, taken in their totality--as indeed they must be--they are scandalous.

Mass was, before the Council, a reverent sacrifice. The laity were indeed reverent, silent before the Mass, and prayerful (most of them, at least) during the Mass. The celebrant (not presider) and the laity faced their Lord together. The celebrant offered the prayers, and the faithful assisted, with prayers responses from the Missal, and with prayers of their own (many prayed the Rosary during the parts where the celebrant could not be heard.) We had a sermon, not the all too often feel-good homily, but a usually firm teaching, which did, on occasion, become a stern admonition against the sinful practices of those who needed to hear it.

And in my youth, I do not recall seeing the dash to the parking lot before the closing prayers.

The design and decoration of our churches was traditional and reflected the reverence to our Lord, to whatever degree the parish could afford. There were fancy churches, and plain ones such as the parish in which I grew up. We had not stained glass windows, but windows with an applied and very regular pattern, much less expensive, but still in a very traditional motif.

At no time did the church, in the interval before Mass, sound more like a parish hall than like the house of our Lord.

The Missal was given in Latin and English, and those of us who took such things seriously could easily see the relation between the two forms, and could readily follow the Latin. Admittedly, the particular priest might enunciate less well than we might hope, or the church acoustics could interfere, and in these cases, following was chancey. It was, however, never impossible.

We go to Mass to worship our Lord. At least, we are supposed to go for that purpose. It's not a communal meal, nor a picnic. Despite what is seen in many parishes, it is not about us congratulating one another on our piety and good works. It is worship, and it is our obligation, as Catholics, to be there each week.

As to the picking of nits, I find as follows:
  • We should do our best not to allow the local variations to distract us from worship.
  • We should prepare ourselves for Mass, arriving early enough to purge the distractions from our minds, and to pray well before Mass, the better to assist in the sacrifice.
  • We should, when the local variations intrude, remember to discuss them with our priests, letting them know how and why these things were disturbing.
  • We should not be accepting of practices which violate the rubrics and intention of Holy Mother Church, but should, respectfully, point out the concerns we feel about them.
  • We should educate ourselves endlessly in our faith according to the true teachings of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church should be as well read as our Bibles and Missals.
  • We should, gently and respectfully, remind our priests (and when necessary, our bishops) that when the deviations from form reach a certain level, they are no longer minor, but become a scandal.
  • We should, we must, pray for our priests and bishops.
I suggest, too, that we pray for a conversion of heart for the liturgists and music directors who contribute the deviations to our parishes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Complain or not?

I recently posted on Facebook about my experience at Mass Sunday, when 15 EMHCs presented themselves to serve. A friend responded: "Ask yourself hot this affects your walk with Jesus. Let it go, my friend, you will be happier!"

Or in other words, just pay no attention. Or perhaps, go along to get along.

But can I do that? Did Jesus let it go, when he found money changers in the temple?

The rubrics--including those issued by my own archdiocese--stipulate that the EMHCs (let us not overlook the Extraordinary in their title) are to serve only when the priest is unable, or when there are so many receiving that the distribution would take too long. Unfortunately, the rubrics neither stipulate nor suggest a means by which "too long" may be judged or defined. They are quite clear, however, that the use of EMHCs is not to be made routine at every Mass.

The rubrics also state that the use of the EMHCs is at the discretion of the celebrant. However, I know a priest who tried to limit the service at his own Masses, not eliminating their use, but reducing the number, and the EMHCs raised a noisy complaint with the pastor. Apparently, the service of EMHCs is considered by those who serve as an entitlement!

So I pray, and consider. I do not think I can simply ignore this abuse. And if I do, what sort of steward am I?

Update: Article here on one priest's decision to cease using EMHCs. How very sad that it must be seen as an act requiring courage!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Biological Solution... is not!

It is not uncommon to find in many Catholics blogs references to the biological solution, by which is meant that the problems which are perpetuated by the Spirit of Vatican II crowd will disappear as they do, which will be in the near future.

I am sorry to do so, but I have to disagree. In my former parish, these people are in firm possession of the Religious Education department, in which they continue to spread such nuggets as:
- The Rosary isn't for everyone
- Ordination of women? Well... not yet

These are glaring examples, of course, and the actual list is very long, indeed. I gritted my teeth through two years of RCIA, thankful that I had my Catechism of the Catholic Church always near.

It is all too easy to buy into the notion of the biological solution, as it avopids the need for direct actions which might be very unpleasant. However, it is a passive approach, and entirely out of keeping with what we read of Jesus in the Gospels. Had he been passive, the money changers would still be in the temple.

If we truly are the body of Christ, how can we justify any further tolerance of these scandals?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My current state

I am very happy to say that my current state with respect the estrangement of my brothers is placid. I pray for them, and at each Mass, for their conversion and return to the true faith. I bear no guilt for what has happened, and am quite comfortable considering the issues. I do remain concerned for their souls, and for their actions. And so, I shall continue to pray for them.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Turmoil or not...

When a friend or relative attacks you for your faith, and declares (as did my brother) that he'll have nothing more to do with you, it is deeply disturbing. Actually, those words are woefully inadequate to describe what I felt, but I haven't found any which convey my true feelings.

