One of the “complaints” or excuses I often hear from Catholics about why they don’t go to Mass regularly, or have left the Church entirely for a more mega-church style of worship with praise bands and screens and the like, is that the Mass doesn’t engage them. These folks often say the “sameness” of the Mass from Sunday to Sunday, it’s repetitions and ritual doesn’t help them connect with God or even is dull enough that they don’t get anything out of going to Mass. Such comments always make me sad. I try to explain they’re missing something about the value of ritual repetition, it’s how humans find meaning and can connect with the Holy. Catholic liturgy isn’t about being entertained (as it appears to me much of the mega-church style of communal worship seems to be) but putting our individual effort into being engaged, actively listening, participating and being carried on the wings of familiar ritual to another place, so to speak. You can’t just come to Mass to be passively handed something. To be Catholic, to get something out of Mass, you have to bring your whole self to the experience and give some of your self, too.
I say this because I read on another blog, today, something that expresses my thoughts in another way, that maybe some folks will relate to, from an unexpected source. It was posted on a blog I regularly read, Pray Tell – Worship, Wit & Wisdom, that is written and moderated by a Benedictine Monk, Fr. Anthony Ruff, O.S.B. at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN. If you have a couple of minutes, click over to this entry
It is a bit liturgy geek speak, and I am one of those, but I found it a good explanation of why the repetition of liturgical ritual is such a good thing and a Catholic thing.
Quick entry this time. I suggest this blog entry over at the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops that addresses some of the disturbing images on the news lately of protesters in California confronting buses of children and mothers from Central America who were to “processed” by U.S. immigration at a facility in their town. I keep hearing the voice of Jesus saying, “When I was an immigrant, you welcomed me.” How sad that too often I hear voices among church people, even in my own diocese and parishes I’ve served, saying something different. Thankfully, the Catholic Church in the areas affected is taking the moral high ground and trying to echo the voice of Jesus.
Birmingham, Vietnam and Murrieta
Sometime ago, I discovered blogger Andrew Sullivan’s site The Dish. His blog is probably not for everyone who might read my efforts at blogging, since he’s what many would call liberal in his politics and his religious beliefs. Mr. Sullivan could be described as a liberal Catholic, who struggles with what some would call his “faithfulness” to teach teaching. He is very positive about Pope Francis, by the way. Despite his struggles with some of the teachings of the church, or maybe because he is honest in grappling with them, I find him very readable and thought provoking, especially on Sunday. Each Sunday a series of “faith related” entries are posted which I often find myself agreeing with or pondering for a bit or questioning. It’s always good to be challenged about faith, for grappling with the challenge presented can refine and deepen faith.
Here are two articles from last Sunday (January 26, 2014) that I found myself agreeing with for the most part.
Being There During Bad Times (http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/01/26/being-there-when-things-go-bad/ echoes what I have learned through experience and training about “pastoral counseling” and especially giving care to those who grieve. The article gives good advice to anyone who visits a funeral home or has friends who are dealing with death or tragedy. Like I said in my previous entry “Retreat Thoughts – Part 2: Where’s Jesus?” sometimes people look in the wrong places for Jesus, instead of the compassionate people who stand with them in times of trouble. I agree with what is written, but wouldn’t be as strong in stating religious faith shouldn’t be brought up too quickly. Sometimes, while being “present” to a grieving person it’s o.k. to say “Remember, Jesus didn’t cause your loved one to die. Remember the resurrection is our hope.”
The second article from this past Sunday Religion’s Degree of Difficulty (http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/01/26/should-religion-be-hard/) addresses a tendency I often run into when people think that the church should be “accepting” or “non-judgmental,” or “I should feel comforted when I leave Mass.” True, enough, but the church is also mandated by Jesus to preach conversion of heart, as he did when he said, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Sometimes, to be a faithful disciple those who claim to represent Jesus have to point out where a change in a person’s life would lead to being more conformed to the heart of Jesus. For example, in working with catechumens my RCIA team and I would end every catechumen formation session with the question “How is the Word of God for this Sunday challenging me to change my life in a real and practical way?” Sometimes being disciple will be a challenge, but Jesus will help us meet the challenge. That’s not being judgmental and non-accepting of a person where he or she is at. It’s an act of love offering them salvation. Then it’s up to the person being challenged to accept the challenge. Of course, we who offer the Word of God’s challenges must also be willing to be challenged by others, too.
Well, that last part sounds like I’m getting ready for Lent. Its coming quickly!