Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A spiritually dangerous game

Cheeky Pink Girl is brave. Really brave:
This weekend, on purpose, we attended mass at the most liberal parish in our immediate vicinity.

When I say liberal, well, just trust me. They don't have kneelers, on purpose, so I think you can do the math on the rest. Yes, we knew they didn't have kneelers before we went.

We did this as an exercise specifically for my benefit - it was an exercise intended for me to "see" a portion of Catholics who live on the opposite side - an exercise for me to remember that we are all Catholics, including the perhaps crazy, liberal ones.

Are we going back? No. Definitely not.

Although we decided that we will go back every once in awhile if and when we need that gentle reminder to see fellow Catholics as just that - fellow Catholics, not "Catholycs." In our minds, it's an act that will help keep our feet and heads firmly planted in reality. Whereas the constant obsession in attending only the "good Catholic" parishes and only fellowshipping with the "good Catholics," etc., has born bad fruit for us. And for me personally, such obsessions have burned me out.

I'm sure some will read this and think I'm going off the deep-end. But I retort that it's not the deep-end to come face-to-face with people who show up to mass each and every week, and who, in some way, shape, or form, proclaim solidarity with the Church. I don't agree with much that I saw or that was promoted at this particular parish, but for me to disdain them as non-Catholic and unworthy, almost as if they are untouchables, goes against the spirit of Christ.
Read the rest, here; I've excerpted quite a bit, but wisdom like that needs to be shared.

I cheerfully admit that I'm not that brave. Attending the most liberal parish in our diocese on purpose would be an occasion of sin for me. I would, indeed, be tempted to take notes, record everything from the heterodox to the architecturally unfortunate, and to judge everybody there for the crime of being less Catholic than they should be. I may fight that temptation, but it's there, and it wouldn't be good to feed it.

I know that both sides of the aisle (to use CPG's clever metaphor) are guilty of this behavior. Some of the Catholics at that church she attended may make a habit of trashing liturgical traditionalism, and may poke fun at veil-wearers, EF Mass attendees, men and women who embrace traditional gender roles, and anyone else who seems to be one of those dreaded "other" Catholics, just as those on the more traditional side may make fun of OF Mass attendees, sloppy clothes-wearers, feminists and their male counterparts, and such people as "lectoresses" and "cantoresses" [minor off-topic rant: shouldn't it be "lectresses" and "cantresses?" I mean, if we're determined to use would-be slighting and insulting archaic feminine-noun forms, shouldn't we at least take some steps to determine the proper grammar? Rant off].

But I also know that "Hey, they do it too!" isn't a defense. It is, as CPG says, opposed to the spirit of Christ for us to spend a lot of time looking down our noses at each other, and soaking up the spiritual poison of contempt for our neighbors. It may seem fun to toss around rants about nuns in polyester pantsuits, "look at ME!" lectors and cantors, the ubiquitous EMHCs, the DRE with the flower-child past or the control-freak in charge of the First Communion class--but we can only do that sort of thing when we allow ourselves to see these people not as human beings of intrinsic worth, but as enemies and others, another iteration of the endless cultural pastime of Us vs. Them that seems to be a favorite game of the early 21st century American.

It takes a special sort of wisdom to be able to recognize that this is a spiritually dangerous game and to refuse, as Cheeky Pink Girl has done, to play it.

7 comments:

Will Duquette said...

There's a priest I know who drives me nuts--his manner, the things he says, the way he says mass. I'm not, please note, accusing him of anything but driving me nuts, and he certainly isn't doing it on purpose. His manner makes me worry that he might be one of THEM. And I have to keep reminding myself that he is an ordained priest, that he stands in persona Christi, and that I must honor him for that, however much I am rubbed the wrong way.

And on top of that, he keeps preaching sermons which relate directly and pointedly and (darn it!) helpfully to issues I'm currently dealing with.

I figure God put him here for my spiritual growth and that I'd better learn to love him.

Rosiemom1227 said...

Thank you for this, very timely, Holy Spirit, have mercy on us!

rdcobb said...

Will, I know exactly what you are talking about. We had a priest who was very enthusiastic about God and loved to sing, and while he didn't necessarily do anything "wrong", he annoyed me. It didn't help that in his spare time he had his own YouTube channel where he performed various songs by modern "artists" including Lady Gaga. I had to remind myself that just because Lady Gaga is morally questionable the songs themselves may not be...and he's human, too, just enjoying a cheap and harmless hobby....like the priest who was an X-box addict or the one who liked to drink whiskey and smoke cigars in the hot tub of the rectory after a long day.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

"Some of the Catholics at that church she attended may make a habit of trashing liturgical traditionalism, and may poke fun at veil-wearers, EF Mass attendees, men and women who embrace traditional gender roles, and anyone else who seems to be one of those dreaded "other" Catholics"

I can't speak to that as a Catholic, because I'm not one, but I can say that after a period of enjoying "Lord of the Dance," years ago before it became a cliche even "Kumbaya" was moving... after hearing that, it can be refreshing to hear some traditional hymns. I even found that a rendition of Ave Maria on an album of medieval music was moving, not that it made me feel I should kneel in obedience to Rome or anything.

So as far as trashing liturgical traditionalism, people who do that deny themselves a lot. I suppose it works both ways.

romishgraffiti said...

We's all fallen, and even if we are in a state of grace, we still carry around concupiscence. One of the things one has to be on guard against is confusing the motions of concupiscence with an actual sin. So when you go to Mass with bad liturgy, see attempts (deliberate or unintentional) to obscure the Real Presence by discouraging or preventing reverent postures (at one of the local churches here, not only are there no kneelers, the chairs are packed so close together as to make kneeling nigh on impossible.), your mind will reasonably form the question, "Don't these people realize what they are doing?" But then concupiscence may tempt with the thought, "This is deliberate and malicious! These guys are Protestants running around in Catholic drag!" But there is no sin here unless you seriously entertain the notion. Most of us will reject the notion after contemplating that no, it is not my place to question their motives or sincerity. But concupiscence is still moving and may tempt you with an equally bad notion--that liturgy is merely a matter of taste and who is to say what is good or bad liturgy? And unfortunatelty in this age of relativism, this charitable evasion of truth (what Bp. Sheen called false compassion) ends up being the one thing that many seriously entertain.

MightyMighty said...

When I get to a point where our children are all old enough to not need excursions to the vestibule, I intend to sit in the front row. Because no matter where I go to church, I am a looky-loo, always looking around at who is doing what.

I stopped reading certain web sites and watching certain tv shows because they made me so angry, as a logic-loving Catholic. Since my second favorite sin is rage, I decided that I needed to stop inviting that temptation into my heart. It's helped a lot actually.

Neat post!

Red Cardigan said...

"But concupiscence is still moving and may tempt you with an equally bad notion--that liturgy is merely a matter of taste and who is to say what is good or bad liturgy? And unfortunatelty in this age of relativism, this charitable evasion of truth (what Bp. Sheen called false compassion) ends up being the one thing that many seriously entertain."

Just to clarify, Romishgraffiti, I do still have strong opinions as to what constitutes good liturgy (though I'm to the left of someone like Fr. Z, perhaps). The thing I strive to remember is that I'm not in charge of *implementing* these ideas, nor do I have the right to assume that Father is shirking if he does not. We all, even Father, must pick our battles.