This weekend, on purpose, we attended mass at the most liberal parish in our immediate vicinity.Read the rest, here; I've excerpted quite a bit, but wisdom like that needs to be shared.
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.
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.