Monday, August 12, 2013

Catholic Internet Awesomeness vs. the "Yes, but...

Well, I'm back!

By which I mean that I plan to resume more or less daily blogging at this point.  I enjoyed my break tremendously, but discovered that I do not actually spend more time on my writing projects when I'm not blogging.  I spend less time on them, because I'm not sitting in front of the computer in the first place.  Go figure.

Today I want to point to two examples of Catholic Internet Awesomeness.  Here's the first, by Msgr. Charles Pope:
Some years ago the theologian Fr. Jonathan Robinson wrote a commentary on the modern experience of the Sacred liturgy and entitled it, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward. It is a compelling image of so much of what is wrong with the celebration of the Liturgy in many parishes today.

While Fr. Robinson certainly had the celebration of Mass “facing the people” in mind, his concerns are broader than that.

Indeed, we have the strange modern concept of the “closed circle” in so many modern conceptions of the Mass. Too often we are tediously self-referential and anthropocentric. So much of modern liturgy includes long lists of congratulatory references, both done by, but also expected of the celebrant.

Instead of the Liturgy being upwardly focused to God and outwardly toward the mission of the Church (to make disciples of all the nations), we tend today to “gather” and hunker down in rather closed circles looking at each other, and speaking at great length about ourselves. [...]

Please consider dear reader that my proposal is not for a sudden and swift change in our liturgical stance. Rather, that we begin to ponder if, by our inwardly focused stance in circular and fan shaped churches, facing each other, we are communicating what we really intend. Does our stance project that our real focus here is God? Does it communicate the goal of the liturgy to lead us to God? Does it inculcate a spirit of leadership in our clergy who are called to lead us to God? Does a largely closed circle manifest an outward trajectory to evangelize outward and unto the ends of the earth?

Whatever pastoral blessings come with “facing the people” (and there are some blessings) there may be value in continuing to reassess whether our modern pastoral stance of an inwardly focused liturgy serves us well and communicates what we are really doing and experiencing.

And the second example of Catholic Internet Awesomeness comes from Catholic celibate gay blogger formerly known as "Steve Gershom," whose real name is Joey Prever and who, in an example of courage that should inspire us all, comes out and openly admits to being Simcha Fisher's brother:

I also didn’t want people to know I was gay. I was ashamed of being gay, because I had been taught to be ashamed; even though it doesn’t make sense to be ashamed of something you didn’t choose, and even though it’s just one among very many weird things that can happen to ordinary human beings.

I was also scared that the people in my life, especially the men, would start to keep their distance, or pity me, or see me as Different, or not want to hug me anymore ever, or just generally be weirded out.

The main reason I’m not ashamed or scared anymore is the way my friends have treated me since I told each of them. You people are such a blessing to me. I mean Jamey T. and Ben L. and Amos H. and Matt D. and John C. and Josh L. and John P. and Becca L. and Rosaleen T. and Berna S. and Ellen T. and Phil S. and Mike S. and Pete C. and Matt J. and John M. and Gregg W. and Richard R. and Jon G. and, and, and…! You see how blessed I am, probably not even to be able to remember (although I really hope I did) all of the people who have shown me earth-moving amounts of love. I don’t know if half of you understand half of what you’ve done for me, but I’ll be grateful for you till the day I die, and after.

(A special thank you goes out to Simcha Fisher, who is my favorite blogger and my inspiration in seventy different ways and also, incidentally, my sister, and Leila Miller, who posted the piece that started it all.)
Now, why do I call both of these posts examples of Catholic Internet Awesomeness?  Because they are both examples of faithful Catholic gentlemen living out their vocations and leading by example according to their states in life.  In Msgr. Pope's case, we have an ordained priest (not, note well, some grumpy lay Internet self-appointed liturgical nitpicker, for which fault of my past I beseech God for mercy) telling us he sees the possibility of great blessings proceeding from a reconsideration of the present liturgical posture of the priest facing the people in favor of a more ad orientem approach--and as a priest, as someone whose business, so to speak, the liturgy is, as someone who is in a unique position to evaluate the pros and cons of making a change like this, his voice carries conviction.  In Joey Prever's case we have a lay single man telling us what it's really like for a gay Catholic (and he has noted many times that while the use of the term "gay" may be problematic, it's more problematic to twist ourselves into semantic knots to avoid a term that like it or not has fallen into common use to mean a person who is attracted to his or her own gender) who is trying to live as a faithful, celibate, fellow Catholic among people who don't always get how to relate to that.  Oh, and he'd like to get married (to a woman, of course--what part of "faithful Catholic" didn't you get?) but worries that being so open about his struggles may impact that.  Thinking about some of the single adult Catholic women I know, I can only imagine their thought processes here: Hmm, this guy is gay.  He's also a faithful celibate Catholic man whose blog reveals the sincere, intelligent, funny, charming personality of a guy who is a terrific communicator and open to talking about his feelings...Honestly, I'll be surprised if Joey doesn't have a dozen marriage proposals by the end of the month. :)  But I digress.

My break from blogging showed me how often I read something and rush into "redheaded disagreement mode" without first thinking about who the person really is, what he or she is trying to say, whether he or she has some special qualifications to say those things (and I'm not necessarily talking about professional qualifications, just life experiences and the like) and so forth--in other words, sometimes I start saying "Yes, but..." before I've really finished listening to what the person is trying to say.  I have a feeling that both Msgr. Pope and Mr. Prever will experience something similar in reaction to their two posts, from the "Yes, but..." contingent.  Please note: I'm not saying we shouldn't ever disagree with someone (can anyone who has ever read this blog imagine me saying that?) or that we can't voice our opinions quite strongly, but I got the feeling during my break that sometimes we could avoid a lot of St. Blogs combox spit-fights if we stepped back and listened first.

Do I think that celebrating Mass ad orientem would help increase reverence at Mass and foster a better understanding of the priest's leadership role, among other things?  I'm not sure--but I'm willing to think about it.  Do I think that faithful gay Catholics who agree with Church teaching and try to live by it should be treated no differently than faithful straight Catholics who agree with Church teaching and try to live by it?  Definitely--but I admit to needing to learn a bit more from faithful Catholic gay men and women about how the rest of us can be welcoming and walk with them in solidarity without insulting them by insisting that weakening the Church's teachings on human sexuality is the only way for them to be really included (a position I've never taken myself, but I know too many well-meaning Catholics who seem to think that this is the only way to proceed when it comes to welcoming our gay Catholic brothers and sisters).  Do I think that I've sometimes been guilty of rushing to post all my thoughts and ideas on these kinds of subjects without really thinking about the people who are raising these issues and concerns in the first place?  Certainly.  And the only "Yes, but..." I have to offer today is, "Yes, but I'll try to do better going forward."  I know my readers well enough to know you'll call me out on it when (not if) I fail to live up to that notion.