My initial reaction to his communication was anger. He made false claims, and ad hominem attacks which had nothing to do with the real issue, and were of themselves trivial, compared to the real issue. Being angry, and making a response in anger (though one more reasoned than that which provoked me) I then added guilt to my spiritual burden.

I suffered inner turmoil for days, reviewing, again and again, what had passed between us, and trying to determine what may have been my own sins, whether of commission or omission, which contributed to the separation. But--and this is essential to understand--I had not yet recognized the real issue.

My e-mail response to my brother had brought another note from him, which I did not read, as I was determined not to allow this to become a firefight. After five days, I finally opened his e-mail, only to find more unhinged attacks. However, in the midst of this was a single pearl: the real issue which had him raving at me. He could no longer allow me "to influence his family." Influence. Influence? Aha! Our discussions had increasingly touched on matters of faith, and on our respective churches. Most recently I had inquired his views on a morally questionable decision rendered by his pastor. (As it happens, this issue had made the guy more visible nationally, as many preachers had seen fit to speak or write about the case.)

So, he's in a cultish mega-church, has for years complained of his unhappy experience in Catholic schools, and now determines I am a bad influence? OK, got it.

As Fr. Okeke has advised, there is little I can do for him but pray. But friends, I offer this warning, in deepest concern for your souls: As soon as you recognize the nature of such a situation, discuss it with a priest. Do this to clear your conscience with regard to your own sins, and to further understand that this is not a spat, not a minor argument, but something which separates you. Do this because that inner turmoil you suffer is offering an opportunity to the devil.

You did not start the fight, and you did not choose the separation. But you must be prepared to do what is needful, which is to leave him alone, and continue your prayers for him.
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. -- 1 John 4:20
Your love will fuel your prayer, and will keep you always ready for that day when he calls to talk, or to ask your help. You must respond in love, holding no grudge, and demanding nothing, if you love God.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Girding for Battle...

I should add to my previous article on Spiritual Warfare that besides discussing the issues with Fr. Okeke, I asked him to bless several objects for me. Among them were a brown scapular and several crucifixes.

I have thought for some time that I needed to have more crucifixes in the house. Before Christmas, I ordered a few, and it was these which I asked Fr. Okeke to bless. Still, I did not have enough to place one in each room of the house, so I had ordered more, and will again ask Father to bless them.

I placed one crucifix on the wall above my computer monitors, in a fashion similar to what I observed in Father's office. In these few days, I have noticed that it is a forceful presence, and affects my spirit as I work. I have noticed a similar effect from the crucifix in our family room; last night, I was watching a television drama, and found myself wanting to turn away from it, or fast forward through it, because of scenes which were gratuitously suggestive. It is not that these things did not bother me before, but now it seems a more urgent and consequential matter.

If battle is unavoidable, I shall not be unarmed!

Do not minimize the value of such guards in your own homes.

Spiritual Warfare

Like charity, spiritual warfare begins at home, I have found. Fr. Charles Okeke, my local priest, has written on his FaceBook page:
Terce (After a conversion of heart, any attempt to maintain cordial relationship with erstwhile friends, who remain in darkness, comes at the expense of your state of grace).
After we have experienced a conversion of heart, it is very important that we keep from near occasions of sin and these include NOT associating with friends (and even family) who remain in the darkness of hard-heartedness. Any attempt to maintain a cordial relationship with them, as obtained prior to your metanoia, will be at the expense of your state of grace. Pray for them but keep them warily at arms’ length. Here, God lends a helping hand for He permits that such friends and family become hostile toward you and seek to isolate you with the aim to hurt. But this is actually the work of God, for in their leaving you alone, the solitude affords you the opportunity to draw closer to God. Utilize this time alone to meditate on Christ Jesus, read spiritual works and grow in your faith. In your new state of grace, it is imperative that you seek out people who are also on the same journey as you are. God will eventually bring other children of God into your life.
As it happens, just after Christmas, I had some very odd and uncomfortable e-mails with one of my brothers. Uncomfortable, as he was filled with rage, manifesting that rage in arrogance and condescension. His notes were filled with false assertions about me. Odd, because when I replied, his response was immediately more of the same, but even more intense, though in light of his initial e-mail, I did not read the response for several days.

After a few days of inner turmoil, during which I reviewed my side of things, trying to comprehend what I might have done to provoke this, I read his response. Madness. And yet, I was thrown again into turmoil.

Slowly, it occurred to me that in the midst of the specious accusations, there was one kernel of truth: He declared that he must protect his family from my influence.

Finally, it occurred to me that this was about faith. I have three brothers, all younger than I. The one of whom I am now writing is the middle brother of the three, and is about 12 years my junior. He long ago fell away from the Church, and is a member of a local evangelical mega-church, as is the brother between us. Both live rather oddly, given their profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

Of course, there was the risk that to avoid any personal guilt, I might be ready to accept this explanation, as an easy out. So I met with Fr. Okeke, and we had a long conversation about it. He tells me that it was that chat which inspired the writing I have quoted above--I am thankful and humbled. And he told me not to worry over my role; I was not the cause of the problem. It is always good to have a view confirmed by a dispassionate third party.

I sincerely hope that what Fr. Okeke wrote may help others to recognize with less pain what had finally occurred to me. God bless all priests for their service!