I don’t like being negative. I try to take Paul’s advice and think about whatever is beautiful, true and noble. However there are times to vent and let’s face it, an internet blog is perfectly good for that. For 5 years I have been Catholic. Now, taking my faith a step further, I sought out a spiritual director and made an appointment at the local parish. At 11:00 in the afternoon, I arrived and sat down with her to discuss my situation, my need to grow as a Christian and discerning a possible vocation to religious life. Let me tell you how it went…
Naturally, she wanted some background info. I told of my conversion to the Catholic faith and activities in various parishes.I also disclosed that I recently switched parishes. Naturally, she asked why. Here is the ensuing conversation- best as I can remember it:
Me: The new priest wasn’t following therubrics
SD: What do you mean by that?
Me: He kept inserting things into the prayers, improvising and doing things more his way. Before Mass ended, he’d have people stand up if it was their birthday and then make the choir sing “happy birthday” to them.
SD: A lot of churches do that.
Me: That’s terrible.
SD: I perceive that the law is veryimportant to you.
Me: Giving God the worship he deserves is important to me.
(spoiler alert: a tirade is coming soon!)
SD: And were not the other 50 minutes ofMass giving God the worship he deserves?”
Me: Sure they were but we don’t go to Mass to have our egos stroked or our backs patted, we go there for God. It is not appropriate to do this before the final blessing. If it were after Mass ended,it would be no problem. But it is still God’s time.
SD: Each parish, priest and bishop had their own way of doing things. You must accept the diversity in the Church.Certain things speak to the community and it is important to be a community.
Me: But you shouldn’t exalt the servant in the house of the master.
Me: If people can do their own thing, whyis there an Instruction of The Roman Missal?
SD: It’s a general guide. It is not specific. Nothing says what color candles we should have or how we should decorate the church. Some people won’t go to Mass if there are guitars and drums…
Me: (not able to help myself): I wouldn’t…
SD: Why? Do you think the Church is stupid?Are you more holy than the Pope? There are different ways of worshiping God. In Africa they have drums and dancing…each culture expresses worship in different ways, you need to respect the diversity of the Church.
Me: I do. I pray and worship in a lot of ways. However at Mass, things should be structured and focused on God. Mass is Calvary. We are at the foot of the cross. Jesus is there, standing on the altar, offering his body and blood.
SD: Where did you hear that?
Me: That is what the Eucharist is. Jesus’s sacrifice.
(warning: here comes the tirade!)
SD: **tirade**: You should know the Mass is more than that. We can’t just focus on one thing. Mass is not only about what happens at the altar. There is the Word of God, the priest and the people. The Church changes. We lose some practices and pick up others. The Church isn’t the same as it was in the Middle Ages, thank God. We don’t have Inquisitions anymore, we don’t burn books. As time passes, we progress and discuss what weare doing wrong and what we should do right.
Me: (gets no word in edgewise)
SD: We are not serfs anymore. There isn’t a system of servant and master. Back then, there was no universal call to holiness; only clergy could be holy; lay-people could not be holy. When Vatican II came, we all got on the same level. Instead of being in different boats, we all were in the same boat together. We can’t pick and choose what we like in the Catholic Church. Cafeteria Catholics pick out what they prefer- we have to accept everything.
Me: How come when someone is traditional,they are following their own preferences but when someone wants to do whatever they want, it’s okay?
SD: No, it goes both ways. I am just trying to get you to understand more about the Mass. I have a degree in theology- it’s my job to correct people where they are wrong. **tirade over**
Here’s what went wrong:
1). Just because many churches do something doesn’t mean it is okay or even sanctioned by the Church. Priests and bishops have a duty to safeguard tradition. Yes, they have options but they should conduct liturgy so that the fullest extent of doctrinal clarity and reverence is preserved.
2). The Instruction of the Roman Missal can get quite specific.
3). Sacrosanctum Concilium, a document of Vatican II, says that church décor should be conducive to proper worship. Décor or art that impedes a prayerful atmosphere should be rejected.
4). The Mass IS a representation of Calvary.While there are undoubtedly more aspects to the Mass, the reason we gather there is to receive communion and partake in that sacrifice. We don’t go therefor the Bible, the priest or the community. By the way, I heard about the whole Calvary/sacrifice thing in the CATHECHISM.
5). What the heck does the Inquisition have to do with ANYTHING!!
6). The Church has always called its congregation to holiness. We have examples of both religious and lay saints throughout the ages. I can’t believe for a second that the Medieval church would declare lay people incapable of holiness. Why were missionaries sent into barbarian lands? Why were great cathedrals built in populous cities if the people didn’t really matter? This is pure bull!
7). We were all in the same boat prior to Vatican II. That is what “catholic” means. Every Catholic, whether a prelate or peasant, is sailing on the Bark of Peter gathered into one faith, one flock, one baptism.
8). If we are obliged to accept everything in Catholicism, that means we must also accept documents, rubrics and (gasp!), Apostolic Tradition.
9). I actually wasn’t in the wrong. Anyone who understands the Holy Mass and knows what great mysteries are present there would be disgusted by having a “liturgy of birthdays” when we should be pondering the Most Blessed Sacrament we received five minutes ago.
Apparently our educated theologian doesn’t know jack. Having unqualified teachers, who occupy positions of authority simply because they can show a piece of paper from Acme University, is precisely what’s wrong with the world today.